Cedar Point, Ohio, called the "Roller Coaster Capital of the World," is a favorite summer destination for North Coast residents as well as visitors from all over the region and the country. But the Lake Erie Vacationland area offers more things to do than just riding a roller coaster. There are museums with historic merry-go-rounds, wineries, water parks full of adventures for the little ones, historic sites like the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums and The Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum, and plenty of additional activities for people of varying interests.
View Thomas Edison's Birthplace
Thomas Edison, the inventor of the photograph and the light bulb, among other things, was born on the north coast in Milan, Ohio, in 1847. The house where he was born and lived until he was 7 years old still stands in its original location and has been restored and converted into the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum for Edison artifacts, inventions, and memorabilia.
The National Historic Site about a 25-minute drive from Cedar Point is closed in January, on Mondays, and on major holidays. Hours vary throughout the year.
The Merry-Go-Round Museum, located in Sandusky, makes a unique and fun side-trip from Cedar Point. The museum has an antique 1939 carousel that you can ride as well as onsite wood carvers that demonstrate the art of creating carousel horses. There are also exhibits and artifacts about the history of merry-go-rounds, a gift store, and antique hand organs.
The museum is open year-round and hours vary; confirm construction schedules before going.
Located just minutes from Cedar Point, this indoor water park is a destination in itself. The 33,000-square foot water park is a hit with young and older visitors and features 60 guest-activated water effects such as squirters, among other fun things. The Great Wolf Lodge Water Park also has a rock climbing wall; Raccoon Lagoon includes geysers, fountains, and water basketball; and The Northern Lights Arcade is full of games.
Explore South Bass Island
Put-in-Bay, located on South Bass Island, a bit north of Sandusky and Port Clinton, is Ohio's Lake Erie playground. The island peaks in the summer with a vibrant marina, many lively bars and restaurants, antique stores, and a home-grown brewery and historic winery.
The island is reachable by Miller Boat Line ferries offering passenger and vehicle service from Catawba from March through late November, but the ferry schedule is weather-dependent. Also, Jet Express offers service between various locations including Put-in-Bay typically from May to October. You can also reach the island year-round by small aircraft, weather permitting.
Once on the island, there is a shuttle from the dock into town or you can rent a bike or a golf cart, or walk; it's only about 1.5 miles.
Check out Glacial Grooves at Kelleys Island
Kelleys Island, the largest of the Lake Erie islands, is located just off the north central Ohio coastline and about a 70-minute drive from Cedar Point.
The island is a summertime favorite known for Kelley's Island Wine Company and its restaurant, additional eateries, and Victorian Houses. The island was once covered by glaciers and its receded ice sheets carved the famous "Glacial Grooves," souvenirs from the Ice Age.
Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line operates year-round ferry service from Marblehead, and the island is also accessible by small airplanes.
A kid's favorite, this attraction in Sandusky features over 200 exotic animals from around the world, from emus to llamas to miniature donkeys, all of which you can enjoy feeding. Visitors can also fish in the stocked lagoon or eat in one of the scenic picnic areas.
Lagoon Deer Park is open from May through early November. Hours vary throughout the year.
More than 10,000 Confederate prisoners of war were once housed on Johnson's Island, a National Historic Landmark and small piece of land just off the south coast of Marblehead, near the ferry docks and the Cedar Point Causeway. More than 200 of these soldiers are buried at the Confederate Stockade Cemetery. A causeway connects the island to the mainland at Lakeside Marblehead and has a small toll each way. Visitors may go to the cemetery daily from sunrise to sunset.
Back on the mainland is the Johnson's Island Museum in Sandusky, which features a scale model of the prison and other artifacts. The museum is open on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Sip at Some Sandusky Area Wineries
The temperate Lake Erie climate creates an ideal environment for growing wine grapes, and a handful of wineries are scattered around the Sandusky area offer a nice chance to relax. Among these are Firelands Winery, an award-winning winery right in downtown Sandusky; Mon Ami Restaurant and Historic Winery in Port Clinton with an elegant restaurant and a tasting room; Heineman's Winery on South Bass Island; and Kelleys Island Wine Company on Kelleys Island.
Stroll at Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums
Located in Fremont, Ohio, about a 45-minute drive from Cedar Point, is the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums. This 31-room mansion was where President Hayes lived for two years in 1873 before he left to serve as Governor of Ohio and then President of the U.S. The complex includes the home, a museum, the grounds, and the tombs of President Hayes and his wife, Lucy.
Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the house, stroll the grounds, and take an unguided tour of the museum. On display are original family furnishings, President Hayes' library which the staff has expanded to over 90,000 books, many of his papers, and Civil War and 19th century artifacts.
The site is open Monday through Sunday from April through December and Tuesday through Sunday from January through March; confirm opening times and dates before you go.
Located about 15 minutes from Cedar Point in Bellevue, Seneca Caverns is one of the largest underground caves in Ohio. Visitors embark on a one-hour tour that goes up to 110 feet (33 meters) underground and through seven subterranean rooms. The best part: On a hot summer's day, the caverns are a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius).
The site is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day.