Cedar Point, the "Rollercoaster 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 has more to do that just riding a "coaster." There are museums, lighthouses, waterparks, historic sites, and lots more.
Thomas Edison's Birthplace
The inventor of the photograph and the light bulb, among other things, is well-known for his associations with Michigan, New Jersey, and Florida, but did you know that Thomas Edison was born right here on the north coast in Milan, Ohio in 1847? The house where he was born and lived until he was seven years old, still stands in its original location and has been restored and converted into a museum for Edison artifacts, inventions, and memorabilia.
The Thomas Edison House is open from February through November and is easily reached from Exit 118 off of the Ohio Turnpike. Hours vary throughout the year.
Location: 9 Edison Dr., Milan, OH
Sandusky's Merry-Go-Round Museum
The Merry-Go-Round Museum, located in Sandusky, makes a unique and fun side-trip from Cedar Point. The museum has an antique carousel that you can ride as well as on-site 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.
Location: 301 Jackson St., Sandusky, OH
Great Wolf Lodge Water Park
Located just minutes from Cedar Point, this indoor water park is a destination in itself. The 33,000-square foot indoor water park is a hit with young and older visitors and features 60 guest-activated water effects, among other things. The Great Wolf Lodge Water Park also has a rock climbing wall and Raccoon Lagoon, an outdoor kids' pool area.
Location: 4600 Milan Rd., Sandusky, OH 44870
Put-in-Bay and South Bass Island
Put-in-Bay, located on South Bass Island, just north of Sandusky and Port Clinton Ohio, is Ohio's Lake Erie playground. Cut off in the winter, the island comes alive in the summer with antique stores, a vibrant marina, lots of lively bars and restaurants, and a home-grown brewery and historic winery.
The island is reachable from by Miller's Ferry from Port Clinton and by Jet Express' jet-powered catamarans from Catawba. The ferry runs regularly from late May to late November. Jet Express runs 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 you can walk; it's only about 1 1/2 miles.
Kelleys Island, the largest of the American Lake Erie islands, is located just off the north central Ohio coastline, accessible by frequent ferries and small airplanes.
The island is a summertime favorite. Less crowded than its cousin, Middle Bass Island and Put-in-Bay, Kelleys is known for its restaurants, winery, Victorian Houses, and its Glacial Grooves, souvenirs from the Ice Age.
Lagoon Deer Park
A kid's favorite, this attraction features tame deer that you can pet and feed as well as over 200 exotic animals. You can also fish in the stocked lagoon or have a picnic in one of the scenic picnic areas.
Lagoon Deer Park is open from May through October. Admission prices and hours vary throughout the year.
Location: SR 269, Sandusky, OH
Johnson Island Cemetery
More than 9,000 Confederate prisoners of war were once housed on Johnson's Island, a small piece of land just off the south coast of Marblehead, near the ferry docks and the Cedar Point Causeway. Between 206 and 267 of these soldiers are buried at the Johnson's Island Confederate Officers Prison Cemetery there. Today, the site is looked after by the U.S. Veteran's Administration and visitors are welcome year-round from dusk to dawn. A causeway connects the island to the mainland and carries a small toll each way. No other remnants of the POW camp remain on the island.
Back on the mainland is the Johnson's Island Museum, which features a scale model of the prison and other artifacts. The museum is open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
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. Among these are Firelands Winery, an award-winning winery right in downtown Sandusky; Mon Ami winery (pictured), a historic winery at Catawba point with an elegant restaurant and a tasting room; Heineman's Winery on South Bass Island; and Kelleys Island Wine Company on Kelleys Island. A visit is a nice way to relax after the action at the park.
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
Located in Fremont Ohio, about a half hour away from Cedar Point is the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. This 31-room mansion was the Hayes' primary residence after President Hayes left office in 1881. The complex, which includes the home, a museum, the grounds, and the tombs of President Hayes and his wife, Lucy, was the first presidential library and museum.
Today, visitors can take 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 of more than 12,000 books, many of his papers, and Civil War and 19th century artifacts. The Center is open year-round, see their website for hours and tour schedules.
Location: Spiegel Grove, 1337 Hayes Avenue, Fremont, OH 43420
Located about 15 minutes from Cedar Point, Seneca Caverns is one of the largest underground caverns in Ohio. The site is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and visitors take a one-hour tour that goes up to 110 feet underground and goes through seven subterranean rooms. The best part: on a hot summer's day, the caverns are a constant 54 degrees.
Location: 15248 Twp Rd., Bellevue, OH