A hometown atmosphere welcomes visitors to the shores of Ohio’s Great Lakes region, where rich history blends with outdoor adventures. Whether it’s the charm of Port Clinton’s revitalized historic downtown or Sandusky’s mixing bowl of things to do, there is no shortage of memorable excursions for visitors of any age.

Downtown Revitalization & Pristine Beaches

Port Clinton and the Put-In-Bay area of Northern Ohio boast beautiful sandy beaches, lakeside adventures and serene state parks. The historic downtown district of the lakeside town offers quaint shopping from art galleries to urban greenhouse suppliers, and, with a short ferry ride, visitors can relax on South Bass Island in Put-In-Bay. 

The Historic Port Clinton organization is working to revitalize the downtown district of Port Clinton as part of the Ohio Main Street Program. The program is designed to breathe life into a central business districts in communities across Ohio. 

Port Clinton’s shopping district is both eclectic and wonderfully quirky with a wide array of businesses. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory Visitor Center and Gift Shop, located at the entrance to the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, combines education and research to promote conservation. Touted as the “Warbler Capital of the World,” the observatory hosts the Biggest Week in American Birding each May, drawing thousands of people to see the annual bird migration. Cruisin’ Tunes on Madison Street offers fashionable footwear and clever gift items. Packer Creek Pottery is dedicated to the craft of functional and stunning handmade pottery, and was once commissioned by the White House to create an angel for a Christmas tree in the Blue Room, according to its website.

Put-In-Bay is not just fishing charters and beaches—there is also vibrant entertainment on The Boardwalk. This popular vacation spot has everything from parasailing to exciting nightlife. Delectable seafood, such as Alaskan king crab and live Maine lobster, are said to be the best in the area.

“Many establishments in Port Clinton have some sort of live entertainment,” says Mary Ann Snider, tourism partner coordinator with Lake Erie Shores and Islands in Port Clinton. “Visiting performers are from country, folk, acoustic, Americana and blues genres.”

Snider also says a special venue in Port Clinton is the Listening Room inside the OurGuest Inn & Suites. It features nationally touring and up-and-coming singer/songwriters who showcase original tunes. “This is formatted just like the popular Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tenn.,” says Snider.

The Boardwalk is even a favorite stomping ground for local entertainers like Mike “Mad Dog” Adams, Bob Gatewood, Pat Dailey and West Side Steve. They make Port Clinton and Put-In-Bay an unforgettable spot on Lake Erie. With live music from reggae to Top 40 Hits and country to acoustic jams, there is something at The Boardwalk for every member of the family to enjoy.

“They each have their own unique, laidback style which fits the ‘island style,’” says Snider.

Visitors to Port Clinton can even experience a safari at the African Safari Wildlife Park—complete with a drive-thru tour where guests will see a beautiful menagerie including lemurs, giraffes, zebra, buffalo, alpaca, camel and several species of deer. “The walk-thru safari includes white-handed gibbons, warthog, ocelot and white alligator,” says Snider. “There are also pig races and educational shows.”

The Island Adventure Family Fun Center is a great place for the kids to burn off some energy, for groups to have a party in the pavilion and for families to race go-carts. There is also a beautifully landscaped 18-hole miniature golf course. Water-squirting bumper boats and an air-conditioned arcade provide relief for those hot summer days. A more low-key option for those who want to relax in beautiful surroundings at the Mon Ami Winery and Historic Restaurant located in Port Clinton. It offers a sophisticated ambiance with live jazz on Sundays, wine tasting, live events Fridays and Saturdays, tours and a gift shop. 

“Mon Ami Winery and Historic Restaurant is one of the oldest wineries in the Lake Erie Islands region,” says Snider.

Another spectacular winery is Heineman Winery and Crystal Cave located at Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island. Crystal Cave is actually made from the world’s largest celestite geode, 35-feet across, with crystals that weigh up to 300 pounds, says Snider. Visitors can take advantage of tours through the winery and into the cave, 40 feet below the earth’s surface. Not to be forgotten is the Stonehenge Estate, also located at Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island, seven acres of grape vineyards and wineries that once prospered on the island, says Snider. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the grounds, Stone Farmhouse and the wine press cottage can be experienced with a self-guided audio tour.

Thrill & Adventure in Sandusky

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Sandusky is the grand and mighty Cedar Point Amusement Park. It is the self-proclaimed roller coaster capital of the world, with 17 different exhilarating coasters such as the Top Thrill Dragster that goes from zero to 120 miles per hour in less than four seconds, and the adrenaline-rushing Millennium Force that takes its riders down an 80-degree drop. For the non-thrill seekers there are many more attractions at the amusement park such as family rides, kids’ rides and water rides.

Cedar Point also features a prehistoric-themed attraction called Dinosaurs Alive! with over 50 life-size animatronic dinosaurs. And Soak City Waterpark at Cedar Point is perfect for keeping cool on a sizzling summer day. There is no shortage of water slides and fun for all ages to enjoy. The little ones have their own safe space to frolic in areas such as Choo Choo Lagoon, Tadpole Town, Toddler River and Adventure Cove Lily Pad Walk. The summer lineup of live entertainment at the park will feature summer concerts. As its website boasts, Cedar Point is the place to strengthen family bonds and stomachs.

Sandusky is home to other fascinating attractions such as the Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. The family-friendly Thrill Center houses a myriad of activities for visitors to enjoy. Arcade games and black-light interactive mini golf bring classic fun, while the XD 3D Theater is a unique movie experience. The visitors’ very seats become a roller coaster-like ride as the audience goes on a wild cinematic journey, according to Ghostly Manor’s website. Skateworld Family Fun Center at Ghostly Manor gives families an unforgettable time listening to music that gets the crowd moving on roller blades, skates and scooters. 

Sandusky also has several historic landmarks. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is operated by the nonprofit Hayes Presidential Center, Inc., and is home to a wealth of history. It features the home, library, museum, tomb and 25-acre estate of 19th U.S. President Hayes. “The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center exists to enrich lives through the historical preservation of Spiegel Grove and to provide a greater understanding of President Hayes and his contributions to the State of Ohio, the country, and his fellow Americans,” says the center’s mission statement on its website.

Sandusky has several other attractions of note: the Firelands Symphony Orchestra, the Follet House Museum, the Milan Museum, the Maritime Museum of Sandusky, Perry’s Victory Heritage Festival and the Merry-Go-Round Museum.