The locale: An Ohio tourist town that hugs Lake Erie, Sandusky is an easy four-hour drive from Buffalo.
The scoop: Occupying 22 miles along the lake, Sandusky is primarily known for Cedar Point Amusement Park (Roller Coaster Capital of the World!) and Sports Force Park, which hosts youth travel teams playing baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse tournaments. However, there’s more to this 200-year-old town: It’s steeped in history, which you can uncover during a detailed historic walking tour of Sandusky. There are also unique museums to visit and restaurants to whet every type of appetite. The Lake Erie Shores & Island region welcomed almost 11 million visitors in 2017.
Where to stay
Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point—Expanded in 2018, Hotel Breakers is a beachfront resort steps from Cedar Point with 669 guest rooms and suites, many featuring waterfront views and balconies. Along with several restaurants, it boasts a full-service beachfront bar where you can hear live music. Perfect for summer visits, it has two outdoor pools, one indoor pool and a water playground.
Castaway Bay—If you’d like to take a little waterpark back with you, this hotel includes a 38,000-square-foot tropically themed indoor waterpark and a 6,000-foot arcade. Children’s programming features daily visits from Snoopy.
Cedar Point’s Express Hotel—A quick drive from Cedar Point, the Express Hotel features an outdoor heated pool, children’s splash pad and a roomy courtyard perfect for barbecues.
South Shore Inn—This economical motel just two miles from Cedar Point features an outdoor pool with slides, a hot tub and free continental breakfast.
Places to eat
Brick Oven Bistro—This local establishment offers build-your-own and specialty pizzas, such as chicken cordon bleu and pear gorgonzola. Brick Oven also has an assortment of hearty sandwiches and salads. Save room for the s’mores pizza for dessert.
Berardi’s Family Kitchen—This unassuming restaurant features affordable meals daily and has won many Funcoast.com reader’s choice awards. Dinner options range from buttermilk fried chicken breast to chopped steak and includes a full bar with fun drinks like the prickly pear margarita and blueberry lemon drop martini.
What to do
Cedar Point Amusement Park—A 364-acre amusement park located on a Lake Erie peninsula, Cedar Point opened in 1870, which makes it the second-oldest operating amusement park in the country. It doesn’t have an old-fashioned feel, though: It’s full of whipping, blasting and zooming rides that should satisfy any thrill seeker. One of the newest, the 205-foot Steel Vengeance, has the steepest drop on a hybrid and the most air time of any coaster in the world.
Hair-pin turns and steep drops not your thing? There are some gentler options, including the Sky Ride that ferries visitors across the park, kiddie rides and several lives shows. If water is more your idea of a vacation, bring your swimsuit and plant yourself in a lounge chair in the adjoining Cedar Park Shores. An expansive water park, it’s comprised of several waterslides, a wave pool, a geyser-filled spot for little swimmers and a rockin’ lazy river that will make you want soak to in the sun all day.
There’s separate admission for each park, and you can combine them in a two-day ticket. Both sides offer an all-day dining option. If you prefer a sit-down restaurant, Cedar Point’s Johnny Rockets, known for its burgers and decadent milkshakes, includes memorable impromptu dance routines provided by the waitstaff. From late May through August, Cedar Point is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends. (In September and October, it’s open on the weekends.)
The Marblehead Lighthouse—Located in nearby Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, it’s the most-visited and longest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. One million people visit it annually, while 20,000 climb the 77 steps to the top.
Museums—For fans of vintage amusement rides, the Merry-Go-Round Museum is a showcase of stunning carousels, including a working, original 1939 Herschel carousel that you can ride. Along with seeing an array of painted ponies, you can visit with the carvers who restore the carousel animals. Interested in the town’s rich maritime history? Make time for the Sandusky Maritime Museum, where you can learn about the fishing, boating and shipping activities on Lake Erie, as well as Sandusky’s role in the Underground Railroad. Take a short drive south to the town of Milan and tour the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum, where you can get a peek into the early life of the famous inventor.
Island explorations—If you have time for a side trip, visit Kelleys Island. Accessible by ferry, the island includes a 600-acre state park, the Glacial Grooves (a national natural landmark), fishing, kayaking and camping. Have more time? Dine at a waterside restaurant or tour the Wine Co. winery. Rent a golf cart or bicycle to explore the island. There’s also the tiny South Bass Island, better known as Put-In-Bay, which offers an amazingly wide range of activities—from a butterfly house to chocolate museum. Not to be missed is the 352-foot-tall Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, the third-tallest national monument operated by the National Park Service.