You can make a big splash whatever the weather in Northeast Ohio at one of the region’s great waterparks.
Grab your flip flops and head to the Caribbean-themed Castaway Bay (www.castawaybay.com), a tropical indoor waterpark in Sandusky packed with 38,000 square feet of slides and rides. And after the tropical adventure of wave pools and whirlpools, you can relax at a full-service spa offering aromatherapy, facials and massages.
Also in Sandusky, Great Wolf Lodge (www.greatwolfsandusky.com) is a 200,000-gallon waterpark that features an assortment of kiddie slides and pools designed to accommodate the “54 inch and under” set. Whether you’re floating down a lazy river or headed out on a Wolf Walk, there’s no “roughing it” required here.
Just down the road, Kalahari Resort (www.kalahariresorts.com/oh/) includes both an indoor and outdoor waterpark with two boogie board/standup surf Flowriders, water roller coasters and a swimup bar, there’s something for everyone. And, the African-themed resort is in the process of adding on to its already spacious convention center. This $22 million expansion will bring Kalahari’s convention center total square footage to 215,000 so it can accommodate even more faith-based retreats, family reunions, tradeshows, special events and corporate outings.
Just half an hour southeast of Cleveland, Geauga Lake’s Wildwater Kingdom (wildwaterfun.com) is an outdoor cabana-lined watery playground boasting, among many soak-tacular attractions, a 60-foot tall, 253-foot-long funnel slide and a 30,000 square foot wave pool. Groups of 15 or more qualify for discount admission.
- Jeff Niesel
Group outing destinations that appeal to a wide range of people and personalities are tough to come by, but Cedar Point near Sandusky – just a quick jaunt west along the Lake Erie coast from Cleveland – most definitely fits the bill. Voted Amusement Today’s World’s Best Amusement Park for a record-setting 12 straight years, Cedar Point offers its famous array of roller coasters along with beaches, waterparks and other family-friendly attractions that make it a truly one-of-a-kind place to visit.
With six places to stay, Cedar Point serves up 1,600 rooms and a wide variety of lodging possibilities. The classic and expansive beachfront Hotel Breakers, Sandcastle Suites, Camper Village and the cottages and cabins of Lighthouse Point are all nestled parkside on the Cedar Point peninsula, while Breakers Express and Castaway Bay, with its indoor year-round waterpark, sit just across the causeway.
For meetings and conventions, Hotel Breakers and Castaway Bay both include spacious ballrooms and smaller spaces for seminars and training programs. And, when the work’s done for the day, the Cedar Point midway is the perfect place to play.
“We are an amusement park first and foremost,” Cedar Point group sales director Tim Walsh notes. “We’ll customize what we have based on what a group is looking for.” And that can mean everything from arranging specific in-park meals to exclusive park access and ride times.
And if you’re group is the adventure-minded sort, in addition to its classic menu of coasters and thrill rides, Cedar Point added Shoot the Rapids in 2010. It’s a wild, 2,100-foot-long wild water ride boasting an 85-foot drop and all but guaranteeing a soaking good time. – Submitted by guest blogger John Booth
A relaxing getaway, a hot night out on the town, a family vacation spot, that’s the Lake Erie Islands. Whether you’re looking to spend a weekend or a week, the islands offer a wide variety of things to do, see and eat and they promise to slow things down to a pace saved just for summer vacations. Read on for all you need to know about planning a trip to Kelley’s Island and Put-in-Bay, the most popular hot spots off the coast of Lake Erie.
Nationally recognized as a “Top-10 Healthiest Beach and Lake Getaway” by Health Magazine, Kelleys Island is the perfect spot for a relaxing getaway. Twelve miles from Sandusky, it is the largest American freshwater island in Lake Erie and provides visitors with a beautiful setting for fishing, hiking, swimming and camping along the shore. Other must-dos on Kelleys Island include checking out the world famous Glacial Grooves National Landmark, bird and butterfly watching, scuba diving through several Lake Erie shipwreck sites and a stop at the wineries. Accommodations include camping at the Kelleys Island State Park, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals.
South Bass Island, better known as Put-in-Bay, is a hopping place. Start with a narrated tour on the island train then set out on your own to explore via bike, scooter or golf cart. Family fun on the island includes attractions like a butterfly house, miniature golf, gem mining, cave tours, a carousel and go-karts. If you’re a history buff, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial should be your first stop or if you’re just looking to kick back with a cold one, start out in one of Put-in-Bay’s many music establishments. Outdoor recreational activities are everywhere you look and include charter fishing, boat rentals, golf, kayaking and parasailing. There are plenty of places to eat and stay and shopping, art galleries, two wineries and a microbrewery make Put-in-Bay a fun place for everyone.
Public transportation to and from Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island comes in three forms:
The Jet Express is the fastest way to Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island with direct downtown service on each island. Passengers enjoy Lake Erie breezes on the outside upper deck or passenger lounges featuring cushioned chairs, carpeted decks and panoramic windows for island sightseeing. Guests are encouraged to arrive early for ticket purchase and parking (guests must pay a fee to park if spending the night at the islands).You might think about reserving tickets online to ensure your spot on the boat. The Jet Express departs from three locations in Port Clinton, Sandusky and Lorain for your convenience.
Miller Boat Line offers the most frequent service to Put-in-Bay and is the only ferry offering car service. A one-way ticket costs $6.50 and children five and under ride free. Parking at the Miller Ferry dock is free and reservations aren’t necessary. Miller Ferries passenger and auto service leave from Catawba Island (which is actually a peninsula) at the end of Route 53 North. Miller Boat Line billboards and state signage will help point your way.
The Goodtime I, an all-steel vessel built for ocean-going cruises, departs from Sandusky, Ohio daily on a Daytime Island Hopping Cruise, as well as other specialty cruises such as the Tuesday Night Sandusky Bay Cruise and the famous Friday Night party Cruises. The Goodtime I also is available for private charters and season special excursions.
So, whether you’re looking for a nature-inspired, laid back “vay-kay” or dancing till the sun comes up, the islands are the place to be this summer in Cleveland Plus.
More fun in nearby Sandusky:
Cedar Point Amuseument Park
Ranked “Best Amusement Park in the World” for ten consecutive years by Amusement Today, Cedar Point Amusement Park features a whopping 17 roller coasters, many hailed by coaster enthusiasts as some of the best! There’s plenty of fun for the little ones at Camp Snoopy, Planet Snoopy and the Jr. Gemini children’s area. New for 2010, Cedar Point is premiering a new water ride called Shoot the Rapids.
Inclement weather need not ruin the family vacation when visiting one of four indoor waterpark resorts in Cleveland Plus. Located 45 minutes west of Cleveland in the city of Sandusky, these indoor waterparks offer waterslides, pools, activity areas, surfing and all sorts of water activities perfect for every member of the family. Complete with unique overnight accommodations, restaurants, lounges, amenities and other indoor activities for families, these resorts provide theming that take kids from an African safari to a Caribbean adventure. Waterparks include Kalahari Waterpark Resort and Convention Center, Great Wolf Lodge and Castaway Bay at Cedar Point.
Ghostly Manor Thrill Center
Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, a haunted thrill center featuring three spooky sections, was rated as one of the top ten haunted attractions in the country. Check out Ohio‟s first and only XD 3D Motion Simulation, where the scariness becomes a three-dimensional experience.
–Submitted by C.A.
You might not figure that a place with a steeltown reputation spends much time thinking green, but thanks to regional environmental and sustainability initiatives across Cleveland Plus, spending time enjoying Northeast Ohio can appeal to your eco-friendly side, too.
A quartet of Cleveland hotels – the Crowne Plaza, the Hyatt Regency at the Arcade, the Radisson Gateway and the InterContinental – have all taken steps from using more efficient light bulbs to unplugging unused extras like room refrigerators and hair dryers to ditching aerosol cleaners. And guests can do their part if they’d like by opting for fewer linen and towel changes. Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky is the first – and only – hotel chain to have all its US properties Green Seal™ certified and this family-friendly waterpark resort goes to great lengths to be environmentally conscious.
Getting around is greener, too, with the RTA Healthline’s hybrid buses and 1,500 new trees along the newly-polished Euclid corridor connecting Public Square with the East Side.
Catching an Indians game at Progressive Field? You’re not the only one soaking up the rays: An array of upper deck solar panels provides enough electricity to run the stadium’s 400 televisions. And the stadium’s recycling habits date all the way back to Opening Day of 1994, continuously expanding to the tune of 150 tons of recycled material in 2009. The Tribe has also turned to using environmentally-friendly items like plastic cups and cutlery based not on petroleum but on compostable materials like corn starch and sugar cane.
Head over to East Fourth Street’s Greenhouse Tavern for a mouthwatering meal that includes sustainability as a major not-so-secret ingredient. Founder and chef Jonathon Sawyer and his wife Amelia embraced the importance of local foods and low-impact restaurant operations from the start, putting their restaurant in a refurbished building and using recycled and repurposed materials and furnishings every place they could.
And when it comes to food, Jonathon has long believed that the closer a kitchen is to its farms, the better the dishes it will serve. That’s why you’ll find a menu rich in local fare from Northeast Ohio farms that cuts down on costs and carbon without carving away an iota of flavor.
Turns out that in Cleveland Plus, being green can be as easy as dinner, a night out and a stay downtown. –Submitted by guest blogger John Booth
Kids are always looking for their next kingdom and Northeast Ohio is a treasure map of interesting activities that will excite and entertain.
Take for instance the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and its newest program this spring — The Scoop on Poop! Fish do it, frogs do it, pythons, eagles and elephants do it, yet poop is one of those subjects we find difficult to talk about with a straight face. “Kids however are positively fascinated by it,” says Sue Allen, manager of marketing and public relations at the Metroparks Zoo. “Poop is interesting stuff — really.”
Zoo visitors can improve their No. 2 IQ in Stool School by listening in on an animal’s digestive system, learn the language of poop in countries around the world, compete in dung beetle races, track wild animals by clues left in scat and much more. This is, of course, on top of everything else awesomely interesting about the Metroparks’ zoo including its animal shows, dinosaur exhibit and more than 3,000 creatures roaming 168 rolling, wooded acres.
Most things about planet earth are pretty interesting, but everything about space is totally engrossing. At the Great Lakes Science Center (one of the nation’s leading science and technology hubs and home to the awe-inspiring OMNIMAX Theater), the Return to the Moon exhibit will be sweeping young minds off their feet and placing them squarely on the lunar map.
What would Cleveland Plus be without the renowned, ever-expanding Cleveland Museum of Art? I certainly couldn’t picture the backdrop of the city without our own homage to rock at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum or the gridiron greats at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And, to imagine this region minus A Christmas Story House just makes me sad. But many aren’t familiar with some of Cleveland’s lesser-known museums like the ones dedicated to polka music, policemen and carousels. These niche institutions score big points in uniqueness, diversity and importance to Cleveland Plus. So, whether you’re a visitor or a local, we’ve got a couple of not-to-be-missed attractions worth an afternoon visit.
FASHION + ENTERTAINMENT
Think Manhattan’s the only place to learn fashion? Think again. The Kent State University Fashion Museum explores the history of fashion through its eight galleries featuring changing exhibitions of work by many of the world’s great artists and designers. Closely linked to the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University, the Museum provides visitors a first-hand experience with historic and contemporary fashions, as well as costumes representing many of the world’s cultures. In early October, the museum will feature “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen.” Pulled from Katharine Hepburn’s personal collection of her stage and screen costumes, the exhibit will explore her fashion influence on the emergence of what is now called “The American Style.”
Uniqueness is certainly the theme at the Merry-Go-Round Museum located in Sandusky (home of Cedar Point Amusement Park). Visitors can expect an entertaining and educational visit that focuses on the art, history, preservation, production and restoration of these beautiful and historic amusement rides. While there, you can even catch a ride on the fully-restored Allan Herschell Carousel with the band organ playing. New for 2010, the museum features an exhibit displaying rare carousel animals from several nationally-known private collections called “Wild!” Think: reindeer, pelicans and buffalo.
During the holiday season, take a trip into holiday cinematic magic at Mark Klaus’ “Holly”wood Christmas Movieland to explore thousands of pieces of holiday movie memorabilia including promotional posters, costumes, props and entire sets. Collected by ornament designer Mark Klaus, “Holly”wood Christmas Movieland comes to life with indoor snow demonstrations and elaborate displays focused on films like The Grinch, Elf and Miracle on 34th Street. The exhibition is not open year-round, so be sure to check their website for location, dates and hours.
Take a step into the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame located in Euclid and you’re instantly surrounded by Cleveland’s polka history. With plaques of big names like Frankie Yankovic, Johnny Pecon and Johnny Vadnal adorning the perimeters, the museum takes visitors on a journey involving legendary oompah bands, vintage accordions, ornate performance costumes and images and video of this post-war, ethnic folk dance that reflected a time of happiness and prosperity. Admission is free to the four-room museum, but it’s always nice to toss a donation their way (or purchase a fabulous polka CD in their gift shop).
Once you’ve perused the Polka Hall of Fame, don’t forget to walk upstairs to the Greater Cleveland Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame and Museum (both museums share the same building). While primarily focused on local softball heroes of days past, visitors get the opportunity to learn a thing or two about the sport including the start of women’s leagues and the ever-changing equipment used. During my first visit, I had the pleasure of taking a British radio host who’d never played the sport in his life. What fun it was to explain the difference between baseball and softball and watch as he attempted to catch a ball in a mitt for the very first time. The facility is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11am-3pm.
Is baseball more your sport? Make a trip to the Baseball Heritage Museum where fans get a real education on former players and coaches connected with the rich diversity of our American pastime. This display began when Robert Zimmer began displaying Negro Baseball League memorabilia while Cleveland hosted the 1997 MLB All-Star weekend. Nine years later, Zimmer secured a space in the historic Colonial Marketplace (conveniently located near Progressive Field) and opened the small museum.
Regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or creed, all visitors should expect a fascinating, educational experience during a trip the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. Inside the 24,000-square-foot museum, the stories of many of the region’s Jewish people and families–past and present–come to life through state-of-the-art exhibitions, interactive shows and films, oral histories, photographs and artifacts. The ultimate experience is unforgettable and, in my opinion, should be a “must-visit” attraction for visitors and locals alike.
Open since 1928, the Sandusky State Theatre is an area landmark and popular entertainment venue in Erie County. Nestled at the edge of Lake Erie in family-friendly Sandusky, or “Vacationland USA,” the theatre shares a city with other popular attractions including Cedar Point Amusement Park, Kalahari Resort, Great Wolf Lodge, Ghostly Manor and Castaway Bay.
The historic establishment wears many hats serving as a vaudeville theatre of sorts, movie palace and a performing arts center. Guests enjoy waterfront views and professional performances as well as gourmet dinner with full-service bar before most shows.
Christmas is an important holiday at the State which is evidenced by Christmas in the City, its year-round Christmas gift shop. Preparation for the State’s annual holiday celebration begins well in advance, taking about a year to coordinate. Upon completion, the theatre houses the world’s largest Santa collection, dozens of decorated trees and wreaths and 12 fully-animated windows depicting Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Popular ways to enjoy the Festival of Trees include dessert at The State and/or high tea and lunch or dinner in The State Room. This year’s holiday shows include “Christmas in Vienna” with the Vienna Boy’s Choir (December 2), “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (December 5-6), Moscow Ballet’s “The Great Russian Nutcracker” (December 9) and “Holiday Hop” (December 18).
Coming this spring to The Sandusky State Theatre are “Finnegan’s Farewell”, an interactive musical comedy dinner show, and “The Awesome ’80s Prom.”
The Sandusky State Theatre is located at 107 Columbus Avenue. Call 877.626.1950 or visit www.sanduskystate.com for more information or to purchase tickets.
Take a photo tour of The Sandusky State Theatre here. –Submitted by CA
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Sandusky, visit Lake Erie Shores & Islands cvb’s website.
West of Cleveland, near the Lake Erie shores of Sandusky, there’s a supernatural sort of fun brewing. They call it Ghostly Manor and the spooky castle looms large off of U.S. Route 250, on Woodlawn Avenue near Oakland Cemetery. Visitors from all over the country come to explore 6000-square foot foot of high-startle, non-stop horror action thrills in 21 unique rooms at one of the best haunted houses in the United States.
“Our acclaimed haunt has recently received additional national recognition,” says owner/operator Bill Criscione, a lifelong Halloween enthusiast who opened the haunted house with his wife Jayme in 2001. “Just recently Ghostly Manor was recognized by Haunted Attraction Magazine as one of the ‘Top 25 Must-See Haunts in the United States’ and we’re proud of that honor. Also, Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts ranked us as one of their top ten walkthrough attractions for 2008.” And Ghostly Manor has been nationally ranked for the last five years, taking the number four spot the last two consecutive years.
The doors of Ghostly Manor rarely close (it is open year-round) and the mansion seems to grow more expansive and shuddersome every season (explore bedrooms, bathrooms, a nursery, dining room, kitchen, den, library and more than a few dark corners). Each room is haunted by live actors, state-of-the-art props, animatronics and lots of unexplained apparitions. “Each room in Ghostly Manor can scare you from at least four different places,” warns Criscione.
Cleveland Plus is a golfer’s Mecca. With more than 300 courses in the area, you’re never more than a solid drive from the fairway. But what if the green is more your cup of tee? (See what I did there? Yeah, you get it.) Well, it just so happens that Cleveland Plus is also home to some of the most unique, most challenging and most entertaining miniature golf courses you’ll find anywhere. I’ve played all but a couple of the recommended courses listed below, and each one is more than worth its weight in windmills and neon balls.
The Classics – Check out these courses for that timeless round of mini golf filled with the standard obstacles you know and love.
Buzzard Cove Miniature Golf in Hinkley, Ohio – Featuring two traditional 18-hole courses, Buzzard Cove is the epitome of the family mini-golf experience. Not too hard for the little guys but challenging enough for adults, this is far and away my favorite miniature golf course with a Pirate Buzzard mascot. ($7 for adult, $6 for kids)
McDuffer’s Park Miniature Golf in North Canton, Ohio – Located in the rear of the Grand Slam Sports Complex, McDuffer’s is the best maintained miniature golf course in Stark County. The traditional, obstacle-laden course features multiple water hazards as it winds up and down artificial slopes behind the sports facility. ($5.50)
Challenge Golf in Sandusky, Ohio – Cedar Point’s Challenge Golf (in Challenge Park adjacent to the amusement park) features two gorgeous 18-hole courses that wind in, out and around a 30-foot mountain with a series of caves, streams, waterfalls and other obstacles. Plus, when you’re done playing . . . you’re at Cedar Point! ($5.95 for adults, $2.95 for kids under 48” tall)
The Entertainment Centers – There’s so much more than mini-golf at these hubs of fun.
Swings-N-Things in Olmsted Township, Ohio – Swings –N-Things bills itself as a family fun park rather than just a mini-golf center, and rightfully so. In addition to two 18-hole courses (one is currently under construction), Swings-N-Things boasts a large arcade, batting cages, bumper boats, go-karts, laser tag, paintball and a delicious ice cream shop. ($7 for adult, $5 for kids)
Goofy Golf in Sandusky, Ohio – A short car-ride down Rt. 250 from Cedar Point, Goofy Golf is home to an arcade, two 18-hole miniature golf courses, bumper boats and three go-kart tracks. The mini-golf courses here offer unique elements like high bridges, long, quick hills and large, themed buildings that players putt through and around. ($6 for adults, $3.50 for kids)
Sluggers & Putters in Canal Fulton, Ohio – Sluggers & Putters Wild World of Fun is Stark County’s premier putt-putt destination. The park’s 19-hole adventure golf takes players up a hill into the land of “The Wizard of Oz” and back down again through hole after hole of familiar nursery rhymes. Sluggers & Putters also offers go-karts, bumper boats, a golf driving range, batting cages, a rock climbing wall, an arcade, a “monkey jumper” trampoline and an ice cream shop. ($6 for adults, $5 for kids)
Adventure Zone in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio – I took a tour of the Adventure Zone Family Fun Center during a recent trip to Geneva-on-the-Lake and was blown away. This super-clean park with a super-friendly staff is a perfect family destination in Ohio’s oldest summer resort town. Along with its massive 18-hole mini-golf course, the “Zone” features a large arcade with a kids net playground, a merry-go-round, go-karts, bumper boats, a climbing wall and a snack shop. ($6 for adults, $3 for kids)
Affectionately known as the “Key West of the North,” a trip to the Lake Erie island oasis of Put-in-Bay is always a party. No party, however, holds a candle (especially those plug-in window candles) to the island village’s annual “Christmas in July” which this year takes place July 24-26. Think of it as your wildest office Christmas party . . . on an island . .. in the summer . . . with about 5,000 extra guests. Awesome.
Serving as Santa’s summer home, the entire downtown area is decked in red and green (with boughs of holly, fa-la-la-la-la). Snowmen give way to “sandmen” on the Put-in-Bay beaches and most restaurants serve up hearty holiday fare. The town’s legendary bars offer Christmas specials–try a bucket of beer at the Roundhouse Bar, it’s not what you think it is—and live bands rock the stages from open to close.
To get to the party, I recommend the Miller Ferry (a passenger and vehicle ferry that departs from Catawba Island with the cheapest fares to Put-in-Bay) or the Jet Express (a speedy passenger-only catamaran that sets sail from both Port Clinton and downtown Sandusky). Both offer beautiful views of Lake Erie and a comfortable ride to the island. Accommodations are at a premium during the island’s busiest weekend, so if you don’t have a place to stay already, chances are you won’t find one cheap. Not to worry though, as a stay on the mainland in nearby Sandusky or Port Clinton will keep you right in the action.