Shores & Islands Ohio – An Unexpected Winter Holiday Destination
Published November 2021
Shores & Islands Ohio, well known as the Midwest’s summertime playground, is surprisingly an amazing winter and holiday getaway as well. Come celebrate the season along the shore this December with a number of exciting activities that will help make family memories for years to come.
Lace Up Your Skates
Ice Skating is available in two Shores & Islands locations this winter! First, the Civista Bank Ice Skating Rink will be open at downtown Sandusky’s Jackson Street Pier. In operation Thursdays-Sundays through Martin Luther King Jr. weekend (January 15-16, 2022), the Civista Bank Ice Skating Rink is a 36’ x 40’ synthetic ice rink. Skating will be free and there will be a $5 fee for skate rentals, which will be operated by Sandusky Recreation Department staff.
Huron will have an ice rink as well, located at Fabens Park. Guests of the ice rink can skate casually and play hockey, but they must bring their own skates, as there won't be an on-site spot to rent them there. The temporary ice rink, which is 100’ x 60’ will be available from mid-December through February.
The Arts Garage, a creative art creation and gallery space operated by the Greater Port Clinton Area Arts Council located just west of downtown at 317 E. Perry St., is hosting a traditional holiday market, similar to the Christkindle Markets of Europe. Available through December 31, you’ll find everything Christmas for sale, including designer decorated trees and wreathes, ornaments, seasonal décor, and more. There will also be workshops, performances, and demonstrations throughout the month.
Huron Winter Fest takes place December 4th, with a parade (featuring grand marshal The Grinch), food trucks, shopping, carriage rides, and Santa. Kids can visit with Elsa and Anna from Frozen as well as Captain America and enjoy Elf on the Shelf Storytime. A shuttle will transport holiday shoppers to three different market locations filled with unique local vendors. The festival concludes with a holiday fireworks spectacular at 6 pm.
Sandusky Winter Wonderland will be celebrated December 10-11 at Jackson Street Pier. The two-day event will feature live music, a holiday market, and food, along with ice skating. Downtown businesses and parks will be decorated for the most romantic and fun wintery atmosphere. Christmas ales and food trucks will be available for you to enjoy or visit one of the many delicious restaurants in downtown Sandusky.
Holiday Light Displays
Downtown Sandusky celebrates with town-wide lights including amazing displays in Washington Park, home of Santa’s Cookie House. The Merry-Go-Round Museum also offers a musical light display nightly, choreographed to festive music.
A unique way to experience Sandusky’s light displays is with a Holiday Lights Evening Tour from Sandusky Segwave. These one-hour guided Segway tours include headsets playing seasonal music, rides through the park with stops at uniquely decorated store-fronts, and warm cocoa. Create a new family tradition with those 14 and older! Two tour times (6 and 7:30 pm) are available nightly through December 23rd.
Port Clinton offers their 5th Annual Lighted Christmas Parade on December 4, part of Port Clinton Community Christmas. The afternoon of activities includes kid’s crafts and games, a chili tasting competition, shopping local retailers, and visits with Santa. The Lighted Christmas Parade kicks off at 5:30 pm, followed by a tree lighting ceremony at Adams Street Park.
The Village of Milan offers a unique holiday light display at its town square. The birthplace of prolific inventor Thomas Edison, the square features a canopy of lights with strings from corner to corner, in the style of the Edison lightbulb. A fitting tribute to the inventor of Christmas lights.
Ghostly Manor Thrill Center offers a festive holiday light show which can be viewed from your car. This free 30-minute show is offered nightly and the musical soundtrack can be found on a local radio signal, 99.7 FM. The show begins at 6 pm and runs through midnight, nightly until New Year’s Day.
Shop Small Business for Unique Gifts
We’ve all heard about the shipping delays and lack of product at big box stores this season. Avoid the hassle and the worry, while supporting small businesses and SHOP LOCAL. Shores & Islands communities have a number of unique specialty shops with products you can’t find anywhere else. Plus, many of our quaint small towns go all-out with holiday decorations and are just a joy to visit over chain retailers. Find nautical items, hand-crafted art, boutique clothing, gourmet food items and more when you shop Shores & Islands retailers. Visit Vermilion, Huron, Milan, Sandusky, Port Clinton, Marblehead, Oak Harbor, Elmore, and Genoa for small-town holiday shopping!
Indoor Activities for Chilly Days
Downtown Sandusky offers Noble Axes (axe throwing), Noble Pins (adult arcade with pinball, pin bowling, skee ball, and VR games), Paddle & Climb’s indoor rock wall, and Escape Rooms by Franknicky. Ghostly Manor Thrill Center and Cedar Corners also offer indoor family entertainment such as skating, bowling, laser tag, mini-golf, and more. A kids’ ninja course, climbing walls, and activity center is available inside the Cedar Point Sports Center and is open to the public.
The Port Clinton and Marblehead area offer the Erie Social Shuffleboard Club (shuffleboard courts, bean bag toss/cornhole, and tabletop shuffleboard as well as classic board games), Coastal Swing indoor golf simulator, Twin Star bowling, and the relaxing Spa Catawba. You can also visit Liberty Aviation Museum, showcasing historical aircraft and vehicles, along with interesting local transportation exhibits and the in-process restoration of a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor.
Adults can also enjoy area wineries and breweries as part of the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Cheers Trail. For the winter months, Twin Oast Brewery in Catawba offers outdoor igloos available for private rental (up to 8 persons) with full food and beverage service! The Orchard Farm Stand offers special events and classes, such as the December 8 Cheese School, where guests will learn to create the ultimate cheese board for the holidays while sampling cheeses, wines, and fresh artisan breads.
Splash & Swim? Yep, Year-round Fun
Both Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari Resorts & Conventions have amazing winter set-ups, with holiday events, and daily kids’ activities. Both resorts offer huge arcades and other special attractions beyond their indoor water parks. Great Wolf Lodge even offers indoor snow as part of their annual Snowland celebration, while Kalahari is famous for their epic holiday buffets.
New Year’s Eve Tradition – Shores & Islands Style!
And of course, there’s always Port Clinton for New Year’s Eve…home of the 25th Anniversary Walleye Drop! A fun festival with kids’ activities early (Minnow Drop at 6 pm) and adult fun with live music, pub crawl, outdoor vendors and food trucks all lead up to the countdown at Midnight when we drop 20-foot, 600-lb Wylie the Walleye to ring in 2022!
Don’t miss all the special events and holiday happenings at Shores & Islands Ohio this season. Find things to do, places to stay, and fun activities at SHORESandISLANDS.com.
*Photo credit and special thanks to Andy Ouriel for the header image of Sandusky's 2021 Christmas tree!
Ohio's Lake Erie Shores & Islands
One of the Midwest’s hottest vacation spots, the region between Toledo and Cleveland provides an eclectic mix of historically significant sites, family-fun amusements, gorgeous scenery, and outdoor recreation.