It's getting close to Spring Break time for schools and families across the Midwest, which has us thinking about family travel to Ohio's Lake Erie Shores & Islands and the best attractions for kids of all ages. Parents and grandparents appreciate the variety of attractions to entertain the little ones. While not all of these activities are available this early in the year, they're definitely worth a return visit this summer. When the youngsters wear out, you can relax in comfort at one of many hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, or campgrounds. In no particular order (Spring Break options are *):
1. African Safari Wildlife Park* – This drive-through safari allows you to get up-close-and-personal with a number of exotic animals from the comfort of your vehicle. After the drive-through, experience educational and entertaining animal shows as well as pig races. KID PERK: Kids under 100 lbs enjoy free camel rides.
2. Aquatic Visitors Center – Part of The Ohio State University’s Stone Lab campus summer program, the Aquatic Visitors Center offers the opportunity to experience Lake Erie science up close through hands-on ecosystem displays and live native fish as well as information on current research helping to protect our Great Lake. KID PERK: All kids under age 16 can fish for free from the fishing pier with poles and bait supplied.
3. Indoor Waterparks* – 85° temperatures year-round? Yes, please! Also, nothing saves a rainy day like waterslides and lazy rivers. There are options to suit all tastes and budgets including Castaway Bay, Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resort, Maui Sands Resort, and Rain Waterpark. KID PERK: No water wings needed; zero-depth entry pools and special shallow pools for toddlers make it fun for all ages. Plus, complimentary life vests are offered at most parks for extra safety.
4. Ghostly Manor Thrill Center* – Don’t let the name fool you, there’s very little that’s scary about this family-fun place. Beyond the popular haunted house, families enjoy a roller-skating rink, indoor play area, black light miniature golf, XD-3D movies, and arcade games. KID PERK: Kids got a lot of pent up energy? Let them jump, slide, and bounce it out in one of Ghostly Manor’s giant inflatable obstacle courses and slides.
5. Island Tour Train/Fun Pack – A great way for families to experience Put-in-Bay. The tour train offers a narrated island tour with on/off privileges at the popular sites and attractions. The Island Fun Pack is a packaged-deal that includes the tour train along with tickets to Perry’s Cave, War of 18 Holes Miniature Golf, The Butterfly House, Heineman Winery & Crystal Cave, and the Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center. Fun packs can also include ferry transportation. KID PERK: All kids under six are free for the train and all Fun Pack attractions. Bonus perk: All tour-train riders get stickers to wear that show they are a paid passenger; what kid doesn’t love a sticker?
6. M3 Museum Pass* – Merry-Go-Round Museum, Maritime Museum of Sandusky, Milan Museum – Visit three great attractions for one, low family price. Sandusky’s Merry-Go-Round Museum offers trips to childhood no matter your age. Then, get your sea legs over to the Maritime Museum to learn about Lake Erie shipwrecks, pirates, and boats. The Milan Museum features a multi-building campus featuring a blacksmith shop, general store and carriage shed along with a toy house and glass collection. KID PERK: At the Merry-Go-Round Museum a carousel ride is included with admission; at the Maritime Museum kids can build a model boat; and at the Milan Museum kids can complete a scavenger hunt and play a game of chess with giant chess pieces in the courtyard.
7. Cedar Point Amusement Park – No Shores & Islands kid attractions list would be complete without one of the world’s greatest amusement parks. Known for amazing thrills Cedar Point wows the whole brood with three kids’ areas, including Planet Snoopy. The PEANUTS™ gang entertains, greeting their young fans with special appearances. There are also a number of rides, games, and shows throughout the park that kids and parents can enjoy together. KID PERK: There are many, including the handy Parent Swap and Kid Track programs along with stroller rentals, family care centers, and special kids’ meals. Learn more here.
8. Air1 Airboats – A one-of-a-kind adventure, Air1 Airboats takes your family on a 30-40 minute fast and thrilling ride that includes views of beautiful scenery, wildlife, and Cedar Point. Best suited for kids over the age of six due to the noise, an airboat ride is a great way to cool off on a hot day. KID PERK: Due to the proximity to the nature preserves along the shore, many riders have enjoyed bald eagle sightings on the trip.
9. Seneca Caverns – This Registered National Landmark delights explorers with a fascinating underground tour through seven levels as low as 110 feet below the surface. At the bottom voyagers can see the crystal clear stream dubbed “Ole Mist'ry River.” Preserved close to its original natural state, Seneca Caverns is a geological wonder. KID PERK: The child’s Caveman Package includes mining for gemstones in an authentic mining sluice – kids may discover gemstones, minerals, crystals, arrowheads, or fossils from around the world.
10. Lakeside Chautauqua – Lakeside's historic community is an ideal getaway destination for families. Lakeside is a safe place where kids can ride bikes through neighborhoods, take sailing lessons, learn tennis and shuffleboard, see family-friendly shows and movies, and play at a splash park and beach with lifeguards. KID PERK: During the summer programming season, take advantage of organized games and activities as well as an enclosed, supervised playground where kids can play safely. Another perk is that all activities, classes, and shows are included with a gate pass.
If you vacation in Lake Erie Shores & Islands with kids, what are some of your favorite activities?