Lake Erie Shores And Islands: A Fun And Easy Trip For Chicago Families! (part 2)

Welcome to Post #2 about our family trip to the Sandusky, Ohio area! I have tons of pictures to share with you from our second day of the trip (and third morning before we got back on the road to Chicago in the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid that General Motors let us use: thanks again, GM!). But first, if you missed Day One you should probably catch up before reading this post. Click here to experience Day One. I’ll wait.

Welcome to Lake Erie Shores and Islands!

We spent Friday and Saturday nights at the Maui Sands Hotel, which has just recently reopened. (The pool is open, but the waterpark doesn’t open until 2013!) We thought the rooms were spectacular: the suites sleep six, and they are nice and roomy! (Get it? ROOMY.)

Maui Sands Hotel: great suite!

In fact, J couldn’t quite believe that he had four beds and a television to himself. As you can see, he really didn’t know how to react to the news.

Maui Sands Hotel: All mine??

The Maui Sands has a continental breakfast that’s included in the room rate, which was really convenient for us since we had to eat and run!

First stop of the day on Saturday, downtown Sandusky…

City of Sandusky, Ohio

…more specifically, the Merry-Go-Round Museum! The museum is housed in the old post office, a building which just happens to have a rounded front with columns that–if you think about it–is the perfect home for everything having to do with a carousel.

The museum contains a beautiful selection of horses and other animals, along with mirrors and lights from carnivals. While browsing you can learn about the three carving styles, Philadelphia (“realistic and detailed”), Coney Island (“heavily jeweled and lavishly decorated”), and County Fair (“smaller and plainer in ornamentation”).

Downtown Sandusky, OH at the Merry Go Round Museum (stamps!)

Downtown Sandusky, Ohio at the Merry Go Round Museum

The centerpiece of the museum is the 1939 Allan Herschel Carousel, which you can ride while you’re there. (It is perhaps the fastest carousel I’ve ever ridden, and so fun!) The carousel was purchased by the museum after the original carved animals were sold, and museum volunteers carved beautiful “new” ones to replace them.

In fact, one side of the museum is taken up by an area for woodcarving, and it was fascinating to check out the drawings on display and the handiwork in progress, as well as converse with the volunteer on duty, who carved the “sea monster” currently on the carousel, pictured in the middle of the second collage down:

Downtown Sandusky, Ohio at the Merry Go Round Museum: Wood carving!

Carousel Collage

After we left the Merry-Go-Round Museum, we found a parking spot closer to the water and walked around a bit. What I love about downtown Sandusky is that it’s full of “mom and pop shops” rather than chain stores. The architecture is beautiful, too.

I loved their theater, which made me declare “If I were producing LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER in Sandusky, I’d book this theater!” (Okay, I only saw the outside, but LOOK AT IT. Gorgeous.)

Downtown Sandusky, Ohio: Theater

I also loved this barber shop. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they’re busy!

Downtown Sandusky, Ohio at Acme Barber

One thing that stood out in Sandusky was that there were historical plaques and signage EVERYWHERE. I could probably do a whole other post on the interesting history that happened in and around Sandusky (but I won’t).

Downtown Sandusky, Ohio: historical signage everywhere!

I do want to mention, however, that the Sandusky area was the “Gate to Freedom” for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad as Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about it in her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Underground Railroad

We happened upon the Sandusky Farmer’s Market, which takes place in a downtown parking lot on Saturdays from June to October…

Downtown Sandusky, Ohio: Farmer's Market

…and then we briefly hit up the Toast of Ohio Wine Heritage Festival, which celebrates “the area’s heritage as the largest wine-producing region in the nation prior to prohibition”.

Toast of Ohio

Nine Ohio wineries were represented (and we tried wine from many of them! YUM!), and there was food too. We enjoyed cheesesteak sandwiches and bruschetta with fresh mozzarella and artichokes.

Toast of Ohio: food!

We had just enough time to catch our ride to Kelleys Island, a Jet Express boat! The Jet Express, a water-jet catamaran ferry, is faster than the Miller ferries and a whole different experience altogether. I’m thrilled that we got to try both of them out; they both rocked!

Jet Express!

It was a very cloudy, kind of icky morning and not the best photo-taking conditions, but that didn’t stop me.

Jet Express to Kelleys Island: sailboat

Rather than riding on the inside of the boat in comfy seats, we chose to stand outside, upstairs.

Jet Express to Kelleys Island: Jim and J

We passed right by Cedar Point. Here is is in the distance as we jetted along…

Jet Express to Kelleys Island, Cedar Point in the background

And “suddenly”, we had arrived at Kelleys Island!

Welcome to Kelleys Island!

The first thing we had to do was pick up our golf cart.

Kelleys Island Golf Cart

Kelleys Island is much more tranquil than Put-In-Bay. The sleepiness of it all made it a great place to just tool around in the golf cart for a couple of hours and enjoy the beauty of what was around us. We found the homes and other buildings to be charming.

Kelleys Island

Found this old VW bus in the touristy area where the shops and restaurants were. I wanted to bring it home but a picture had to suffice.

Kelleys Island: Simplify Your Life

I loved seeing pear trees along the road! So pretty!

Kelleys Island Pear Tree

When we got away from the homes and just headed off into “nowhere”, for a moment I imagined I could live there, even though I’m a city girl at heart. (This picture was taken with my Pop Art filter, but it is really that beautiful!)

Kelleys Island

The East Quarry area was gorgeous.

Kelleys Island East Quarry

A few months ago, I had seen a picture that totally fascinated me, posted by a fellow blogger. Naturally I can’t find it now that I “need” it, but it was of a really cool geographic feature called Glacial Grooves. I was overjoyed to find out that I would be able to see this phenomenon in person, on Kelleys Island!

The Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island were formed when, about 18,000 years ago, the glaciers from the ice sheet that covered North America moved south into Lake Erie, the boulders frozen to the bottom of them carving out the island’s limestone and leaving behind this marvel.

Kelleys Island: Glacial Grooves

Kelleys Island: Glacial Grooves

The 430-foot long, 35-foot wide, 15-foot deep trench is surrounded by a fence but you can walk all the way around it, reading about its history on various plaques.

Right across the street in Kelleys Island State Park is the 100-foot public swimming beach.

Kelleys Island Public Beach

You can even rent kayaks!

Kelleys Island Public Beach: Kayak rental

Our host told us that we should definitely stop for something to eat at The Village Pump, where they are famous for their Brandy Alexanders.

Kelleys Island: The Village Pump

Far be it for us to not do something that our host suggested (taking one for the team, you know?!!), so we did. The place was packed at 3:30 in the afternoon: clearly it’s the place to be!

We ordered perch tacos with Pump Fries and a perch sandwich with sweet potato fries…

Lunch at the Village Pump on Kelleys Island: YUM.

The food was fantastic. Before leaving, we felt like it was our duty to order a Brandy Alexander because why would you go somewhere and not try what they’re famous for?


Kelleys Island: Brandy Alexander at the Village Pump!

Always happier after a good lunch…

Kelleys Island: Jim and Melisa at The Village Pump

After we ate at the Pump we drove around in the golf cart for a little longer, plotting out where we would live if we moved to Kelleys Island. It was truly a lovely day.

By the way, you can also rent bikes on Kelleys Island, a random fact I have just tossed in here because I wanted to share one of my favorite pictures with you:

Kelleys Island bikes: my favorite picture!

We took the Jet Express back to Sandusky (riding inside this time because we were EXHAUSTED), ate dinner in our room at the Maui Sands, and hit the hay early so we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our one final adventure before heading home the following morning: Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. Frankly, we were sold when our host told us we could play 3D Black Light Miniature Golf there.

Ghostly Manor tickets!

The golf course is nine holes, and mega-COLORFUL. I have to say that the 3D glasses were a little disorienting (but I guess they’re supposed to be…) and we kept taking them off and putting them back on, but it was super-fun.

Ghostly Manor 3D Black Light Miniature Golf. Say THAT three times fast!

After golfing, we picked a movie to watch in the XD 4D Theater, “Canyon Coaster”.

Ghostly Manor: XD Theater

The wind effects and seat movements increased the fun factor over just a 3D movie experience, for sure.

Ghostly Manor: Jim and J in the XD Theater

Other things to do at Ghostly Manor include Skateworld roller skating…

Ghostly Manor roller rink

…and a Haunted House, which I can’t share with you because I am slightly terrified of Haunted Houses and didn’t go anywhere near it.

All in all, Ghostly Manor was a great place for family fun, and a wonderful way to end our Lake Erie adventures. From there we jumped back in the Tahoe and headed due West and back home to the Chicago suburbs, talking about when we could possibly visit Sandusky again…

Coming up: post number three, my “bonus” post about Perry’s Victory International Peace Memorial. It’s tall, it’s historically significant, it’s beautiful, and it’s educational! Stay tuned…

Disclosure: Accommodations and attractions were provided by Green Door Mediaworks and their partners at Lake Erie Shores and Islands. I was not asked to write in any particular style or even about anything in particular; they just hoped that I would have a good time and share my experience, and I did, so I am. My family enjoyed this weekend immensely and we thank our hosts for their hospitality!


  • Samantha

    You have really done a great job of capturing different fun things to do there – I’m actually kinda surprised and just how beautiful it looks! I’ve been to Sandusky once and only checked out it’s main claim to fame.


  • Mom24@4evermom

    How fun! I would add two things: Kelleys Island State Park has excellent facilities for camping, lots of fun and very clean. Also, Caddyshack has awesome pizza and miniature golf. A visit to Kelleys wouldn’t be complete without it for our family.

  • Marcia

    So glad you enjoyed your time here!! I grew up in the Sandusky area and it’s great to ‘see’ all the attractions with a fresh persective!!