Spring is a time of reawakening and rebirth, making it the perfect season to rediscover Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands and fall in love. The region located between Toledo and Cleveland boasts stunning scenery, a burgeoning culinary scene, some of the world’s best amusements, and a rich history.
When spring is in the air, ferries begin regular trips to the fabulous Lake Erie islands – Kelleys Island, Middle Bass Island, and South Bass Island’s village of Put-in-Bay. Charter captains start their search for Lake Erie’s sweet spots, where catches of perch, bass, and walleye are abundant. Pleasure boaters return their boats to the crisp water to tour shoreline communities. Visitors tour lighthouses, monuments, and museums. Birdwatchers ascend on the many natural areas that lay claim to one of the most spectacular spring songbird migrations in the country.
A number of exciting new amusements, exhibits, and dining options are popping up with fresh reasons to visit or re-visit this coastal destination. See what you won’t want to miss this spring and summer.
So much to Love!
Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands offers so much to love; we just can’t stop singing about it. Either can up-and-coming Nashville country artist Walker Hayes. Hayes visited the region last summer to film an all new advertising campaign for the destination including a television commercial and full-length music video. Walker’s single, “Lake Erie Love,” is a feel good tune about having the time of your life right here on Ohio’s north coast. Since 2010 Walker Hayes has had two hit singles on the US Country Top 100 charts; we’re hoping this is his third. The “Lake Erie Love” single is available for download on iTunes and the video can be viewed at SHORESandISLANDS.com.
Pipe Scream, Lake Erie Eagles, and SlingShot bring more family fun to Cedar Point!
The best amusement park in the world, 16 years running, plans new family rides, changes to the park’s Camp Snoopy area, and a two-year renovation project for Hotel Breakers. New for the 2014 season are Pipe Scream – combining the best of a roller coaster and a flat ride in one, and Lake Erie Eagles – a classic flying scooters ride where riders can alter their flight experience by raising and lowering their own carriages. Both rides will be located on the Gemini Midway. Another new, separately priced attraction will also debut near the Gemini coaster. SlingShot is billed as one of the most exciting vertical thrill rides around, launching riders in an open-air two-person capsule nearly 360 feet into the sky at speeds of up to 62 mph. SlingShot will open later in the season. Other new additions to the park include Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, a Coca-Cola Freestyle station, Yogurt Plus, and the new sports bar Chickie’s and Pete’s. The beginning of a two-year Hotel Breakers renovation project is already underway, featuring upgrades to both the exterior and interior of the historic hotel.
Stay Where you Play!
Cedar Point recently announced an expansion to its popular Lighthouse Point resort which will feature 52 new deluxe cabins which can accommodate up to 10 people. Each of these new cabins features two full bathrooms, four flat panel televisions, a dorm-size refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker, outdoor charcoal grill, and picnic table, along with free wireless internet access. A new registration building will help guests get to their cabins and RV sites even faster. Lighthouse Point is conveniently located along the west bank of the Cedar Point Peninsula and consists of 64 cozy cottages, 40 quaint cabins and 97 luxury RV campsites in addition to the 52 new cabins. Guests who stay at any Cedar Point resort enjoy perks such as discounted park tickets and early entry.
New Hampton Inn & Suites at Ohio Turnpike
The Leonard Longer family is opening their fourth area hotel in 2014, a Hampton Inn & Suites located next to the current Hampton Inn in Milan, Ohio near the Ohio Turnpike. Longer has no plans to close the existing Hampton Inn, but may reflag the property under another brand. The $8 million dollar, 4-story, 52,000 square foot inn will feature 70 rooms – a third of those rooms will be twice the size of a standard hotel room. The brand-new hotel will also feature a meeting room, indoor pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness room, as well as an outdoor grilling deck accessible from the pool area.
Magnuson Hotel Coming to Sandusky
The former Best Budget Inn, part of the SanduskyHotels.com family, has undergone extensive renovations inside and out and will open this spring as a Magnuson Hotel. The economical, family-friendly hotel is just minutes from Cedar Point and island ferries, and features an outdoor swimming pool.
More Good Times on Lake Erie
Goodtime Island Cruises offers new ways to get on the water in 2014. In addition to their popular island-hopping cruises and Friday night party cruise, Goodtime I is offering Monday lunch cruises on Sandusky Bay as well as Tuesday and Thursday evening sunset cruises. A number of special event cruises round out the offerings.
Paper Moon Vineyards producing “Honeymoon” Mead with Local Honey
Vermilion’s Paper Moon Vineyards is now bottling and selling mead, made with honey from local producer, Stein’s Honey in Collins, Ohio. It is called Honeymoon, acknowledging both the honey in the product and the name of the winery. Mead is traditionally an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting a solution of honey and water. This new offering was recently awarded a bronze medal at the Florida State Fair Wine Competition!
Liberty Aviation Museum Continues Expansion
This young museum (just over a year old) has big plans for 2014, including an additional hanger and the launch of its very own PT boat. The hanger is being added for protecting visiting aircraft, additional storage, and where work can be completed on the Ford Tri Motor plane being constructed by the Tri Motor Heritage Foundation. When this group of volunteers finishes their work, plans are for the plane to be available for public rides. If all goes as planned, also available for public rides will be PT 728. This “Patrol Torpedo” boat, same type of boat John F. Kennedy captained in WW II, has been in the process of restoration for the past year. Once launched, the PT 728 will be available for public rides, an opportunity that exists nowhere else in the country. The vintage B-17 bomber “Yankee Lady” will make several visits to the museum this season as well, offering public rides. The military history theme of the museum is kept intact with the Tin Goose Diner, a restored 50’s era diner where a cook dressed in period attire sometimes offers up large breakfast portions on tin trays like were used in the military of the past.
Sandusky, Ohio is the New Race City, USA
Sandusky’s ThorSport Racing team accomplished a unique feat in 2013 – the first non-North Carolina race team to win a racing championship. ThorSport has been racing since 1996 with its headquarters in Sandusky. This past season ThorSport won not one, but two championships – driver Matt Crafton won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and driver Frank Kimmel won the ARCA championship. The team’s third driver, Johnny Sauter (NASCAR Trucks) finished fourth in the series but won the team’s first Daytona 500 race at the beginning of the season. Groups can tour the state-of-the-art, 100,000 square-foot facility and a team shop is open to the public. The team’s goal for 2014 is back-to-back championships. It’s never been done.
Avallone’s Dining Empire
Chef Cesare Avallone and his wife, Andrea, continue to expand on their downtown Sandusky dining empire. Already owners of four successful restaurants, Zinc Brasserie, Crush Wine Bar, KitchenBar, and Dockside Café, the Avallone’s have relocated and expanded their flagship restaurant and opened a new dining option. Zinc’s new location at 215 E. Water St. is significantly larger than the original restaurant which allows for more seating. The new location also allowed for the introduction of their fifth culinary venture, Hearth Tavern. Hearth Tavern features hand-crafted wood-fired pizzas and an extensive craft beer list.
Kudos to Ghostly Manor
Congratulations to the Criscione family and Ghostly Manor Thrill Center for two recent designations. Ghostly Manor was included on Forbes.com’s list of “10 Great Haunted Attractions” and their Lake Eerie Fearfest was rated #3 on Haunted Attraction Magazine’s “Must See Haunts of 2013.” Now that’s something to scream about!
The Blind Perch
The Blind Perch Speakeasy Pump & Grill is a newly opened (October 2013) fine-dining, casual, gastro-pub, grounded in fresh locally farm-grown meats, Lake Erie fish, and Ohio produce. The restaurant serves a variety of specialty cocktails along with the chef’s award-winning Pork Cheek Confit and its namesake Perch.
Ups and Downs
The Merry-Go-Round Museum debuts a new exhibit in 2014. “Ups and Downs” is an exhibition to connect carousels and family recreation from the early 1900s to present. Featuring antique merry-go-round animals, this display examines how carving factories would create different animals like several menagerie elk, created by various carousel manufacturers. A jumping giraffe will take the stage during the exhibit, as will a wolf, lion, and tiger. The Toast of Ohio Wine Heritage Festival, a major museum fundraiser, will take place in July this year and, for the first time, on the museum grounds. In addition to several Ohio wineries offering tastings and glasses, music, food, and art will be available at the event.
The Boys are Back in Town!
Danny Boy’s, a well-liked Cleveland-area Italian Eatery, has returned to Sandusky after a short absence. Popular for its pizza, large portions, and Rat Pack theme, the restaurant returned at the close of 2013. There are four other Danny Boy’s locations around Cleveland.
Vermilion one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns
Congratulations to the entire community of Vermilion, featured in Ohio Magazine as one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns. The annual issues (five different towns are featured on regional covers) select the state’s best hometowns. Vermilion was selected by the magazine’s editors because it “embodies lakeshore living and a thriving sense of community.” Vermilion is noted as a great hometown because of its excellent schools, natural beauty and charm, the Vermilion in Bloom program, and its resident’s dedication to volunteerism, among other reasons. We couldn’t agree more!
Additional Growth at Erie-Ottawa International Airport
“International” is the key word in this Port Clinton-based airport’s name as it has now officially welcomed its first international flight. The origination of the flight was Pelee Island, Canada, and although this is a relatively short distance, it still marks a new era for the airport and its ability to offer customs entry and other services associated with flights across the U.S. border. The airport is now the home to Griffing Flying Service. This airline formerly based in Sandusky will provide charter air services, flight instruction and other offerings to the public. The airport is increasing its capacity with the addition of seven private hangers. It also will be increasing the number of special events such as fly-in socials available to pilots as well as local residents.
Milan Museum’s Renowned Glass Exhibit
The Milan Museum (formerly Milan Historical Museum) is excited to promote the renovation of its acclaimed art glass collection, completed in 2013. The renovation includes pieces from Tiffany, Lalique, Steuben and Dominic Labino. See the new multimedia display of how art glass is created and experience a collection unparalleled in our area. The Milan Museum also introduces a new $20 family admission, good for two adults and two children 17 and under.
More Upscale Dining in Vermilion
41 North will soon open in the former Martino’s International Café building – Martino’s recently relocated three doors to the east. 41 North is an upscale steak and seafood house, featuring locally sourced and sustainable ingredients by Chef William Skinner. 41 North provides a large dining room as well as private bar area and outdoor patio.
Sandusky Dining Scene is Exploding
Another dining option has come to downtown Sandusky for 2014. Amarone Italian Restaurant relocated from its Huron, Ohio location to the former Markley’s restaurant building at 160 Wayne St. Amarone’s popular authentic Italian menu is available at the new location along with an expanded menu of appetizer options. The new restaurant is also open for lunch and includes a full bar.
New Cocktail Joint in Sandusky
Locally owned and operated, Volstead Bar takes patrons back to the fascinating days of the Roaring Twenties by artfully crafting classic cocktails in a pleasant, laid back atmosphere. Housed in what was once the old Dorn Winery and later the Green Door brothel, the Green Door Building is shrouded in Sandusky lore and has seen an array of tenants throughout the years. Combining these intriguing historical remnants with the speakeasy practices of the aforementioned years, Volstead Bar harkens back to the days of Old Sandusky amidst the New Sandusky renaissance.
The Olive Scene
A new specialty shop for foodies has arrived in downtown Vermilion. The Olive Scene is an extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting emporium, which offers over 40 different types of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, all ready for tasting. The olive oils are pressed to enhance both flavor and nutrition. The white and dark balsamic vinegars come directly from Modena, Italy, the birthplace of balsamic vinegar. Rounding out the experience is a selection of specialty foods, cruets, handmade pottery, and other items that compliment an olive oil lifestyle. Stop in and see just how good healthy can taste.
Put-in-Bay’s Newest Old Bar
Reel Bar, which is located in the historical Put-in-Bay building formerly known as Tony’s, features great burgers, unique sandwiches, Lake Erie fish, fresh salads, 16 draft beers and fresh squeezed cocktails. The bar is under new management and has been completely remodeled to offer a comfortable setting which honors its island roots. The intimacy of the stage makes performers accessible to the audience, creating a great entertainment experience. Reel Food, Reel Music, Reel Bar.
Chill Out at Snow Fest
Sawmill Creek Resort introduced a new way to embrace the winter chill. The resort, located on frozen Lake Erie, is offering Snow Fest – daily ice skating, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. Skating takes place on a frozen pond adjacent to Mulligan’s Pub, which is convenient for when you’re ready to warm up with a hot bowl of chili or steamy hot chocolate. Skate and snowshoe rental is available, with trails throughout the expansive property and golf course. Cross country trails are available but you must provide your own skis. Follow Sawmill Creek on Facebook for info on daily activities, as they are weather permitting.