Coming up on its bicentennial year in 2018, the port city of Sandusky, Ohio is quickly becoming a vacation destination. Known throughout the Midwest and beyond for Cedar Point amusement park’s world class roller coasters, Sandusky itself has often been overlooked as part of the vacation experience. That is all changing now with the city experiencing a renaissance of the downtown and port areas. This list of things to do and places to visit just scratches the surface of the fun for the whole family in Sandusky.
Disclosure: Accommodations at Holiday Inn Express and tours were provided by Shores and Islands. Opinions, as always, are purely my own.
Sandusky Segwave Tours
These fun and informative Segway tours are the best way to get familiar with downtown Sandusky. You are able to quickly scoot between locations and cover a lot of territory around town and along the waterfront. At each stop, and even while riding, your guide will share some local history or other fun facts over your radio earpiece.
Never ridden a Segway? Well, your guide will spend plenty of time showing you how to operate it and make sure you’re comfortable before heading out on the tour. Our guide, owner Jim Ervin, had even the nervous members of our party speeding around within minutes. He was also very good at keeping us organized and on the move while sharing all sorts of info about the town.
The standard 2 hour tour costs around $65 per person, which I think is a pretty good value for the amount of activity crammed into 120 minutes. A shorter 1 hour session is also available. Segway training time is not included as part of the tour time, so take that as a fun freebie.
I highly recommend starting your vacation here, though with one caveat: riders need to be at least 14 years old. So, this may be a no-go for families with younger children, or may have to split up for a bit. You can find more information about Sandusky Segwave Tours on their website.
Sandusky Merry-Go-Round Museum
I have to say I have never been a fan of carousels. One exception though, the lightning fast Cedar Downs race horses at Cedar Point. It would seem ironic that I found myself discovering the beauty and creativity of carousel animals in downtown Sandusky. Housed inside a retired Post Office, a building interesting enough in itself, you’ll find an amazing collection of carousel figures and tools.
The Merry-Go-Round Museum has dozens of hand carved carousel animals. We are mostly familiar with horses, but the older rides featured all sorts of animals. Lions, deer, goats, and even roosters! There is also a full size carousel built in 1939 and serving as both ride and showcase for animals from different eras. There is also has a wood carver shop where they perform restoration on pieces in the museum collection as well as privately owned figures. A collection of tools from famed carver Dentzel are on display as well as other artifacts.
Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for kids 4-14; free for the little ones. This includes an informative tour and a ride on the carousel. I was amazed by the amount of detail in the carvings and found a new appreciation for carousels. Adults and children alike will enjoy spending an hour or two looking at the animals and, of course, taking a ride on the old carousel. You can find more information on the Merry-Go-Round Museum website.
Ghostly Manor Thrill Center
If there ever was a single place to keep a whole family occupied for hours this is it. The Ghostly Manor has an amazing array of activities available. A roller rink, haunted house, arcade, and more. My favorite was the 3D mini golf. It was like being in a video game when you put on the glasses. Families will enjoy activities for all age ranges whether it’s letting the little ones clamber on the indoor playground or older kids and adults solving clues in the escape room.
Ghost Manor offers items individually or with package pricing making it easily affordable for all budgets. Start with a basic $5 roller rink ticket or a $25 bundle including Ghostly Manor Haunted House, Wizards Journey 3D Mini Golf, XD Motion Theater & Roller Skating for all day fun. For more information on activities, pricing, and hours visit their website.
Maritime Museum of Sandusky
The best place to learn about Sandusky’s history as a port town is at the local Maritime Museum. The museum houses exhibits detailing life along and on Lake Erie, ship building, and interesting historical accounts.
Your walk through begins inside a replica of the Cedar Point lighthouse where you’ll view a short film. After the intro, there are several displays to visit. Local geography, the ice harvesting and boat building industries, and even pirate lore. Sandusky was an important last stop on the Underground Railroad where escaping slaves would board boats to Canada. There is an exhibit with stories about the slaves and captains who helped them sneak across the lake to freedom. Finally, in the buildings behind the museum there are several old boats and motors from the local Lyman company and others. For more information on pricing, hours, and events visit their website.
Goodtime I Cruises on Sandusky Bay
The Goodtime I is a two deck passenger ship sailing around Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie islands May through October. They offer daily island hopping and sunset cruises. I had the opportunity to sail on one of the sunset cruises. We toured Sandusky Bay and even circled around the Cedar Point boat docks for an up close view of the park at night. The clouds rolled in early, but I still managed to get a couple of good pictures and enjoyed the live guitar music and cash bar. A little taste of island life.
Good Time I also offers several specialty cruises. Wine Wednesday, Friday Night Party, and even Cleveland Browns Tailgating. For more information on cruises, times, and pricing visit their website.
Air 1 Airboat Rides
A slow sunset cruise not your speed? Then you’ll want to consider an airboat ride. Captain Tony will take you on a fun tour of Sandusky Bay. Up to six passengers will get an up close view of wildlife, downtown Sandusky, and Cedar Point. The ride ranges from a slow cruise viewing the shore birds to thrilling dashes across the bay. If the water is choppy at all prepare to catch some spray coming over the sides. Despite our ride during an overcast and wet day, it was a lot of fun.
This is the best thrill ride outside of Cedar Point and highly recommended. The air boat operates from May through early September. In the winter, Captain Tony offers inclusive ice fishing charters. For pricing and reservations visit their website.
Sandusky is quickly becoming a vacation destination with its combination of Cedar Point, water park hotels, and unique local attractions. There are enough activities to fill several days for a family adventure. And unlike other amusement park destinations, each day in Sandusky can be filled with completely different activities; not just rides and cotton candy. I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse assortment of things to do in Sandusky, and I think you will be too. Hop over to ShoresAndIslands.com and start planning your next adventure on the shores of Lake Erie. Be sure to bookmark Wagon Pilot Adventures and come back for more Ohio travel posts.