By Kathryn Lemmon
I remember how I felt as a child growing up in Indiana when the weekend approached. All the backyard mysteries had been solved, I was finished with mud pies and bike-riding was old news. My fondest desire was to go someplace. I heard Fort Wayne had a new miniature golf course, and how I longed to go. I had also heard about indoor water parks, caves to explore, beaches, islands and boats so big they carried cars. It was all I could do to go to sleep at night.
It turns out Lake Erie Shores and Islands in northern Ohio is my childhood dream come true. And while it might be a kid's paradise, every member of the family will find the region enjoyable.
Great Wolf Lodge appeals to the younger kids with rustic north-woods decor. The lobby has a sweet 12-minute animated woodland show with singing forest creatures and talking trees. After the show the whole crew can indulge in some decadent fudge. Then, no matter what the temperature outside, they can pull on their swimsuits and take the plunge into dancing water jets, body slides and lazy rivers.
Kalahari Resort is another indoor water park option that has been ranked as one of the largest indoor water parks in the United States. As the name implies, they selected an African theme, and adults, at least, can appreciate the effort put into the ethnic artwork and design.
This park might be best for older kids or teenagers since its layout is sizable. In fact, the entire resort is large, encompassing a conference center along with connecting buildings for rooms and suites. Adults can unwind in the indoor-outdoor hot tub with a swim-up bar or float the lazy river round and around.
The Sandusky area has three additional indoor water parks that include Castaway Bay, Maui Sands and Rain. Castaway has a shipwreck in the lobby that is decorated for whatever holiday is next approaching. Maui Sands goes for a tropical, South Pacific slant, while at Rain they frequently shower guests with — of course — rain.
Ghostly Manor Thrill Center is another absolute kid-pleaser with no water necessary, and it is easily located because of the dragon on the side of the castlelike structure. The manor offers multiple activity choices under one roof for when the kids are soaked and pruny from too much water fun.
The roller-skating rink and its mirrored ball brought back fond memories to this former skating champ, and the haunted house gets rave reviews — only brave souls need apply. There are also bounce houses, an arcade and a 4-D motion-picture theater, and the manor puts a new spin on miniature golf with an interactive 3-D black-light version.
Marblehead Peninsula is home to the Marblehead Lighthouse, which was built in 1821. Today the area is a state park on a scenic, windswept spot. Tours to the top are available.
Exploring Lake Erie island life begins with a short ferry ride. Ferries service the chain of islands north of Sandusky, some of which belong to the United States and others to Canada.
My friends and I crossed over on the Miller Ferries to South Bass Island for a day's excursion. Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, managed by the National Park Service, is a popular stop. The monument commemorates a battle in 1813 when Oliver Hazzard Perry of the U.S. Navy and his men prevailed over the British near Put-in-Bay.
Perry's Cave Family Fun Center will introduce the kids to the world below their feet. The natural dolomite cave has a 9-foot ceiling, making it a fairly easy walk. The underground lake rises and falls with the level of Lake Erie.
Walleye is the signature fish for the Lake Erie coast, so we gave it a try at lunch. Our choice was delicious — lightly breaded and fried with a garnish of tartar sauce.
Next it was a quick look at South Bass Island Lighthouse and the drive-through African Safari Wildlife Park. On the return ferry we left the vehicle and sat topside for the breeze and view. The curious seagulls who followed closely provided free entertainment.
The Merry-go-Round Museum in downtown Sandusky made the cut for us since all ages are encouraged to ride the indoor carousel. We circled to the tune of "Ghostbusters" — funky but fun. I rode the lead horse, "Stargazer," circa 1915. The museum is housed in a former post-office building whose walls are lined with rare restored carousel animals. A workshop within the museum provides artisans a place for their restoration work.
Lake Erie Shores and Islands has an abundance of vacation options, especially for families with children. In fact, narrowing the choices is the toughest part. We didn't even have time for Cedar Point Amusement Park. Next time we'll stay a full week.
WHEN YOU GO
For more information, visit www.shoresandislands.com.
Kathryn Lemmon is a freelance travel writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.