The Lure of the Lake

4 reasons Lake Erie will lure you in and entice you to return again and again

Story by Tania Meek

Growing up below the Mason and Dixon Line, I was unaware of the Great Lakes appeal. But upon moving to Southeast Ohio, a trip to Lake Erie quickly positioned itself to the top of my must-see list. A decade later and several trips under my belt, I truly appreciate the lure of the lake and its region.

Large bodies of water have continually pulled people to their shores. There is simply something about water that speaks to one’s body and soul. The waves, the sights, the sounds, the smells – they all combine to manifest in a deeply fundamental experience that allows our world to slow down and our soul to breathe.

The region initially attracts you to its beaches for the views. However, the scenic towns, the friendly people and the diverse offering of activities you discover dotted near the water’s edge are the features that sway you to return over and over again.

The next time you find the placid lapping of the water along Lake Erie’s shoreline calling your name, consider one of the following four communities. Each is unique and present an abundance of memory making opportunities.

Courtesy Astabula County Visitors Bureau

Geneva

Situated near the Geneva State Park, the communities of Geneva and Geneva-on-the-Lake offer something for everyone.

Noted as Ohio’s first summer resort, Geneva-on-the-Lake’s history is as diverse as its modern day activities. There is a sense of timelessness on this busy strip. From arcades to miniature golf, go carts to bumper boats, fun abounds for people of all ages. During the summer months, families are able to treasure hunt through the Flea Market Series each weekend and delight in concerts in the park. Also, Adults can revel in activities such as summertime’s Monster Pub Crawl or fall’s bike rally, the Thunder on the Strip.

When you realize your stomach is growling from a day of perusing the strip, be sure to wander over to Eddie’s Grill. Eddie and his family have been serving up hot dogs, Slovenian sausages, ice cream and fresh-squeezed lemonade, among many other tasty treats, since the early 50’s – and your taste buds will soon be begging for more.

For the adventurist at heart, Lake Erie Canopy Tours offer guided zip line excursions, an adventure course for adults and kids alike or boat rentals for experiencing Cowles Creek at Geneva State Park. At the day’s end, rest your weary head at the The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake where modern amenities merge with the charm of a classic country inn.

For your next day’s outing, tour the town of Geneva just a few moments’ ride from the shoreline, and be sure to drive through the West Liberty Covered Bridge on the way. Considered to be the shortest covered bridge in the United States, at only 18 feet long, it is one of 17 drivable covered bridges in the county.

If you chance upon town on a Thursday evening in the summertime, drive by Mary’s Diner on East Main Street. The classic cars lined up outside of this retro diner will be sure to have you reminiscing of days gone by. Step inside, slide into a booth and order up a Mary’s Classic Burger , topped off with an order of onion rings and a Super Shake.

If retro diners and zip line tours aren’t up your alley, book a stay at the Lakehouse Inn. After an afternoon of relaxing in the day spa, devote your evening to tasting local flavors of both food and wine. Dine in at the Lakehouse Inn or head out to one of several local wineries, such as the Old Mill Winery, Grand Rivers Cellars or Laurello Vineyards.

Courtesy Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands

Lakeside

Shortly after entering the gates of Lakeside Chautauqua, it’s easy to fall in love. There is a welcoming sense of community, combined with peaceful beauty, that envelopes your soul asking you to leave your hurried pace behind. Yet, I’d venture to say you will feel as though you’ve stepped back in time, especially if you choose to stay at the historic Lakeside Hotel. There is no need to leave your laptop or cellphone at home, as contemporary features abound here. Besides, you might just need your cell phone to share photos of a gorgeous pier sunset with the social media world or call a friend to schedule your next weekend getaway at one of the many charming cottages.

Although, during your stay, you may do nothing more than put your feet up on the porch to savor the slower pace of lake living, do not doubt there is plenty to keep you busy in Lakeside. From quaint shops, weekly farmers market and locally owned restaurants; to a full array of lectures series, concerts, art classes and family programs; as well as tennis, water sports and shuffleboard – there is something for everyone. And honestly, that’s quite an accomplishment for a small community that physically encompasses only one square mile of shoreline. Lakeside is a community where, once you venture inside, you will want to return with your kids, friends and grandkids for years to come.

Courtesy Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands

Sandusky

After touring many of the smaller towns dotted along this area’s landscape, you may feel the desire to skip the small city of Sandusky altogether. But do not allow the size to prompt you into missing the highpoints this metropolitan area has to offer. The first and most well-known of Sandusky’s tourist attractions is Cedar Point. This amusement park has been recognized for its world-class roller coasters, 18 in all, for decades. But the numerous other thrill rides, family rides and water park, nestled on the shoreline of Lake Erie, will entertain thrill seekers of all shapes and sizes.

For a more leisurely pace, meander over to downtown Sandusky, where the historical architecture, the tempting restaurants and shops, and the walkable waterfront will make for a delightful afternoon. Don’t miss the opportunity to snatch a favorite piece of retro candy and a vintage soda from Soda Pop’s shop. Then journey to a spot on the pier to soak up the water view and the Cedar Point skyline on the horizon.

Your Sandusky visit can also be transformed into a bit of historical, educational fun for every member of the family with a stopover at one of the three local museums: the Merry-Go-Round Museum, The Maritime Museum of Sandusky or the Follett House Museum. No matter the excitement you’re seeking on your next trip to Lake Erie, Sandusky is sure not to disappoint.

Courtesy Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands

Vermilion

We happened upon this town quite by accident the first time we drove along Highway 6, the state highway which hugs tightly to Lake Erie’s shoreline. Coming around a bend, we found ourselves in yet another one of Lake Erie’s attractive downtown communities.

Although you may feel that once you’ve seen one picturesque town, you’ve seen them all -this village is worth the stop. It is reminiscent of many small European villages, where you glimpse flowers spilling from street lamps and shops, pleasantly adorned parks offering free concerts on weekend nights, and a depot decked with benches to observe the trains rolling in and out of town.

The waterfront and marina affords many opportunities to actively participate or simply delight in the view. Grab a blanket and picnic on Main Street Beach. Dock your boat at the Vermilion port and stroll the marina. You will quickly grasp why Ohio Magazine chose Vermilion as the “Best Port Stroll” in Ohio. There seems to be a photo opportunity around every corner, especially during certain annual events such as the Woollybear Festival & Parade and the Festival of the Fish.

For garden enthusiasts, a trip to the Schoepfle Garden is a must. These 70 acres of botanical gardens and natural woodlands may be enjoyed by partaking in a guided tour or at your own relaxed pace.

Closing out your visit, you might wish to capture yet another stunning Lake Erie sunset while drifting down the Vermilion River on the small paddle wheeler called Mystic Belle. If you’re in town at just the right moment, you will want to catch the lighted boat parade from scenic McGarvey’s Landing. No matter the time of day or the season of the year, the town of Vermilion will draw you in. It encourages you to stay longer than you had planned and delights your senses more than you may have ever imagined.

Although, isn’t this the true lure of Lake Erie? The water pulls you in. The people and places invite you to come again and sometimes even remain.

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Tania Meek spends her days as many of us do – endeavoring to balance family, faith, community and friendship, only to feel as if she might be getting it right just a sprinkling of the time.