Sandusky, Ohio is known for big thrills at Cedar Point Amusement Park, Great Wolf Lodge and The Kalahari Indoor Waterpark. What visitor’s to the area may not realize, is that Sandusky has many small museums and attractions that also leave a lasting impression and deserve a second glance.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Sandusky. I spent one day discovering the city solo before my husband joined me in my exploration. Though we’ve been to Sandusky many times, this is the first time we’ve taken the time to see the sights the downtown area offers. We weren’t disappointed and plan to visit again when the weather is warmer, as the wind coming off Lake Erie can be pretty cold in November.
My first stop was to the Merry-Go-Round Museum. One look at the building and I couldn’t wait to go inside. Located on the National Register of Historic places, the museum is housed in what was once the post office. Its unique design allows for a full-size carousel to fit, and operate, perfectly inside. Several displays address the history of the carousel and show the difference between the types of carousel horses while a booth in the back of the museum shows volunteers working on pieces to add to the ride.
The Small City Taphouse is a short drive from the Merry-go-Round Museum and during the spring or summer months, it would have been a walk that I’d have enjoyed had it been a little bit warmer. A fairly new restaurant, Small City Taphouse, offers a blend of Asian and Vietnamese foods that can be paired with one of over 45 craft beers on tap. The décor is comfortable and trendy, a great place to have lunch with a friend. I ordered my meal of Beef and Broccoli from the lunch menu. It was delicious, and the service was wonderful.
The Maritime Museum of Sandusky shares the history of Lake Erie. From the ship builders that were once common in the area, to harvesting blocks of ice during the winter and even the Underground Railroad and pirates- this museum was a special surprise. It was much more appealing and interesting than I thought it would be. Families with younger children will appreciate that much of the museum is hands-on. Grown-ups will appreciate the Lyman boats that have been lovingly restored and are housed in a back building as well as the collection of boat motors.
The Milan Museum complex is a short drive from Sandusky. My husband opted not to visit this attraction with me, though he regretted his decision later. This wasn’t my first visit through this museum, which is a collection of several building and houses, I’d visited on a field trip with my children several years ago. That tour focused on the history of Milan, what was once a canal town. Since that visit, the museum has overhauled their glass collection which is now housed beautifully in the Glass Museum, said to be one of the top glass museums in the country. I may not have talked my husband into touring with me this time around, but I’m sure he won’t pass it up another time.
A short drive from downtown Sandusky and Milan, Sawmill Creek Resort which sits on 235 acres, offers plenty of indoor and outdoor amenities and plenty of entertainment options. One could book a room for the weekend and never drive offsite, unless of course, you wanted to. I admit, once I settled in my comfortable room and cozied up next to the fireplace, I wasn’t too hip on leaving, but I had more exploring, and shopping at the Sawmill Creek Shops to do.
Sawmill Creek Resort offers easy access to the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, has an incredible golf course, several on-site restaurants, provides wine tasting tours at some of the area’s most popular wineries, offers zip line excursions in nearby Vermilion, and rides on the resorts’ own private boat during warmer seasons. You’ll also find social Tapas dinners which highlight local businesses and specialty cuisines and live entertainment on the weekends. But what I love about Sawmill is the location. Situated right on the shore of Lake Erie, Sawmill has a private beach just for guests, one amenity that is not easily duplicated.
On a clear day, you can look across Lake Erie from Sawmill Creek Resort and see Cedar Point, Marblehead Lighthouse, Perry’s International Peace Memorial and Kelleys Island. If you look really closely, you may catch a glimpse of them in the photo below.
Saturday morning, my husband and I took some time to drive through downtown Sandusky before touring the Cooke-Dorn House Historic Site. On the outside, this property resembles a small castle-like abode, while the interior is a contrast of fifties inspired décor. Our tour guide, Ed, was very knowledgeable and had known the last owner, sharing personal insight and stories.
Our appetite for all things Sandusky history was whetted and from the Cooke-Dorn House, we drove to the Follett House where we viewed four floors of artifacts and memorabilia collected by private donors from the area. While tour guides are available, my husband and I opted to explore this home on our own. I was disappointed the Widow’s Walk, which promised an amazing view of Lake Erie, was off-limits for the season but plan to pop in when the temperatures rise.
While at the Cooke-Dorn Home, I picked up a Walking Tour of Downtown Sandusky (download here) which features many of the buildings and highlights the varied architectural styles. My husband and I spent a bit of time exploring the architecture, before heading to Toft’s, the oldest dairy in Ohio for some deliciously creamy ice cream.
Have you been to Sandusky? What have you enjoyed?
© 2014 – 2016, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.