Category Archives: Put-in-Bay

My #LakeErieLove Story: Still Smitten with Lake Erie Islands and Shores After All These Years

#LakeErieLove, Part 1

Disclaimer: Please excuse the sappiness in the next couple of paragraphs. I promise it’s connected to today’s blog post.

Many reflections on love focus on the falling into it. That first attraction. The squishy feeling of butterflies in your stomach. The anticipation of a first kiss or date.

That’s my least favorite part of love.

Sure, I enjoy the occasional rom-com (especially if a British accent is involved). And I still smile when thinking about my first memory of Scott. I saw him tuning a piano and thought ‘Oh, that’s an old-fashioned thing to do. I bet he’s nice.’

However, my favorite part of love is everything that comes after you get to know someone. I love the habits and shared interests that Scott and I developed over ten years. Not just because it’s comforting, but because every week, he or I do something that surprises the other, breaks that routine, and reminds us all over again why we love each other.

For instance, Scott’s mom dug up a binder last week that was filled with stuff Scott drew when he was a kid. As long as I’ve known him, Scott’s always claimed that he can’t draw.  So when I saw these imaginative character sketches and comic strips, I was blown away. They were amazing and showed me a different side of the fantastic, if not slightly odd, sense of humor I first fell in love with.

Binder

What does this have to do with the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, though?

Well, I realized on a recent trip to Sandusky and Put-in-Bay, that loving a place is very much like loving a person.

Our first summer after moving to Cleveland, Scott and I took a trip to Cedar Point and immediately became season passholders. It was the beginning of our love affair with the area and we tried stuffing in as many day and weekend trips to Sandusky, Port Clinton, Kelley’s Island and Put-in-Bay as we could.  In fact, closer proximity to the Lake Erie Shores and Island area is one reason we looked at Avon Lake when we considered moving from the eastside.

Last month, I had an incredible opportunity to spend three days exploring the Shores and Islands area with other Midwest bloggers. Going into the blogger tour, I thought that it would be an opportunity to reconnect with some of my favorite Lake Erie stomping grounds.

What I didn’t realize was how much of the area I had been missing out on. It was all of these surprises that deepened my #LakeErieLove.

lake erie love chairs

There were so many surprises, in fact, that I can’t fit them all in one blog post. So over the next month, I’ll be blogging once a week about what I learned about Sandusky, Cedar Point, and Put-in-Bay during my trip.

I also had a few random realizations that didn’t fit nicely into those posts, which I’m sharing today.  Enjoy!

Surprise #1: Cedar Point’s Family Care stations are wonderful.

Although I’ll have a full post dedicated to Cedar Point, today’s story is about my stupidity and the Cedar Point’s Family Care and First-Aid station.

A piece of advice: Don’t go looking for your car keys by jamming your hand blindly – and forcefully – into your tote bag. There’s a good chance your finger may come into contact with something very sharp.

I learned this the hard way as we were leaving Cedar Point for the day, and the result was not a mere paper cut that could be patched with a band-aid (though I’m very thankful that Dominique at Midwest Guest had some at the ready).

Fortunately, a park employee was nearby and rapidly escorted me to one of the park’s Family Care stations.

Earlier in the day, we had a chance to hear from Bryan Edwards, Cedar Point’s Public Relations Manager. While talking about the park’s renewed focus on family fun, he mentioned the two air-conditioned Family Care facilities, complete with private nursing stations, baby-changing and infant-feeding areas, and a cooldown room where you can watch Peanuts movies with your kids.

Cedar Point First Aid

The Family Care Centers are also First Aid stations offering over-the-counter medication, bandages and emergency care. 

Little did I know that I’d have the opportunity to experience it all firsthand!

Although I didn’t have a chance to catch the names of the park employee and medical staff I met during this incident (I was distracted by my bleeding hand), their kindness and patience impressed me as I rollercoastered between panic, embarrassment and, finally, relief at not needing stitches.

No one wants to visit the Family Care station, but if you do, you’ll be in good hands.

Another Cedar Point safety tip I learned: The concession stands and vendors will give you a free cup of water if you ask for it. It’s better to come prepared, but if you’re overheated and need water, ask for it. You – and the park – want you to have fun. Don’t ruin it with heatstroke.

Surprise #2: SawMill Creek is more than a golf course … much more.

Every time Scott and I drive to Cedar Point, we pass Sawmill Creek Resort. And every time we passed it on previous trips, I saw signs for the golf course and thought that’s all it offered.

Color me surprised when I stayed overnight during our blogger tour. Nestled a little ways off of Cleveland Road is Sawmill’s beautiful 235-acre getaway.

In addition to that 18-hole Tom Fazio Golf Course, Sawmill offers a sprawling lodge, marina, restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, private beach access, tennis, and nature walks through the Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve.

Lake Erie Love Sawmill

I was only there for one night so I didn’t have a chance to check out all of the resort’s amenities. However, the outdoor pool+bar area was beautiful; the staff I spoke with at the frontdesk, in the Salmon Run restaurant and the Black Bear Saloon were very friendly; and the resort’s Native American exhibits added an educational touch to my strolls through the property.

Although the room I stayed in could have benefited from a few updates, it was still comfortable. Plus, the other amenities and resort’s peacefulness made up for it.  I will definitely be checking it out the next time I’m looking for an overnight stay in the area.  

Surprise #3: Check out ShoresandIslands.com, even if you know the area.

On trips to Put-in-Bay, I’ve seen the guidebooks and signs advertising the Lake Erie Shores and Islands organization. But it wasn’t until this tour that I recognized the full scope of their region and resources.

Their site is a huge help if:

My favorite part of the site is their interactive map of the full region linked to an Itinerary Planner.  Since returning from the #LakeErieLove tour, it’s come in handy a few times. Most recently, it led us to the Tin Goose Diner when we were looking for a place to eat in Port Clinton. The 1950s-era diner and Liberty Aviation Museum are a must-see.

Come back next week for my post about downtown Sandusky. Until then, here’s a teaser photo of one of the things we got up to:

Sandusky Merry Go Round Museum

Disclosure: I was invited on a 3-night/4 day blogger tour of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, in exchange for writing about my experience. Opinions in this and future posts are 100% my own.

Seeing Put-in-Bay by Bike

1 Put in Bay

Miller Ferry offers a smooth boat ride and excellent customer service on your way to Put-in-Bay (photo from boat on right)

After we got back from our vacation last week, Scott and I still had a few days off before going back to work. So we decided it was the perfect opportunity to take a trip a little closer to home.

On Thursday we made the short drive over the Edison Bridge to Catawba and caught the Miller Boat Line to Put-in-Bay.

Last fall we visited the island for the Put-in-Bay Wine Festival. Although we packed a lot into that daytrip, we still had a long list of things we wanted to do. After being invited back to stay over for the night, this was the perfect opportunity to cross some things off that list.

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Put-in-Bay’s Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Celebration

Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Celebrations 8/29-9/2

When I think of Put-in-Bay, my first thoughts are of hanging out on the lake, sipping on wine, and enjoying the laid-back pace of island life.

Visiting PiB and Kelleys Island is a highlight of my Cleveland summers — not to mention spring and fall (here’s a recap of our trip to Put-in-Bay last Fall).

What doesn’t immediately come to mind is an epic battle. However, it was off the shores of Put-in-Bay that the ferocious Battle of Lake Erie was fought 200 years ago this September.

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A Day on Put-in-Bay at the Island Wine Festival

As the Miller Ferry pulled up, Scott was literally jumping up and down with excitement for the trip to Put-in-Bay

When I think about Put-in-Bay, thoughts of summertime come to mind – balmy weather and a cool breeze coming off the mirror-smooth lake. However, this past weekend I was surprised to learn how Lake Erie’s islands are also the perfect Fall escape when we visited for Put-in-Bay’s Island Wine Festival.

We drove out to Catawba early Saturday morning and hopped on the Miller Ferry. The winds and whitecaps were pitching the boat around so I stuck downstairs to avoid getting seasick (or would it be ‘lakesick’?).  We had fun, though – it was a bit like going on a water ride at Cedar Point.

Everyone unloaded onto South Bass Island when the Ferry docked – it was time to hunt down transportation!  From shuttles to walking to bikes, there are plenty of ways to get around Put-in-Bay. My favorite? Zipping around the island on a golf cart.

Island Bike and Cart Rental welcomes you as soon as you arrive making it easy to get around Put-in-Bay

At the top of the hill leading away from the ferry dropoff is Island Bike and Cart Rental where you can rent an electric golf cart from 2 to 6 seats. If you’d rather some exercise while touring the island, they also rent bikes for the day.  This is who we usually use when we visit Put-in-Bay and Saturday was no different.

Because we had a very full day ahead of us, we huffed our way up the hill to be first in line for a cart. A little short of breath but keys in hand, we were off to our first destination: Perry’s Cave.

Named after the Commodore who is credited with discovering the cave during the War of 1812, Perry’s Cave offers a fun journey underground for amateur spelunkers.

The highlight of the tour was the underground lake, famously used for drinking water by Perry’s men during the war as well as Put-in-Bay’s infamous Hotel Victory in the early 1900s.

One of the over 50 types of butterflies at the Perry Cave Butterfly House

In addition to Perry’s Cave, the grounds has expanded to offer a full family fun center. We got a combo ticket for the day which allowed us to pick 3 attractions from their list of 5. Even though Scott and I don’t have kids, we had a whole lot of fun acting like them.

We took a break from the cold in their Butterfly House, a large greenhouse home to hundreds of beautiful butterflies. A few of them seemed to really like Scott, landing on him as he walked.

And for our third attraction, we tried our hand at Fort aMAZE’n. The maze may not look that tough from the outside, but let’s just say I didn’t do so “amazing” in navigating my way through. At least I gave Scott a good laugh as he watched me backtrack through the maze from his perch in the observation tower:

Help! I’m lost!

While the combo pass also includes the War of 18Holes mini-golf and a rockwall, there’s a free exhibit I really recommend not missing out on the next time you visit.  Tucked away in the back corner of the property is Skip’s Antique Barn. This free museum features the impressive antique car collection of Charles “Skip” Duggan, who started the Island’s weekly antique car parade.

Highlights included the Popcorn-Peanut Wagon and Put-in-Bay’s oldest automobile, but the jewel of the collection for me was this 1924 Model T snowmobile:

This special Model T was built specifically to deliver mail in the winter in Minnesota

After our visit to Perry’s Cave, we drove across the street to Heineman’s Winery.  Although their wines are a little sweet for my taste, I like going to Heineman’s for their patio and the Crystal Cave, the world’s largest geode.

The cave is currently closed for the season (which runs May-September) but Scott satisfied his sweet tooth with a glass of his favorite Pink Catawba.

Our brief stop at Heineman’s was just a taste of what was to come, as we headed over to the Island Wine Festival at the Put-in-Bay Winery.  Showcasing over 350 different wines – a healthy mix of both local and international – the Wine Festival was a delicious way to warm up on that blustery Fall afternoon.

Cozied up in our coats and hats, Scott and I walked through the tasting tent and around the Doller Estate sipping white wines and grabbing a bite to eat from Old Forge Cafe and Creperie.

Old Forge Cafe and Creperie at Island Wine Festival

While Scott opted for their dessert crepe filled with dark chocolates, caramel and sea salt with a side of whipped cream, their savory prosciutto crepe hit the spot for me.

The prosciutto was paired with fresh pears, goat cheese and arugula – flavors that were all sharpened with a balsamic reduction.

Having found success with their crepe cart this past summer, Old Forge is setting up shop next door to the Put-in-Bay Brewing Co. in 2013. Definitely pay them a visit next summer!

Out of the 20 or so wines we tasted, our favorite – Twilight from Vermilion winery Paper Moon – had us going back for multiple tastings and eventually a bottle. The sweet and spiced blush instantly gave me red cheeks – a great wine for the brisk weather we’ve been having. We also took in a bit of grape-stomping and checked out the Doller House’s gazebo and tasting room.

The Island Wine Festival at the beautiful Doller Estate benefited the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society

With all of the time we spent at the Festival, my only regret was missing the day’s winery tours and not actually picking up a bottle of one of Put-in-Bay Winery’s wines (loved their sparking moscato Celebration!).  However, I’m looking on the bright side: this gives me yet another excuse to return next season.

Before catching the last ferry out, Scott and I made a pit-stop at the Put-in-Bay Brewing Co. to get some fortification against the cold with a beer and bowl of Guinness Onion soup. While their Pass Out Stout didn’t have the kick I was expecting from the Kentucky Bourbon it was aged in, the oatmeal stout did offer a nice smooth finish.  We also got to catch a glimpse at Perry’s Monument – it was nice to see the scaffolding off of it and I’ll be making time next trip to take the elevator ride to the top.

With the Monument reopened, you can now take an elevator trip to the top

Put-in-Bay may be slowing down for the upcoming winter, but there are still a few great Fall parties to enjoy on the Island in 2012:

  • This coming weekend – Oct. 13 and 14 – is their annual OktoberFest. Held in DeRivera Park in downtown Put-in-Bay, it’ll feature German food and beer, island wines and entertainment.
  • On Saturday, October 20, the Roundhouse Bar will mourn the passing of another season at their annual “Put-in-Bay Wake“.
  • And the last big weekend of the year takes place Saturday, October 27 when all of the downtown taverns celebrate Halloween with decorations, costumes and parties.

Whether you go for one of these events or just to take in some of the Island’s attractions, the Miller Ferry runs regularly through November 25th so bundle up and spend a day on Put-in-Bay.

Until next Spring!

Disclosure: I was invited by the Miller Ferry Service to spend a day on Put-in-Bay and share my experiences. I was provided with roundtrip tickets on the ferry and a golfcart rental. I was also invited by Perry’s Cave and the wine festival to visit during my trip. As always, though, the opinions expressed here are my own.