The Great Lakes are one of America's best natural features. They're all unique, too: some have rocky coasts; others feature swooping dunes; and still others boast calm and sandy shorelines. Lake Erie is one with flat, peaceful shores... but that doesn't mean that it's not an exciting destination! Cities, beaches, lighthouses, parks, and, of course, one of the country's most epic amusement parks can be found on the Lake Erie coast. Here's a road trip that will have you falling madly in love with this extra-great Great Lake.
First stop: The Roller Coaster Capital of the World! But first, what do a bathhouse, a dance floor, a beer garden, and a playground for children all have in common? They were what Cedar Point consisted of back in 1870! And since then, we've seen it blossom into one of the world's premier parks for roller coaster fanatics. Dozens of rides and plenty of record-smashing experiences make this a dream come true for adrenaline junkies. But during the Civil War, the land housed field artillery used to defend a Confederate soldier prison that was nearby. A German immigrant decided to build a few boats to transport those prisoners, and then quickly switched to transporting locals to a popular picnic spot for a small fee. Seeing this as a potential gold mine, he constructed some various tourist attractions, such as the aforementioned beer garden and dance floor, and voila! An amusement park was born! Grab a day pass for the park, add a waterpark pass for some additional family fun, and spend all day exploring 364 acres of roller coasters and entertainment!
After a long day at the park, you'll need a comfy place to catch some sleep. And since Cedar Point is a unique experience that you can't get anywhere else, keep the trip funky by staying in a yurt here instead of traditional camping! The Shelby/Mansfield KOA Resort also has a giant jumping pillow, a zip line for the kids, a laser tag game, mini golf, a fitness center and much more that'll be sure to create a memorable trip for everyone who tags along. Cabins are also available in addition to tent and RV sites.
Begin a morning in downtown Cleveland by grabbing a bite to eat or finding some local treasures at the city’s oldest continuously operating, municipally-owned market, West Side Market! You can really feel the cultural diversity walking around, trying new foods, and meeting new people. The building itself is a landmark, featuring a historic clock tower, and it gives off that nostalgic vibe we all love when buying produce, grabbing a bite to eat, or just siteseeing in an old market in a bustling city! There aren't too many places around the country like this one, especially for those who consider themselves foodies, or just love supporting local vendors. Remember to pay attention to their hours -- West Side Market isn't open on Tuesdays or Thursdays!
After you're full of good local Cleveland food, spend the rest of the afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Expect to receive the full rock history--from the very beginning of the genre to the artists of today--in an attraction known around the world. In 1986, it was decided to place the hall of fame in Cleveland because area disc jockey Alan Freed is cited as coining the term "rock and roll," in addition to promoting the genre as a whole. The Hall of Fame and Museum features a concert film or movie playing in the big theater, which is definitely worth taking advantage of, especially because it's always changing. The architecture of the building itself is as funky as the artists talked about inside! As a music fan, you owe it to yourself to cross this iconic building off your bucket list.
"The light that shone for 100 years" is the motto of the Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse, a landmark deep-rooted in Ohio history. Many exhibits feature cool memorabilia and teach the history of this prominent structure. Tickets are affordable, and it's a perfect way to spend an afternoon relaxing and soaking in some history after days of roller coasters and rock and roll. There's even an eerie little twist in the whole experience: In 1871, the head keeper of the lighthouse owned multiple cats, all of which disappeared after his wife died. She was bedridden, and they kept her company... but one grey cat remained. This cat's ghost is said to run around the lighthouse and has even been featured in popular ghost-hunting television programs.
Travel back in time at a vintage stop called the White Turkey Drive-In, which offers both nostalgic and affordable eats. The owners, who owned a turkey ranch, purchased this root beer stand franchise back in 1981, and they used their birds to craft a delicious turkey sandwich. This sandwich is the favorite, along with classic root beer floats. Oh, and you can't forget onion rings! The scenic ride in from the Lake Erie area will both work up your appetite and finish off this Ohio stretch of the trip.
The Erie KOA Holiday has the perfect amount of convenience; it's right off the interstate but still far enough away from that traffic noise we all despise. The fishing pond and paddleboats offer tons of fun for when you're not relaxing in your tent or cabin. Bike rentals and a video arcade additionally amp up the excitement while camping! Whether you're staying in a tent, RV, or cabin, you'll be able to relax and enjoy the amenities here.
Wake up relaxed and raring to go, and head to Presque Isle, a "recurving sand spit" that geologists have said formed 11,000 years ago. Eleven miles of beaches and free admission present endless sand and water fun for everyone in the family. There's even a local restaurant right outside the entrance called Sara's, featuring Lake Erie favorites-- Smith’s hot dogs and milkshakes--for a bite to eat on your way in or out of the park. Walk the trails if you find yourself visiting in the afternoon, or grab a bottle of wine and watch the sun set on the beach as the day ends.
Keep the road trip ball rolling upon entering New York by visiting Panama Rocks Scenic Park, a treasure in the forest. It's a half-mile-long, 60-foot-high rock featuring mossy, hidden caves. Panama Rocks is additionally just 15 minutes away from the popular Chautauqua Lake, and offers way cool hiking trails for an experience that's more exciting than your average hike. The rocks are around 300 million years old, so you truly feel like you've stepped back into a time before humans. The trails are moderately easy, so anyone can make the little trek and bask in the natural beauty we so often forget that New York has to offer.
Evangola State Park is 733 acres (you read that right!) of pure lakeshore beauty. It sits right on Lake Erie and offers activities like camping, swimming, and more. Bike around, lay out on the beach, or sit in the breathtaking gazebo overlooking the water! The camping is affordable, and there's even a convenient camp store for all of your needs. For campers, what could beat waking up each morning and walking out to the water to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere this park presents?
Crossing the border into Canada, take a trip into the past to a British fort constructed right after the French and Indian War. Old Fort Erie is open daily from 10 AM-5 PM for daily tours and epic musket demonstrations. This is a must-stop for history buffs, especially those with military interest. It's also an incredibly scenic spot, whether you want to do a gorgeous photo shoot of historical remnants, or just watch the sun set over the old buildings.
Niagara Falls is a place we've seen in movies and pictures, and heard talked about around the world for years and years. However, the cliche saying "you won't believe it until you see it" applies here more than you think! Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls in one, the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. There's more than meets the eye with these incredible falls, however. Millions of kilowatts of power are generated from Niagara Falls, making it one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the country, which is pretty darn incredible to think about. Visiting the Falls is something everyone must do at least once in their lifetime, simply to experience the pure natural beauty that these powerful falls have to offer. Whether you take them in from a boat ride, Goat Island, or from dry land, they're simply stunning.
From Cedar Point to Niagara Falls, the Lake Erie shoreline is an incredible road trip to embark on if you're looking for a fun-filled adventure that includes fascinating history, excellent local food, and some gorgeous natural landscapes and features. Whether you're young or old, looking for excitement or relaxation, or up for whatever the road will throw at you, this great lake experience is for just about everyone.
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