There are many reasons to visit Ohio’s Lake Erie area during the warmer months. Areas like Kelleys Island, Put-in-Bay (or South Bass Island), and Middle Bass Island are just a few of the top reasons why visitors flock to the area every summer, making this one of the most popular destinations for warm weather travel.
But, what about the winter? Granted, many of the beach areas are closed for the season. Spots that would normally be bustling in the middle of July seem quiet and sleepy in the dead of winter, when temperatures can easily go below zero and snowstorms are a regular occurrence.
So, what exactly does one do in Sandusky in February?
I ventured out there to find out. Clearly, New York City wasn’t cold enough for me, I had to head to the Midwest. A little over an hour flight and seconds after exiting the airport terminal I had to wonder if I had lost my mind.
Let’s be honest, it’s freaking cold. But being a tourist in a cool town, in this case Sandusky, during a time when there are few others is a pretty awesome experience.
Here of 5 reasons to bundle up and head to Ohio for the winter.
Don’t laugh. It’s gorgeous out there covered in snow. Head over to the Sawmill Creek Resort and rent some ice skates or snow shoes and explore the 235 acres next to the Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve. Worth every snowflake that tickles your nose along the way.
2) Foodie Heaven
There’s no way this love affair would work if there wasn’t good food involved and like many small towns across America, Sandusky is growing their culinary prowess. You don’t even have to break the bank or stand on long lines, especially during the winter, to enjoy it.
Have any one of the amazing brick oven pizzas served at Hearth Tavern, just know that any other pizza you have from there on will not compare. Pair the meatball pizza with their Bordeaux wine and brace for your mind to be blown. Kaboom.
Have a sweet tooth? Check out Tre Sorelle Cioccolatto for wonderfully crafted, handmade chocolate treats. It’s hard to choose, and you might even be inspired to sign up for one of their chocolate making classes, but my must-have recommendation? Their hot chocolate. It’s a spiritual experience.
3) The Beer and Cocktails Scene
Remember that one time I ate my way through Richmond, VA (highly recommend it)? Little did I know that the famous Mekong I would experience there had a brother in Sandusky, OH. Turns out An Bui (in Richmond) has a brother, Chucky (in Sandusky), who is also sharing his passion for beers of all variations. Search out Mekong and be ready to get your drink on. As Chucky says, “Beer is the answer”, though don’t hesitate to pair it with any of his Vietnamese dishes for a full experience. Friendliness overload and a favorite local hangout.
Chucky proudly displays the many beer options to choose from. Don’t know what you want? Don’t worry. He’ll happily guide you through a fun beer journey.
Want something a bit more intimate and cool? Step into the days of speakeasy where the cocktails are a work of art and the ambiance is a joy. The inconspicuous doors of Volstead have been open to locals for a little over a year, and already it is one of the most popular gathering spots in town. This place is no-nonsense, no-attitude, come-for-the-drinks, stay-for-the-laid-back-vibe type of place. Green lights outside (and on website) let you know when there’s a seat open for you.
4) The Symphony
Yeah, that’s right. Culture and art. The historic State Theatre, in operation since 1928, is a nice place to enjoy an evening of entertainment and mingle with art-loving locals. The theatre itself is gorgeous, and listening to the beautiful compositions from the Firelands Symphony Orchestra was a wonderful insight into the cultural community of the area.
5) Spa treatments
People know Kalahari for its water park scene, and if that’s your thing this resort is perfect during the cold season. For me, the spa is the place to be. Walk through those spa doors and let Zen take over. I was told the two-hour couples massage is worth every penny, though my manicure experience was pretty great too.
Also, Lake Erie
I don’t think there’s anything more awe-inspiring than looking out onto a frozen Lake Erie. A photographer’s dream, the sight of it looks like a scene from one of those end-of-the-world movies. Walking on it? Sure, no biggie for some. Ice fishing? Every day, yo. Ice as far as the eyes can see? Yeah, only in the dead of winter, my friend. And flying over it? Creepy cool.
This lake has some incredible stories too. To learn about the lake, the area, and the people visit the Maritime Museum of Sandusky. It’s a small museum that won’t take too long to walk through, though I hear their winter events can be pretty unique and fun.
My long weekend getaway was cold, but full of a diversity of experiences worthy of a visit.
Not convinced? I get it. Check out my reasons to visit in the summer. And if you love the area as much as I do, make sure to vote Huron, OH for the America’s Coolest Small Town 2015!
Disclosure: I visited Sandusky, OH as the guest of Lake Erie Shores and Islands tourism board. All opinions are my own.