Family Road Trip Guide: Sandusky, Ohio

Roller coasters, water parks and family fun that excites even teens and tweens!

With my oldest child starting high school, and while my nephews are both teens and my daughter a tween, I thought a cousin trip to Sandusky, Ohio, for roller coasters and water slides could be a highlight of the year. My family has visited Cedar Point to ride its epic coasters before, but it was a first for my sister and her boys.

We loaded up our cars and drove to Ohio. In the end, we definitely did not regret our decision to stay at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. There was so much to keep everyone entertained that our trip was filled with laughter and good times.

Getting to Sandusky, Ohio

It’s about a two-hour drive from the Detroit/Ann Arbor area to Sandusky, Ohio. Shores & Islands Ohio encompasses Cedar Point, Sandusky and Put-In-Bay, all fun vacation destinations super close to each other on Lake Erie.

Things to do in Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point is the main draw to the area. It’s a world-class amusement park in a scenic setting. Have a blast on up to 70 different rides, from low-key kiddie coasters to incredibly adrenaline-pumping, record-breakers, like Millennium Force, which rises over 300 feet and makes you feel like you’re flying at 93 mph. We giggled on Wild Mouse, where the cars spin 360 degrees, and Cedar Creek Mine ride, which is a milder coaster. My son always loves Gemini, where twin cars race through drops and twists to see who comes in first. My sister and daughter soared on Gatekeeper, a dive-bombing coaster that broke seven world records.

I love how there’s a range of options, from Peanuts-themed rides to family rides to crazy coasters.

The Sky Ride gondolas are also a nice way to get whisked to the back of the park, relax and get an overview of the options.

Where to Stay in Sandusky, Ohio

Kalahari Resorts wave pool. Photo Credit: Cortney Fries

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is like a dream come true for families. It has a huge indoor water park (the largest in the Midwest), which is always heated to 84 degrees, an arcade, indoor surfing and bodyboarding, outdoor adventure park with a zip line, a ropes course, a climbing wall and mini golf. Insider tip: Rent a cabana to hang out, where you can order food from a server and watch TV when you’re ready for some downtime.

Kalahari’s outdoor water park is open Saturdays and Sundays (weather permitting) until Sept. 30. It has a huge outdoor pool with lounge chairs on the edge of the water. There are several outdoor water slides. Some of my favorite memories are splashing down the Stingray half pipe and Tornado Alley water slides with my sister. Our kids clamored for the outdoor tube slides and indoor wave pool.

I wish we would have checked out the spa sooner because it looks serene and I would have loved to sneak in a massage. The on-site restaurants are great so that families easily eat together with minimal planning.

We also stayed at Sawmill Creed by Cedar Point Resorts, which I highly recommend. Recently renovated and located on a picturesque golf course 10 miles from Cedar Point, the hotel is clean, modern and comfortable. The indoor and outdoor pools are awesome when traveling with children. When you stay at a Cedar Point Resort during theme park season, you can get exclusive benefits like Early Entry (one hour before the park opens), free fountain drinks at Cedar Point, free parking and more.

Places to eat in Sandusky, Ohio

Go to The Maca Root Juice Bar & Eatery in downtown Sandusky for healthy, delicious eats from smoothies to avocado toasts. The Islander smoothie with mango, pineapple and banana was pretty popular with our kids. The Pink Dragon smoothie is a beautiful pink color from the dragon fruit. I thought my PB&J smoothie was quite filling for a healthy breakfast. Our family also ordered avocado toast, tomato basil grilled cheese, and Breakfast Crunch, which is gluten-free bread topped with bananas, peanut butter, granola and honey. I selected this restaurant because we have two gluten-free kiddos in the group, but most ended up loving it.

Vine & Olive is a specialty Mediterranean market with a counter to order gyros, salads, pizza and soups. Save room for the baked goods. They have several cases of the most delicious-looking pies, cakes, chocolates and more. Our boys enjoyed the carrot cake so much they each had to have their own slice.

Toft’s Dairy ice cream. Photo Credit: Cortney Fries

Toft’s Dairy is an institution in Ohio. We visited the original location on Venice Road as well as an outpost at Cedar Point. They serve huge scoops of more than 70 different flavors of ice cream. I had to try the “Lake Erie Cookie Island Monster,” which is blue cake batter ice cream blended with cookie dough chunks, drops of chocolate chips and chocolate cookies and cream.

Great Karoo Marketplace Restaurant is a buffet restaurant at Kalahari. There’s a wide variety of dishes to choose from, so your meat lovers to vegetarians to picky eaters and gluten-free group members will all find numerous dishes to dig into. Kalahari also has a Starbucks in the lobby, great for grabbing coffee plus pastries and fruit for the kids.

Sortino’s Italian Kitchen and B-Lux Grill & Bar are two other restaurants we enjoyed at Kalahari. Sortino’s serves pasta and pizza in a nice, Italian setting. B-Lux offers burgers, onion rings, mac n cheese and other crowd-pleasers. Top it all off with chocolate. The Last Bite is a dessert shop in the lobby of Kalahari with tons of chocolate-covered goodies. I wanted to try a chocolate-covered pickle, purely because I’ve never seen one before. While my teenage nephew and I ate the entire chocolate-coated garlicky pickle, it was mostly because the chocolate was so creamy. Next time, I’d select the chocolate-covered gummy worms.

Why Families will love Sandusky, Ohio

Sky Ride at Cedar Point. Photo Credit: Cortney Fries

Sandusky, Ohio, is a fun trip for families because there are so many options for entertainment. Our teens could wander around Kalahari and Cedar Point finding fun things to do. No one was bored. We spent our entire trip laughing, eating and making memories. It was rides, slides and good times. Just the way you want every family vacation to be — filled with smiles.

Content brought to you by Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers. Learn more at buyfordnow.com. Find more articles like this at Metro Parent’s Ultimate Family Road Trip Guide.

Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.

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