Your Family Travel Guide for Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky, Ohio is one of those rare destinations that has everything you need for fun: attractions and natural beauty that’s just a quick road trip from metro Detroit. Ready to go?

It’s near impossible to find a getaway destination that’s a great fit for everyone in the family. 

Activities that thrill little ones are not always exciting for older kids — and tweens and teens always crave a different level of adventure and excitement. When a single destination checks all the boxes for all the kids, our advice is to put that place on your family’s vacation rotation. 

Such a place does exist and it’s called Sandusky, Ohio. 

Metro Detroit families are lucky to have Sandusky just a short drive away because this area packs a vacation punch, thanks to the sheer amount of fun attractions located in a relatively tight geographic area.

Known as Shores & Islands Ohio, this little area has Cedar Point, Sandusky and Put-In-Bay — all fun vacation destinations super close to each other on Lake Erie.

Why visit Sandusky?

Because of its shoreline location, Sandusky is a great mix of fun and natural beauty. It’s right between Toledo and Cleveland, making it an easy spot to reach for a quick escape. With proximity to metro Detroit, the Sandusky area is perfect as a last-minute getaway or a carefully planned, long-awaited vacation — preferably both.

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Gemini Midway. Photo courtesy of Cedar Point

Right on the edge of Lake Erie, this city is more than just a stop; it’s a place where adventure meets the calm of lake life, making it a unique spot for families to explore. Visiting Sandusky is a great idea for families because it’s home to Cedar Point, the theme park known for its thrilling roller coasters and fun family moments. 

But there’s more than just rides. The downtown area of Sandusky has beautiful historic buildings, unique shops and great food. Nearby, you’ll find nature’s beauty with parks, the Marblehead Lighthouse, and sandy beaches on Lake Erie’s islands, perfect for outdoor fun or relaxing. 

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Photo credit: Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society

Sandusky, Ohio, is a destination where families can make lasting memories, whether they’re seeking thrills or a peaceful retreat by the water.

How to get to Sandusky

From Detroit to Sandusky is just over 109 miles, a comfortable two-hour trip in your Ford SUV. Hop on I-75 south toward Toledo. Once you reach Ohio, take exit 208 for I-280 south toward Cleveland. Stay on I-280 south until exit 6 for OH-51 (Woodville Road). Follow the signs to the Lake Erie Circle Tour and continue until you reach Sandusky. Be sure to use your Ford SYNC app in your vehicle to get the best route depending on traffic conditions and construction.

Need a pit stop or two? We have a couple of suggestions for places to stop along the way to enjoy a picnic lunch or dinner, stretch and run around or feed an inquisitive mind:

  • Sterling State Park in Monoe is Michigan’s only state park along Lake Erie. It boasts trails, campsites and hiking trails.
  • National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo is a great place to explore the Great Lakes — which make up 84% of North America’s fresh water.
  • Imagination Station is a world of interactive STEM where families can tinker, explore and discover cool stuff. There is a theater, a couple of cafes for refreshments, programs and events.

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3 Top family attractions in Sandusky

1. Cedar Point

Cedar Point is a big draw for metro Detroit families and this amusement park is practically synonymous with Sandusky. You could visit the area, spend all of your time at Cedar Point and go home completely satisfied.

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Photo courtesy of Cedar Point

Cedar Point is a special place where families have been making memories for 150 years. Here are some highlights.

  • Roller Coasters: Cedar Point is known for its 18 heart-pounding roller coasters. The most popular include Steel Vengeance for wild twists and turns, Millennium Force for breathtaking views (dare to keep your eyes open!) and Valravn, the tallest, fastest, longest dive roller coaster in the country. New in 2024 is Top Thrill 2, a triple-launch strata coaster that offers true weightlessness during three freefall moments. 
  • Cedar Point Shores Waterpark: an 18-acre outdoor waterpark that offers plunges, shallow play areas and a lazy river that floats past a beachy sandlot. 
  • Cedar Point Beach: a mile-long shoreline where you can relax — or try windsurfing, paddleboarding or jet skiing. 

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Cedar Point’s Boardwalk opened in 2023. Photo courtesy of Cedar Point

Cedar Point also has four areas designed just for little kids, including Planet Snoopy, Kiddy Kingdom, Camp Snoopy and Gemini Midway Area. And, thoughtful features like rider swap, family care centers and a “KidTrack” service should your child get lost make the whole-family Cedar Point choice an easy one to make.

2. Animal parks and zoos

Animal parks bring wildlife and nature into your Sandusky vacation. Here are a few you won’t want to miss:

  • African Safari Wildlife Park in nearby Port Clinton is a wild experience that has both walk-thru and drive-thru adventures, so pick your favorite. 
  • Not far from Sandusky in Amherst is Downs on the Farm, an animal sanctuary that gives a home to rescued animals, teaches the importance of sustainable agriculture and provides animal-assisted activities to individuals with special needs.
  • The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium offers the perfect pit stop along the way We love the huge variety of animals plus gardens, rides and interactive elements. The Aerial Adventure Course has thrills not often found in a zoo. Pro tip: this zoo now has a cashless payment system and accepts most credit and debit cards. 

If you’re looking for something a little more unique and still a lot of fun, try these fun and unusual things to do in Sandusky.

3. Indoor waterparks

Kids love waterparks and Sandusky doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty options for cooling down at an outdoor waterpark, including at Cedar Point’s 1–acre Cedar Point Shores. But indoor waterparks offer something unique because they make Sandusky perfect for year-round family getaways. 

Here are some top indoor waterpark options to try:

  • Great Wolf Lodge is 33,000 square feet of consistent 84 degrees, no matter what weather is happening outside. Consistently voted as a top family destination, Great Wolf Lodge has a four-story water treehouse, a tandem tube ride a mini playground for little ones, a water playground, a lazy river and a lot more. Great Wolf Lodge has several non-water attractions within the resort including an arcade, bowling alley, and an immersive MagiQuest adventure with an option for kids 5 and younger. As the name suggests, Great Wolf Lodge is also a hotel.

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Great Wolf Lodge. Photo credit: Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky

  • At 173,000 square feet, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is the largest waterpark in the Midwest. Most of the areas are safari-themed, just for fun, and there are lots of options for little ones, bigger kids, tweens and teens. Surf-lovers will enjoy the FlowRider, and everyone will love the multi-level water tree fort with slides and blasting water cannons. There are several flume and raft rides a wave pool, and even the chance to become a mermaid. Rooms, suites and villas are available if you want to stay overnight. 

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Kalahari Resorts and Conventions. Photo credit: Kalahari Resorts and Conventions

  • Caribbean-themed Castaway Bay is a 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark that also has a hotel for overnight stays. Little ones will like the backstory of Castaway Bay and parents will be interested to know that this waterpark is owned by the company that also owns Cedar Point. Here, you’ll find a wave pool, 10 water slides — and a children’s craft and activity center, an arcade, mini-bowling, mini-golf and an escape room.

Places to stay in Sandusky

If you’re hoping to stay close to the biggest attractions Sandusky offers (or your kids are!), you can book right into one of the many resort hotels available. Here are some options that blend family fun and the convenience of staying on-site that we all love:

  • Castaway Bay is a new Cedar Point resort that has an indoor water park right inside. When you dry off, you can also enjoy plenty of additional adventures right on-site.

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Castaway Bay. Photo courtesy of Cedar Point

  • Hotel Breakers is a classic beachfront resort and most rooms have water views and balconies. Best yet, it’s just steps from all the fun of Cedar Point.
  • Great Wolf Lodge’s rooms can be as much fun as the resort itself when you choose a suite themed as a wolf den or log cabin. Some rooms have balconies and lofts, and all are clean and comfortable.

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Photo credit: Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky

  • Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is unique because it can accommodate families and multiple families in its 2- and 3-bedroom suites and entertainment villas. Extended families or several families can stay and play together. 

There are plenty of other options, so visit our places to stay in Sandusky guide to find the perfect spot for your family — including pet-friendly options and campgrounds.

Where to eat in Sandusky

It’s never fun to search for dining options when the kids are running on empty, so be sure to have a few restaurant choices up your sleeve at all times. The more diverse the menu, the better! Here are some of our favorites:

  • The Maca Root Juice Bar & Eatery is an early-in-the-day place to go for healthy options. Vegans (and everyone else) will love the smoothies and açai bowls. This is a great place to fuel up before starting your first adventure of the day.
  • Berardi’s Family Kitchen is famous for its fries, but there are a lot of other great menu items, too. Burgers, salads, pasta and more. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kids menu!
  • Sortino’s Italian Kitchen is located in the Kalahari Resort. With a robust Siclian menu and reasonable prices, this eatery satisfies the whole family. 

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Photo credit: Kalahari Resorts and Conventions

  • Famous Dave’s is right outside Cedar Point and on the marina, so you can even arrive by boat! Award-winning barbecue that you can eat in or order to gogho 
  • Vine & Olive has Mediterranean sandwiches, salads and soups plus bakery items, all in an order-at-the-county casual vibe. This restaurant has Greek roots, so expect delicious gyros, spinach pie and baklava.
  • Wake Up and Waffle is a “brunchery” with eggs, waffle bunch handhelds, tofu scramble and avocado toast, plus a lot more. The “waffle creations” feature authentic Liege waffles like you’d find in Belgium. A good selection of sandwiches, too. Pssst: waffle sundaes! 

Simply craving ice cream and sweet treats? Have a look at our Sandusky dessert suggestions

Want to know what a metro Detroit family did on their vacation to Sandusky, Ohio? Read all about their experiences and suggestions for having a great time.

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.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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