Rockin' and rollin' through Ohio Northern Ohio By Larry McIntyre
It was on our way to Niagara Falls that we discovered a real tourist treasure: northern Ohio.
Our first stop was in Toledo at Tony Packo's Restaurant. TP's was made famous by actor and Toledo native Jamie Farr, who regularly talked about the restaurant while portraying Klinger on "M.A.S.H." Chili dogs (think sausage) and pickles were the recommendation. I tried authentic fare, including stuffed cabbage and chicken paprikas. The food was unique and we enjoyed it.
About 10 miles east of Toledo we were guests of the Maumee Bay State Park Resort on Lake Erie. The resort is set in an 1,800-acre state park. The wonderful facilities offer indoor-outdoor swimming, racquetball-walleyball, a game room and more. There are hundreds of bird species in the area, so bring binoculars. Boardwalk trails wind through the nearby marshes so hikers can get a workout while enjoying the wildlife. Maumee Bay Resort shouldn't be a one-night stopover.
To truly enjoy the amenities, plan to stay for the whole weekend and do a little island-hopping to Lake Erie's resort islands. We traveled from Port Clinton via the Jet Express ferry to Put-in-Bay, the most popular destination of the Lake Erie islands. The kids-7-year-old Rebecca and 11-year-old Collin-loved the boat ride because the Jet Express lived up to its name. Chances are you might spend your whole day near the Put-in-Bay dock, which has a bustling town square that offers numerous dining and shopping choices. We ate an awesome lunch of fresh walleye sandwiches, chilled shrimp and lobster bisque at the Boardwalk. A half-mile away is the Perry International Peace Memorial, which commemorates the defeat of the British Navy on Lake Erie in 1812 while celebrating 200 years of peace among England, Canada and the United States. Other destinations on Put-in-Bay include island vineyards and a winery, caves, the world's largest geode and more.
A quick boat ride took us to nearby Kelleys Island, which offers a more relaxed pace than Put-in-Bay. The island is populated with families that have rented homes for the summer. Glacial Grooves State Park is located in the heart of Kelleys. The Grooves is a long stretch of rock cut by receding glaciers during the Ice Age. Just across the street is the public beach where our kids enjoyed splashing in the water and chasing sea gulls. There's a lot to do on Kelleys, including biking, boating, fossil hunting and more.
We spent the night back on the mainland at the Sawmill Creek Resort just east of Sandusky. The resort features a rustic decor and offers three restaurants, a family oriented karaoke bar, indoor/outdoor pools, tennis courts and a championship golf course designed by Tom Fazio.
Just down the road from the Sawmill is the best amusement park in the world for roller coasters. Cedar Point Amusement Park offers the best thrill rides I have ever experienced. It claims five of the 10 fastest or biggest roller coasters in the world. The granddaddy of them all is the Top Thrill Dragster. This coaster is touted as the fastest and tallest in the world-all in a ride that takes approximately 60 seconds. The amazing thing is that as fast as this ride is-it hits 120 mph twice within a minute-the advanced technology of the machine makes for a very smooth ride. I loved it. Cedar Point also offers an adjoining water park.
Our next stop was Cleveland. Our destination was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. We were completely blown away. For modern music lovers, this is mecca. Everywhere you turn are eye-popping, mind-blowing memorabilia from the history of rock music. The first floor features a unique, interactive music listening section where you can trace the musical influences of prominent rock stars. An entire floor is devoted to wardrobe. My favorite part of the museum is the top two floors, which are dedicated to a special exhibit of U2.
That night we took in a Cleveland Rockers women's pro basketball game. We hoped to see "The Lion King" at Cleveland's theater district, known as Playhouse Square, but it was sold out. Both venues are within walking distance of the upscale Wyndham Hotel, where we stayed as guests.
There are so many tourist attractions in northern Ohio that we didn't have time to see them all. Sauder Village is a frontier town built by the Sauder Furniture Co. where families can experience the lives of pioneers. And there's the Tom Edison Museum in his birthplace of Milan. Historic Landmark Marblehead Lighthouse is in Sandusky, a quick trip from Kelleys Island. Just an hour south of Cleveland is Akron-home of the National Football League Hall of Fame. We plan to go back soon.
Just the facts Maumee Bay Resort & Conference Center www.maumeebayresort.com (800) 282-7275
Sawmill Creek Resort www.sawmillcreek.com (800) SAWMILL
Wyndham Cleveland at Playhouse Square www.wyndham.com (216) 615-7500 The Jet Express www.jet-express.com (800) 245-1538
Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line www.kelleysislandferry.com (419) 798-9763
Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce www.put-in-bay.com (419) 285-2832
Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce www.kelleysislandchamber.com Cedar Point Amusement Park www.cedarpoint.com (419)-627-2350
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum www.rockhall.com (216) 781-ROCK
Tony Packo's Cafe www.tonypackos.com (866) 472-2567
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