The Lake Erie vicinity is a beautiful, romantic area in the northern part of the state, there’s no doubt. It’s filled with attractions and scenic spots, and it’s beautiful no matter what time of year you visit. Recently, we took a trip up to the Sandusky area to check out ideal date night ideas and romantic places. Here’s how to have a romantic getaway in Sandusky and the Lake Erie Shores & Islands region including our top picks.
Disclosure: We were hosted by the folks at Lake Erie Shores & Islands to give you the scoop on romantic getaway ideas. All opinions are my own!
I never need an excuse to visit Sandusky and its neighboring cities. I’ve visited several times for different reasons (Halloweekends at Cedar Point, family-friendly locations, Bloggy Con, etc.) but have never really taken Mr. Locke for a romantic getaway. For Pittsburghers, it’s under three hours to drive to the area, so it’s not a ton of time spent in our car.
Yes, we’re parents. Yes, we travel together frequently. But, planning our recent trip, knowing it would involve plenty of romantic spots, was super fun. With plenty of help from the folks at Visit Lake Erie Shores & Islands, we crafted an ideal getaway that we really enjoyed from the moment we arrived.
1. Battle for Arcade Tickets
Not going to lie, I have a competitive streak in me, especially when it comes to arcades. And, it turns out, Mr. Locke does as well. So, Ghostly Manor Thrill Center in Sandusky was an ideal way to spend an afternoon during our visit.
Yes, you might be thinking arcade = kids and you’d be right. But, we hopped right in with them and had a ball. I don’t think I’ve smiled so much in a long time.
In addition to ticketed arcade games, the Center offers 3D mini golf with a wizard’s theme, roller skating, and a super fun laser course that I totally bombed. I guess Mr. Locke’s skateboarding skills came in super handy, because I got skunked! If you want to see all of the fun (and who won the battle), check out our YouTube video above.
But, its Haunted House (aka giant, indoor haunted house) totally blew us away. It’s not like a typical haunted house where there’s one specific theme but offers several rooms, each with its own theme. Personally, and I’ve seen my share of great haunted houses, this one tops the list.
In addition to all of the fun mentioned above, there’s a VR Gaming, an XD 4D Theater, and an Escape Room – all ideal for date night fun.
2. Go Round and Round with Your Sweetheart
I find merry-go-rounds very romantic. There’s just something so fascinating about hoping on a hand-carved horse and spinning around, all the while with far-too-loud music playing.
The Merry-Go-Round Museum in Downtown Sandusky is filled with romantic nostalgia and it’s definitely worthy of a visit. It’s very easy to mosey around and look at the beautiful carved horses and menagerie animals. It’s also easy to gain insight into the fascination with them.
And, if you really want to impress your date, here’s a little FYI: there’s definitely a difference between a merry-go-round and a carousel. Merry-go-rounds go clockwise, carousels go counter.
3. Take a Walk on the Shore Side
“I like long walks on the beach, romantic dinners, and a nice rom-com.”
While that seems to be every movie’s idea of a perfect date, there’s something to be written about it. Walking along a beach is very romantic.
Happily, the Sandusky region has plenty of walkable beach and shoreline. If it’s theme park season, Cedar Point actually has its own beach, which I really dig. Another option is Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve. You’ll have to park you car and walk a bit, but the viewing areas and immersion with wildlife are worth it.
East Harbor State Park and Catawba Island State Park are ideal spots for checking out the beach and the lake. Plus, in addition to no parking fees, you can search for beach glass.
4. Axe Your Sweetie a Question
Last summer, we took an axe-throwing lesson at 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, AR. Honestly, it was a ton of fun, considering neither of us had tried it before.
Axe throwing as a fun activity is becoming super hot and happily there’s an indoor spot to give it a go right in Downtown Sandusky. Noble Axes combines the fun of chucking an axe at a giant target with all the safety.
If you don’t feel comfortable without some lessons under your belt, they offer classes. And if you feel uncomfortable axe throwing without a beer in your belly, they offer a full bar, too.
5. Say Cheers!
If you’re thinking going out for a drink or two is a fun way to ramp up the romance, you’re right. The Lake Erie Shores & Islands Cheers Trail has 18 spots offering spirits, craft brew, and wine and each location will give you a sticker in your passport (if you don’t have one, ask at any of the locations.).
Once you’ve completed five, turn in your passport for a free gift. But, if you’re really ambitious, hit all 18 (and return it) and you’ll be entered into a giveaway for a Shores & Islands getaway.
It goes without saying, if you and your sweetie want to drink, please do so responsibly.
6. SpeakEasy and Slow
When I think of a speakeasy, I think of gangsters and hooligans drinking and gambling. But, I never considered Sandusky as a speakeasy kind of town. Man, was I wrong.
Volstead Bar in Downtown is the best of what a speakeasy was. The building was once a winery and then a brothel (no kidding) and now offers its guests classic, handcrafted cocktails. Seating is at a premium (no standing allowed), but the ambiance is absolutely worth it.
If you’re not sure what to order from the extensive menu, my pick is an Old Fashioned. Of course, feel free to ask the bartender for her pick, too.
7. Take the Liberty of Flying High
Do you find something romantic about war eras? Myself, I absolutely do. When I start thinking of the days of the USO and military men leaving their ladies behind, my mind screams romance.
Liberty Aviation Museum is a place to learn about the good old days, or relive them depending on if you’re old enough. Planes adorned with painted pin-up girls and tales of military bravery are only a couple of the takeaways when you visit.
If you are serious about getting a taste of those classic times, schedule a flight in the museum’s 1928 Ford Tri-Motor plane and see Sandusky from above. It flies a couples of times a year, so if you can’t make the dates, there are additional planes that take air yearly.
8. Delightful Dining Options
Romantic dining in Sandusky? Absolutely. We love supporting local businesses and mom-and-pop restaurants, and happily you’ll have plenty to choose from. To help narrow it down, here are my top suggestions.
Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano – A beautiful, upscale Italian restaurant. It’s dark lighting, creative menu, and daily specials are a nice choice. After dinner, walk on the boardwalk area filled with twinkle lights surrounding a small pond. Reservations are highly recommended.
Crush Winebar – Probably my new favorite place to dine in Downtown Sandusky. A You’ll find everything from charcuterie to homemade Italian dishes, a full bar, and lovely atmosphere. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on weekends.
Where We Stayed
Fairfield Inn & Suites Port Clinton Waterfront just opened a few months ago, but it ran like a well-oiled ship during our visit. Right on the waterfront in Port Clinton, the hotel is clean, the beds are comfortable, and the perks plentiful.
We had free wifi, free parking, and free breakfast (my favorite trinity of free!), but one of the best parts of our visit was the ability to walk back and see Lake Erie sunrises and sunsets. On nice weather days, there’s a small patio to hang out in, too.