Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

Maybe it’s because we’ve had record breaking cold in Chicago and it’s snowing, again, as I write this that I’m ready to consider going anywhere that my family and I can have fun without freezing this winter. Other TravelingMoms and their families love to ski and play in the snow during winter vacations but this TravelingMom prefers warmer climes. Nonetheless, we suffer through Chicago winters because our summers are amazing. Or, we leave town as often as possible.

Lake Erie Shores & Islands looks promising. It’s within driving distance to Chicago (just over four hours) and I discovered five things to do that would appeal to everyone in our family:

Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark in Sandusky. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark in Sandusky. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

1. Sandusky, the center of the Lake Erie Shores & Islands, is considered the water park mecca. Kalahari holds the moniker of nation’s largest indoor water park, where things like learning how to surf indoors and sipping on daiquiris at a swim-up pool bar are normal. As if the African-themed Kalahari wasn’t enough, Sandusky brings other water parks into the mix. The Great Wolf Lodge, Maui Sands and Castaway Bay are three other resorts that will have your family saying it’s always sunny and 72 degrees in Sandusky (at least indoors).

Since Sandusky is very tourist heavy, you’ll find several national food chains in the mix. If you want to try something a bit more local, head to Manny’s Sports Tavern. The bar has a full lunch and dinner menu complete with soups and salads, burgers and flatbreads and the kids can order some hot chocolate to stay warm.

Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

2. Dodge the snowflakes and head inside to a museum. Merry-go-rounds, a popular Midwest invention and the object of so many children’s dreams, are showcased in the Lake Erie Shores & Islands at the Merry-Go-Round Museum. While most are content just to spin around the historic original and rebuilt animals, you can also check out behind the scenes where craftsmen so meticulously bring these relics back to life. The Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation and the recently debuted Liberty Aviation Museum located in the historic harbor town of Port Clinton, Ohio, gives visitors a chance to see the ongoing restoration process older dynamic airplanes.

And if checking out key pieces of the Golden Age of Aviation makes you hungry, the authentic Tin Goose Diner will satiate your appetite and throw you even further back into history.

3. Admittedly not an indoor activity, if ice fishing is one your bucket list, this frigid

Ice Fishing in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

Ice Fishing in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

winter is the perfect time to try it. While bears hibernate during the winter months, fish in Lake Erie are wide awake and hungry. Drilling a hole through the ice and bundling up in an effort to land a Fish Ohio Walleye may sound a bit different, but it’s a quintessential part of what makes this part of the Midwest so special. Just remember, be safe and go with someone who is familiar with the sport.

4. While it’s true that walking around the scenic parks that surround the Lake Erie Shores & Islands is a bit easier in flip flops, changing your footwear from sandals to snowshoes can have its benefits. Exercise aside, a white blanket of snow draped over Sheldon’s Marsh near Huron, Ohio, makes a pristine park even more beautiful. And just maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle on your hike, as they’ve been known to frequent the area along with other majestic species of birds.

Firelands Winery in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

Firelands Winery in Sandusky, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center.

5. If you find yourself without kids, check out Firelands Winery. Since the first cellar of this historic winery was built in 1880, it has been taking advantage of this unique environment and harvesting their fruit from a place that enjoys a 200 day frost-free growing season, the Isle of St. George on the western basin of Lake Erie. The upcoming Wine and Chocolate Open House on February 8th is the perfect way warm up on a cold winter day. Guests will enjoy live entertainment, amazing food and world class wines as part of the activities.

If you need more ideas on things to do around Lake Erie Shores and Islands without kids, fellow TravelingMom Jenny Lin wrote a piece with more ideas.

Winter vacations don’t always need to be outdoors. Lake Erie Shores and Islands in Sandusky, Ohio, proves you can still have fun during the winter if you know where to go!