Jsn and I celebrate our birthdays within a few days of each other. Thanks to Leap Year, they tend to bookend a weekend. Instead of giving each other gifts, we load up the car and hit the road. Last year, we splurged and spent three days at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia where we took full advantage of unlimited petit fours and wine on the Club Level. We opted to scale down our weekend plans this year in exchange for a much more extensive vacation later in the summer.
What I really wanted to do for my birthday was float down a lazy river in an inner tube with a beer in my hand. We found a Groupon deal for an indoor water park in the Sandusky area and figured it would be a reasonable substitution. Then I promptly requested a refund after reading reviews on TripAdvisor about kids running around in soggy diapers. We could have visited a different waterpark – there are several in the area – but the appeal had quickly worn off.
Sandusky, home of Cedar Point, is definitely a summertime destination. Lake Erie resembled the Alaskan frozen tundra and most of the downtown area was closed for the season. Despite the lack of wintertime activities, we managed to have a pretty good time. Without the tourist crowd to fight through, we were able to relax into our surroundings. Locals occupied the booths at the restaurants and provided excellent people watching. Shopkeepers seemed thrilled to have a couple of warm bodies in their stores, allowing us to spend more time looking for hidden gems.
Our base of operation was the Victorian Tudor Inn, a bed and breakfast only 20 minutes from Sandusky in Bellevue. Our host, Richard, greeted us warmly upon arrival and promptly gave us a tour of the house. Every crevasse of the expansive mansion was filled with antique treasures. Richard, we learned during the tour, is also an antiques collector and appraiser – a passion that spun from antiquing excursions with his mother. While my design tastes tend to lean toward mid-century modern, I was in awe at how extensive the collection was throughout the house.
We eventually retired to our room to rest after the three-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Each of the five suites was individually decorated in the same antique charm as the main level. Ours, The Nautical Suite, was bathed in dark navy striped wallpaper that was accented by a wide sailboat boarder. Little nuggets inspired by the sea adorned nearly every flat surface. A large four-pollster bed sat stately in the center of the room, consuming most of the available space. An ensuite bathroom, connected by a small foyer, was nearly as large at the bedroom. It featured a two-person Jacuzzi tub, stand-up shower and a long built-in bench under a three-panel window.
Each morning began with Richard in the kitchen; the table set with fresh sliced berries in stemmed Fostoria glasses. We devoured slices of apple cinnamon swirl French toast with a side of crispy bacon the first morning. The bread was specially made for the Inn by the local bakery, Copper Top Bake Shop. On the second day, we enjoyed loaded vegetable omelets, toast slathered with blueberry jam and a delightful conversation with an anesthesiologist who is a regular guest at the Inn.
We occupied our days by bouncing along the Lake Erie coastline. A trip to Cleveland’s West Side Market is a priority whenever I’m in the area. There’s always something new to discover. During this visit, I found a secret balcony with sweeping views of the domed, tiled ceilings. A perfect spot to enjoy a berry tart and observe the interactions below. As we headed west along the coast, we hunted for new camping gear at The Backpackers Shop, froze our asses off while looking at a snow covered lighthouse and picked up a few vintage items for our home.
Evening meals were a little more hit or miss. No single restaurant blew us away with their cuisine, though each had some notable highlights. Danny Boys offered a laid-back vibe. Each course was served with an exceptional homemade breadstick. DeMore’s Offshore Bar & Grill was a perfect place for observing the locals. We ate firecracker shrimp and fried oysters as a group of ladies gossiped and sucked down fruity drinks in hurricane glasses at a nearby table. We later learned it was “girls night” and they were pre-gaming before watching 50 Shades for Grey. Based on a recommendation from our Inn host, we had dinner at Bierkeller Pub (now closed) our last night in town. The soft pretzel was hands-down the best I have ever eaten. Paired with a glass of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, I could have dined on pretzels all night. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal was subpar at best and I should have stuck with the pretzels.
Overall, I was surprised by how much we were able to squeeze during our visit to Sandusky, despite the frigid conditions. It’s a quirky area that’s perfect for road trippers willing to look past the tourist traps that surround Cedar Point. I’m looking forward to going back in the summer and seeing what new things we can discover… in shorts.