The Oregon Trail

Midway between Toledo and Cleveland, a fine natural harbor has enabled Sandusky (pop. 25,006) to remain a busy port, albeit now more for recreational ferries to the offshore islands than for the coal and iron ore it once handled. The waterfront is good for a short stroll, and the town is rich in elaborate mid-1800s houses like the Follett House Museum (404 Wayne St., 419/625-3834, Apr.-Dec., free), a well-preserved 1827 Greek Revival house filled with period artifacts and a few displays on the area’s history. Sandusky also offers a magical old-fashioned ice-cream parlor: Toft Dairy (3717 Venice Rd., 419/625-5490). Five scoops for $3!

On South Bass Island in Lake Erie, 22 miles from Sandusky, the 352-foot Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (419/285-2184) commemorates the victory of Admiral Oliver Perry, who defeated a British fleet here on September 10, 1813, announcing his success with the laconic words, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” The second biggest thing on the island, which is a popular vacation spot, may well be the “World’s Longest Bar,” a 405-footer running inside the Beer Barrel Saloon (324 Delaware Ave., 419/285-2337) in the town of Put-in-Bay.

If the weather’s too bad to brave a boat trip or a ride on the roller coasters of Cedar Point, families may want to head to the Great Wolf Lodge (4600 Milan Rd., 800/641-9653 or 419/609-6000, family suites $170 and up), a kid-friendly hotel and massive indoor water park (open to guests only) south of Sandusky.