15 Things To Do With Kids At Put-in-Bay
For many years, our family and friends have enjoyed many things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay. Our annual Put-in-Bay vacation is part of every summer season. Occasionally, a point of discussion is about how kid-friendly Put-in-Bay is. Some people have heard the island is a party place, and that’s all they have listened to! Let me tell you firsthand that if you have not visited Put-in-Bay with kids, no place compares!
Yes, there is the main strip with the famous Put-in-Bay bars, but that’s just about anywhere. Move just a block off the main strip, and the fun begins! We have compiled a list of the kids’ 15 favorite things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay (and some of them are ours as well), and be forewarned; you won’t want to try to do them all in a day!
Any good trip starts with planning, and one beneficial resource was the official Put-in-Bay information website. We found a detailed list of attractions, restaurants, and Put-in-Bay Hotels, along with contact information for each.
Getting To Put-in-Bay
To get to Put-in-Bay, you must take a ferry from either Port Clinton or Catawba, and there are two options. Still, we prefer the Jet Express, perhaps because the thought of riding on a “Jet Boat” is exciting but in reality, because it is the only ferry that comes in right downtown. It runs a later operating schedule, so we have more flexibility in when we want to travel.
The other ferry is a freight boat that arrives on the other side of the island and requires taking a taxi or bus into town. The ride over included an informative tour about the history of Put-in-Bay and the surrounding Bass Islands. We’ve always considered the ferry ride a highlight of the trip!
Golf Cart Transportation at Put-in-Bay
When you arrive at the island, you will first want to secure a Put-in-Bay Golf Cart Rental for the duration of your trip. We learned on our first trip not to rent from the first few places off the ferry as they charged over $20.00 a day more! Our favorite rental place is Delaware Put-in-Bay Golf Carts, just across the street from the ferry dock by the park.
Given the limited number of golf carts, they accept Golf Cart Reservations online, which is an intelligent thing to do; many places are often out. They are also one of the few locations on the island that rent overnight, allowing you to keep the golf cart as long as you wish. Their golf carts are the newest on the island and are priced below most other rentals.
Downtown Put-in-Bay is where most restaurants, bars, shops, and a few attractions will be found. For some people, this is most of what they see at Put-in-Bay. Now that you have your wheels, let’s get started with the top 15 things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay! Some of them are FREE and noted FREE OF CHARGE in the headline.
1. DeRivera Park Downtown Put-in-Bay FREE OF CHARGE
As you depart with your golf cart, you will see a large park in the center of town. Named after the founding father of Put-in-Bay, Jose DeRivera, the park features playground areas for the children (one for larger and one for smaller kids) and public bathrooms. There are shower facilities and storage lockers in the center of the park.
Scattered throughout the park are picnic tables and BBQ grills. The park is a popular place to cook out or enjoy a waterfront dining experience with takeout food from one of Put-in-Bay’s many restaurants. There is also a really cool tree carving of the park’s founder that stands over 30 feet tall!
2. Aquatic Visitors Center
The Ohio State University, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, operates the Put-in-Bay Aquatic Visitors Center located on the island’s western side; it was a fish hatchery that closed and became an educational facility in 1988. The center also includes the Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory and is the university’s only campus on Lake Erie!
When you visit the center, kids will learn about fishing in Ohio and research projects featuring Lake Erie, and children 16 and under are invited to fish from the docks free with equipment provided by the center. There are coloring sheets, wall puzzles, and other kids’ programs and activities.
3. Butterfly House
The Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay is one of several activities at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. Located a 5-minute golf cart ride up Catawba Avenue, the Butterfly House is home to hundreds of butterflies of almost as many species. Kids can view them up close, and it’s not uncommon for a few to land on you! A gift shop is at the end of the tour with butterfly-oriented souvenir gifts and educational materials.
4. Put-in-Bay Resorts Swimming Pool (FREE OF CHARGE) & Blue Marlin Restaurant
On a hot summer day, a pool dip is a great way to cool off the day. The kids (ok, we did, too) loved the crystal clear waters at the Put-in-Bay Resorts pool. A small restaurant at the Blue Marlin Bar & Grill served us a very affordable lunch while the kids swam. The Put-in-Bay Resort would be the go-to place for our lodging on future trips, with a great location just a block off the main strip. No matter what the weather, swimming will always be one of the favorite things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay
5. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
One of the challenges of a family vacation with kids is incorporating a little learning into the fun. The Perry’s Monument made that task easy with a narrated tour at the top of the massive Doric column towering over Lake Erie. An elevator whisks you up over 300 feet into the air for a breathtaking view! The kids were captivated by the park actors’ reenactments of musket firing and storytelling. We could see the skyline of Detroit; we were so high up! One of the things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay that they will talk about for days!
6. South Bass Island State Park (FREE OF CHARGE)
Located at the end of Catawba Road, the South Bass Island State Park is one of two Put-in-Bay Campgrounds and is operated by the state of Ohio. There is a pebble beach the kids enjoyed while we tried our hand at skipping stones across the water. Over by the campgrounds, we saw the ruins of the swimming pool from the Victory Hotel built in the 1800s, which we learned was one of the United States’ largest hotels until it burnt to the ground.
While you are at the State Park, be sure to take a photo at the new Put-in-Bay Sign!
7. The Put-in-Bay Tour Train
When you tire of driving your golf cart around, turn the driving over to the Put-in-Bay Tour Train. You can join the tour train downtown at the Depot behind the village bakery. The tour train makes a loop around the island with six stops that allow you to get on and off at any of those locations. A well-narrated information tour provides information and little-known facts about Put-in-Bay History.
The stops include Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, Heinemann Winery & Crystal Cave, Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial & Visitor Center, The Doller House & Museum of Island Life, Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center, and the Aquatic Visitors Center. The trains run about every 30 minutes.
8. Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center
Once a private collection of mounted wild animals, The Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center is an educational experience where kids learn about many different wildlife species and their habitats. A walking nature trail completes a circle around the center. Another one of many educational things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay,
9. The Put-in-Bay Candy Bar
Yes, The Candy Bar is a kid-friendly bar on the island! Located on the main strip the Candy Bar also features an ice cream shop located in the back. In the front, loads of delicious homemade fudge are sold by the pound. Walking thru the store, we saw nostalgic candies like Necco’s, Lemonheads, and other favorites of our childhood! It was hard not to buy one of each! One of the most popular things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay!
10. Kimberly’s Carousel
One of less than 100 known remaining Herschel carousels circa 1917 located downtown on the main strip. Kimberly’s Carousel is one of the last merry-go-rounds in operation in the country, and South Bass Island is proud to be its home! Ride on a pig, rooster, chicken, pig, rooster, cow Lake Eries “Pete the Perch” Tickets are sold inside The Carriage House Country Store.
11. Put-in-Bay’s Walking Trails (FREE OF CHARGE)
Put-in-Bay is blessed to have numerous walking trails in areas protected from development. These trails have been preserved in their natural state. The trails vary in length and are easy to walk. Trails are well-marked and located throughout the island, with ample golf cart parking at the start of the course. The trails are a favorite for Put-in-Bay Birdwatching and counts, an annual event. Get in touch with nature as one of the things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay,
12. Parasailing at Put-in-Bay
Located at the docks next to the Boardwalk Restaurant, the Put-in-Bay parasailing adventure can be enjoyed tandem by parents and children or together. Ride high 1000 feet above the water for stunning views of the Put-in-Bay Harbor & Lake Erie basin. One of our favorite things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay because we get to have fun too!
13. Lake Erie Islands Historical Museum
This small museum has island history and artifacts that will appeal to children and adults alike. A 15-minute video begins the tour. Learn how early settlers lived and built on the island before modern-day aircraft and ferry boats. For those wanting to take home a piece of Put-in-Bay History, a resale shop is also located at the facility.
14. Put-in-Bay Chocolate Museum
This is one museum everyone wants a bite of! Learn the history of chocolate with informational exhibits and antiques from the early years of chocolate production. The museum sells handmade chocolates, homemade ice cream, and super thick milkshakes!
15. Perry’s Cave at Put-in-Bay
Perry’s Cave is registered as a Natural Landmark in Ohio. The natural limestone cave is drenched in Put-in-Bay history and tradition. Sitting 52 feet below the surface of South Bass Island, it is 208 feet long and 165 wide and was discovered in 1813. The cave has impressive stalagmites and stalactites and walls covered in Cave Pearls. The temperature remains a consistent 50 degrees year-round, and the shelter has an underground lake. Guided tours are offered along with a gift shop where cave-related souvenirs are available. The cave is located at Perry’s Family Fun Center.
Of course, there are many more things to do with kids at Put-in-Bay, and many of our readers have submitted their can’t miss things to do at Put-in-Bay. What are your favorites?