Family Travel on a Budget: Sandusky, Ohio

With all these nifty long weekends from school, we’ve been able to take some overnight excursions to break the monotony of winter. Our most recent trip was to Sandusky. It seems like Sandusky would be lackluster in the winter, with Cedar Point closed until May. The truth is that there is a heck of a lot of fun to be had, even on the coldest, snowiest day, and do you want to know the best part? No long lines!

Family Travel on a Budget: Sandusky, Ohio Family Fun

Castaway Bay Deals

We stayed overnight in an indoor water park hotel, Castaway Bay. That was fun, of course. Castaway Bay

Whereas you could expect to spend upwards of $200 to stay here when Cedar Point is open, winter offers discounts galore! We scored an overnight stay including four water park passes good for both the day of arrival and departure for just $99! There is a Groupon that offers the same rate—don’t go that route; go directly to the website, and save about $15 in fees! There are several more $99 dates left before summer comes.

Don’t miss out! Our favorite parts of Castaway Bay were the indoor water roller coaster, and the indoor/outdoor hot tub.

Jolly Donuts

sandjollydonutOur favorite part of the journey, though, was the fun we had in town! My kids rise at the crack of dawn, and we knew exactly where to go at that ungodly hour—Jolly Donuts, at 2518 Milan Rd. You need to get there early, but the donuts are totally worth it, and the coffee isn’t bad either!

Ghostly Manor Thrill Center

The folks at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center invited us to check out their digs at 3319 Milan Rd. in exchange for this post. We ended up spending most of the day there having tons of fun!   We’ve always wondered about this place, and we expected it to be just a haunted house, but oh my gosh, it’s packed full of stuff for people of all ages.

sanduskyghostplay (1)There’s a section of 5 or more inflatables, and a climbing structure for the little ones. My kids are 8 and 10, and still love these! There’s also a massive climbing structure full of all sorts of fun stuff like balls to bounce on, wobbly bridges, and obstacles. This whole section is a big hit. One thing parents will also love about this place is that it’s set up so you can sit down and watch your kids all around the facility easily.

The new owners of the facility have made all sorts of improvements to this place, making it a very comfortable place to take the kids. The carpet was just replaced, and the skating floor was just refinished. When refinishing the floor, they dusted it with powder to make it reflective under black light (very cool). The bathrooms, just like the rest of the place were upgraded, and are SUPER CLEAN. This place would be perfect to host your next birthday party.

There’s an open arcade area that’s LOADED with more than 50 cool games for little kids to adults. It utilizes a card system for game play and credits. Many of the games earn you credits that are loaded onto your card (rather than having to keep track of a thousand little tickets) and you can redeem them for tons fun prizes at the counter.

sandghostvideoThe skating rink is enormous, and like I said, it’s lit with black light. One of the other parts of Ghostly Manor Thrill Center that we like so much, is the options for skating. There are the traditional and inline skates that all rinks offer.

There’s also PVC skating walkers that can be used. The thing that REALLY caught our eye, though, was the SCOOTERS! They have actual foot powered scooters that the kids can use on the rink. If you have a child that is not a great skater, this is a Godsend. It’s also really nice not to have to break your back lacing up skates!


Next we tried out the indoor mini golf, otherwise known as “The Wizards Journey.” This place is so COOOOL! They give you 3D glasses, and you enter with your party and take a crack at pulling the sword from the stone while Merlin coaches you along your putt-putt journey in short video, and recordings along the way. We’ve never experienced anything like this. The 3D black light effects were incredible, and that alone is worth a trip to Ghostly Manor.

The XD theatre was also a new experience for us. This is line a mini movie theatre where you get buckled in, just like a real roller coaster. The staff gives you deluxe 3D glasses, and the journey begins. You can pick between several different movies. We picked the “Cosmic Coaster” and were taken on a twisty, turny, bumpy, exhilarating ride across the galaxy. This thing is seriously fun! It’s JUST like riding a roller coaster.

sandghostxdghostlyLast, but not least, my husband and I checkout out the “Ghostly Manor” portion of the thrill center, a haunted house that is hard to beat! While this activity should be reserved for teenagers and adults, if you enjoy a thrill, check it out! This place will scare the tar out of you, and who doesn’t like a good scare?!

If you are claustrophobic, have mobility issues, or other conditions that would make getting scared out of your wits a bad idea, I’d take a pass, but if you like a thrill, summon up your courage and buy a ticket. Just go to the bathroom first.

FotorCreatedddWe tried out several selections at the snack bar. My kids loved the huge selection of “Dippin Dots,” and I highly recommend the chicken tenders! sanduskyWe enjoyed a pass ($25/pp) that included all of the activities. You can also choose to do the activities a la carte, and pay individually (prices range from 3-$7/activity). I recommend checking out their Family Night on Weds when kids can climb, skate and jump for just $5, AND it includes FREE PIZZA and SODA!

slide-3(2)We really enjoyed our family trip to Sandusky, and we look forward to returning soon. Any season of the year, it’s a great place to escape for a day or two, and when there’s no lines to wait in, that’s icing on the cake.

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