Ask Buckeyes where to go for fun and they'll likely send you to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. Home to some of the tallest, fastest, most hair-raising roller-coasters in the world, the park offers visitors amazing views of Lake Erie―and allows thrill seekers to peer down onto one of the state's most historic Great Lakes cities.
In quiet downtown Sandusky, shops line Columbus Avenue beneath American flags hanging from vintage lampposts. On a typical weekday, "traffic" may mean two drivers waving as they pull away from Stillwaters Coffee Café. Although the city's population doubles in the summer (thanks to Cedar Point and an expansive marina), a stable community of about 30,000 resides here year-round.
For a change of pace, residents travel an hour east for big-league sports in Cleveland, or an hour west for Toledo nightlife. "We are far enough away so people can live in a small town yet work in the city," says former city manager Mike Will. "I think we attract those who see our waterfront as an investment."
In the meantime, Mike asks that visitors pardon the dust. Downtown is currently undergoing "a much-needed revitalization," says John Lippus, director of downtown development. Founded in 1818, Sandusky became a leading shipping port for the Great Lakes, and a popular Victorian-era vacation destination. Visitors still flock to the beach and amusement park, and, happily, the town is investing in its infrastructure.
Along the waterfront, Sandusky's rebirth can be seen in the new condos and apartments that have replaced dilapidated industrial buildings. Residents are in a prime position to enjoy the paved Bayfront Pedestrian Pathway, which, when completed, will span 12 miles. A portion near Shoreline Park was a key corridor of the Underground Railroad during the 19th century. Markers throughout the city identify the more than 100 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On a crisp autumn afternoon in this Midwestern town, the water ripples softly under fallen orange and red leaves. As residents relax on a bench outside the New Sandusky Fish Company with piping-hot orders of fish-and-chips, the prospect of another Ohio winter seems easy to bear.
(published September 2007)