For me, Geneva-on-the-Lake was Ohio’s version of the family resort where the Houseman family in Dirty Dancing spent their summers. It’s a small town on the edge of Lake Erie where beachgoers flock in the summer for boardwalk games, go-karts, ziplining, plenty of hot dogs, and water sports along the lake.
It is touted as Ohio’s first summer resort and probably experienced its heyday in the 1940’s and 50’s when the Erieview amusement park and several Mom & Pop motels opened. It was an easy getaway for families hoping to spend their summer days along the water’s edge. But as the years went by, bigger mega-attractions lured families away with more deluxe accommodations and promised thrills. What remains today is a fragment of what used to be: a time capsule of treasures that once delighted innumerable Midwestern families.
My mother and I spent a weekend there, walking along the Strip of arcades, outdoor diners, and miscellaneous attractions. We walked to the water’s edge and looked out along Lake Erie where a few brave souls tried their
hands legs at paddleboarding.
We stayed out of the water but poked inside Sandy’s Chanty one evening for a delicious dinner and old-fashioned entertainment courtesy of Sandy and his 1920’s Shooting Gallery. He happily turned it on and rang all the bells and whistles to the delight of all his patrons. I was shocked that the game still functioned — especially once he explained that the pings and dents we saw were caused by actual bullets used during the Shooting Gallery days.
We had hoped to play Fascination – a vintage California Bingo game that has become almost obsolete. Only a handful of places still feature these outdated machines. My first job was at an amusement park where I stood outside as a hawker, calling out my spiel to entice passersby in to “give it a try.” The game was $0.25 back then and still is at the Fascination parlor today. Unfortunately, the owners never did take down the “Back in 10 minutes” post-it sign on their door during the three days we were there.
Instead we entertained ourselves with the selection of street food stands and live entertainment that abounded on the Strip.
And then we watched the sun set. Every night on the horizon of Lake Erie. It was beautiful. The perfect ending to relaxing days along the Lake. I imagine thousands of families did the same thing over the past 129 years that Geneva-on-the-Lake has drawn people to its shores. It’s easy to see why.
What other little-known family spots have you enjoyed?
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