The Four Pearls of Greater Sandusky

marblehead-lighthouse-posteSandusky, Ohio’s hidden attractions

Lake Erie shores and islands region is known for roller coasters and waterslides but within this oyster of fun are the four pearls of greater Sandusky.

If you want to spend a day away from lines and ruckus at the major attractions, slip away and experience some little treasures. Anyone can feel seven again at The Merry-Go-Round Museum. Get a fix for that sweet tooth with a treat at Tre Sorelle Cioccolato. Go Back to the Wild and learn how injured animals are being rehabilitated. And end the day with something synonymous with this coastal town’s past – Maritime Museum of Sandusky.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum is housed in a building with a round façade that looks like it was made for it. But it’s actually the old post office. Walk inside and there are giant postage stamp replicas on the wall picturing carousel animals. Below them are the identical and original carousel animals depicted in the actual stamps circulated in 1988.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the museum, so to commemorate it is featuring a rare menagerie of scarcely seen carousel animals from several nationally known private collections. The exhibit is – “Wild!” The postage stamp pieces are part of this treasured collection.

At the heart of the museum is a historic carousel still offering guests rides. It is a restored 1939 Allan Herschell carousel originally from North Tonawanda, New York.  Without any of its original pieces, it was populated with figures from the museum’s collection and loaned pieces from private collections.

The real treat at this unusual museum is watching the woodcarvers at work crafting new pieces or breathing new life into antiques. Each piece has a fascinating history which is precisely why this pearl of Sandusky is also known as the Museum of Carousel Art and History.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum is located at 301 Jackson St. in Sandusky. Open year round, admission is $6/adult, $5/senior and $4/child ages 4-14.

Carousels and candy go hand in hand, so once the Merry-Go-Round comes to a complete stop, let your mouth water at a chocolate shop.

Tre Sorelle Cioccolato makes confections to perfection.

It is here that chocolate anything is handmade in a kitchen in the back of an old house and brought out front to the chocolate shop as fresh as fresh can be. That and the fact they don’t use preservatives.

The front parlor is a place you just want to cozy up and stay for a while. Admire the interior design, artwork, quaint atmosphere and friendly personalities. Oh, and browse, taste and buy your heart’s delight of truffles, turtles, dipped cookies, you name it, they have it. Cocoas, coffees, teas and even wine-filled chocolates are displayed out on tables, shelves and under cover of the front glass-covered counter.

You look around and wonder, how’d they do that?

Well, sign up to let these retired teachers take you into their learning kitchen to teach you a secret or two. Classes are designed for any age from children to adult and especially for those looking to make a party or event around chocolate making.

Between the kitchen and parlor room is a room with a gigantic table for preparing gift baskets, party trays and boxes of assortments. This includes filled chocolates, dipped pretzels, dipped potato chips, nutcups and clusters, fruit and nut bark, candy bars and assorted sugar-free goodies. You can even have chocolate business cards, greeting cards and photographs made to order.

Tre Sorelle Cioccolato is located at 634 Columbus Ave. in Sandusky.

Okay, a morning filled with learning about carrousel animals and making chocolate bunnies leads to an afternoon of learning to make real animals better. And there’s no better treat than that.

Time to go Back to The Wild®.

This is not an animal attraction. Rather it is where you go to learn about the great work done by a past recipient of Animal Planet Discovery Channel’s National Hero of The Year award. Her name is Mona Rutger.

What started in a barn is now a world-class mission that has returned more than 24,000 injured or abandoned animals back to the wild. Unfortunately, every animal is not able to go back to the wild, so Mona and her volunteers partner with these creatures to bring awareness, appreciation and respect for our natural world to more than 70,000 people every year. In the past 20 years, they have provided approximately 7,500 educational programs to nearly one million people.

Mona says that the thrill of releasing a wildling back into the wild and being able to play a part in opening a child’s eyes to the wonders of nature, are two of the most rewarding parts of everyday life. But her mission is not easy.

Animals nursed back to health include hawks, eagles, owls, raccoons, squirrels, fox, deer, songbirds, snakes, turtles, frogs, salamanders and a variety of herons just to name a sampling.

Perhaps more amazing than the miracles seen at Back to the Wild is the fact that this impressive undertaking is made possible through funding by donations only. There is no other assistance of any kind.

The expanse of the grounds includes a spacious song bird aviary, several raptor flight cages, mammal rehabilitation enclosures, insulated winter quarters, wetland facility, clinic, barn storage and workshop, indoor viewing room and a whole lot more. Important features that should not be without mention are the handicap-friendly woodland walkways to the wildflowers, amphitheater, wetlands, eagle and songbird exhibits.

Back to the Wild® is located nearby Sandusky in Castalia. To plan a visit, call Mona at 419-684-9539.

From Back to the Wild to back in time – maritime!

Maritime Museum of Sandusky interprets the area’s rich history of boat building, shipping and fishing industries, shipwrecks, recreational watercraft, ice harvesting, and even the boats of Sandusky’s Underground Railroad.

The museum is chock-full-of interactivity featuring video shorts and computer simulations at every turn. Locate and learn about the many shipwrecks in the area, rock a real boat and steer into the waters leading to Cedar Point through the windshield on the screen in front of you, or learn about the world’s largest market for freshwater fish and largest producer of natural ice west of the Hudson River.

The voyage starts with an intriguing 18-minute video inside the museum’s own theater. The main museum allows for more audio-visual as well as hands-on experiences throughout. Artifacts and models featured in exhibits include a ship’s brass telegraph and two-story replica of the Cedar Point Lighthouse.

But there’s more than just the main museum. Boats are actively being refurbished as seen in the indoor restoration area. An outdoor display features a 1967 fireboat and in The Garage features a historic collection of outboard motors.

The museum offers many programs on and off-site. There are opportunities to build model boats and learn to tie a variety of rope knots at two of the museum’s learning stations. With the anniversary of the Civil War, Sandusky’s connection to the Underground Railroad will be examined. Learn about the boats used by abolitionists and how they were used to transport escaped slaves to Canada. Some special events planned in the coming months include Pirates on Lake Erie.

The Maritime Museum of Sandusky is located at 125 Meigs St. in Sandusky. Open year round, admission is $4/adult, $3/senior and $3/child and $8/family.

Visit Lake Erie Shores and Islands Welcome Center at 4424 Milan Road in Sandusky, Ohio to learn about the four pearls of greater Sandusky and more. There, you may also discover discounts, gain free Internet access, gather maps and brochures, watch videos, talk to the tourism professionals, access the lodging locator, use rest rooms and more. This high-tech, interactive welcome center even has snacks available as well as play area for kids to occupy their time and have fun. While they are working the oars on a real rowboat, you can put together your itinerary.

For more information, including current hours of operation for the four pearls of greater Sandusky, call 419-625-2984 or log onto www.shoresandislands.com to plan your visit.

Excerpt from past edition of OhioTraveler by Frank R. Satullo, The OhioTraveler