Lake Erie Adventure Guide: 7 Amazing Summer Experiences
Whether you're a thrill seeker, nature lover, animal admirer or all of the above, we scoured the shores to bring you the best outdoor activities our beautiful region has to offer.
1. African Safari Wildlife Park
This walk- and drive-through safari is practically a rite of passage for generations of families, and now the eclectic Port Clinton, Ohio, wildlife habitat is showcasing Dinosaur Takeover, a display of 20 different dinosaurs. You’ll probably recognize the usual suspects: T-rex, triceratops and stegosaurus. But the custom-fabricated collection also includes the obscure bird-like oviraptor, known as an egg snatcher. Learn about extinction and check out other animals on site, too. You’ll find no less than a kangaroo, camel, rare albino alligator, giraffes and zebras.
2. Common Ground Zipline Canopy Tours
Fly through the treetops of Vermilion, Ohio, on a 2½-hour adventure through the river valley with views for miles. The experience includes seven ziplines, two spiral staircases, two aerial bridges and a floating staircase before you careen through a final sweeping rappel. Never ziplined before? Common Ground’s mission to foster exploration in youth and adults is a great jumping off point. commongroundcenter.org
3. Holiday Valley Sky High Adventure Park
Head for the hills. This four-season ski resort packs in recreation, relaxation and “something to do for just about everyone,” says Dash Hegeman, spokesperson for Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, New York. Specifically, the property’s Sky High Adventure Park is the state’s largest aerial park and third in the country.
Navigate suspended bridges, climb into treetops and fly down ziplines with levels ranging from yellow (beginner) to double black diamond, with its boundary-pushing obstacles tucked into the trees more than 40 feet high. Kids aged 7 and up can navigate the three entry-level courses with an adult. The even-younger set can explore a Climbing Forest — and Gem Mining is fun for the whole family.
“It’s set up to be an old-fashioned panning for gold experience,” Hegeman says. “You dump the contents of a gem bag into a funnel system with continuously running water that washes away the sand. You are left with a collection of gems and fossils you can identify with the guide that is included.”
Another cool Sky High feature for anyone 8 years old or at least 54 inches tall is the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster. Think Mario Kart with zigs, zags and spirals down the mountain and through the trees. Riders control the speed of their own cars — so you can take it easy or accelerate the thrills.
“Summertime at Holiday Valley is an endless adventure,” Hegeman says, pointing to the many ways guests can experience the four-season ski resort. Relax poolside, hike the hills, mountain bike or play a round of golf. “Combine all of that with the experience of the Village of Ellicottville and you’re bound to make memories that will last a lifetime.” holidayvalley.com
4. Kalahari Zambezi Outdoor Waterpark
Sometimes, bigger is just better. Kalahari opened its 3-acre Zambezi Outdoor Waterpark this summer — the largest of any at its four resorts, spanning 15,000 square feet. Make a splash or get splashed with fountains galore. Or just dip your toes in and lounge on one of the three tanning ledges. Most of the pool is a kid-friendly 42 inches deep. Plus, renovations to the park’s zipline include a new, 50-feet freefall jump tower. (Don’t worry, there’s a jump belt involved.) kalahariresorts.com
5. Long Point Eco-Adventures
Budget-friendly and nature-based Long Point unrolls a choose-your-own itinerary of experiences for families, groups and anyone looking for a getaway rooted in the outdoors. Take Fungi Foraging, where you’ll join an expert who teaches how to identify and forage mushrooms in Ontario’s Carolinian Forest. Spend a day in the life of a beekeeper with an apiary pro. Or crank it up a notch with some group axe-throwing and get in touch with your inner lumberjack. (This one’s reserved for ages 10+.) You won’t have to “forage” far for eats and drinks with a patio bistro, winery and brewery on property. Plus, there’s paddleboarding, kayaking, biking, hiking and plenty of other ways to pour your energy into summer. lpfun.ca
6. Sky Dive the Falls
It’s the only skydiving center that circles Niagara Falls, offering stunning views of the water — as well as three cities (Buffalo, Toronto, Niagara), two countries, and three bodies of water including Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. It’s a full Trip-Tik.
Sky Dive the Falls is ranked among the top 10 in the world for skydiving along with destinations like Fiji and New Zealand, says instructor and co-founder Jason Berger. “It’s the experience of a lifetime, and we are lucky with our location and private airport,” he says.
Tandem parachutes outfit an instructor and passenger “who has been doing this every day for years,” Berger explains. You’ll watch a training video and do some hands-on prep before taking off from Shear Airport. Each airplane holds 14 people. You must be 18 and provide a valid I.D., no passport necessary even though the flight crosses over the border.
What separates Sky Dive the Falls from other outfits, aside from the falls views, is the altitude. Most skydiving operations hover at 10,000 feet or less, but this experience scales up to 14,000 feet — and that equates to a full 60 seconds of fall time. (Trust us, it’s a long time to feel the rush.) You’ll land safely in a field at the company’s headquarters.
“When all is said and done, it’s the best feeling you’ll ever have,” Berger says, adding that after 4,000 jumps since 2007, “it never gets old.” skydivethefalls.com
7. SUP Erie Adventures
Try kiteboarding or wind foiling. Check out a stand-up paddleboard or kayak excursion — or join a Hobie Cat sailing tour. You choose your own adventure with SUP Erie in Chautauqua County’s Irving, New York. There are also options to Zen out with SUP yoga or crunch your core with some Pilates on the board. Dry-dockers can take to the coastline’s trails. superieadventures.com