The Best of Lake Erie
But, even after the tall ships sail back to their ports, there’s still so much left to celebrate and do. Ready to go? Hit the ropes course at Holiday Valley Resort in New York or practice your sun salutation on the beach in Huron, Ohio. Time to relax? Enjoy a scenic drive along the North Shore in Ontario, with stops at wineries and farmers markets. Hungry? How about walleye tacos on the water in Sandusky, Ohio, or fresh donuts on the famous strip in Geneva-on-the-Lake? Just looking for something new to do? Take a Segway tour of Presque Isle in Erie, Pa., or join a vintage bike ride in Windsor, Ontario.
There’s no end to the fun and adventure to be had around Lake Erie and no better time than now to start exploring.
Best Event Ever — The Re-Creation of the Battle of Lake Erie (Aug. 30-Sept. 10)
This 12-day celebration in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie with history, art and music as well as a re-creation of Perry’s naval victory. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening each day.
419-285-2832, visitputinbay.com, battleoflakeerie-bicentennial.com
Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Re-enactment Village. Featuring historical demonstrations, music, education, crafts and food at DeRivera Park.
SEPT. 1: The Ohio State Marching Band performs at 8 p.m. at Perry’s Monument. Fireworks over the harbor at 9:30 p.m.
Sept. 2: The Battle of Lake Erie-Battle Re-enactment. Kicks off at 8 a.m. with an induction ceremony for those sailing on tall ships. The actual battle starts at noon and concludes at 4 p.m.
Sept. 3: The Battle of Lake Erie and the War of 1812 from Multiple Perspectives. Notable historians from Canada and the United States discuss the topic. Held at the Perry’s Victory Visitor Center.
Sept. 4: The Untold Stories and Myths about the War of 1812. Held at Perry’s Victory Visitor Center.
Sept. 5: Tecumseh and the Native Americans in the War of 1812. Learn about Shawnee war chief Tecumseh. Held at Perry’s Victory Visitor Center. 419-285-2184
Sept. 6: The War of 1812 in Film. Bring a blanket and relax as you watch a movie on the lawn at Perry’s Monument.
Sept. 6: Patriots in Petticoats and Civilians in the War of 1812. Listen as historians discuss women’s roles in the War of 1812. Held at Perry’s Victory Visitor Center.
Sept. 7: Bicentennial Play. “The Official True Campfire Tales of Put-in-Bay” by Tyler Whidden is performed at Perry’s Victory Visitor Center.
Sept. 7: War of 1812 Grand Parade in downtown Put-in-Bay at 2:15 p.m.
Local and regional dignitaries join 1,200 Boy Scouts.
Sept. 7: War of 1812 Military Tattoo. Parks Canada re-enactors will join forces with period-dress interpreters from the National Park Service to exhibit different tactics and military precision drills. Held on the grounds of Perry’s Monument.
Sept. 7: War of 1812 Fashion Show. A group of Regency fashion-savvy women come together to host a period-dress fashion show. Held at the Niagara Center.
SEPT. 8: Patriotic Music by Local Favorites. This 90-minute concert will feature favorite local musicians performing original works about the Battle of Lake Erie at the Perry’s Victory Visitor Center.
Sept. 10: The Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Closing Ceremony. Activities include a wreath laying at the actual battle site, a parade starting in downtown Put-in-Bay and the ceremony on the steps of Perry’s Monument following the parade. The president of the United States, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the secretary of the U.S. Navy and foreign dignitaries have been invited as guest speakers.
Best Historic Ice Cream — Hewitt’s Dairy
Hewitt’s, a favorite roadside dairy bar in Hagersville, Ontario, has concocted two special-edition ice creams for the War of 1812 bicentennial. “Redcoat Rations” combines Dutch apple ice cream with maple syrup and chunks of oatmeal cookie. Kids will love “1812 Cannonballs,” a green-colored vanilla ice cream with chocolate cannonballs and a blood-red strawberry ripple. The flavors will be offered through 2014. 905-768-5266, hewittsdairy.com
Best Perry Party — Erie, Pa.
It all began in Erie, the place where Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led the construction of the U.S. Brig Niagara. So it’s fitting that the town has come together to plan a huge, three-day commemoration of the War of 1812.
It begins on Sept. 5 with the Perry 200 Lake Erie Fleet Memorial Dedication at Dobbins Landing, where a new memorial monument will be unveiled. Erie Tall Ships Festival II (814-452-2744, flagshipniagara.org) runs Sept. 5-8 and offers ship tours, vendors, food, live entertainment and more on the Erie Bayfront. Barber Beast on the Bay (814-454-2171, barberbeast.org) is held Sept. 7 at Presque Isle State Park and is an extreme obstacle course challenge designed by a U.S. Navy Seal. Sign up and prepare to scale walls, traverse bodies of mucky water and race through lots and lots of sand.
The Perry 200 Commemoration Grand Finale is held Sept. 8 at Presque Isle State Park and includes a fully orchestrated Erie Philharmonic Summer Pops Concert followed by the lighting of the eternal flame atop the Perry Monument. The lighting will be accompanied by a grand cannonade salute by the U.S. Brig Niagara and other tall ships. Call 814-459-8000 or visit perry200.com for more information.
Best Canadian Celebration — Coastal Trails Sails to See Festival (Aug. 30-Sept. 1)
This three-day event launches with a free outdoor concert in Windsor and concludes at Pelee Island with the re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie. In between, there is a parade in Kingsville and a Woman’s March in Amherstburg. The real draw, though, are the nine tall ships that will be docked in Amherstburg, Kingsville and Windsor and on Pelee Island. A $15 boarding pass allows access to ships in all four ports. 800-265-3633, coastaltrails.ca
Drive — Amherstburg to Leamington in Essex County, Ontario
After a restful night at Bondy House Bed and Breakfast (519-736-9433), get up early, grab a coffee and head across the street to the historic Navy Yard Park for a morning stroll along the pristine riverfront.
Hop in the car and cruise south along the riverfront on Front Road, then turn east until you hit County Road 50 (the locals still refer to it as Highway 18A).
As the scenic drive turns back toward the lake, you will encounter Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery (866-938-9253, sprucewoodshores.com), one of more than a dozen wineries in the area. It offers an uninterrupted view of the lake from the stone terrace, where you can sip samples of the latest vintage while nibbling on the contents of a cheese and deli picnic basket available at the wine shop.
Just past Colchester Center, turn onto McCormick Beach Road, and you will see a sprawling estate in the distance. Perched on the shore, Viewpointe Estate Winery (519-738-9253 viewpointewinery.com) offers wine tastings and seasonal fare on the upper terrace.
At your next destination, Klassen Blueberries (519-738-4089, klassenblueberries.com), grab a bucket and pick the luscious fruit until your fingers (and tongues) are stained almost black. On your way out, pick up a homemade blueberry pie.
It’s time for a late lunch, so after some shopping in Kingsville, dine at Annabelle’s Tea Room (519-733-0967,
annabellestearoom.com). Lunch at the 154-year-old house includes cucumber sandwiches and a 10-page tea menu, as well as heartier fare. Reservations are highly recommended.
Just outside of Kingsville, at Lee & Maria’s Farm Market (519-733-9328, leeandmarias.com), load up on fresh fruit, vegetables, local preserves and specialty versions of honey.
It has been a long day, so check into the Seacliffe Inn (519-324-9266, seacliffeinn.com), overlooking the Leamington waterfront, and enjoy a light meal on the lower outdoor patio. Across the street, indulge in sinful double-decker cones at Burgess ice cream stand, and enjoy them and the sunset as you saunter along the lakefront marina path.
International Run — Niagara Falls International Marathon
The only marathon in the world to start in one country and end in another, this 26-miler starts at Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, crosses the International Peace Bridge into Canada, loops around historic Fort Erie and ends at the magnificent Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Held Oct. 27. 905-356-9460, niagarafallsmarathon.com
Vintage Bicycles — City Cyclery
It’s easy to find a mountain bike or expensive road bike, but what about a plain old city bike for getting around? “No one was really selling actual bicycles for commuting,” says Stephen Hargreaves. “There’s a huge demand.”
So Hargreaves, along with his partners Chris Holt and Ron Drouillard, opened City Cyclery last winter in the Walkerville neighborhood of Windsor, Ontario. They sell restored vintage bikes and new bikes with vintage styling.
But they don’t just sell bikes — they celebrate them. Last winter, more than 200 people dressed in their best tweed and vintage clothing, hopped on bikes and set out to tour the city of Windsor, stopping to refuel — and enjoy a drink or two — at area restaurants and pubs. The event, called the Tweed Ride, happens again Oct. 19 at noon and begins at the City Cyclery. 226-674-0648, citycyclery.ca
Best Bear — Kali
Polar bear cub Kali became an orphan when he was very young, after a hunter killed his mother in Alaska. But now, fluffy Kali gets to enjoy the company of a female polar bear cub, Luna — both just less than a year old — at his new home at the Buffalo Zoo. 716-837-3900, buffalozoo.org
Beach Yoga — Downward Dog Yoga
The soundtrack is crashing waves and the caws of seagulls. “There’s just something indescribable about doing yoga outdoors,” says Maria Santoferraro, who offers donation-based Hatha-style classes in Vermilion and Huron, Ohio, during the summer months. “To go into sun salutation pose and actually salute the sun is an incredible experience you will never get in the studio.” Santoferraro also offers workshops and retreats, including one on Kelleys Island from Sept. 6 to 8. 330-289-7026, dailydownwarddog.com
Bar Seat — Mojito Bay
swing with sand in your toes and a tiki hut over your head while sipping the outdoor bar’s signature drink. Better yet, if you’re on the island with your kids, there’s a sandy play area with buckets and shovels to keep them happy. 419-285-4677, mojitobaypib.com
Place to Get Flushed — Hurricane Hole at Splash Lagoon
Riders scream as they hurtle 40 mph through utter blackness and into a huge bowl that spins them around and around and around until they are flushed into a pool of water. Just like, well, a toilet bowl — albeit a very thrilling one. Erie, Pa., 866-377-5274, splashlagoon.com
Place to Spin Right Round — Waldameer Park & Water World
New this year, the Music Express combines speed and music to dizzying effect as riders whirl around, faster and faster, both forward and back, to the pounding beat of popular songs. Located in Erie, Pa., Waldameer, which opened in 1896, is the 10th oldest amusement park in the country and its midway remains admission-free. 814-838-3591, waldameer.com.
Family Adventure — Holiday Valley and the village of Ellicottville, N.Y.
Start your outing by booking a room at the Tamarack Club at Holiday Valley Resort ( 716-699-7000, holidayvalley.com), where suites include kitchens and overlook the mountains. Arrive early and spend the afternoon lounging at the complex of four pools, which includes a slide, kiddie pool, diving board, hot tubs and an indoor/outdoor pool that entertains kids for hours of swimming back and forth.
Cabana service keeps everyone hydrated and well fed on burgers, salads and appetizers. You can call this dinner, if you’d like, or drive just down the road into downtown Ellicottville for a meal at the Ellicottville Brewing Co. (716-699-2537, ellicottvillebrewing.com), Dina’s (716-699-5330, dinas.com) or the Silver Fox Steakhouse (716-699-4672, thesilverfoxrestaurant.com).
Head back to your room and rest up. You’ll need it. Wake up the next day, lace up your sneakers and brace yourselves for the most fun a thrill-loving family can have together at Holiday Valley’s Sky High Adventure Park (716-699-4444, holidayvalley.com) Once there, you will be fitted for a safety harness and then head out to the woods, where 12 courses await ranging from 10 to 50 feet off the ground. You’ll climb the main platform and then begin crossing the “bridges” that take you from one tree tower to the next. That may mean walking across hanging chunks of wood or a tightrope; crawling through a wood tunnel with a gap you have to maneuver across or balancing on a log as it carries you to the next tower. Each course also has at least one zip line and there are two courses that consist only of zip lines. The easiest courses are challenging but conquerable for kids (you have to be at least 7 years old). The double black diamond course is for true athletes.
When you’re done, ride the Mountain Coaster or hit the new Climbing Forest, where 10 trees are outfitted with climbing holds. It’s like a 3D climbing wall and the only one of its kind in the United States.
On your way out of town, don’t miss Watson’s Chocolates (716-699-2805, watsonschocolates.com), which is famous for its sponge candy, but offers taffy sticks in more than a dozen flavors, turtles, truffles, chocolate buffalo wings and more. 800-349-9099, ellicottvilleny.com
Burger Options — Gilligan’s
As Gilligan’s has expanded to five locations in Essex County, Ontario, so has its definition of what should go into a bun and how big it should be. In addition to grain-fed beef, customers can choose game meats, such as ostrich, lamb, turkey and buffalo, which are all locally sourced from farms in the region. Size matters, too. The smallest option weighs in at a whopping half-pound, but if you have a meatier appetite, upsize to a 3/4- or full-pound patty. The choices continue with a selection of cheeses and other toppings. Build your own burger or let the menu do the talking with 18 pre-configured selections.
Pancake Breakfast — Sprague’s Maple Farms
At Sprague’s Maple Farms’ year-round restaurant in Portville, N.Y., sweet, maple-inspired breakfast treats are available all day. Each buttermilk or buckwheat pancake is blended with granulated maple sugar and served with syrup from the farm. Order fresh maple sausage patties on the side. Before you leave, take a fall weekend wagon ride through the sugar bush to the sugarhouse, where you can enjoy hot cider and maple cake donuts made right in front of you. 716-933-6637, spraugesmaplefarms.com
Halloween Adventure — HalloWeekends at Cedar Point
Cedar Point gets a little spooky after dark with 10 haunted houses, a hay maze, a monster-themed parade and more. Adding to the excitement this year is the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit, which will feature costume-clad dinosaurs and trick-or-treat stations for youngsters. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 13 to Oct. 27. Sandusky, Ohio, 419-627-2350, cedarpoint.com
Cruise — Windsor River Cruises
Board just across the street from Caesars Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, and enjoy one of the many narrated tours offered north up the Detroit River or south to historic Amherstburg. Special cruises include a Whiskey & Water Cruise that takes passengers to the Canadian Club Brand Centre for a whiskey tasting and tour, and the popular Friday night River Beats Cruise, which offers three hours of live music. 519-258-0911, windsorrivercruises.com
Birthday Celebration — Henry Ford
This summer — July 30 specifically — marked 150 years since the birth of Henry Ford. Celebrate it by taking one of the self-guided driving or biking tours available at henryford150.com. “The Life and Times of Henry” tour takes drivers to 27 Michigan sites, including three homes where Henry and Clara Ford lived and the birthplace of the Model T. “The Birthplace of the Canadian Automobile” tour takes travelers to Walkerville Wagon Works in Windsor, Ontario, which was purchased by Ford and led to the creation of the Ford Motor Co. of Canada. henryford150.com/tours
Beach — Long Point Beach
What would you do with more than 15 miles of pristine, uninterrupted beach? Long Point Provincial Park in Norfolk County, Ontario, is a thin and delicate cape nearly 25 miles long. Stroll the sandy shore of this nature preserve as your entire family enjoys the epic beauty and unspoiled scenery. The perfect place for a day of sun, surf and sand. 800-699-9038, ontarioparks.com, norfolktourism.ca
Donuts — Madsen Donuts
The line is often out the door at Madsen Donuts. “I drive 20 miles once a week for their chocolate cream sticks,” one man tells us. It’s been like this since 1938, when the tiny, 450-square-foot storefront opened on the strip in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. Its secret? “We make our own marshmallow-based cream (and) our own chocolate, and the actual donut is made from a proprietary, secret recipe,” says owner Keith Biery. Open seven days a week in the summer and weekends till Thanksgiving. 440-466-5884
Bustaurant — Birdie's Perch
You can’t miss this bus. Birdie’s Perch has quickly become an attention-grabbing roadside attraction and eatery near Point Pelee, a provincial park and popular birding destination in Leamington, Ontario. Dan and Kathleen Yetman converted a bright red, 1965 Lodekka double-decker bus from Britain into a restaurant with a kitchen on the lower level and seating for 20 upstairs, plus a large patio that can accommodate many more. The signature fish-and-chips dish has five pieces of fresh-caught Lake Erie yellow perch served with hand-cut fries, slaw and a special garlic sauce. The menu also includes items made with other locally sourced ingredients from buns to bacon. For the early birds, the restaurant recently added a breakfast menu with names inspired by the spring migration. Warbler, anyone? 519-551-7043, birdiesperch.ca
Party — Friday the 13th Port Dover
There are only two occurrences of Friday the 13th this year. Since the second is in December (brrrrr!), you can be assured that, on Sept. 13, this year’s motorcycle festival in Port Dover, Ontario, will be revved up with two-wheeled enthusiasts. Thousands of bikes and their devoted owners will be kickin’ it in high gear as the small town becomes a motorcycle mecca of chrome. 519-583-1314, pd13.com
Tie: Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservancy in Niagara Falls, Ontario, & The Butterfly House
in Put-in-Bay, Ohio
The Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls (905-356-8119, niagaraparks.com) gives you the opportunity to watch the final stages of metamorphosis as butterflies emerge from their pupa and take to the air in a huge, climate-controlled greenhouse filled with exotic, nectar-filled plants on which they feed. The Butterfly House at Perry’s Cave in Put-in-Bay (419-285-2283, perryscave.com) showcases 50 species of exotic butterflies from all over the world, with a 15-minute educational experience to teach you about them. For a more interactive experience, wear bright colors to attract the butterflies.
Estuary Exploring — Old Woman Creek
Expect to see egrets, herons, belted kingfishers and maybe even a bald eagle in the diverse waters where Old Woman Creek meets Lake Erie near Huron, Ohio. A National Estuaries Day open house will be held Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the creek’s visitors center. Guided hikes depart at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and the two-hour guided canoe tour (reservations required) departs at 2 p.m. 419-433-4601, oldwomancreek.org
Afternoon Outing — New York Amish Trail
Handmade signs, letters crooked, lead the way to a white-sided home. Children — in large straw hats, overalls and bare feet — play outside with shovels. Spending a day on New York’s Cattaraugus County Amish Trail will make you feel as if you stepped a century back in time. There are dozens of Amish businesses that can be found in this rolling, picturesque countryside.
Start your trip at Fairview Lawn Furniture (4786 Walker Road, Randolph), where Adirondack chairs and other outside furniture are made out of recycled material. No room in your car for that kind of purchase? No worries — you can find satisfaction in the purchase of a quart of just-ripe peaches. They probably won’t even make it home.
Your second stop of the day is Hill Top Toy Shop (11369 Pope Road, Randolph), where, if you have little ones in your life, you’ll want to pick up a set of handmade wood blocks. You will also want to take some time to admire the view from here. Rolling green hills are dotted with livestock and traced with long country roads where, if you’re lucky, dark Amish buggies will complete the scene.
Just down the road is Iron Toys N Crafts (11335 Pope Road, Randolph). Inside, the floor is plywood. The room is a warren of tools and workbenches. An Amish man, shadowed by children curious about the visitors, welcomes a look around. Dogs sleep on a cushion. There are bottle trees and spinners. There are shepherd hooks and dinner bells. All seem sturdy and well made and are very reasonably priced.
Next up is a non-Amish alpaca farm that hosts visitors at its Simply Natural Alpaca Gift Shop (11144 Pope Road, Randolph,
716-358-5242, asliceofheavenalpacas.com), where you can pick up socks, a stuffed animal or even a luxurious jacket made from the cloud-soft alpaca coat. Most of the offerings here are from Peru, but the owners recently bought a large loom to make goods from the coats of their own alpacas, which you can visit out back before moving on.
Lunch is a bit out of your way, but worth the diversion.
The Mustard Seed (315 Pine St., South Dayton, 716-988-3800, themustardseedrestaurant.com) is famous enough in these parts that there’s a 20-minute wait at 1 p.m. on a Friday. Sandwiches are served on homemade sunflower bread. Pick up a loaf on your way out of the store to enjoy later.
Your last stop of the day is at Malinda’s Candy (12656 Youngs Road, Conewango) Across the road is a horse and her foal and, inside the shop, an Amish woman slowly mixes melted chocolate with a wooden spoon over a stove. There are no bad choices here, but the turtles and macaroons make a perfectly sweet treat for the drive home.
* For more information on the stores below that do not have phone numbers or websites, contact Cattaraugus County Tourism at
800-331-0543 or amishtrail.com.
Fish Taco — Dockside Café
At the Dockside Café, in Sandusky, Ohio, chef/owner Cesare Avallone uses walleye as the main ingredient for a refreshing twist on a south-of-the-border classic — a soft taco paired with house-made pico de gallo and lime aioli. Walleye is first dredged through a thick tempura batter, which produces a super-crispy crunch on the outside and tender pieces of steamed fish inside. “Walleye is fantastic to work with,” says Avallone. “I like to keep the skin on. The skin protects the fish from heat just as it protects the fish in the water. The result is moist and delicious.” 419-503-2296,
Beach Food — Erie Kai Tavern
The word “sammich” is reserved for only the “holiest and mightiest of all sandwiches,” according to urbandictionary.com. The Fish Sammich called Wanda at Erie Kai Tavern in Huron, Ohio, earned its title not only because it’s made with fresh-caught perch delivered by the New Sandusky Fish Co., but also because its secret ingredient is a hefty dose of lakefront ambiance. Whether eating under a thatched umbrella at the outdoor Tiki-themed patio or sitting in brightly hued Adirondack chairs on a hill above the Firefly Beach Resort’s private beach, “people come here and forget they’re in Ohio,” says the resort and tavern’s partner and property manager Wanda Dean, whose name served as inspiration for the sandwich. The sammich “is as close
to fresh as you can get,” she says. 419-557-4108, fireflybeach.com
Cheap Date — Downtown Erie, Pa.
Drink, food and entertainment specials can fill a night with fun — without emptying your pocketbook. Sit outside on the deck at the Plymouth Tavern on a warm Monday night, when cold draft beers cost only 25 cents. Or head to Jerry Uht Park to cheer on the hometown SeaWolves, where hot dogs, beer and popcorn can be purchased for $1 each on Monday nights. Try the hipster favorite 1201 Kitchen on Tuesday nights, where a drink purchase comes with two free gourmet tacos. Yum. Plymouth Tavern, 814-453-6454, plymouthtavern.com; SeaWolves, 814-456-1300, seawolves.com; 1201 Kitchen, 814-464-8989, 1201restaurant.com.
New Tour — Presque Isle State Park
Segway rides make their debut at this lakefront gem with daily, 90-minute tours. Riders travel onto the beach for dazzling views of Lake Erie, then head into the interior trails for up-close looks at the ponds and plant life that make Presque Isle State Park such a special place. Sunset tours available. Erie, Pa., 814-833-7347, presqueisletouringcompany.com.
Fall Music Festival — Jazz at Chautauqua
This four-day festival (Sept. 19-Sept. 22) features 30 of the best traditional jazz musicians from the United States in a setting as spectacular as the music — the historic Athenaeum Hotel. Attend a single event ($120) or stay all four days ($1,812 for two people, including hotel stay, meals, admission to all music events and all service charges.) Chautauqua, N.Y., 800-821-1881, jazzatchq.com
Event Venue — Holiday Valley Lodge
Imagine your next conference not in a big city, but right on the slopes at the new $12 million conference center at Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville, N.Y. The new lodge has meeting room options ranging from a private boardroom to the spacious second floor, which seats up to 500 people. 716-699-2345, holidayvalley.com
Four-Course Meal — The Chef’s Table
“Whatever Mike’s little heart desires,” is how the menu describes the four-course meal called The Chef’s Mood at this restaurant in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. Chef Mike Moccia takes your likes and dislikes into account and then prepares your appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert. 519-436-0559, ckfashion.ca/chefstable
Tie: Red Eagle Distillery in Geneva, Ohio,
Mazza Chautauqua Cellars in Westfield, N.Y.,
& Cleveland Whiskey in Cleveland
While in the Navy 40 years ago, Tom Lix, the CEO of Cleveland Whiskey, learned how to convert salt water into fresh drinking water. He quickly found other uses for his newfound skills. “I learned how to make hooch, literally under the radar,” he says.
While Cleveland Whiskey uses technology that accelerates the aging process without sacrificing great flavor, other distillers are taking things slow.
“We’re a small distillery with a traditionally aged product,” says Kevin Orris of Red Eagle Distillery. “It takes time. We want to let our brand grow organically.”
Located in the Grand River Valley, a popular wine-producing region, the micro-distillery is hoping to attract a new crop of visitors with its bourbon-and-rye whiskey. “This is still wine country, but people are looking for something new,” says Orris.
Mazza Vineyards was an early entry into craft distilling starting with fruit brandies in 2005. Along with the recent roll out of its Five & 20 whiskey line, the company opened a new facility in Westfield to house one of the few true grain-to-glass operations in the country. “We will be using all our own grain grown on site by next year,” says Joe Nelson, the distiller at Mazza Chautauqua Cellars.
While some whiskey drinkers still prefer bourbon made with at least 51 percent corn mash, many craft distillers are staging the comeback of rye whiskey, an American original that lost favor after Prohibition shut down alcohol production in the states. Tastes quickly shifted to a preference for Canadian whiskey smuggled across Lake Erie. The resurgence of rye whiskey makes perfect sense to area distillers. “We took a historical approach because it represents the heritage of this region,” Nelson says. Red Eagle Distillery, 440-466-6676, readeaglespirits.com; Mazza Chautauqua Cellars, 716-269-3000, mazzawines.com; Cleveland Whiskey, 216-881-8481, clevelandwhiskey.com
New Patio — Pier W
Pier W in Lakewood, Ohio, has been a treasured dining spot in Northeast Ohio since it opened in 1964, but it never fully capitalized on its waterfront location until opening a rooftop patio this summer. Now, diners can settle back in the Adirondack chairs or high-top tables to enjoy the food and the view of the Cleveland skyline. 216-228-2250, www.selectrestaurants.com/pier
Place to Buy Fish — Lone Shark Seafood
Fresh, wild-caught lake and seafood is brought in six days a week at this new Erie, Pa., shop. You’ll find Lake Erie perch next to frog legs and walleye next to alligator. The owners’ irreverent side has quickly made Lone Shark a local favorite. See the Great White Shark mounted on their wall with Barbie clamped in his jaws as Exhibit A. 814-866-1573, lonesharkseafood.com.
Bridges — Ashtabula County, Ohio
When Connie Bayt took over as director for the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival in Ohio two years ago, she was advised not to admit to having a favorite bridge, but, “if you ask anyone, they have a preference,” she says. Hers is Harpersfield Road Bridge, which spans the Grand River next to a park. “When I was a kid, I’d go to that bridge with my family, wade in the water and go fishing,” says Bayt. “It is dear to my heart.” The best opportunity to see all 18 covered bridges happens during the annual festival (Oct. 12-13) when guided motor coach tours are offered, but the self-drive version can be done any time of the year. Download a map at coveredbridgefestival.org or call 440-576-3769.
Chips — The Italian Fisherman
Eight years ago, Dan Dalpra set out to create the perfect chip to accompany the sandwiches he serves at his Italian Fisherman restaurant on the shore of Chautauqua Lake in Bemus Point, N.Y. It took three months to finally hit upon the winning formula, which combines rosemary, garlic and Parmesan cheese with slices of thick-cut, kettle-cooked potatoes that crunch just right without being too salty or greasy. More than a million chips later, Dalpra is now at work on a cookbook with recipes that use the chips. “They are great sprinkled on mac and cheese instead of bread crumbs,” he says. Bags of Fishin’ Chips ($3.69) can be bought at italianfishermanchips.com or at the restaurant (716-386-7000, italianfisherman.com).