Escape to the Charming Lakeside Chautauqua
“Welcome to Lakeside!”
That’s the warm greeting you can often hear while visiting Lakeside Chautauqua in Northwest Ohio. The charming year-round destination is located along the Lake Erie shore and has been a family-friendly vacation spot for 150 years.
My daughters and I had the opportunity to visit Lakeside over a weekend, and it felt as though we had taken a step back in time. The grounds of Lakeside are beautiful, the people are friendly, and the community is charming. We felt like we were walking around the movie set of a Hallmark film. Ironically, a few movies have been filmed at Lakeside (check out “Beyond the Lake” and “Christmas at Maxwell’s”).
Talking to other visitors and locals was one of the highlights of our stay. The stories we heard, friendly faces, and constant “welcome to Lakeside” never grew old. We were told by multiple people, “Once you’ve experienced Lakeside, you’ll be back!” And they are correct, and I want to visit again. (Psst…I did! See my visit for their 150th-anniversary celebration here)
One morning, I chatted and walked around Lakeside with a new friend, Judy. We met on the porch of the hotel. She has been visiting Lakeside for decades, and I enjoyed hearing her stories and tips and being introduced to some of the historic buildings and other lodging options in town. This was just another delightful memory made during my visit. (Thank you, Judy, for blessing me with your time!)
Admission to Lakeside Chautauqua
Lakeside Chautauqua is a non-profit, secure, gated community that is open to the public. Guests and residents must purchase a Chautauqua Pass and auto pass for admission between Memorial Day and Labor Day. After and before these dates, a pass is not required to enter the community. It’s highly recommended that you purchase your passes online for a smoother experience.
Note: The number of Lakeside’s shopping and dining options and amenities is closed between Labor Day and Memorial Day (with the exception of events like the Lakeside-Marblehead Lighthouse Festival in October)
The Chautauqua Pass (daily) is valid until 7 p.m. the following day and gives you access to all of the amenities at Lakeside, including the Hoover Auditorium and the Grindley Aquatic & Wellness Campus Pool and Wellness Center. For visitors attending church service events or visiting to shop and dine, complimentary and partial day passes are available.
Guests get the truest sense of Lakeside when they stay at the historic Hotel Lakeside. The hotel was built in 1875 and, to this day, it’s the oldest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. A written description of staying here will never replace an in-person experience, so you must trust me when I say this is genuinely a step back in time. Over the years, additions such as electricity, plumbing, elevator access, rewiring, a new kitchen, and air conditioning have been made. However, there is no heating, which is one of the reasons the hotel closes in the winter season.
There is a large front porch for sitting, rocking, and gathering. You’ll notice the lobby, registration desk area, and Dining Room as you enter. The hotel’s original structure, woodwork, details, and antiques offer a glimpse of life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The rooms are snug and cozy, furnished with donated antiques from residents, a remembrance of yesteryear.
It’s not the Hilton, but it is a local historic hotel meant as a place to unwind, unplug, and rest. So prepare to sit back, leave your work at home, and enjoy lake life. There is WiFi, but no TVs, mini-fridges, or other modern amenities. Frank Sinatra was playing in the lobby, rockers were swaying, books were being read, and families were walking through Lakeside at 10 o’clock at night eating ice cream. This was precisely the kind of weekend I needed!
We must have had at least five people ask us if we knew about the “haunted” stories of the hotel. The locals and regulars have fun telling the tales to the new visitors, and they are often told enough that the front desk has printouts of the tales for those who ask. I’m not one for believing in ghosts, but I did have fun teasing my teenagers about Susan, the rumored hotel ghost on the second floor.
Dining options at Lakeside Chautauqua
The Lakeside Table & Tearoom serves a hearty continental breakfast with waterfront views to hotel guests every day except Sunday when Brunch is available to the public. It serves lunch and dinner daily, front porch service, and afternoon tea.
We enjoyed daily iced lattes and ice cream from Lakeside Coffee & Cream. They offer a full espresso bar and serve Velvet ice cream, smoothies, milkshakes, pastries, and light lunch items (available in deli case). Ooh La La! is another cafe serving sweets like gelato, specialty drinks, pastries, and lunch items. And because Lakeside mimics a Hallmark movie, there are not one or even two ice cream shops, but THREE! The Whistle Stop is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor serving hand-dipped Toft’s ice cream, Dole Whip, and freshly made popcorn. A dream come true.
Picking up donuts at The Patio is a must when you are visiting Lakeside. Their donuts are made fresh daily with cake batter. I was told people line up to get these in the morning! The Patio is also known for its burgers, fried chicken, family meals, and desserts. They have a pretty extensive menu. And no destination is complete without a pizza parlor – that’s where Lakeside Pizzera comes in. Formerly, Sloppy’s Sports Cafe and still serves Sloppy’s pizza – which has won awards! Try their Chicken & Waffle Fry, Korean Beef, or Crab Rangoon pizzas if you want something unique.
More dining options in my Lakeside Chautauqua: A Place to Chill and Recharge blog post.
Things to do at Lakeside Chautauqua
The list is vast; there is something for every age and interest. I found it easy and safe to allow my teenagers to explore independently while I spent extra time resting, reflecting, and doing things I enjoyed. Our favorite activities included swimming at the lake, using the Wellness Center, miniature golf, and enjoying the live music.
The four Chautauqua pillars are recreation, education, arts and entertainment, and religion. During the summer months, you will find something offered daily in all of these categories.
Here is a list of the activities available:
- Family and youth programs
- Orchestra Hall movie nights
- Live concerts and performances at Hoover Auditorium, Orchestra Hall, the Steele Memorial Bandstand, and the waterfront Pavilion
- Sunday Worship Services, Faith for Living Hour, Wednesday Family Picnics, and Vespers by the Lake, as well as children, youth, and teen ministries
- Annual events, exhibits, and special events
- C. Kirk Rhein, Jr., Center For The Living Arts classes
- Sailing, kayaking, swimming, paddle boarding, and fishing
- Beach, dock swimming, splash pad, and kiddie pool
- Grindley Aquatic & Wellness Campus Pool
- Wooden boat rides and cruises
- Shuffleboard, tennis, and pickleball
- Basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, and gaga ball courts.
- 18-hole Miniature golf course
- Grills, picnic tables, and green space
- Wellness center, equipment room, and yoga room
- 2-Mile nature/walking trail, guided tree/bird walks, and gardening walks/talks
- Chautauqua Lecture Series, seminars, dialogues, and documentaries
- The Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle, Gardening Programs, The Lakeside Heritage Society, Lakeside Environmental Stewardship Society, and Lakeside Women’s Club
Tips for Visiting:
- Parking is limited. If you stay at the hotel, drop off your luggage and park. Plan to stay parked during your stay and use the complimentary shuttle service, rent a golf cart, bike, or walk to where you need to go. Everything is within walking distance at Lakeside.
- Handy things to bring: cash, bottled water, cooler, beach towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, and comfortable shoes for walking.
- You’ll want to leave pets at home unless you rent a place that allows pets or use the campground. The hotels do not allow pets.
- Lakeside Chautauqua is a dry community; you won’t find alcohol in restaurants or hotels.
- Additional lodgings can be found at the Fountain Inn, Lakeside Campground, inns and suites, cottage rentals, and BnBs.
- Lakeside is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but some activities are still happening in September and October, especially on the weekends. The annual Lakeside-Marblehead Lighthouse Festival is held in October; this event draws in visitors and reopens some of the dining and shopping.
For additional activities and tips on visiting, see the Lakeside Chautauqua: A Place to Chill and Recharge blog post.
Nearby things to do:
- Lakeside Chautauqua: A Place to Chill and Recharge
- Put-in-Bay, Ohio in a Day!
- An Ohio island & Lake Erie getaway in the Midwest!
- Spend a Weekend in Fort Wayne, Indiana
- A Guide to Sawmill Creek Resort: Activities, Amenities, and Nearby Attractions
- Cedar Point’s Halloweekends Tips