By Steve Stephens, More Content Now

Yes, the weather is turning a mite chilly. That means it’s the perfect time to start planning a Lake Erie getaway for next summer.

One of my favorite lakefront cities, Sandusky, Ohio, has a big season planned. Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding in 1818.

Two centuries is quite a lengthy history for an Ohio city. But the very first European settlement in the future Buckeye State, also named “Sandusky” from a Wyandot Indian word, was established at a different site almost 70 years before the founding of the present-day town.

French traders cobbled together a small outpost on the northwestern shore of Sandusky Bay about 1749. The rude site, known as "Fort Sandoski" or "Fourt Sandouske," was occupied for less than five years. The British established their own Fort Sandusky on the opposite side of the bay about 1761. It, too, was quickly abandoned — but the name remained on maps for decades after the fort's demise. (A third Fort Sandusky also was established later near the site of present-day Fremont.)

After the town of Sandusky was finally established at its current site, it became one of Ohio’s first important port cities, the location of the state’s first railroad, the birthplace of Civil War financier Jay Cooke, a crucial stop for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad and a hub of the 19th-century ice industry.

Today the town is at the center of the region’s thriving tourist trade.

Visitors who want to take part in next year’s birthday celebration can find the latest information and events list at, the city’s official bicentennial website.

The first major event on the 2018 calendar is a Bicentennial Ball at the Cedar Point ballroom on April 28. (The venerable Cedar Point amusement park, which has become the roller-coaster capital of the world, celebrates its own 150th anniversary in 2020.) The gala will include live music and signature cocktails, and it will serve as a fundraising event to support more bicentennial events.

Sandusky will also host a tall-ships festival and downtown street fair July 12-15 and a homecoming and bicentennial celebration later in the summer, with more events to be announced.

But even travelers who can’t make it for a birthday bash should stop in Sandusky to visit the beautiful, historic downtown, which offers a pretty floral clock and memorable fountain at the Erie County Courthouse.

Visitors will definitely want to check out the Merry-Go-Round Museum, some of the local wineries and Toft Dairy, itself a historic icon and the oldest dairy in the state. It serves great ice cream — with scoops the size of cannonballs.

Speaking of cannonballs, visitors can also catch a ferry in Sandusky to South Bass Island and the town of Put-In-Bay, site of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous 1813 Battle of Lake Erie navel victory and, today, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial.

For more information about things to see and do in and around Sandusky, call 1-800-255-3743 or visit

Email Steve Stephens at [email protected].

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