By Wendy and Mike Pramik
Posted On: Jun 8, 2021
Of all the family-oriented activities available at Lakeside Chautauqua, we didn't envision shuffleboard being the one to bring our family together.
Our three-day visit at this private community on Sandusky Bay over Memorial Day weekend was a welcome chance to break from our hectic, daily routine in Columbus. It had been a long year, working from home and shepherding our middle schoolers through nine months of in-school learning while wearing a mask all day.
So the four of us – me, Mike and our kids, Rosie and Max – headed for a long weekend up on the lake. We arrived to chilly temperatures and a turbulent bay, the milky-green water smashing hard against the breakers along Lakeside's picturesque bayside pathway. We had scheduled a visit to the venerable Hotel Lakeside, on the water, but because of the cold we were offered a move to Lakeside's other, heated lodging option, the Fountain Inn.
After a day or so of chilling out, sipping coffee and exploring Lakeside's friendly streets while our kids stayed glued to their phones and computers, Mike and I wandered over to the shuffleboard courts.
That was a first. We knew Lakeside had a reputation for holding shuffleboard tournaments, but in a couple of previous visits we never tried the game even though it was free to play.
This time we did, picking up two cues and a wooden crate containing eight discs, a hunk of chalk and an eraser.
From the first shot, we were hooked. We nestled yellow and black discs inside the prong ends of the cues and sent them gracefully gliding down the 39-foot court, which was peppered with tiny glass pebbles to help the discs travel. Even though my disc slid well past the baseline on the first attempt, I knew this was going to be a lot of fun. When Rosie and Max saw us playing, they wanted in, too.
We played two competitive games, Max and Dad trying their best to top me and Rosie. In the end we split the contests, with Rosie making an incredible, 21-point shot on her final attempt. We were happy to laugh and high-five one another over the shuffleboard court in the waning daylight.
Lakeside is like that. It's the little things there that attract you, and when they grab you they can take hold forever. Like listening to a live band in Hoover Auditorium, playing a game of basketball or miniature golf (or shuffleboard), or just walking up and down the peaceful, cottage-lined streets.
Lakeside is a chautauqua, a vacation getaway that offers more. Chautauquas are based in sharing religious and educational information, so there are plenty of optional lectures, discussions and spiritual meetings at Lakeside. It's a dry community, so you won't find alcohol served at any of the restaurants.
A group of scholars, preachers and local residents established Lakeside in the 1870s, and by the 1890s a lasting program of educational enrichment had been established. It's just five square miles, and admission is required, either daily or weekly, or by season pass.
There are fewer than 20 chautauquas remaining in the United States, and Lakeside Chautauqua is the second-largest. More than 150,000 people walk through the gates each summer. It's free to visit for an hour and a half. Daily or weekly passes are available, and several cottages are available to rent on a weekly.
As this year we're all recovering from last year's coronavirus crisis, the activities over Memorial Day were a bit limited. We enjoyed a concert of Irish and bluegrass music by the Columbus-based Drowsy Lads inside Hoover Auditorium.
We chatted with band member Daniel McKewen the morning after the concert at the community playground. He said the five-man band enjoys their yearly visits to the lake.
"Lakeside has become a retreat for the entire band," McKewen says. "It's a really family-friendly place."
One of our favorite ways to relax is to grab a latte at Coffee and Cream, then head to Patio Restaurant for a doughnut. They're in such high demand that the restaurant has a sales window on its side deck that always seems busy.
You also can rent a bike go fishing, or take part in a dozen or so other daily scheduled activities.
Lakeside Chautauqua is open year-round, but prime time is from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. Highlights this season include:
- The Everly Brothers on June 24
- Blues & BBQ Cookout on June 27
- Parade and fireworks on July 4
- Plein Air Art Festival on July 16-18
- "Romeo & Juliet" on Aug. 14
- Labor Day sailing race and fireworks on Sept. 4
But don't overlook the 26 shuffleboard courts. It's fun to play, but Lakesiders are also serious about the game. Lakeside established the first organized shuffleboard location in Ohio in 1928, and today the Lakeside Shuffleboard Association has more than 100 members who compete in tournaments throughout summer. There are bleachers where fans can watch at the main set of 18 courts. Lakeside was even the host site for the 25th International Shuffleboard Team Tournament in the late 1990s.
When it was our time to leave Lakeside, we knew our kids wanted to stay longer. We drove past the shuffleboard courts one last time, each of us quietly planning our strategy for the next visit.