12th Aug, 2010

Mystery and fun in Marblehead

We took a family day a couple of Fridays ago to drive around the Marblehead/Catawba Island area. My wife hadn’t really been around this part of northern Ohio, so I suggested we just play it by ear and try out some of the touristy attractions the area has to offer.

After a late start (lunchtime; we’d hoped to leave earlier), we headed first to Catawba, where we drove around to get the lay of the land. We stopped briefly at the Mon Ami Winery, and perused the gift shop, taking home a couple bottles of wine. The winery also has a lovely indoor/outdoor restaurant, but it’s a little more geared toward adults.

Next, we stopped at the ever-popular Cheesehaven and African Safari Wildlife Park, which I’ve covered previously. But I’m happy to report that the giraffes are back from their hiatus at the park. Although I’ll admit to being a little terrified by how long the adult giraffe’s tongue was, as it stuck its head in our sunroof. My wife opted to leave her window closed for much of the ride!

Out next stop was checking out the city of Marblehead, which is really quaint and laid back. We drove past the gated entrance to Lakeside—the Methodist-owned “Chautauqua on Lake Erie”—and eventually made our way to the picturesque setting of the Marblehead Lighthouse. You can pay a couple bucks for a tour to the top (children under 6 are free), but we just missed one tour, and didn’t have the time to wait 40 minutes until the next one.

We intended to hit Train-O-Rama, which has one of the state’s largest model railroad displays, but were disappointed to learn that it closes at 5 p.m., even in the summertime (note that they have a dollar-off coupon on their website). So, instead, we let the boys choose a backup adventure. It wasn’t even a contest, they wanted to go to Prehistoric Forest & Mystery Hill, just outside Marblehead on Ohio Route 163. As a kid, I’d always wanted to visit Mystery Hill, which is advertised on numerous billboards throughout the area. As an adult, I knew it would be totally cheesy, but I was still intrigued to see how bad it would be.

Everything about Prehistoric Forest/Mystery Hill looks like it’s straight out of 1950′s America from along old Route 66. But that’s what I found appealing. We found a coupon in one of the tourist circulars and the four of us cost about $18 to get in. (We passed on the extra charges for the pitiful looking mini golf and some sort of water balloon thing.)

Mystery Hill mostly consists of a little shack that’s built at a 10 or 20 degree angle on a hillside. You walk through it and everything seems distorted. The tour guide tells visitors that it has something to do with strange magnetic forces on the hill, but it’s clearly just tilted. Still, the kids loved it.

Next, the Prehistoric forest consists of a walk through the woods with occasional fiberglass creatures. This was probably a lot more impressive a generation ago, but with the lifelike dinosaur exhibits like the Cleveland Zoo’s current Dinosaurs! attraction, these are a bit pedestrian nowadays. With one exception, these creatures don’t move, they’re simply large forest sculptures. The mythology here is that the Prehistoric Forest was not just home to dinosaurs, but also everyday creatures from today that are unusually large—a 20-ft praying mantis, for example.

Neither my wife nor I was impressed by the place, but our kids really were, and that’s the point. They talked about it for days afterward even as we rolled our eyes a little. They’ve talked about “the next time we go…” but alas, even if we could be talked into a return adventure to Prehistoric Forest/Mystery Hill, our time is running out. The owners of the attraction have decided that this will be the last season. So if you’re in the mood for some old-fashioned cheesy adventure, time is running short.

We ended the day with a great dinner on the outside upper patio at Crabby Joe’s Dockside, (loved hearing the live music downstairs!) sitting on the rocky shore of the beautiful East Harbor State Park, and an ice cream cone at the Pied Piper in Huron, as we traveled back east home. There’s so much to do in this area, I know we’ll be returning—a lot!


So glad to hear that the Mon Ami is alive and kicking – wish we could make it up there just to go – it would be nice – thanks for writing about it Paul.

Leave a response

Your response: