For adventure high and low, spend 27 perfect hours at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio
By Lissa Rausch
This year, my family of six, along with our friends (a family of five), decided to make the most of summer's end with a long weekend spent at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Our goal was outdoor relaxation balanced by a dose of adventure. Here's how 11 of us - including kids from toddler to teen - spent 72 perfect hours (and then some) over Labor Day weekend.
Thursday afternoon, 3pm. My family arrives at The Lodge. Check-in is a breeze because there's a playground outside, right next to the lobby. The playground is one of the simple amenities we find to be perfect at The Lodge. Our downtime is filled effortlessly, and our four daughters - age four to nine - happily burn up their (abundant!) energy with simple, healthy outdoor activities.
We've chosen to rent a deluxe cottage, and we're delighted by our choice. The cottage is clean and cozy. With the pull-out couch, we all sleep comfortably. A simple kitchenette means we can easily prep breakfast and lunch. A lively bike path is a stone's throw from our front porch. Just beyond, a view of Lake Erie is as grand as the ocean.
Thursday evening, 6pm. After settling in, we explore the grounds. We discover a sprawling outdoor pool surrounded by scores of lounge chairs (an outdoor bar will be open next season). Beside it, an indoor pool is surprisingly spacious, with vast windows providing a view of the water, a high ceiling displaying exposed wooden beams and a shallow end that even my water-averse four-year-old proudly dips into.
For dinner, we decide to try Horizons Restaurant & Lounge, which is onsite at The Lodge. Horizons achieves the impressive feat of pleasing everyone in my family. The girls are thrilled with the kids' menu, the crayon packs and activity sheets, the hot pretzel appetizer, and the doors that open onto an endless front lawn. My husband and I enjoy some local options: a walleye dish, a Chardonnay, and a gorgeous cheese plate. With COVID still a consideration, we appreciate the open, airy feel of the large dining room. We eat indoors, but a patio provides ample space for outdoor dining. Both indoor and outdoor tables offer stunning views of the lake.
Thursday evening, 7:30 pm. After dinner, we stumble upon another Geneva-on-the-Lake ritual. Every clear-skied evening, resort-goers gather on the lawn to watch the sun dip below the horizon, leaving behind a purple haze and a quiet hush. It's natural theater at its best.
We forgo a campfire and cozy into bed, knowing our friends will arrive from Miami after midnight. We're ready for tomorrow.
Friday morning, 10am. After a lazy morning (our friends have arrived!), we head to Horizons for brunch. A well-appointed buffet pleases everyone in our group. Cheese blintzes? Oatmeal with fresh fruit compote? Mini quiches? Those circle powdered donuts we can't seem to resist? All on the menu.
After breakfast, we borrow bikes from the resort, and the kids set out exploring. We love the low-intensity feel of this place. We especially love the fact that our older kids - all grabbing at independence - can explore safely, no parents in tow.
Friday at noon. We decide to have lunch at our cottages. We cook sausages brought from home on one of the outdoor grills, drink wine and make hot dogs for the kids. We lazily watch a parade of foot traffic on the bike path. We could have done this for hours, except for adventure calls: We have reservations at Lake Erie Canopy Tours.
My four-year-old twins are signed up for the low ropes course, and three adults and the kids are signed up for the high ropes course and zipline (mom and baby will enjoy an afternoon siesta). As it turns out, the afternoon is perfect. Our guides are friendly, energetic, professional, and accommodating. The courses are gorgeous. The twins are trepidatious, but after being led through the elements, they're giddy with newfound confidence. The rest of us enjoy the zip lines and high ropes course; my nine-year-old does her first zip line, which takes my breath away. Fueled by two hours of adrenaline, we're walking on air when we leave Lake Erie Canopy Tours.
Friday at 5pm. After a dip in the pool, we head to Ashtabula Harbor for dinner al fresco at Briquette Smokehouse. The kids love the outdoor setting, and we enjoy meats cooked on a smoker we can see from the patio.
After dinner, we head back to the cottages for our first campfire, complete with s'mores provided by the front desk for the kids. (The adults opt for gin and tonics.) Everyone goes to bed late because we love being under the stars, talking, and listening to the sounds of the water.
Saturday morning, 9am. The morning is spent poolside, interrupted only by occasional bike rides and playground jaunts. Eventually, we make our way back to the cottages for another lazy lunch off the grill: steak, chicken kebabs, hot dogs, veggies, Manchego cheese, wine for the adults, and Gatorade for the kids. This time, it does last for hours.
After a brief siesta, we head out for a hike: ten vacationers, each on a bike or scooter (we brought our scooters and toddler bikes from home), baby in the carrier, headed to a Geneva State Park trailhead. We drop the bikes and head into the forest. While we tell stories of intrigue and suspense, the hike itself is nothing but relaxing.
Saturday evening, 6:30pm. After a late arrival back from our hike, we again decided to enjoy the amenity of onsite dining. The staff at Horizons is accommodating; the manager, Barb, pulls together a table for our large group at the last minute. Both children and adults are thrilled with everything from the food and drinks to the ambiance, views, and spaciousness. Because The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake is a prime location for weddings, there is a gazebo and set of white folding chairs on the lawn. The kids play "wedding" after dinner, inspired by the brides and brides-to-be they see on the resort throughout the weekend.
Saturday night. Another campfire: The air is just cool enough for sweatshirts. My nine-year-old comes up with a game that involves counting as a group with our eyes closed. It's harder - and more fun - than it sounds. This time spent relaxing with friends feels like the ultimate luxury.
Sunday morning. It's a rainy morning, and Lake Erie looks like the New England coastline. The kids lay in bed and watch TV, and my husband and I read magazines and lounge. The weather clears up by mid-morning; it's time for a bike ride and then a second trip to Ashtabula Harbor.
Sunday afternoon, 1pm. We have reservations at Rennick's Meat Market for brunch, which turns out to be a lovely surprise. We sit at one long table with plenty of space around us, and the menu offers updated twists on classic favorites. We agonize over what to order and then love everything we choose (some highlights: fried cheese curds, roasted Brussel sprouts, the Reuben, sweet potato fries, bloody Marys). My vacation-weary four-year-old has a meltdown on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, which only slightly dampens the mood. After lunch, a trip to an old-fashioned chocolate shop, Marianne's, makes everything right again for our travelers.
We spend a few more minutes loitering on the sidewalk, enjoying espresso and tea from a nearby coffee shop, and watching the Ashtabula bridge rise and lower. We don't want the afternoon to end. But finally, it's back to the cottages for our goodbyes.
Sunday at 4pm. We have already decided to make this a Labor Day tradition. Our friends are on their way: headed to the Cleveland airport, where they'll board a plane to Miami. As we hug goodbye, I say, "Thank you - I know it was a lot of effort to get here," to which the baby's mom replies, "It was totally worth it!"
Missing our friends, we head to the pool for another dip, then to Horizons for another memorable meal. We recall our favorite moments of the weekend over dinner, and we head outside for another sunset. We play a quick game of softball on the front lawn of our cottage. Our laughter carries through the grounds of the resort; our neighbors come out and smile. Then it's off to bed - this time, not too late.
Monday, 8:30am. Today, we have to go home, so we do our favorite things one last time. We enjoy brunch at Horizons. We take one more swim and one more spin on the playground, and we offer our heartfelt thanks to the staff. The only way we can console the girls is by promising we'll be back again. And we will: It was totally worth it.
Tour a number of award-winning wineries via our year-round wine shuttle. The sweeping vineyards of the Grand River Valley growing region are yours for the tasting. Or check out the seasonal covered bridge tours for a new wealth of information from our knowledgeable guides.
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For every momentous occasion from birthdays and anniversaries to 'Grandma is in town!'; Horizons Restaurant is the perfect lake front setting to bring your family together.
Let your imagination soar to new heights on the largest aerial attraction in Geneva-on-the-Lake. Take an exhilarating Canopy Tour or try the Adventure Courses at Lake Erie Canopy Tours today!