Family Fun! Best Summer Activities at Ohio State Park Lodges
From hiking and boating to swimming and golf, there are endless ways to enjoy the outdoors together
Ah, the pleasures of summer vacation with the family! Skipping rocks on the beach. Learning how to paddleboard on a quiet lake. Riding a bicycle built for two along long country lanes. Canoeing or tubing down a river with loved ones.
These iconic family experiences are the fabric of lifelong memories, founded on tackling new adventures and spending fun time together.
At the Ohio State Park Lodges at Deer Creek, Salt Fork, Mohican, and Punderson Manor, summertime means something different for each. Nestled in some of Ohio’s most picturesque state parks, the lodges offer unique family getaways since they are located in different geographical regions.
The beaches along with the indoor and outdoor pools at each lodge are always surefire winners for families. But maybe this is the year to include golf on a championship course, making s’mores around a fire pit, or gem mining together. Each lodge offers family-friendly activities tailored to its natural surroundings. No matter what new experiences you try, the result is a summer vacation that you will never forget.
The 1,300 acres of water at Deer Creek Lake make it the main summer attraction for families visiting Deer Creek State Park Lodge in central Ohio. They can enjoy learning new hobbies like paddleboarding, paddleboating, or kayaking in the calm lake. Or go for bass fishing or relaxing on the sandy beach.
Families who stay several days usually try out other activities together like a round of golf on the championship golf course or disc golf. You will see various combinations of adults and youngsters riding bicycles built for two (available for rent) on the paved paths surrounded by forest or hiking on trails in the woods.
Those traveling with young children gravitate to the playgrounds and stir up competition at the nine-hole miniature golf course at the campground.
Summer evenings mean sitting around the fire pit laughing over shared stories of the day and making a mess melting s’mores together.
When you drive onto the sprawling grounds at Salt Fork State Park, you might wonder how to choose which activities to do first at Ohio’s largest state park. Most families opt to hit the beaches and sand volleyball pits for the first several days of their stay. They also enjoy the 3,000 acres of waterways by renting pontoon boats for a day of leisure or by waterskiing the unlimited-horsepower lake.
Salt Fork has enough outdoor activities to please every family member, no matter their age. The most popular are the 18-hole championship golf course, archery range (bring your own equipment), and most unique, gem mining, during which kids can learn about gemstones, fossils, and arrowheads (kits are available).
Have a thirst for adventure? Geocaching on the grounds is another fun way for several generations to spend time together. Equipment is available for rent.
To take full advantage of the natural landscape, most families take at least one hike on some of the 14 miles of mapped trails and participate in at least one of the organized children’s recreation and naturalist programs. For an off-site excursion, plan a visit to the nearby 9,000-acre Wilds safari park, a conservation facility for rare and endangered animals.
Welcome to the heart of Ohio’s canoe capital! It’s no wonder why families love summer at Mohican State Park Lodge, which is located near several canoe liveries along the Mohican River between Columbus and Cleveland. For a scenic river journey, you can paddle your canoe surrounded by nature’s glory or just float along leisurely in an inner tube.
Days here are easily filled with games of volleyball or tennis, learning how to play shuffleboard, or quiet strolls at dusk on one of the paved walking trails. Families especially enjoy naturalist presentations (Snakes Alive, anyone?), building sand castles on the beach, and hours playing Marco Polo in the indoor and outdoor pools.
At the end of the day, parents and kids congregate around outdoor fire pits, decompressing from a busy day of activities.
Families at Punderson Manor can indulge in the beautiful natural playground of northeast Ohio. Take golf, for example. A round on the 18-hole championship course surrounded by rolling hills and forest cover is a majestic and memorable experience, making it one of the most popular summer activities.
It competes with volleyball and tennis, swimming in the pools, short hikes on the nature trails, and quiet strolls along the boardwalk on one of Ohio’s few glacial lakes. Some families come to Punderson specifically to enjoy their hobbies of fishing, disc golf, and archery in a new outdoor setting (bring your own equipment for all).
Younger children like the outdoor playgrounds, exploring nature right outside the lodge, and playing in the sand on the beach. Most summer nights end with families gathered around the outdoor fire pit, sharing tales of the day and daydreaming about returning next year.
How to Explore
In addition to summer getaways, Ohio State Park Lodges provide opportunities all year round for recreation, outdoor adventure, family fun, meetings, and relaxation.
Written by: Anietra Hamper
Ohio resident Anietra Hamper is an award-winning travel writer who specializes in covering outdoor activities.