As we drove through the gates, I knew this place would be special. Driving down the narrow streets, I saw old houses, mostly Victorians and bungalows with expansive screened-in front porches and flowering gardens. I saw people reading on those front porches, playing games, catching up with neighbors. Children played on the yards and in the streets. Bundles of beach toys on lawns waited to be grabbed at a moment’s notice. Bicyclists maneuvered the streets along with golf carts and pedestrians while most cars stayed put.
My heart rate slowed… I began to relax. I was in Lakeside.
Lakeside Chautauqua is a town in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie about 75 miles west of Cleveland and 50 miles east of Toledo. Lakeside broke ground in 1873 as a Methodist-based summer camp. In 1874, the Chautauqua Institution on Lake Chautauqua, NY was founded and grew to be a summertime center for adult education and cultural enrichment. The word “Chautauqua” become to mean more generically, the term for resorts that blend the summer season with religion, education, cultural arts and recreation and several similar resorts were established into the early 1900’s throughout the United States. Lakeside was a perfect fit and became a Chautauqua resort.
Today, visitors to Lakeside Chautauqua pay a daily or seasonal fee plus an auto fee to stay on the grounds. All lectures, activities, and performances are included in the gate fee. Lecture topics this season include “All Things Americana” or “Technology Today”, and performances range from 90’s pop band, 10,000 Maniacs, to cowboy quartert, Riders in the Sky. The performances are staged in the spectacular Hoover Auditorium, a beautiful old building with exposed rafters curved in a half moon and giant ceiling fans to circulate the lake breezes through the aged casement windows that line the walls. As Too Slim from Riders described, “it looks like an upside down ship”!
For July 4, the activities also include a parade (complete with children’s bike parade to start), a brass band playing in the lakefront bandstand, and fireworks of course, which were shot from the pier and visible all along the lakefront. Visitors had their blankets and chairs parked in their desired viewing spots long before the show began. Lakeside also includes an elaborate lakefront park connected to the pier. Activities beyond basketball courts and playground swing sets include swimming/kayaking/sailing from the small beach or pier, miniature golf for a nominal fee, and my personal favorite – shuffleboard! Seriously, I could play it for hours … and did!
Accommodations at the resort are mostly cottage rentals, a few b&b’s, guesthouses, or hotels (one being the grand historic Hotel Lakeside, built in 1875 and set on the waterfront). The cottage is a nice choice, as dining amenities are limited to the hotel and a few restaurants on 2nd Street, so you’ll probably want to cook in. Although, one must try a few special treats when in Lakeside – the fresh baked donuts from the Patio (coconut was my favorite!) and ice cream (make sure you try it from Coffee & Cream, the Whistle Stop, and the Patio – you can judge which is best).
I don’t know of many towns around that truly capture Americana anymore – families relaxing, cooking out, reading, chatting, biking, playing games, swimming; in a sweet vacation setting right on the lake, with cultural entertainment as punctuation. It was a treasured discovery that I almost don’t want to share but I will because it truly captured that “joie de vivre” I seek.
Are there other places you’ve gone that sound similar? Have you been to Lakeside? I’d love to hear your thoughts.