15 Best Things to Do in Ashtabula, OH

Ashtabula, OH
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If you love going to cities with small-town charm and natural wonders, you will enjoy the best things to do in Ashtabula, Ohio.

It is the largest city in Ashtabula County and the core of the Ashtabula Micropolitan Statistical Area.

It takes about an hour to drive from Cleveland, Ohio, to Erie, Pennsylvania, to get to Ashtabula, which lies on the shores of Lake Erie.

Ashtabula comes from an Algonquin Indian phrase, "River of Many Fish."

In this region, indigenous people have lived for a long time.

After the American Revolutionary War, the United States launched the Northwest Indian War to remove Native American peoples from the "Northwest" territory – the Midwest south of the Great Lakes and west of the Appalachian Mountains.

As a result of the military campaign's success, more European Americans moved to Ohio and the surrounding states.

Beginning in 1803, European-Americans started to settle in Ashtabula, Ohio. As of 1891, the city was a legal entity.

The city saw a spike in people arriving from Scandinavia and Italy during the industrial era.

Aside from being a hub of anti-slavery sentiment in the mid-19th century, the area also played a significant role in the Underground Railroad.

To this day, that heritage is honored in the region's museums and the renovated waterfront area, which has become an international shopping and eating destination.

Explore the best things to do in Ashtabula, Ohio, with our definitive guide.

Have a Picnic at Lake Shore Park

A beautiful sunset near the marblehead lighthouse on the edge of lake erie.
Sara Winter / Shutterstock.com

Lake Shore Park is a 54-acre park on the beaches of Lake Erie that is immaculately kept and landscaped.

Visitors flock to the region because it is an excellent place for families to spend time outside.

Here, you may participate in various activities and enjoy a variety of facilities.

Parents and guardians may watch their children in the enclosed playground.

Bocce courts, horseshoe pits, and volleyball courts are available for local teams.

Every Sunday in the summer, a vintage vehicle show takes place on the beaches of Lake Erie, attracting a large number of enthusiasts from all around Northeast Ohio.

Orange, pink and purple skies from the sunset near marblehead lighthouse on the edge of lake erie.
Sara Winter / Shutterstock.com

Five pavilions are available, each with a different perspective, to suit the needs of families of all sizes.

The presence of a water-fowl pond provides an opportunity to watch mallards, other ducks, and fowls in their natural habitat.

Anglers, boaters, and jet skiers may use the public boat launch.

It's directly on the water's edge, so it's easy to get there.

Tour the Ashtabula Maritime Museum

Originally known as the Great Lakes Marine & Coast Guard Memorial Museum, this maritime museum lies in the old Ashtabula Lighthouse Keeper's House.

Here, the Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard's family once lived.

Completed in 1871, the Assistant Keeper's family moved into the house in 1898.

The city expanded the original structure residence in 1991.

Many installations stand outside the museum.

Inside, there are more than 25,000 historical relics from the Hulett, the Titanic, the Navy, and the Coast Guard.

Keepers House has a life-size replica of pilothouse called "Thomas Walters," which has a variety of authentic sailing gear.

Stroll along the Historic Ashtabula Harbor

Scenic view of the historic ashtabula harbor on a sunny day.
redtbird02 / Shutterstock.com

Near the Ashtabula River's confluence with Lake Erie, a thriving entertainment area in Northeast Ohio is home to historic structures, independent businesses, and a diverse array of dining options.

There is a rich history at Ashtabula Harbor's Historic Port.

One of the busiest ports globally, it employed workers from several European countries in its early days.

During the postwar era, the complex grew to meet the requirements of expanding industries.

Ashtabula lift bridge during the day. Boats can be seen afloat on the body of water.
Alesha Arreguin / Shutterstock.com

Currently, the port serves as a self-unloading port for taconite, stone, and bulk goods and a recreational port for fishing charters and marinas.

Generations of Ashtabula inhabitants and visitors have benefitted economically, recreationally, and amusingly from the port throughout its history.

The Historic Ashtabula Harbor is a great place to experience various cuisines, views, music, and history.

Indulge in Marianne's Chocolates

At Marianne's Chocolates in Ashtabula Harbor, you can feel like a kid again.

In 1963, Marian Fedor opened Marianne's Chocolates in her home kitchen in downtown Conneaut.

In 2007, the Dalrymples acquired the company.

As their candy selection has grown, they've introduced a more comprehensive range of offerings.

Aside from chocolates and candies, you may purchase cheese, salsa, pickles, jam, chips, and smokies.

Take Photos with the Ashtabula Harbor Light

Body of water on the left, pathway on the middle, and trees on the right.
Upstateherd, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1836, the first lighthouse in Ashtabula came into completion.

It remained in operation until 1876, when new docks necessitated the replacement of this structure.

The second lighthouse was built of wood and had a fourth-order Fresnel.

After 1905, the city decommissioned the lighthouse.

The steamship Gleneagles hit the lighthouse in 1927.

The ship was severely damaged, yet the lighthouse moved just inches.

Meanwhile, an ice storm in 1928 dumped several feet of ice on the lighthouse.

To escape, the on-duty keepers had to melt the door and dig a tunnel through five feet of ice.

Unwind at Walnut Beach Park

Walnut Beach Park has all you need for a relaxing day on the beach, observing animals, or taking in a stunning sunset over Lake Erie.

This beach park has it all: miles of sand, a classic pavilion with concessions, plenty of space to park your car, and more.

Walnut Beach Park is a favorite summer destination, but there are lots of things to do all year round.

The Walnut Beach Park area has 28 acres in totality.

Beach volleyball, basketball, picnic tables, and even a skate park are just a few of the amenities available to visitors.

You may try wildlife watching, sea glass searching, and collecting coastal rocks when the weather is too chilly to go swimming in the ocean.

Drive along the Scenic Smolen-Gulf Bridge

Empty smolengulf bridge entrance.
Jason Sponseller / Shutterstock.com

Due to the state's abundance of forests, rivers, and streams, Ohio boasts the second-highest number of covered bridges (with 19 in Ashtabula County alone).

The Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge serves as a modernized continuation of that tradition.

The Pratt Truss architecture makes it the longest covered bridge in the United States.

Empty highway near the entrance of the gulf bridge during sunset.
Jason Sponseller / Shutterstock.com

The bridge reopened on August 26, 2008, with engineering and structural design by previous County Engineer John Smolen and architectural design by current County Engineer Timothy Martin.

The bridge spans the Ashtabula River at 93 feet and is 613 feet long.

Designed to last at least one hundred years, it has a clear width of 30 feet and a height of 14 feet 6 inches.

A boulder near gulf bridge entrance with a message dedicating it to the member/tradesmen who lost their lives building ashtabula county.
Jason Sponseller / Shutterstock.com

Rent a Kayak at Harbor Yak

Whether you need a kayak, paddleboard, or hydro-bike, Harbor Yak is here to help you out.

Get out on the lake with a paddle!

Since 2017, this outfitter has offered a haven for friends and family to gather.

Take a break from the bustle and re-establish your connection with the outside world.

Harbor Yak also offers guided tours and fishing charters in addition to equipment rentals.

Yoga sessions and group paddleboard lessons are also available here.

Visit its store at Conneaut's Public Dock.

Admire the Ashtabula Lift Bridge at Night

Silhouette of the Ashbula lift bridge.
Jeff Kubina on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The historic 1925 Ashtabula Lift Bridge is also known as the Ashtabula County Lift Bridge and the West Fifth Street Bridge.

Kelly-Atkinson Construction Company and Fort Pitt Bridge Works constructed the Strauss bascule bridge in 1925.

Brown-type bascule bridges are extremely rare, and this is the only one left in Ohio.

It's a massive work of art in tip-top shape for its age.

Ashtabula lift bridge during a clear, sunny day. Several boats can be seen afloat the body of water.
Alesha Arreguin / Shutterstock.com

The counterweight tower on the fixed counterweight trunnion pivots on the counterweight trunnion to raise the bascule leaf in the Brown bascule, differentiated by its modest overhead counterweight.

In 1987, the bridge had a major renovation.

Apart from serving as a vital link in the city's transportation network, the bridge's western terminus marks the end of the Ashtabula Harbour Commercial District.

In 1985, it became part of the list of historic properties on the National Register.

Scenic view of the lift bridge.
Michael A. Orlando, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Olin's Museum of Covered Bridges

Dewey Road has been home to the Olin family since the 1860s.

The Olin's Hill Covered Bridge on Dewey Road took into completion in 1873 at the foot of what locals called "Dewey's Hill."

An Ashtabula County bridge builder named Potter built it using the same Town-Trunk Design as the rest of Ashtabula County's previous bridge construction.

As a result of its lesser lumber requirements and more straightforward design, it immediately became a popular choice among architects and builders in the early 1800s.

The current owner's grandmother owns the covered bridge collection, lovingly restored and made into a Museum at this farmhouse-turned-museum.

The Covered Bridge Museum is a great way to round up your tour of the area's historic covered bridges.

Every visitor will be charmed by the tiny gift shop that comes with it.

Go Hiking through Western Reserve Greenway Trail

A woman riding her bicycle over metal bridge on western reserve greenway trail.
Steven Wright / Shutterstock.com

Ashtabula is home to the Western Reserve Greenway, a 44-mile paved rail path.

There are 27 of these miles in Ashtabula County alone, which stretches from Ashtabula south to the Trumbull County boundary, where it continues for another 17 miles.

A large area of the Ashtabula County segment of the path is mainly rural, passing by farms and densely forested regions.

Two men wearing green shirts - riding their bikes with a brick wall behind them.
Steven Wright / Shutterstock.com

The dense canopy of trees, which provides welcome relief from the heat in the summer, is well regarded by visitors.

There are benches, road signs, and distance markers along the way, as well as 12 interpretive signs that highlight Ashtabula County's proud history as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

This volunteer bike patrol helps all Greenway visitors by providing information, support, and safety and trail maintenance.

Rejuvenate at Harbor Gardens

At this location, you'll find everything you need to improve your health and your culinary prowess.

In Harbor Gardens, the emphasis is on fresh, locally-sourced fare, focusing on cuisine.

Cooking, pickling, fermentation, canning, and consuming local food are some demos they provide and products manufactured, developed, and farmed locally.

Harbor Garden's goal is to foster a sense of community around self-reliance and food security, respect for local ecosystems, and all things locally grown and produced in Ashtabula County.

It also sells organic potting soil created from decomposed materials and local fruit and cottage delicacies, including jams, jellies, bread, and more.

Catch Liver Performances at Ashtabula Arts Center

Exterior of the Ashtabula arts center with tall, green trees behind it.
Michael A. Orlando, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ashtabula Arts Center, which Katherine Hill founded in her family's living room in 1953, is widely regarded as one of Ohio's renowned arts institutions.

Its Theater Department has two on-campus venues for year-round shows.

From October through April, G.B. Community Theatre shows are staged in its 200-seat indoor, main stage theater.

A wide range of plays, comedies, musicals, and other forms of entertainment are on display.

From June through August, you may catch musical performances at Straw Hat Theatre, an outdoor, tented pavilion theater.

There are year-round possibilities for amateur performers of all ages and those interested in theater design and technology at the G.B. Community Theatres and Straw Hat Theatres.

Dance, theater, music lessons and performances, and visual arts classes and exhibitions are available weekly to provide a complete calendar of events throughout the year.

Try Brant's Apple Orchard's Apple Pies

Brant's Apple Orchard in Ashtabula County is a must-see in the fall.

Its award-winning Apple Cider, Apple Cider donuts, bakery, 27 kinds of apples, cider slushies, and warm, welcoming ambiance have made the orchard a local favorite for generations.

A picnic, a hayride, or a game of hide-and-seek under the last remaining covered bridge playground are all great ways to spend the day.

It's possible to observe them pressing cider on the wooden rack and cloth press erected in 1895 if you come during the week.

Try Cloven Hoof Brewing's Beer

Located in Ashtabula, Ohio's Historic Harbor, the Cloven Hoof Brewing Co. offers distinctive artisan beers.

Cloven Hoof Brewing lies near Iroquois Lounge and the District Nail Room.

It provides a wide range of exclusive, one-of-a-kind trademark beers only found at this location.

Each batch of beer is brewed in-house at this small-scale brewery.

Popcorn and snack platters are also available.

You may also purchase growlers for filling at home.

Final Thoughts

Ashtabula is a popular family vacation spot.

Lake Erie is nearby, and there are so many options for people of all ages that you'll never run out of options.

Ashtabula has something for everyone, no matter what time of year it is: charming shops and restaurants, beach parks aplenty, and covered bridges galore.

Have your camera ready to capture the breathtaking charm of this place!