Imagine stepping back into time. Picture the sweet, bustling main street that you can see from end to end, the friendly neighbor who knows your name and gives you a wave or head nod with each passing, and the kind of summers that just drift by because you don't have a care in the world. That's kind of what you'll find if you visit Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Situated along the Lake Erie, Geneva-on-the-Lake boasts itself as being "Ohio's First Summer Resort!" I had the chance to visit Geneva-on-the-Lake with my fiancé and his family over Labor Day weekend, a time when families try to squeeze in that last trip before the weather changes, and one of those last weekends spent in paradise by those who rent homes in the town or along the lake each summer.
Just inside the East entrance to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Indian Creek RV Resort is just that - a campground fully equipped with multiple pools, a tennis court, laundry facilities, multiple bathroom buildings, a general store, mini golf, restaurant, and more. A pop-up camper was more than modest compared to the luxury RVs and outfitted permanent sites.
So what did we do at the lake? We fished, of course. A 1-day fishing license cost $11 and we were fully stocked with every type of rod, line, bait, and tool you could want or need. After becoming licensed to fish, we made our way through the marina and kind of worked our way through a less-than-perfect path in the trees to find a quiet spot on the beach. The sand was full of rocks and shells, but the water was perfect. We made our way into the water and cast our lines. No one caught anything (except for my fiancé who caught a tiny little guy), but the experience was fun and relaxing.
When it came to the town itself, cute, quaint shops could be found on either side of the main street, nestled amongst bars and restaurants, donut shops, walk-up food vendors, and arcades – a lot of arcades. We wandered the street in the evenings, taking in every bit of nostalgia and charm. The only “major” food chain I could find was a vintage Dairy Queen. Summer was ending but every shop owner was gearing up for Thunder On The Strip, the annual bike rally to be held in a few weeks – one of their biggest events of the year.
Another attraction at Geneva-on-the-Lake is the wineries. We chose to visit Old Firehouse Winery right in the heart of Geneva. The signage display and large red truck are inviting, leading you back from the main street and closer to the lake (which you can get a unique view of by riding the ferris wheel, made in 1956 and still fully-functional). The outside deck spans for much larger than the winery appears to be, offering a variety of seating options in a seat-yourself style. A band played and we decided to try the wine samplers – one sweet and one dry – while snacking on some very tasty appetizers.
While walking around the main strip late at night, after the daytime activities have ended and as many of the shop owners close up after another long summer day, there is a sense of calm and preservation that takes place. Neon lights go out. Arcades pull shut their heavy wooden doors. Busy water slides become silent, eerie places (no pun intended). You might feel like you stepped back in time into an abandoned town. But there’s beauty in the fact that all of those things come back to life the very next day.
Overall my experience at Geneva-on-the-Lake was not a new one – I had been there before many years ago with my family, but it’s truly all a blur. I vaguely remember a main street and a restaurant, but that’s about it. That being said, I’m confident not much has changed, and there’s that beauty and that nostalgia that makes it such a special place.
For a list of the countless other things to do at Geneva-on-the-Lake, check out www.visitgenevaonthelake.com