(ash-tuh-byoo-luh ) origin Algonquin and meaning “River of Many Fish

Photos and Article by Kim Adley

Summer and vacation go together as smoothly as a key in a lock, and when summer arrives I want to find my way to a beach towel and some sand. However, as an entrepreneur, I sometimes find it difficult to schedule a full week of vacation. Weekend adventures provide the perfect answer when you need a break from the norm, a change of scenery, some sand, water and a few simple pleasures. Living landlocked in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the nearest ocean beach is a 6 hour drive to New Jersey or Delaware. Fortunately, I found the perfect alternative just a short two hour drive north of Pittsburgh to the shores of Lake Erie in Ashtabula County, Ohio.

Ashtabula County is located in the northeast corner of Ohio and covers 26 miles of beautiful Lake Erie shoreline that provides an abundance of boating, fishing and sunbathing opportunities. I planned my weekend adventure around three summer events all occurring on the last weekend of June. The first was the annual Lake Erie Beach Glass Festival located along bustling Bridge Street in the historic Ashtabula Harbor. This walkable street was lined with artists, vendors, and collectors of the elusive beach glass that washes up on the shores of Lake Erie. Beach Glass is a freshwater treasure that Mother Nature transforms from discarded glass over decades into coveted gems known as beach glass. Collectors turn the muted colored shards into jewelry and art. Bridge Street is also home to many local boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants and provides the perfect place to stroll and shop local.

 After a relaxing afternoon finding the perfect beach glass earrings, I checked into my lodgings at the Bear Creek Farm B & B located in the town of Kingston, Ohio. This lovely BnB, complete with its own stocked private lake, sugar shack for maple syrup production, wooded walking trails and lovely gardens, is owned and operated by innkeepers Judy and Jerry Smith who have a true attention to detail. I took some time to explore the grounds, sit by the lake, and enjoy a glass of wine on the front porch of this lovely home before heading off to the second event of my adventure: “Dinner in a Covered Bridge.” This annual fundraising event helps to maintain the 19 historic covered bridges in the county and was held inside the pedestrian only Riverview Bridge (150 feet long and 14 feet wide) that crosses the Ashtabula River and is located in the scenic Indian Trails Park. The bridge provided a memorable setting for the locally sourced dinner, live music, and camaraderie on a warm summer evening. Directly above the Riverview Bridge is the longest covered bridge in the United States, The Smolen-Gulf Bridge (618 feet long and 30 feet high) which supports a full load of traffic crossing the river.  The Ashtabula County Visitors’ Center provides an excellent driving tour map to 13 covered bridges spanning 69 miles.

The next morning I embarked on a nostalgic quest to revisit the place where I vacationed as a child, Geneva on the Lake.  Ohio’s first summer resort town sits right on the lake and features a “Summer Fun Heritage Trail” that consists of 30 markers that tell the town’s history along what locals call “The Strip.” The Strip is also lined with retro arcades, pizza shops, burger joints, and lots of souvenir shops. Visitors can stay in a large modern lodge, vintage motels, or  quaint summer cottage rentals that speak to a bygone era. I stopped for a delicious lunch of fresh Lake Erie perch at the lovely Lakehouse Inn restaurant, which also features a BnB, a winery, a spa and breathtaking water views.

To complete my summer trifecta, I left Geneva and headed along the shoreline to Lake Shore Park where I found beautiful public beaches and a large pavilion hosting the open air Uncork’d Winefest.  One admission price enabled me to enjoy samples from 15 wineries.  After finding my perfect bottle of wine, I headed to the beach to put my toes in the sand and enjoy the sunset. Ashtabula County is home to Ohio’s Wine Country.  This expanding vineyard region known as the Grand River Valley was once covered by ancient glaciers that left behind the Great Lakes and rich fertile soil.  Paired with the region’s climate, this has created a perfect spot for growing grapes and is home to 24 unique wineries that provide tours, tastings, entertainment, dinners, and festivals.

Most impressive about my weekend escape was the relaxed pace and lack of pretense wherever I ventured.  There is a down to earth feeling in this charming county in Ohio.  My summer trifecta in Ashtabula County, Ohio left me a true winner.

If you go:

Beach Glass Festival – www.historicashtabulaharbor.com

Bear Creek Farm Bed and Breakfast www.bearcreekfarmbnb.com

The Covered Bridge Trail www.visitashtabulacounty.com

Vines and Wines Trail www.ohiowines.org

Geneva-on-the-Lake www.VisitGenevaontheLake.com

The Lakehouse Inn www.thelakehouseinn.com

Kim Adley is the owner and custom tour designer of Passport to Pittsburgh, a custom tour design company for Pittsburgh and beyond (passporttopittsburgh.com). She is also the sole proprietor of Characters by Kim, a professional storytelling business (charactersbykim.com).