People have been flocking to Geneva-on-the-Lake since Ford, Firestone and Rockefeller got here to relax | Way of life
A favorite lakeside summer experience, visits to Geneva-on-the-Lake got its start with the growing popularity of the automobile early in the 20th century. Friends Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and John D. Rockefeller came to camp, fish and relax on the Lake Erie shore at Sturgeon Point, which had been cleared of trees not long after the Civil War.
The men — pioneers for autos, oil and tires — likely brought servants to pitch their tents and cook their food. Back then, elite escapees from the smoky cities of Pittsburgh and Warren reached the shore by first taking a train to Geneva, five miles away, and then hiring a car to take them the rest of the way.
But when Ford developed the first affordable motor car and Firestone and Rockefeller began marketing the tires, gasoline and additives to make it reliable, America’s working class was able to take to the road. For many, the road ended at Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Adventure Zone’s go-karts are exciting for many.
By the 1930s, the working class had discovered the pleasures of the village, and ordinary people could share in the fresh Geneva-on-the-Lake breezes as cottages and boarding houses sprang up.
Today, the 110-acre Indian Creek Camping Resort is near the original Sturgeon Point campsite where Rockefeller, Firestone and Ford relaxed. And now there are hundreds of cottages, restaurants and amusements to entertain thousands of visitors who come to Geneva-on-the-Lake each summer.
The Strip — as the mile-long section of Route 531 has become known — is a treasure trove of arcades, cottages and diversions ranging from karaoke to rentals of standup paddle boards, jet skis, charter fishing boats and kayaks. The oldest miniature golf course in the country is there, as are plenty of lake views.
The Strip, as the mile-long stretch of Route 531 is known, is especially exciting at twilight.
It’s an easy day trip — just 30 miles from Mentor and 81 miles from Lorain — and plenty of people come for the afternoon or evening. But others have discovered the pleasures of making it a weekend or longer break, adding wine-country visits and forays into scenic Ashtabula Harbor to their Geneva-on-the-Lake trips.
The Lodge at Geneva-on-the Lake, at the west end of The Strip, will debut a new pool area by July 4, with an utdoor food and beverage pavilion, large masonry fire pit and outdoor games including bocce ball, shuffleboard and a giant chessboard. A new hydraulic door opens between outdoor and indoor pools as part of the expansion.
Occupants of the Lodge’s two-bedroom lake-side cottages share the pool area and Lodge dining room with those staying in Lodge rooms
Next door to the Lodge, the Zipline Canopy Tour and Adult and Kids Adventure Courses will open May 28. That’s also when golf cart rentals can be arranged. The carts can be driven on village roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.
Golf carts, licensed for use on roads with a 35 mph speed limit or less, are available for rent this year.
Short kid-sized ziplines and climbing features await kids from 4 to 10 in the Kids Adventure Course with staff on hand to assist and monitor.
Boats, including pedal-yourself Swan boats, are available to rent for cruises on a gentle creek.
Self-pedal swan boats are available to rent at the Lodge for use on a calm creek.
Adventure Zone, near the west end of the village just before the Strip, has a wide array of play, including batting cages, bumper boats, go karts, climbing walls, a bungee trampoline, miniature golf and a merry-go-round.
Bumper boats, suitable for even the youngest children with an adult, are a fun way to cool off at Adventure Zone.
The broad Lake Erie beaches that drew people 100 years ago largely have been swallowed by erosion, but the Geneva State Park still has a nice beach called Breakwater Beach. Other small beaches can be reached from rental cottages along the Strip. Ask about beach access when you call for reservations.
Those wishing to dine or drink with a Lake Erie view should check out the Lodge’s dining room, Crosswinds Grille at Inn, or stroll the Strip seeking other venues.
The Lakehouse patio, reached by stairs down a bluff, is one of the best places to catch a Lake Erie sunset in Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Sunset time is especially popular, so you’ll need to make a reservation at one of the high-end eateries or stake out a place at one of the bars.
Piero’s Pasta House, a longtime dining favorite near the eastern end of The Strip, has changed hands. Gianpiero Piras, who ran a one-man operation with help from his wife, Cindy, turned 70 a few years ago and apparently included some of his recipes in the sale. According to its Facebook page, the restaurant has been remodeled, has added air conditioning and now takes credit cards. (For a blast from the past, see http://bit.ly/nh-pierospasta.)
A lakeside Jacuzzi suite at Lakehouse Inn is one of the nicest places to stay in Geneva-on-the-Lake.
Other lodgings run the gamut from old timey motels to quaint bed and breakfasts and houses ideal for groups of family and friends. Many are open only from May to September and require a multiple-night stay. Some come completely furnished with linens and kitchen utensils while others require you to bring your own. Ask when you call for reservations.