Lake Erie Islands - Party: Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island

A really comprehensive bar crawl across South Bass Island would probably have your liver booking the next trip home. In the interest of thorough reporting, I attempted to visit every bar on the island. Three days, two golf carts and about $500 worth of alcohol later, I had to admit defeat. But oh, the sights I saw. Man after man slugging straight out of his own, personal pitcher — here, ordering a pitcher of beer is the equivalent to ordering a pint back home. A 23-man bachelor party feting a groom with an elephant hat and a public-exposure problem. A tanned redhead of indiscriminate age (too old to be doing what she was doing) practicing her best stripper moves on a table smack in the middle of the pool at Splash! Ten thousand bachelorette parties (I swear). Shot-glass necklaces. Smokers everywhere. Complete abandon. Thank God the weekend is only two nights long.

Know Before You Go: You can bring your car, but golf carts are the preferred mode of travel. Delaware Carts offers an overnight rental option on its gas-powered carts: A four-seater runs $12 per hour or $50 for the day. An extra $20 lets you keep it until noon the following day.266 Delaware Ave., (419) 285-2724; For a quieter ride, Island Bike and Cart Rental provides electric carts at the Jet Express and Miller Ferry docks. Two-passenger carts are $11 per hour, $60 per day. (419) 285-2016;

• Can’t-Miss Events •
Christmas in July, July 25-27: By the time you read this, every hotel on the island will most likely be booked solid. Some boat lines won’t even let you on the boat without proof of lodging for the night, so travel at your own risk. Book now for the Island Oktoberfest, Oct. 11 & 12.
Bartender Olympics, Aug. 12: The evening begins with a bartender parade and culminates with a contest at the Roundhouse Bar.
Key West Days, Aug. 22 & 23: Musicians who winter in Key West convene on the island this weekend to celebrate the karmic connection between the two locales.
Island Wine Festival, Oct. 4: Fall events are growing in popularity, says Maggie Beckford of the South Bass CVB. She estimates 1,200 people attended last year’s fest.

• Include the Kids •
The Butterfly House at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center boasts 700 butterflies (free for kids under 6, $4.50 for kids 6-12, $7.50 for adults). Gemstone mining combines two great passions of small children — playing with dirt and finding shiny things. It costs $5.56 for about 15 tiny gems, including fool’s gold and amethysts. Not even that, however, wins as many smiles as the make-your-own-candy machine inside the Perry’s Cave store. For $3, kids get to choose from eight flavors and end up with a tube of colorful candies. 979 Catawba Ave., (419) 285-2283;

• Hangover Cures •
Our Favorite: Explore the Crystal Cave (year-round temp: a cool, soothing 54 degrees) at Heineman’s Winery, and use your complimentary drink token on a grape juice chaser. 978 Catawba St., (419) 285-2811;

Another Great Option: Head to Frosty Bar. 252 Delaware Ave., (419) 285-3278;
Sick as a dog: Order the blueberry pancakes ($7.95) or eggs Benedict ($8.50), plus coffee ($1.75) — they’ll garnish your breakfast with a piece of cantaloupe and leave the entire carafe.
Need some hair of the dog: Keep it classic with a Bloody Mary ($5.75; Frosty is famous for its version) or keep it low key with the Frosty Orange (Stoli O, orange juice and Sprite, $5.75).
Mad dog: When we dragged ourselves through the door at 8:30 a.m., we saw a group casually drinking beer for breakfast. (Warning: recommended only for those under the age of 25.)

Insider Tips
1. From Sunday at 3 p.m. till Friday at noon, day memberships are available for purchase at The Crew’s Nest, a private club with fitness facilities, a pool and clubhouse. $25 per couple, $30 for a family up to six. 460 Bayview Ave., (419) 285-3625;

2. Post-bar crawl, kibosh the beast in your belly with Cameo Pizza. It delivers via golf cart until 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends. 438 Catawba Ave., (419) 285-4444;

Party on other islands
Kelleys Island. The party scene is smaller, but it gets by with a bit of a Napoleon complex. Don’t miss the $2 strawberry shots at Bag the Moon (a strawberry filled with a “secret” shot and topped with whipped cream) and the Brandy Alexander ($5) at The Village Pump. Both are island favorites, and there’s a reason why.

•Where To Stay•
A two-night weekend commitment is the norm. Book early. Prime dates typically sell out by Memorial Day.

Our Favorite: The Put-in-Bay Resort & Conference Center Round up seven friends. Book the Grand Suite (sleeps eight) for the weekend. At $850, just over $100 per person, you’ll get two nights at this glorious resort, with its newish pool bar and 40-person hot tub. It’s just off the strip, thus cleaner, quieter and with less of the main-drag riffraff. A room with two queen beds is $139 a night on weeknights, $225 per night on the weekends. Plus, there’s a locked room for stashing luggage before checking in or after checking out. Party on! 439 LoraineAve., 1-888-742-7829;

Other Great Options: The Park Hotel.
Four people, two nights, two double beds for $325 = $81.25 per person. 234 Delaware Ave., (419) 285-3581;
The Amorris Guest House. Eight people, two nights, three bedrooms for $960 = $120 per person. 410 Loraine Ave., (419) 680-0106;
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