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Family viewing an exhibit at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

Shatter Your Expectations

National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo

Shatter Your Expectations

By Ohio.org Staff

Posted On: Sep 9, 2021

In Toledo, Ohio, visitors can marvel at works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet, step aboard an iron freighter, hike through a native prairie, kayak the Maumee River, take in a Mud Hens baseball game and then dine out, either in style or off the cuff, all in the same day.

This riverfront city’s diverse personality is reason enough to devote a day (or a week) to exploring, but the appeal gets stronger. Many of the city’s world-class attractions are free or affordably priced – meaning there’s no need to limit your expectations; you can do it all and more!

When you look toward history, it’s no wonder Toledo flourishes as the cultural hub it is today. This is the city that produced the Jeep and pioneered the studio glass movement. Creativity and entrepreneurship are a part of Toledo’s past, present and future.
So, whether it’s your first time visiting this riverfront city or your 50th, leave lots of time to explore and don’t shy away from jumping into new experiences.

Couple at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

Get Inspired


Toledo’s culture is nowhere more apparent than the wonderful Toledo Museum of Art, where inspiring paintings, glass objects and sculptures are displayed in 35 galleries.

The museum’s more than 25,000 artworks rank among the top collections in the country. The museum includes the Welles Sculpture Garden, with about two dozen sculptures created from 1900 to 2014; the Glass Pavilion, containing an impressive collection of historic glass works and a glassblowing studio; the Peristyle Theater, home of the Toledo Symphony; and the Center for the Visual Arts, designed by influential architect Frank O. Gehry. Best of all, general admission is always free, although some special exhibits do require a fee.

Toledo’s status as a major port city, on the western tip of Lake Erie, is on display at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. Here you’ll learn the awe-inspiring stories of the lakes, from the fur traders in the 1600s to the Underground Railroad operators in the 1800s, the rum runners in the 1900s and the sailors on the thousand-foot freighters in use today. Visitors can climb onboard the 617-foot Col. James M. Schoonmaker iron ore freighter and experience what life was like on the lakes in the early 1900s. One of the newest artifacts is the historic Museum Tug Ohio, a fire tug built in Chicago in 1903.

The museum spans just over 10,000 square feet and features awesome photography, more than 300 artifacts, video displays and 40 hands-on exhibits.

Family at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo

Trail Break


With 198 miles of trails within its 19 Metroparks, Toledo’s landscape ranges from the bucolic to the urban. You can stroll along the Maumee River at the 1.5-mile Middlegrounds park trail downtown, or spot songbirds at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, a birder’s paradise southwest of the city.

Admire beautiful blooms and original sculptures – and pick up a few gardening tips – when you explore more than 60 acres of gardens and plant collections at the Toledo Botanical Gardens. Tour the Doneghy Inclusive Garden, which includes wheelchair-accessible flower displays and ADA-compliant seating. Children love the Secret Forest, an engaging playground that encourages creative play amid nature.

Traverse Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, the area’s largest park, on horseback. Located between Whitehouse and Swanton, Ohio, Oak Openings has 70 miles of trails in its 5,000 acres, including several horse-riding trails that draw people from all over. Birders flock to the park for sightings of whippoorwills, lark sparrows and indigo buntings.

Cannaley Treehouse Village, at the Beach Ridge section of Oak Openings, bills itself as the only site of its kind in the United States. It offers four private treehouses of varying sizes and three raised platforms for tent and hammock camping. There’s also a large, common treehouse that can accommodate 49 for daytime use only.

The Maumee River Water Trail connects five of Toledo’s Metroparks and three state parks, stretching more than 100 miles from Maumee Bay and Lake Erie to the Ohio-Indiana border. It has 39 access points and is a boon to nature lovers. Metroparks Toledo, the Wood County Park District and several private clubs offer paddling programs for novice and experienced kayakers alike.

Yet, while the Metroparks’ evergreens and prairies may make you feel far from the bustle of the city, Toledo’s environmental and urban amenities are seamlessly integrated. Elegant restaurants and chic breweries are just a short drive away, so you can enjoy the peace of nature and vibrancy of the city all in the same evening.

Children playing at Glass City Metropark in Toledo

Hands On


Be a part of the action with Toledo’s plethora of interactive attractions.


Head to the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium to get up close to wildlife. At the aquarium’s touch tank, visitors can reach out to stingrays, horseshoe crabs, African silverfish and three species of small sharks. A separate touch tank in the ProMedica Museum of Natural History holds about 20 young lake sturgeon, which vary in length from 18–28 inches.

For an additional fee, guests can feed the hungry Masai giraffes – Michelle, Ellie and Tulie – at the Tower Ridge Giraffe Feed Deck in the Africa! exhibit.

For a real thrill, take on the Expedition Africa Aerial Adventure Course, which rises more than three stories above ground. This area features a zipline and challenge course rides, allowing guests to complete up to 16 elements spanning 30–40 feet above the ground. New this year, these options are included with zoo admission.

Hearkening to its history of glass, Toledo offers visitors opportunities to experience glassblowing. One of the best places is the Toledo Museum of Art, which is bringing back its glassmaking master class series this year. Internationally admired artists will teach seven, one-week classes covering topics including glassblowing, fusing and neon art.

Several studios in the area also offer glassblowing and glass-related classes for visitors of various ages. They include the Gathered Glassblowing Studio located downtown and Copper Moon Studio Gallery & Gifts and Firenation Glass Studio and Gallery, both in suburban Holland.

Take to the skies in a mock jet at the Imagination Station, one of hundreds of interactive exhibits at this science center downtown along the Maumee River. For a thrill, try out the High Wire Cycle. Biking across a 1-inch cable, 20 feet above the ground may seem impossible … until you try it. Before leaving, see a feature film in the new KeyBank Discovery Theater, where the 58-foot wide, 4K screen immerses you in a memorable learning experience.

Take a ride along the Maumee River aboard the Sandpiper, a 100-passenger cruiser that’s available for public trips May through October. Enjoy a picnic lunch or a sightseeing excursion past the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse and the remains of the Turtle Island Lighthouse. Afterward, eat at one of the five restaurants at The Docks, each with an impressive view of the downtown skyline. Enjoy the pizza and pasta specialties at Zia’s or dig into the fresh catch of the day at Real Seafood Company.

Couple outside Real Seafood Co. in Toledo

Extra Innings


After a day of hiking trails and visiting museums, squeeze one last outing into your day at Fifth Third Field. Attend a Toledo Mud Hens game! The Mud Hens are the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers and Fifth Third Field, located downtown, is one of Minor League Baseball’s best parks and the anchor of the Hensville and Toledo Warehouse districts.

After the game, head to Ye Olde Durty Bird for a burger or bird (chicken sandwich), salad or wrap topped with creative and delicious toppings. You’ll want to grab a drink menu, too, for one of their popular frozen daquiris. For a hearty meal of fish and chips paired with a pint of Guinness, The Blarney Irish Pub has you covered.

If you feel like a walk, the Warehouse District is a DORA, the Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area. Patrons can buy an alcoholic beverage (in a specially designated cup) from one of over 30 participating bars and restaurants and enjoy their beverage outdoors. As you sip while strolling, keep an eye out for colorful murals featuring the work of local and regional artists.

Save The Date


Not sure when to visit? Plan your trip during one of Toledo’s 2021 summer events for a truly memorable experience.

 

  • ProMedica Summer Concert Series, Various Dates: Catch big names in music and national touring acts as they take the stage at Promenade Park all summer long. Expect music in the air, food vendors lining the sidewalks and excitement radiating throughout downtown.
  • Toledo Jeep Fest, Aug. 6–8: Celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Jeep, in the city where the adventurous vehicle was invented. Check out the All-Jeep Parade through downtown Toledo, live music, an expansive Midway and a 1/10-scale off-road course set up inside SeaGate Convention Centre. Pro tip: Get your tickets now for the Josh Turner and Lauren Alaina concert Friday night at Promenade Park.
  • German American Festival, Aug. 27–29: Join local residents at the oldest and largest ethnic festival celebrating German culture with food, beer, folk dancing and activities for kids. The festival is held in Oregon, Ohio, at the 94-acre Oak Shade Grove.
  • Solheim Cup, Aug. 31–Sept. 6: This biennial battle between the best women golfers from the United States vs. the best from Europe is a heralded international affair, and this year it’ll take place at the classic Inverness Club in Toledo. Come celebrate the world’s greatest game with several days of fun, including a downtown festival featuring local eateries, multiple stages and musical performances by local bands and pop superstar Gwen Stefani on Friday, followed by country star Chris Young on Saturday.

For more things to do visit check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org.

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