Toledo, Ohio, is located in northwest Ohio on Lake Erie’s western shores, near the Michigan border. I had visited the Sandusky area a few times but skipped Toledo. On a recent visit, I was surprised to learn that Toledo has several art experiences, beautiful gardens, and is a mecca for history, especially when it comes to Lake Erie. It was evident that I had been missing a lot by skipping this area of Ohio. Toledo is a nice blend of the great outdoors, history, and fun food experiences.
I participated in these activities on a hosted visit with a friend through Destination Toledo, which included hosted lodging and some meals. All opinions are my own.
1. Black Kite Coffee Shop And The Old West End
The Black Kite Coffee Shop came to fruition in 2012. It is located in what is referred to as the Old West End. The coffee shop is a gathering space where people drink coffee together, share stories, and enjoy a slice of pie. It’s an opportunity to enjoy homemade foods in a fun environment. Once you visit Black Kite Coffee Shop, you will feel like a local. The staff at this coffee shop will remember you, so don’t be surprised if you are greeted by your name if you make a second or third visit while you’re in town.
After indulging in your coffee, stroll through the neighborhood. There are 25 historic blocks, one of the largest collections of Victorian-style houses left standing in the United States. The architecture is truly an experience in itself, but the people will show you that they are why this neighborhood remains today. Neighbors helping neighbors is what you will find in the Old West End of Toledo, and it all starts when you kick off your day at the Black Kite.
2. Toledo Botanical Garden
The Toledo Botanical Garden is often referred to as a museum for plants. It is home to dahlias, bush clover, ornamental grasses, numerous colorful flowers, and other blooming plants. These gardens offer 60 acres for you to stroll and discover the beauty that this park offers Toledo. The sculptures are mixed in with the landscapes, which makes for fun discovery opportunities among the plants. A unique section of this botanical garden is the Toledo Botanical Garden Artisan Village. This quaint village near the gardens offers guests an opportunity to see demonstrations and participate in projects. Glass artists, the Toledo Potters Guild, and others offer instruction all year round. There are demo days and annual events that people flock to each year.
Need more reasons to visit the Toledo Botanical Garden? It made our list of eight incredible botanical gardens to experience in the Midwest.
3. National Museum Of The Great Lakes
The National Museum of The Great Lakes in Toledo offers one of the best displays of the Great Lakes that I have experienced. As you enter the museum, be sure to watch the film that greets you upon entry. It is well done and explains how the Great Lakes are a powerful force. You will feel as though you are a part of the Great Lakes after viewing it. After viewing the film, stroll through the museum and see clothing and tools from years past.
You can also tour the Col. James M. Schoonmaker and Museum Tug Ohio. Access to both of these boats is included in the price of your admission ticket. Everyone can see these two boats, as they are visible from the museum entrance. This museum is not large, but it has displays that are hands-on, and it offers incredible collections in all areas of the building. Stop into the gift shop to pick up your one-of-a-kind Great Lakes trinkets to take home. There is a wheelchair available for use. All areas except the two boats, which are outdoors, are handicap accessible. You will want to plan for two hours to explore this outstanding museum.
4. Toledo Museum Of Art
The Toledo Museum of Art offers more than 25,000 works of art, and it ranks in the top among the finest of art museums in the United States. The works of El Greco, Calder, van Gogh, and Monet can be seen on display in the museum. You can tour this museum at your own pace. There are benches throughout the museum for you to rest and reflect. You can easily spend half of a day at this museum. With 35 galleries, a sculpture garden, and a one-of-a-kind glass pavilion, you will find may jaw-dropping works of art. The glass studio is a working studio, and visitors can view the glass making process or even rent the space out for personal use. There is a small fee for parking. The museum is fully accessible.
5. Maumee Bay State Park
Maumee Bay State Park is home to more than 1,300 acres that encompasses a conference center, lodge, and cabins, nature center, campground, golf course, and butterfly garden. This Ohio state park is a short 10-minute drive from Toledo and offers a nature experience unlike any in the area. There are several miles of hiking trails, which are also bicycle-friendly. You can ride your own bicycle or rent one at the conference center. The best tip that I can give you is to sit by the bay at sunrise or sunset.
6. Toledo Zoo And Aquarium
The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium is known as The Must-Do Zoo. This zoo has more than 10,000 animals that represent more than 720 species. Travel around the world from the tropics to Greenland, ocean to the sky, and desert to the rainforest in one zoo visit. A fun way to experience this zoo is to book a behind-the-scenes tour.
You can feed the stingrays, greet a tuxedo penguin up close, or view an elephant training session. I have participated in an elephant behind-the-scenes experience at another zoo and it was a memorable thing to do. I witnessed an elephant getting a pedicure. If you have the time and the room in your budget, I would highly suggest booking a behind-the-scenes tour at the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium. Note that these are walking tours; wheelchairs and electric scooters can be reserved ahead of time.
7. Dine At Schmucker’s
Schmucker’s is an icon in Toledo, Ohio. They have been serving up delicious homemade meals since 1948. It has been family owned all of these years and features Grandma’s Swiss steak, meatloaf, fried chicken, and more. Slide up to the bar and watch the cook grill up your meal. Did someone say pie? The chocolate peanut butter pie is the top-selling cream pie. With more than 20 varieties of pie to choose from, you will find a slice that sends your taste buds dancing. This classic diner, which made our list of the eight best hole-in-the-wall diners in the Midwest, not only serves up great homemade food, but it’s also a destination in itself. Order breakfast, lunch, pie, or an old-fashioned soda to put a smile on your face while dining at this iconic restaurant in Toledo.
It was quite evident that Toledo is an industrial town, as there are nearly 1,000 manufacturing facilities in the metropolitan area. I certainly did not expect to see all of the art throughout the town, as I thought that the industry would be the scene of the day. The arts are blossoming in different areas of Toledo, and they blend into the industry. One of my favorite places to take a selfie is at the Greetings from Toledo mural located in the East Toledo neighborhood. It’s fun, colorful, and provides a fun interpretation of Toledo.
Toledo does have four seasons, and depending on the time of year you visit, you may need winter clothing. Summertime is an ideal time to visit, as the lake area is warm and the wildflowers are colorful. Winter is a fun time for outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy cross-country skiing. Toledo’s park system is home to miles and miles of cross-country skiing trails. These trails are great for hikers and bikers during other times of the year.
Spring and fall bring new colors to the area, along with birding opportunities. Maumee Bay State Park is an incredible place to take your binoculars and see what bird species you can find. The beach area offers bird viewing opportunities all year long. Spring and fall bring the migratory birds through the region as well.
If you are like me and have driven by Toledo several times, make it a point to stop the next time you are in northwestern Ohio. You will be pleasantly surprised. I’m still thinking about the stellar art scene that Toledo offers, as it’s left a permanent mark on me. I can’t wait to return to explore more of the arts and the outstanding park system that Toledo has.