Toledo is an industrial Midwestern port city that sits on the shores of Lake Erie. It has played a hugely important role in American history with its glass manufacturing contributions and is dubbed the “The Glass Capital of the World.” Toledo has a fascinating arts, culture, and garden scene. They say everything is bigger in Texas, but Toledo could give that a run for its money. The Toledo Metroparks, gardens, art museums, and public spaces are immense here and worth visiting. From world-class museums to modern treehouse accommodations, here are some of the awesome things to do in Toledo, Ohio.
Much of my trip was paid for by Destination Toledo. As with all of our posts, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
Schmucker’s is the do-not-miss eatery in Toledo. This family-owned business, circa 1948, has cute curb appeal, an inviting food counter (you can watch the food preparation), and mile-high pies. Serving comfort foods like meatloaf, chicken over biscuits, and fried chicken, I can’t imagine you could ever have a bad meal at Schmucker’s.
I feasted on the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, drenched in rich brown gravy. I subbed hand-cut fries for the mashed potatoes. Oh my, this is one gut-pleasing meal. Save room for one of the 20+ kinds of cream and fruit pies; they are sure to knock your socks off! Chocolate Peanut Butter is the crowd favorite.
Real Seafood Company is a first-rate dining experience with exceptional fresh seafood dishes, a raw bar, outstanding service, and a contemporary menu that will make you drool. The two-story inside decor is nautical yet elegant, and the outdoor patio affords picturesque views of the Maumee River and Toledo skyline. Try the Parmesan Encrusted Flounder with a lemon beurre blanc sauce. It is excellent! The white cheddar hash browns are fantastic, as well.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a yummy doughnut from Holey Toledough. Clever name, huh? This outer space-inspired shop offers delectable choices such as Cherry Cobbler (I can vouch for how amazing it is!), birthday cake, PB&J, and Reese’s Pieces. Holey Toledough also sells a signature coffee blend made by Iron Bean Coffee.
A Toledo Treasure
Tony Packo’s is another big Toledo name, made famous from a M*A*S*H TV show mention years ago. Try Hungarian food (pierogies, stuffed cabbage, and Hungarian hot dogs) at one of the iconic restaurants around town. I had the Chicken Paprikas, a Packo’s signature dish, with boneless chicken simmered in an Old World sauce, ladled over Hungarian dumplings.
The 1902 Front Street location, from 1932, is the original one and has much to look at, including celeb signed hotdog buns and souvenirs. Honestly, when I mentioned to friends that I was coming to Toledo, at least 75% of them told me I had to go to Packo’s—it is that popular.
Get your coffee fix at Black Kite Coffee, an adorable independent coffee shop in Old West End with 10/10 delicious cups of Joe (or tea), and a great selection of scratch-made breakfast items and decadent Vegan Taste pastries. The coffee shop’s vibe is welcoming and not one bit pretentious, plus the glassware lining the walls is incredible.
Try the Ohio Honey Lavender iced latte, it is fabulous! Don’t like coffee or tea? Try a refreshing Italian soda.
If you prefer a great beer, Maumee Bay Brew Pub has got you covered in the historic Oliver House. Choose from a dozen craft brews and enjoy views of Maumee Bay’s 500-gallon tanks working in the brewhouse. Pair your beer with wood-fired brick oven pizza, burgers, or a great selection of appetizers.
The Toledo Museum of Art
The best attraction (and it is free!) in Toledo, Ohio, is the Toledo Museum of Art, offering 45 galleries cram-packed with priceless works of art (30,000 items) in a massive space (great for social distancing). This beautiful venue showcases Degas, van Gogh, Rubens, and Picasso, to name a few. Room after room, you’ll experience amazing paintings, sculptures, prints, ceramics, books, artifacts, photographs, and glassware.
On my visit, Yayoi Kusama’s Fireflies on the Water was a separate ticketed exhibit that allowed you to step into infinite twinkling lights. It was a rush for the senses and cool opportunity. My favorite exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art, which I would compare to the Detroit Institute of the Arts in terms of quality and selection, was Between Light and Shadow, a cool huge metal square with cutouts dangling from the ceiling of a red room with lights shining on it that creates patterns of light and shadow. It is mesmerizing! Keep in mind, my description is from a non-artist, so don’t laugh.
Works from Cézanne, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Degas, van Gogh, El Greco, Matisse, Miró, and even a dazzling Kehinde Wiley make up the priceless Toledo Museum of Art collection, which is closed on Mondays. I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to find a museum of this magnitude when I came to Toledo, but what a gem!
While exploring the Toledo Museum of Art, be sure to include a visit to the Glass Pavilion, a postmodern venue (only 74,000 square ft.) with live glass-blowing and magnificent works of art. It holds the glass collection started by Edward Drummond Libbey and has 5,000+ items to admire from ancient history to today’s times. Check out that gorgeous white Dale Chihuly glass chandelier.
In 1888, Edward Drummond Libbey, son to the owner of New England Glass, moved the company to Toledo. He renamed the company to Libbey, thus creating a glass dynasty that still exists here today. Combined with Toledo glass icons Owens Illinois and Owens Corning, Toledo was famously coined the “Glass City”.
Toledo is home to the cool Sundance Kid Drive-In, showing back to back shows on two big screens. This isn’t an “on the bandwagon to be cool” drive-in movie theater, but one of the original eight, the only remaining one built in Toledo. The venue also has live events, including concerts. Children four and under are free, but there is a fee per person at the Sundance Kid Drive-In instead of per vehicle.
Wow! That is how I felt touring the Toledo Botanical Garden, an absolute free attraction in town. Walk through brilliantly colored beds of blooming flowers, gorgeous trees, sculptures, and art in this beautiful setting.
The botanical garden has over 60 acres of serene and pristine landscapes. Artists’ Village and the outdoor sculpture collection are highlights of the property. You’ll also find vegetable gardens, a pond-side meadow, Peter Navarre cabin, a pioneer garden, and the most amazing dahlias you’ve ever seen. Toledo Botanical Garden is open year-round and closes at dusk.
Murals and Architecture
Another free Toledo attraction is the mural scene. You’ll find dozens of vibrant murals around town, great for photos and learning more about the neighborhoods in Toledo. My favorites were Frida Kahlo, Love Wall, Greetings from Toledo, and Still Dreaming (MLK).
Feast your eyes on a spectacular sight at the Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, with lovely stained-glass windows, frescoes, and the only Spanish Plateresque church in the nation. It is a beauty!
The best historic place to visit in Toledo is the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes’ incredulous stories are told here through hands-on exhibits, audio-visual displays, artifacts, and memorabilia. Seasonally, you can have a self-guided tour of two boats on the premises: the Tug Ohio and S.S. Col. James Schoonmaker, a retired Great Lakes freighter.
Another great place to see the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum, only a few minutes away in Fremont. Take a guided tour of the 31-room mansion and see America’s very first presidential library. The property even contains the original White House gates.
A third, all that I had time for, is the Wildwood Preserve and Manor House. This lovely home belonged to Champion Spark Plug Founder Robert Stranahan and featured 22 rooms in an 18th-century colonial mansion. The estate grounds, Wildwood Preserve Metropark, are only one of the fantastic Metroparks you’ll find in Toledo. If I had to name one city with the best parks (and gorgeous, at that) of any town its size, it would be Toledo.
Where to Stay
That’s a simple question—the Maumee Bay Lodge. This Ohio State Park offering is fascinating, with pristine grounds, comfortable rooms and modern conveniences, an onsite lakefront restaurant (Water’s Edge), a great indoor pool, and boat/bike rentals. It sits on beautiful Lake Erie and has several hiking trails around the property and a lovely boardwalk that winds through a picturesque marsh.
I might also mention that the lodge’s new safety protocols are impressive and listed in a handout they give you at check-in.
Unique features at Maumee Bay Lodge also include a large arcade, massive indoor swimming pool, outdoor playground, storybook trail (adorable for kids and adults), and spectacular sunsets.
You can rent boats there, fish, or play on the 18 hole Scottish Links golf course. Birds are abundant, and you don’t have to be a professional birder to recognize and appreciate the gorgeous creatures.
For breakfast, Water’s Edge has really good menu items to choose from. I chose a classic breakfast with perfectly poached eggs, turkey sausage, hash browns, and toast. Yum. If you come for lunch or dinner, you can try the raved about Praline Bread Pudding.
An up and coming unique lodging choice around Toledo is Cannaley Treehouse Village in Oak Openings Preserve, part of the Metropark of Toledo. It is the largest public overnight treehouse venue in the United States. There are a dozen treehouses or so to choose from, some sleeping two and others four or six. The furnishings are appealing and attractive. The treehouses even have electricity, heat and AC, and composting toilets.
Magnificent wooded views and abundant nature are free of charge. The Cannaley Treehouse Village also has raised platforms for tent and hammock camping.
Come to Toledo. You’ll be glad you did and shocked at the awesome offerings in this Midwestern gem.
Toledo Photo Gallery
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