Toledo, an industrial Midwestern port city nestled on the shores of Lake Erie, holds immense historical significance due to its contributions to glass manufacturing. Dubbed “The Glass Capital of the World,” Toledo boasts captivating arts, culture, and splendid garden scenes. While everything is considered bigger and better in Texas, Toledo certainly rivals that notion. With its world-class museums and innovative treehouse accommodations, Toledo, Ohio, offers many cool experiences worth exploring. Here are the incredible things to do in Toledo that I recommend.
Much of my trip was paid for by Destination Toledo. As with all of our posts, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
The Incredible Toledo Museum of Art
The Toledo Museum of Art stands as the premier attraction in Toledo, boasting an impressive collection of 30,000 priceless works of art showcased across 45 galleries. This expansive venue allows space to move around and will enable visitors to immerse themselves in the masterpieces of renowned artists such as Degas, van Gogh, Rubens, and Picasso.
With each room, guests are treated to a captivating display of paintings, sculptures, prints, ceramics, books, artifacts, photographs, and glassware. Notably, Yayoi Kusama’s “Fireflies on the Water,” a separately ticketed exhibit, gave me an enthralling experience of becoming enveloped in an infinite array of twinkling lights on my 2020 visit.
I was particularly captivated by the “Between Light and Shadow” exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. This notable installation showcased a magnificent metallic square suspended from the ceiling of a crimson-hued chamber adorned with delicate cutouts.
Strategically illuminated, the space’s interplay of light and shadow produced mesmerizing, intricate patterns. Please bear in mind that my description comes from a non-artistic perspective, so I encourage you to refrain from laughing.
The esteemed Toledo Museum of Art houses an unparalleled collection featuring masterpieces by renowned artists such as Cézanne, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Degas, van Gogh, El Greco, Matisse, Miró, and the mesmerizing Kehinde Wiley.
Operating except on Mondays and Tuesdays, the museum offers free admission, while parking is available for $10 (non-members). Moreover, visitors can conveniently find wheelchairs and strollers at both entrances of the main Museum building and the Glass Pavilion.
The World-Class Glass Pavilion Museum
When exploring the Toledo Museum of Art, visit the adjacent Glass Pavilion. This postmodern venue spans an impressive 74,000 square feet. It showcases the captivating art of glass-blowing alongside magnificent works of art. The pavilion proudly houses the glass collection initiated by Edward Drummond Libbey, featuring over 5,000 items spanning from ancient to modern times. Don’t miss the stunning white Dale Chihuly glass chandelier, a true sight to behold!
In 1888, Edward Drummond Libbey relocated his family’s glass company, originally called New England Glass, to Toledo, where he renamed it Libbey. This move birthed a glass dynasty that endures to this day. Alongside other glass icons like Owens Illinois and Owens Corning, Toledo has become renowned as the “Glass City.”
Another excellent destination to immerse yourself in the world of exceptional glass history and artwork is Wheeling, West Virginia.
Sundance Kid Drive-In
Toledo houses the Sundance Kid Drive-In, an iconic establishment with twin screens featuring continuous shows. Unlike the “trendy” drive-in theaters, this is one of the original eight that were built in Toledo and is the only one remaining. Additionally, the venue hosts live events, including concerts.
Admission to the Sundance Kid Drive-In is charged per person rather than per vehicle, with children four years and younger receiving free entry.
The Toledo Botanical Garden
I was utterly amazed while exploring the Toledo Botanical Garden, an exquisite free attraction in town. Stroll through vibrant flower beds, majestic trees, captivating sculptures, and stunning artworks in this enchanting setting. The botanical garden offers highlights such as the Artists’ Village and the outdoor sculpture collection spanning 60+ acres of tranquil and immaculate landscapes.
Additionally, there are vegetable gardens, a pond-side meadow, a Peter Navarre cabin, a pioneer garden, and an array of breathtaking dahlias. The Toledo Botanical Garden remains open year-round, welcoming visitors until 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).
The National Museum of the Great Lakes
The National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo is an unparalleled historic destination. Visitors are captivated by the astonishing tales of the Great Lakes through engaging exhibits, immersive audio-visual displays, and a wealth of artifacts and memorabilia.
Additionally, the premises offer the opportunity for a seasonal self-guided tour aboard two notable vessels: the Tug Ohio and S.S. Col. James Schoonmaker, a distinguished retired Great Lakes freighter.
The Toledo Metroparks and Wildwood Manor House
Toledo boasts a remarkable historic home worth exploring — the Wildwood Preserve and Manor House. Robert Stranahan, the founder of Champion Spark Plug, once owned this elegant Georgian colonial residence.
With 22 rooms in an 18th-century colonial mansion, the interior is adorned with exquisite antiques and lavish fabrics, creating a captivating ambiance. The sprawling 493-acre estate, known as Wildwood Preserve Metropark, is just one of the splendid Metroparks found in Toledo.
Toledo undoubtedly stands out when it comes to cities with the finest parks and stunning landscapes. With 19 park areas under its jurisdiction, each with unique offerings, visitors can indulge in luxury treehouse lodging at Cannaley Treehouse Village, admire the beauty of Blue Creek’s well-preserved hog barn, or explore Westwards, which has a public archery range and 3D archery course.
Experience the charm and allure of Toledo’s magnificent parks and discover the extraordinary recreational opportunities they provide.
Where to Eat in Toledo
Toledo offers a wide array of delectable culinary delights, including several affordable and tasty options.
Schmucker’s is an unmissable establishment in Toledo. Established in 1948, this family-owned eatery boasts charming curb appeal, an inviting food counter where patrons can observe the food preparation, and decadent pies that seem to defy gravity. Comfort foods like meatloaf, chicken over biscuits, and fried chicken are expertly prepared, guaranteeing a consistently delightful dining experience at Schmucker’s.
I indulged in the mouthwatering Hot Roast Beef Sandwich on my visit, generously smothered in a velvety brown gravy. As a substitute for mashed potatoes, I chose the hand-cut fries. The resulting combination was simply heavenly.
Be sure to leave room for one of their 20+ varieties of cream and fruit pies, known to astound. The crowd favorite is the irresistible Chocolate Peanut Butter.
Real Seafood Company
Real Seafood Company offers a top-notch dining experience, boasting exceptional fresh seafood dishes and an enticing raw bar. This establishment is a true delight, with a contemporary menu that will tantalize your taste buds. The two-story interior boasts a nautical yet elegant decor, while the outdoor patio provides picturesque views of the Maumee River and Toledo skyline.
I recommend the Parmesan Encrusted Flounder for a truly outstanding meal, served with a delightful lemon beurre blanc sauce. The white cheddar hash browns were a fantastic accompaniment that shouldn’t be missed.
Indulge your sweet tooth with a scrumptious doughnut from Holey Toledough, a cleverly named bakery. This celestial-themed establishment presents mouthwatering options, including the delightful Cherry Cobbler (trust me, it’s amazing!), birthday cake, PB&J, and Reese’s Pieces. Holey Toledough offers a signature coffee blend crafted by Iron Bean Coffee.
Tony Packo’s, a renowned establishment in Toledo, has gained fame through its mention in the hit TV show MAS*H. Indulge in the flavors of Hungarian cuisine, including pierogies, stuffed cabbage, and Hungarian hot dogs, at one of the iconic restaurants throughout the city. I enjoyed savoring their Chicken Paprikas, a signature dish of tender boneless chicken simmered in an exquisite Old World sauce, served 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.
What to Drink in Toledo: Beer and Coffee
Satisfy your caffeine cravings at Black Kite Coffee, a charming independent coffee shop in Old West End. With its exceptional brews of coffee and tea, an assortment of scratch-made breakfast items, and indulgent Vegan Taste pastries, this establishment is sure to please even the most discerning palates.
The Bohemian ambiance of the coffee shop exudes warmth and inclusiveness without a hint of pretension, while the awe-inspiring glassware display adorning the walls adds an extra touch of sophistication. Be sure to sample the Ohio Honey Lavender iced latte – a delightful, fabulous concoction. And if coffee or tea isn’t your preference, why not choose a refreshing Italian soda?
For those seeking an exceptional beer experience, look no further than Maumee Bay Brew Pub inside the historic Oliver House. Indulge in a wide selection of craft brews while immersing yourself in the mesmerizing sight of Maumee Bay’s 500-gallon tanks in action within the brewhouse.
Complement your beer with delectable options such as wood-fired brick oven pizza, burgers, or a superb variety of appetizers. And don’t miss the honkin’ big pretzel, perfect for sharing.
Where to Stay in Toledo: Maumee Bay Lodge
When considering accommodations in Toledo, the Maumee Bay Lodge emerges as the clear choice. Located on the captivating shores of Lake Erie within an Ohio State Park, this impressive lodge offers many amenities and conveniences. Immaculate grounds, well-appointed rooms, modern facilities, an exquisite lakefront restaurant (Water’s Edge), a delightful indoor pool, and the option to rent boats and bikes await guests.
The lodge’s idyllic setting also boasts several hiking trails that wind through picturesque landscapes, including a charming boardwalk that meanders through a serene marsh area, creating the perfect scenic stroll. Additionally, guests can enjoy boating, fishing, or indulging in a round of golf on the 18-hole Scottish Links course.
Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the abundance of bird species in the vicinity, offering a captivating sight even to those without specialized birding knowledge.
For a delightful dining experience, Water’s Edge offers an exceptional menu selection for breakfast, featuring perfectly poached eggs, turkey sausage, hash browns, and toast, satisfying every palate. If visiting for lunch or dinner, the highly recommended Praline Bread Pudding awaits, promising to be a taste sensation.
Experience true hospitality and exceptional amenities at Maumee Bay Lodge, the epitome of a perfect Toledo retreat.
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