IMG_0274One year ago, we learned that we were moving to Toledo, Ohio.  My first thought?

Aw, man!  I’ve been avoiding Toledo my whole life!

I had two reasons for this reaction:  1)  my dad’s company had a hub in Toledo and he traveled here a lot when I was growing up.  Part of me was always a little afraid that we’d have to move there.  Whew!  We never did! (At least, not while I was a kid.)

2)  The only time I went to Toledo (up until this past October) was the summer of 1988, when the Toledo Zoo hosted a pair of visiting pandas from China.  This should have made for a great memory, right?  It had all the potential.  However, this was the summer of 1988, and we were living through the worst drought the midwest had seen in . . . well, quite some time.  It was over 100 degrees with lots of humidity.  Strike one.  Then, on the ride to Toledo, I got a bit carsick.  I didn’t throw up, but I felt like poop all day.  Strike two.  And three, the zoo was so freakishly crowded.  I hate crowds.  Strike three.

I wrote off Toledo after that.

But that was my loss, because Toledo really does have a lot to offer, and exploring a new place is my jam.  Once COVID-19 finally gets on the back burner, I am stoked to explore more.  But, until then, here are my favorites!

Yes, there are a lot of outdoor opportunities, because I do enjoy being outdoors AND that’s about all COVID-19 lets us do these days.  But these would always make my Top 5 List, even if COVID weren’t an issue.

Lake Erie

Last summer, I poured over maps of NW Ohio, clearly zeroing in on Toledo.  I’m pretty good at geography.  Yet, even though I lived less than 2 hours from Toledo for most of my life, I had no idea that Toledo is situated right on Lake Erie!  How did I miss that?

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Once things open up, we will explore Put-In Bay, Catawba Island, and Port Clinton, right on Lake Erie.  Until then, my kids and I are parking our butts at Maumee Bay State Park on one of their two beautiful beaches!  Their beach on Lake Erie has plenty of scope for the imagination (and lots of shells)!

But they also have a small, man-made lake on the other side of the parking lot from Lake Erie.  It’s much warmer for swimming in!

small lake at maumee bay state park

Maumee River

IMG_0290The Maumee River forms in Ft. Wayne, Indiana(where I’m from) and it empties into Lake Erie here in Toledo.  I am determined to kayak the whole river some week.  But that’s a far-off goal!

For now, I love walking around downtown Toledo, crossing the bridges on foot, and exploring the parks that dot the riverside throughout the Toledo area.

Which brings me to my next favorite thing about Toledo . . .

Metroparks

Lucas County (in which Toledo resides) has an amazing system of parks.  They call them Metroparks, which seems a little odd, as more than half of them are outside of the city limits.  But, whatever they call the Metroparks, they are all glorious!  IMG_0441

ToledoMetroparks have made the commitment that everyone residing in Lucas county either has or will have a Metropark within 5 miles of their house.  I live within walking distance to one, and have enjoyed the playgrounds, river views, trails, trees and kayaking opportunities that other Metroparks provide–we even camped at one overnight!

The Metroparks also offer outdoor education programs like fishing, paddling, archery, tree climbing, backpacking . . . I’m so excited to try out all of these very affordable classes!

For those who don’t live close (or even those who do) the Oak Openings Metropark is unveiling treehouses that visitors can rent overnight.  Even though I live close, I’m going to make a reservation to sleep in a treehouse next year!

 

Toledo Zoo

As mentioned above, my first visit to the Toledo Zoo–thirty years ago–left a lot to be desired.  However, that was not the zoo’s fault!  Every visit since then makes it clear why the Toledo Zoo gets national recognition and is Toledo’s main tourist attraction.

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On our first visit this year (which was on a weekday in October, so we pretty much had the whole zoo to ourselves), we first checked out the aquarium.  After wandering through only half of the aquarium, I felt the price for admission was well worth what we paid–and that a membership would be a fabulous investment!

The Toledo Zoo boasts a varied aquarium, a splash pad, botanical gardens, all the African animals one would expect from a hundred-year-old zoo, an Arctic area (with a polar bear cub!), and a brand-new natural history museum, which transports visitors back to the time before there were people in North Amercia, including a memorable hall with oversized statues to make visitors feel that they’ve been shrunk to the size of a bug!  And, there’s a marvelous hall dedicated to Ohio’s native animals.  After all, it does seem a little silly to be more familiar with exotic African animals and not to be aware of all the amazing animals that share this very space we live in!

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I’m so glad I gave the Toledo Zooanother shot, and I’m so glad they are again open to the public this summer!

Imagination Station

optical illusion imagination station toledoWhile currently closed, thanks to construction and COVID-19, Toledo’s Imagination Station is a children’s science museum located in the heart of downtown Toledo.  We also splurged for a membership there over Christmas vacation.  By the time Christmas vacation was over, we had visited enough to pay for that membership!

What does Imagination Station have?  What don’t they have?  They have all the standard hands-on physics games.  They have an area dedicated to optical illusions and another that teaches about nutrition.  My son could spend all afternoon in the cockpit of a real airplane that has a flight simulation game (but the line is often long, so he is just allowed one flight and then he has to get back in line).  My favorite part is the water tables.  On one end they have a collection of PVC pipes and joints, so kids can experiment about being plumbers.  Then they have sand and boats in the other end, so it’s possible to see how currents work.  The Imagination Station also offer entertaining, live demonstrations by members of their well-trained staff.  This is a great place for older kids.

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IMG_0099But the best part about Imagination Station is the area for preschoolers and toddlers!  There’s a store, loaded with all the plastic food imaginable.  Kids can grab a child-sized shopping cart, load up those carts, scan their food, pay for it, and another child can be a shelf stocker and put the food back.  (There is also a saint of a woman who works there, spending hours sorting out carts of abandoned food purchases!)  Then preschoolers can go to the hospital and take care of an army of babies–give them x-rays, weigh them, put them in an incubator, drive the babies in an ambulance, and check them into and out of the hospital.  The Imagination Station’s preschool area also had a treehouse, a construction area, and a preschool-sized water table (very similar to the one for the big kids).  But kids are only allowed in this area until they are 6, so we will enjoy this next year to the fullest!

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And then we’ll borrow my nephew a lot!

Membership at Imagination Station not only gets members unlimited visits within a year, but also got us in free to Fort Wayne’s Science Central and a host of other Children’s Museums and Science Museums throughout the country.  If you’re a member at another science museum, chances are good that you’ll get reciprocal admission here!

More!

Thanks to COVID-19, I have only begun to discover all the cool things that Toledo has to offer!  They have a world-class art museum–which has FREE admission!  The art museum has a marvelous glass-blowing studio.  Being home to Libbey Glass, the Libbeys made sure no one would forget them . . . and we sure appreciate their focus on the arts!

Once COVID-19 dies down, I’m looking forward to enjoying minor-league baseball and hockey, seeing more operas from the Toledo Opera (or joining the chorus, if they’ll have me!), enjoying the Toledo Balletand Toledo Symphony seasons.  (It looks like I’ll also have to get a job to enjoy all these!)  Ooo–and Toledo’s cathedral is breathtaking!  Even if you’re not Catholic, it’s a stunning bit of architecture and art.

And there are so many other things that I don’t even know exist here!  The possibilities of discovery are so exciting!

However, apart from the obvious zoo, Imagination Station, and Metroparks, the one place I’ve found a gold mine of information of family-friendly activities in and around Toledo is Mom on the Go in Holy Toledo.  If you’re moving here, or will be just visiting, check out her site!  She’ll keep you busy!

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Places to explore, Toledo

 

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