25 Things to Do with the Whole Family in Toledo, Ohio

From the must-sees and must-do’s, we’ve got your guide to the Toledo Area right here

people gather around an exhibit at an art museum in toledo

By

Jean Linder

on

Jan 21, 2021

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Image courtesy of Downtown Toledo.

Whether you’re visiting or moving here, Toledo and the surrounding area offer tons of things for a family-- or a couple-- to do any day of the week. We combed through and here are the things you simply must see, do, smell and taste around Toledo!  

Toledo Zoo & Aquarium

Monkey Around with the Coolest Crocs, Cats, and Cobras in Ohio

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That face you make when you hear someone hasn’t been to the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium yet! Image courtesy of the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium Facebook.

2 Hippo Way | toledozoo.org

The iconic Toledo Zoo & Aquarium hosts over 10,000 different animals from over 720 different species-- including crocodiles, a red spitting cobra, and tons of monkeys-- along with opportunities for back-stage tours, garden workshops, and more. Conservation efforts on the zoo’s part include participation in over 80 Species Survival Plans. The Aquarium hosts several species of fish, including sharks! Watch for the giant octopus and the jellyfish, too. Check out their events calendar to see what’s going on now, or looking ahead towards your visit! (How does a Zoo Zumba class sound?!)

Toledo Museum of Art

Plan a Day of Art + Culture in Toledo, OH... for free!

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The Toledo Museum of Art just doesn’t just display art-- it LIVES it, through workshops and working artists right on campus. Image courtesy of the Toledo Blade.

2445 Monroe St. | toledomuseum.org

Completely free of charge, the Toledo Museum of Art is a recognized force in the museum world. That means that for FREE, you and your family and friends have access to over 30,000 works of art from all over the world and from all different times. Paintings, sculptures, glass, paper and decorative arts all have a home here. Wander around on your own, or book a tour-- be sure to stop by the Studio Glass to watch live glass-blowing, and maybe try it yourself!

They’re open Tuesday-Sunday, and bring only what you need-- there is a coat room, but your bags will be checked. Take a peek at the Museum Guidelines before you go. Pro Tip: if you’re moving here or are a frequent visitor, ask about becoming a member! Perks include free parking and free admission to any special exhibits (some special exhibits require a fee for non-members) PLUS discounted art classes! The best part? There are a bunch of other museums in Ohio that have reciprocal memberships-- meaning, if you’re a member of the TMA, as a courtesy you get free or discounted admission at participating museums!

National Museum of the Great Lakes

Dive into Ohio's Fascinating Natural History

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“Look what we found!” A photograph from the Disasters of the Deep exhibition formerly at the NMGL is just one example of the many cool bits of history you can learn here! Image courtesy of the NMGL Facebook.

1701 Front St. | nmgl.org

Toledo is also the home of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are a precious global resource and a historical treasure. They’ve impacted society, the economy and politics for ages. Over 40 hands-on exhibits, more than 300 artifacts, and more-- including the super-cool “museum ship!” (Read about that later in this post!) From fishing and fur trading to the Underground Railroad to rum runners and sailors, this museum puts a whole new perspective on one of the nation’s most famous geographical regions.

Check out their Events page for guest speakers, workshops, and “History Happy Hours.” After a visit here, the next time you dive into one of the Great Lakes, you’ll really know what you’re getting into

Imagination Station

Explore STEM-inspired Educational Activities the Whole Family Will Love

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Imagination Station is where the whole family can mix and mingle with math, science, and educational fun! Image courtesy of Skyscanner.

1 Discovery Way | imaginationstationtoledo.org

Toledo’s Imagination Station is it’s science center-- an interactive place where kids of all ages can wonder amongst and play with exhibits on science, technology, mathematics, and engineering. Put the power of learning into your family’s hands! The IDEA Lab is a space for your family to build and play with inventions, or take workshops.

The center also has multitudes of exhibits in 10 “learning worlds,” and they offer loads of science resources to take home. Becoming a member here has its perks, too-- include reciprocal admission to over 300 other science centers not just in Ohio, but AROUND THE WORLD. There’s also loads of workshops and camps dedicated to different age groups and types of learners-- even homeschoolers!

Wildwood Preserve Metropark & Manor House

Gorgeous Gardnes + Serene Scenery

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Isn’t Wildwood Preserve so calming and serene? Can’t you just imagine plopping down by the fountain with a book and some tea? Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

5100 W. Central Ave. | metroparkstoledo.com

Formerly the family estate for the Stranahans, Wildwood Preserve is the most visited of Toledo’s metroparks. The 493 acres and the family home-- now the Wildwood Manor house-- were destined to become a housing development, until locals stepped in and preserved the property in the form of a public park. The house offers free tours and is decorated for the holidays. The property is bisected by the Ottawa River, and so offers a great variety of terrain for hikers on the trails. It’s a preserve not just for birds and animals, but also for plants. Try stargazing out here, too!

Black Cloister Brewing

Great Local Beer in the Great Lakes Area

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Black Cloister Brewing is wholly engaged in producing some of the best beer you’ll ever drink-- cheers! Image courtesy of Ohio Magazine.

619 Monroe St. | blackcloister.com

Founded by a Lutheran pastor-- yes, you heard that right-- who paired beer tastings with Bible study and started the areas largest homebrewing club, the Black Cloister Brewery was named after the Wittenberg, Germany monks of the Augustinian order. Martin Luther was one of them, and later he and his ex-nun wife raised their family in Wittenberg on money made from homebrewed beer.

As the founders of Black Cloister are rather religious, the connection felt right to them. There are 5 year-round beers-- with cheeky names such as Flapjack-o-Lantern and Nature’s Breast-- and a great selection of seasonal beers for fall, winter, spring and summer. There’s been a few limited edition beers-- such as Rekindle and Lil’ Hussy. If you’re moving here-- or just really enthusiastic about supporting great local beer-- consider becoming part of the Mug Club. Perks include an Order-members-only shirt, personalized drinking glass kept at the bar for you, and exclusive tastings and events.

Swan Creek

Step Outside and Relax with Hiking, Bird-Watching, and Playgrounds for the Little Ones

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If you’re looking to get married at an affordable destination, why not Swan Creek in Toledo, Oh? The gazebo’s design puts the spotlight on you, and let’s everyone have a view! Image courtesy of Metroparks Toledo.

4301 Airport Hwy | metroparkstoledo.com

441 acres large, Swan Creek is a restorative and peaceful forested oasis in the southern portion of Toledo. Many folks choose the Gazebo at the Swan Creek for a wedding venue. Deer, fox and birds find shelter, nesting grounds, and hunting grounds in this preserve. A perfect place for a hike, picnic, or a playdate at the playground! It’s also one of the parks in the area with a Window on Nature-- more on that later!

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral

Admire the Art in This Local Church (That Looks Like a Prince or Princess's Castle)

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We don’t know what’s more impressive-- the art, the architecture, or the spirit of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral. Visit and decide for yourself! Image courtesy of Flickr.

2535 Collingwood Blvd. | rosarycathedral.org

A functioning church, the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral encourages folks to use the South Entrance, as it’s the most accessible and close to parking. It’s also the door least likely to be locked-- when the Church is locked to protect the treasures inside, simply walk over the Parish Office and they’ll happily let you inside. They’re generally open from 9am-4pm every day, and a half hour before and after services. Please dress and act accordingly, especially during services.

The impressive building was constructed in the Spanish Plateresque style during the 1920’s. The ceiling is 90 feet high, and the body of the church is 240ish feet long. It is the mother church of the Toledo Roman Catholic Diocese. Some of the treasures inside include a window above the main door that depicts the life of Mary-- it was financed by the parish children collecting pennies-- and the main altar, which was carved from Spanish marble. You’ve got to see this stunning piece of architecture! And if you stay for services, we hope you find some peace from the world’s troubles as well.

Toledo Botanical Garden

Stop and Smell the Roses

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So peaceful and gorgeous-- get lost in the beauty and serenity of the Toledo Botanical Garden. Image courtesy of The Toledo Blade.

5403 Elmer Dr. | www.metroparkstoledo.com

Whether you’re a garden buff or just want to walk somewhere peaceful and have pretty things to look at, the Toledo Botanical Garden Metropark is 60 acres of plants, flowers, and plant collections to enjoy. Workshops, plant sculptures, an Artisan Village, summer concerts, and children’s hands-on activities are part of this park’s delightful life. Come and explore!

Real Seafood Company

Chow Down on Fresh New England Seafood

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The Real Seafood Company served Thanksgiving dinner for those in need, partnering with Cherry Street Mission Ministry. Now THAT’S a restaurant we can support! Image courtesy of the Toledo Blade.

22 Main St. | realseafoodtoledo.com

There’s a reason the Real Seafood Company’s motto is “As Close to New England Waters as Your Taste can Travel”-- although they also offer a selection of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico as well. Perhaps freshest of all are their Great Lakes catches! Founded in 1999 at the Docks, this luxurious restaurant is a treat that pairs extremely well with wine, Maumee River sunsets, and big appetites! Make this restaurant your top choice for your next date or special event-- makes a great girls night out or wedding reception venue as well.

Oak Openings Preserve

Feel the Sand Beneath Your Toes without Heading to the Seashore

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We could stare at the beauty of Oak Openings all day-- there’s so many different landscapes and habitats in one spot! Image courtesy of Metroparks Toledo.

4139 Girdham Rd. | metroparkstoledo.com

Oak Openings Preserve is actually huge-- only a portion of it runs through Toledo! The whole preserve is around 5,000 acres-- 23 times larger than the Oak Openings Metropark! Pioneers first named the area after trudging through swamps into an oak savanna. The soil is sandy here, and a variety of plant life-- from the prickly pear cactus (a CACTUS growing WILD in the MIDWEST!?) to wild lupines and orchids. 50 miles of trails cross the Toledo area of this preserve, and birdwatching is a breeze!

Side Cut Metropark

Perfect for Outdoor Family Fun, Sunrise to Sunset

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Photographer Art Weber captured this sunrise moment at Side Cut Metropark perfectly-- now just imagine this as your morning run! Image courtesy of Metroparks Toledo Facebook.

1025 W. River Rd. | metroparkstoledo.com

Side Cut was Toledo’s first Metropark. The name is derived from its original purpose-- a “side cut” extension of the Erie and Miami canals that connected to the city of Maumee. Today it’s a rare nature habitat with fishing, sledding, a playground and more. It’s also one of the Metroparks with a Window on Nature! See the next section for more details!

Windows on Wildlife

Indoor Views of Ohio's Furry and Feathery Inhabitants

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A safe, effective, and cozy way to introduce a multitude of wildlife to anyone in the family, Windows on Wildlife should be a thing all over the United States-- not just in Toledo! Image courtesy of the Toledo Blade.

Various park locations | www.metroparkstoledo.com

Ever want to see nature-- but not be out IN nature, because it’s raining or snowing or both? Now you can! Toledo Metroparks presents Windows on Wildlife, a series of indoor viewing areas at different nature preserves in the area. Outside of the “windows,” you’ll see professionally curated feeding stations popular with local wildlife. Inside, you’ll be warm and toasty with information all over to help you identify what you’re seeing. They’re handicapped accessible, too, so everyone can get in on the action.

Valentine Theatre

Catch a Community Theatre Production

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Bring some of the Valentine Theatre’s drama to your wedding… in a good way! This stunning theatre is soaked in red and gold grandeur, making it the perfect backdrop to operas and “I Do’s” alike! Image courtesy of Swatch Studios.

410 Adams St. | valentinetheatre.com

The Valentine Theatre is over 120 years old, and operated by the Toledo Cultural Arts Center. The space is used by over 50 community groups such as the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and hundreds of culturally and ethnically diverse presentations-- including the Boys Choir of Harlem, Momix, and Broadway musicals. There’s also a black box theatre adjacent to the Valentine Theatre for even more theatrical productions. Check out their Events page to see what’s hot while you’re visiting-- or what you want to see on a date night or family night out!

Toledo Symphony Orchestra

Classical and Contemporary Music for the Whole Family to Enjoy

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The Toledo Symphony Orchestra-- TSO to locals-- transports you to different lives and worlds with multimedia presentations featuring powerful music. Image courtesy of Ohio Magazine.

1838 Parkwood Ave. | toledosymphony.com

A community-supported organization of conductors, musicians and teachers, the TSO has grown since its inception in 1943. They reach over 260,000 people through education initiatives, concerts, and more. Many of their programs are free or low cost. Check out their website to see where they’re playing next!

Toledo Repertoire Theatre

Check Out Rising Local Talent in Toledo's Community Theatre

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“The Rep” Theatre is THE place for raw, local talent firmly embedded in the Toledo community. Image courtesy of the Toledo Blade.

16 10th St. | toledorep.org

The Toledo Repertoire Theatre is Toledo’s community theatre. Founded in 1933, their mission is to entertain and serve the Toledo area through excellence in content, service, and people. If you’re a theatre buff, try volunteering here!  There are group ticket discounts if you’re bringing the whole family (10 or more) to the performance, and business owners, listen up! You can make your next company part at “The Rep”-- what a great way to support local talent and economy while showing your employees and coworkers how special they are! Call The Rep’s administrative offices for more details. Whether you’re interested in auditioning, improv, taking a workshop, working behind the scenes, or just want to watch some great entertainment-- Toledo’s Repertoire Theatre is your destination!

Garden Smiles by Carruth Studio

Whimsical Sculptures Sure to Put a Smile on Your Face

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Add some oomph to your life with an unexpected treasure, courtesy of George Carruth and his studio works. Image courtesy of Lotus Woodstock.

211 Mechanic St / Waterford, OH | carruthstudio.com

Sculptor George Carruth opened his own studio and gift shop in 1983 after years of working for American Greetings and travelling to art shows and exhibitions. His favorite medium is rough stone, into which he carves whimsical designs inspired by the outdoors. His first piece-- the cat bird bath-- was featured on the cover of David Kay’s Garden & Gift Catalogue. He has also created an ornament for the White House Christmas Tree, and public TV created a documentary about his work. Garden Smiles is David’s retail store, and includes his own work plus pieces from a select group of 20 other local artists. Their motto is: “Plant a smile in your garden,” but his lovely pieces work anywhere you want a special touch of whimsy to bring a smile to your day.  

Toledo Opera

Classical Culture, New Technology

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If you’re in the mood for grand and dramatic, hit up the Toledo Opera! The costumes, singing, acting, and multimedia setting provide the perfect fantasy escape from real life. Image courtesy of the Toledo Opera.

425 Jefferson Ave, Suite 601 | toledoopera.org

A vital and cherished part of Toledo’s cultural scene, the Toledo Opera brings passionate music and talent to the stage. Their home is the aforementioned Valentine Theatre, which seats around 900 people. You might ask-- why opera? Isn’t that outdated? HARDLY! Opera has it all, and new stage technology has made it a multimedia production that taps into the universal experiences and emotions we all have as humans. Think of it as a movie, but better! And live, right in front of you! And don’t worry about understanding the lyrics-- English subtitles are projected above the stage at all non-English performances. Dress up and make a night of it on the town with local restaurants, or keep it casual and pop in after dinner in comfy jeans and a t-shirt.  

Woodlawn Cemetery

A Unique Place to Walk and Wander

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Woodlawn Cemetery boasts some pretty fantastic architecture-- like this mausoleum that’s built like an Egyptian pyramid. Image courtesy of Flickr.

1502 W. Central Ave. | historic-woodlawn.com

For architecture and genealogy buffs, a visit to Woodlawn Cemetery is a must. Over 130 years old, Woodlawn Cemetery features quiet lakes and sprawling trees amongst its collection of private and elaborate mausoleums. Remarkable statuary is sprinkled around the graves as well. The architecture ranges from Classical to Egyptian Revival, and includes the Victorian Fad monuments as well. Woodlawn was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1998, and is also a certified arboretum-- a tree sanctuary. Over 100 species of trees thrive on the grounds, providing nesting and homes for over 200 species of migratory and stationary birds. If you’re into genealogy, check out Woodlawn’s research services for help locating records. This is aso just a super-peaceful and lovely place to walk, wander, and contemplate.

Cedar Point

Nothing Says "Family Fun" Quite like Roller Coasters!

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Every day is a special day at Cedar Point-- but the fireworks over the water really gild the lily, and we’re not complaining! Image courtesy of Cedar Point Twitter.

1 Cedar Point Dr / Sandusky, OH | cedarpoint.com

A short drive from Toledo is Cedar Point, the “Roller-coaster Capital of the World!” The park is only open during the late spring through early fall, as winter months are too cold for thrill rides. Be sure to check their Calendar for opening dates!  Not a thrill rides type of person? No problem! This park has it all-- a water park, a behind-the-scenes tour with a rare and spectacular photo opportunity 223 feet in the air, water sports, a beach, and more! 2020 is their 150th Anniversary, so visitors during that time can expect some cool events!

Put-In Bay

Get Away without Going Too Far

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Get used to island life at Put-In Bay-- it’s a good life! Image courtesy of Put-In Bay Visitors.

South Bass Island, Lake Erie, OH | putinbay.com

Often called the “Key West of the North,” Put-In Bay offers history, entertainment, and glorious water views. It’s an hour’s drive from Toledo. Small but mighty, this delightful village on South Bass Island in Lake Erie is only reachable by Ferry or Jet Express (which takes 30-45 minutes) and boasts hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, bars, naval history and Native American history.

Don’t forget the Put-In Bay Winery located on the Dollar House Estate and the extremely well-preserved Put-In Bay Lighthouse. Something else to consider, for those of you who just got engaged: Put-In Bay makes a fabulous yet affordable destination wedding venue, complete with your honeymoon right at the front door! Who knows? Maybe you’ll love it so much you’ll stay forever

Kelleys Island

The Ferry Ride Transforms this Day Trip into a Family Adventure

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These glacial grooves are pretty famous, and you have to come to Kelleys Island to see them. Image courtesy of Rock the Lake.

Lake Erie | kelleysisland.com

Kelleys Island is another Lake Erie island about an hour’s drive from Toledo only reachable by ferry. Only a bit over four square miles large, it’s America’s largest freshwater island in Lake Erie.  The entire island is on the National Register of Historic Places! You wouldn’t expect this tiny island to hold a world treasure, but it does! The world’s largest glacial groove is here, located in Glacial Grooves State Memorial-- it’s 400 by 35 feet large! There’s also Native American history at Inscription Rock State Memorial, and the Kelleys Island State Park is a fabulous place to fish, swim and relax. You can even scuba dive!

Sauder Village

Step Back in Time Right Here in Ohio

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Want something educational for the kids but more relaxing and quieter than an adventure park or hands-on museum? Try Sauder Village, where you can see how they lived in the olden days. Image courtesy of American Antiquities.

Archibold, OH | saudervillage.org

About an hour’s drive from Toledo is Sauder Village, complete with campgrounds, an inn (for less rustic folks), a barn restaurant, and a historical village. It’s a living history village that depicts life in Ohio from 1803-1928, manned by craftsmen and reenactors who tell stories, show off their craft, and educate. You can also take a train ride and visit farmyard animals.

Toledo Farmers’ Market

Fresh Fruits, Veggies, and Family Fun

We don’t know what’s more tempting-- eating these raw, or making them into pies and jellies! Image courtesy of the Toledo Farmers’ Market.

525 Market St. | toledofarmersmarket.com

Usually farmers’ markets are reserved for warmer weather, but Toledo has made an indoor space for theirs-- so the Toledo Farmers’ Market is open year-round! From December through April, the market moves indoors-- the rest of the year, it’s outside! All of the produce and items sold in the market are grown and created within 30 miles of Toledo city limits. Sign up for their newsletter to stay on top of Farmers’ Market news.

SS Col. James N. Schoonmaker Museum Ship

Set Sail on a Fun Family Adventure

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The Museum Ship in all its glory is certainly not to be missed when in Toledo! Image courtesy of the NMGL Facebook.

1701 Front St. | nmgl.org/col-james-m-schoonmaker

Stationed at the National Museum of the Great Lakes-- featured earlier in this article-- the SS Col. James N. Schoonmaker Museum Ship has dropped anchor for good. She was created by the Great Lakes Engineering Works and originally named the Gretchen Schoonmaker, but soon her elegance and and size earned her the nickname “Queen of the Lakes.” She was eventually sold to and renamed by the Shenango Furnace Company, where she broke cargo records like twigs. The ship changed hands again before the city of Toledo purchased it and turned it into a museum in the 1980s. The ship remains an important piece of Great Lakes industrial and maritime history, and a unique tribute to Ohio.

There is much more to Toledo than what we’ve mentioned here, but with twenty-five things on this list-- we’re pretty sure we’ll keep you busy for a while!

Did we miss your favorite thing to do or place to eat and relax? Drop it in the comments below!

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