Toledo Travel Guide [y]

[y] Toledo Visitors Guide

There was a time when Toledo, Ohio was usually runner-up to Buffalo, NY in the informal “most jokes made about a city” contest. It was the fondly-remembered hometown of Cpl. Max Klinger in the TV hit M*A*S*H (and the real hometown of actor Jamie Farr who played that character), and the unfortunate recipient of musical praise (?) by John Denver’s non-hit “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio”.

But, Toledo has never been as bad as the jokes, and in most ways has as much to offer as most cities considerably bigger; it’s the 57th largest city in the U.S. Its location on the Maumee River and Lake Erie has meant it has long been a port of major consequence and center of commerce. As such, it has also become a manufacturing center and transportation hub to similar cities in the Midwest.

One of the advantages of the city is its location. It is just 40 miles from Detroit, and not far from Chicago to the west and Cleveland to the east. Just across Lake Erie is eastern Canada, that country’s population center.

Toldeo Fast Facts

  • Location: Along the Maumee River at the western edge of Lake Erie and south of the Ohio-Michigan border
  • Area: 84 square miles
  • Population: 313,619 (2000 U.S. Bureau of Census)
  • Housing Units: 139,871
  • Average Annual Rainfall: 33 inches
  • Average Annual Temperature: 50 degrees F

Toledo Attractions

Toledo is large enough to have a lot to do but is small enough for things to be accessible and affordable. It has what a lot of mid-size cities have, but also some rare gems.

One such priceless attraction is the Toledo Museum of Art. Its most precious possession, as well it should be, is its glass collection. The museum’s world-class glass holdings are getting a new building worthy of their stature sometime in the middle of 2006.

Equally unique, but a bit more prosaic, is the SS Willis B. Boyer Museum Ship. Once it retired from 76 years of service, this 617-foot Great Lakes freighter was outfitted as a museum telling the tale of what life on the lakes was like for sailors. It is docked along the Maumee River.

The river and Lake Erie are major attractions for Toledoans. Their waterfronts are the location of a variety of activity and boaters and fishermen enjoy their waters for much of the year. A great way to see the lake and river is on the 100-passenger excursion boat, The Sandpiper, which offers a variety of cruises.

A major source of civic pride and entertainment is Toledo’s long-standing entrant in the world of professional sports, the Mud Hens. This AAA farm team for the Detroit Tigers plays in a great downtown stadium that has little trouble drawing a crowd.

Finally, for the kids and kids at heart, Toledo has a high-quality zoo and COSI, the Center for Science and Industry, a hands-on museum.

Toledo Recreation & Leisure

Toledo is blessed with a series of parks that offer residents a great chance for a bit of nature in the midst of the city. Each of the city’s 11 Metroparks (a total of 8,500 acres) has its own particular flavor, but unique among them is Wildwood Preserve, the former family estate of Champion Spark Plug founder Robert Stranahan.

And, there are the ever-present Maumee River and Lake Erie. Toledoans flock to the water for all sorts of recreation. The river and lake hold a variety of sport fish, but walleyes are king. Lake Erie has also long been known for its yellow perch and smallmouth bass fishing.

Back on land, when the Mud Hens are not playing baseball, the Toledo Storm hits the ice. The Storm is the city’s squad in the East Coast Hockey League; it’s a farm club of the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL.

Raceway Park offers fans the opportunity to see top-notch harness racing. The city also has a great supply of golf courses.

And, to simply relax and unwind, few places in the city beat the 56-acre Toledo Botanical Gardens on the northwest side of the city. Also in this category is Promenade Park, along the western banks of the Maumee.

Toledo Arts

Toledo has a complete roster of all things artistic, including a few very pleasant surprises. For a mid-size city, Toledo has an impressive collection of public art: murals sculpture and buildings. Even Fifth Third Field, the home of the Mud Hens, has several sculptures on its grounds.

The city has a real connection to jazz. Each June it is host to the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Festival, organized by the city’s very active jazz preservation society.

The Valentine Theater is home to three of the city’s leading arts organizations. The Toledo Symphony and the Toledo Ballet perform here, as does the Toledo Opera.

Toledo Restaurant Guide

Hungarian hot dogs? That’s what the folks at Tony Packo’s call a sausage in a bun and topped with a special chili-like sauce. This landmark doggery is a “must do” for residents and visitors. On its walls are replica hot dog buns autographed by some 1,000 celebrities who have dined here. Another specialty: deep-fried green pickles.

Slightly more upscale is Diva, located downtown. Well, make that a lot more upscale. Serving contemporary American cuisine, Diva is hip and elegant. Of a similar nature is Fifi’s restaurant in south Toledo; continental dishes in an elegant setting.

A favorite waterfront attraction is The Docks, a collection of restaurants on the east side of the mighty Maumee. Diners can find foods from Italian to Cajun, seafood to Mexican, and plenty of libation … and great water vistas.

Toledo is fortunate to have several truly terrific steakhouses, as one might suspect of a Midwestern city. Rockwell’s at the Oliver House and Mancy’s Steakhouse fill this bill nicely.

One real dining find comes from the city’s rich ethnic background. The Beirut is well known for its Lebanese cuisine. Nationalities collide at Fritz and Alfredo’s; possibly the only Tex-Mex/German restaurant around.

If you need to feed your espresso Jones, visit Brewed Awakenings near the University of Toledo. Aside from great coffees and light fare and desserts, it is a great place to soak up some of Toledo’s artsy atmosphere.

Toledo Communities

Old West End Historic District
This is one of the city’s true architectural prizes, as well as a good place to live. It is filled with excellent examples of large Victorian and Arts & Crafts style single-family homes.

Warehouse District
This is home to some things that should be on anyone’s Toledo “To Do” list. Among other things located here is the city’s Farmers’ Market and plenty of other trendy shopping opportunities. There are clubs and restaurants, and it’s close to the home of the Mud Hens baseball team. Not far from the river either.

Polish International Village
Located on the city’s north side, this 130-year-old neighborhood is home to Toledo’s large and thriving Polish community; a mix of commercial and residential.

Old Towne
It comes by its name honestly. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, a mix of commercial and residential. Close to downtown, Old Towne is the focus of considerable redevelopment.

Collingwood Springs
Near the Old West End and Downtown, this affordable section of Toledo has a variety of older homes. It also has space for development.

Uptown Toledo
This section west of the city’s central business district is a mix of commercial and residential. All, though, are reasonably priced.

The Corridor
This is the neighborhood in between several others, as such, it has the flavor of those as well as its own. It is home to the beautiful Rosary Cathedral as well as one of the most imposing buildings in the city, the Toledo Museum of Art. Close to Old West End, Old Towne, and Collingwood Springs.