Two Days in Toledo

October 24, 2019

Disclaimer: our visit was hosted by Destination Toledo.
Accommodations, admission, and food (minus alcohol) were comped.

It’s crazy to think that, having lived in Ohio since 2002, we’ve never properly explored Toledo. We’ve passed around and through the city multiple times. We have friends and colleagues from the region. Heck, I’ve even written about the area for different publications! But we’ve never actually visited.

So we were excited when Destination Toledo invited us up for the weekend in early October, with the goal of getting to know the city’s restaurants, museums, parks, breweries, and coffee shops. As usual, we fit in a lot between Friday to Sunday, so follow along!

Arriving into town Friday evening, we headed directly to a Toledo institution, Schmucker’s Restaurant. The place clearly hasn’t changed since it opened in 1948, and frankly, it was a delight. It has the old school diner atmosphere, the feel of a place that’s been loved by multiple generations. Servers know their regulars, families gather for home-cooked meals.

After waiting a few minutes, we found seats at the counter, where an elderly woman next to me quickly piped up and told me which pie to order for dessert.

We feasted on all the classic comfort foods: burgers, mashed potatoes with turkey and gravy, meatloaf smothered in more gravy, Swiss steak.

Our seats had us staring down the vast selection of pies. We ordered slices to go, including Dutch apple, strawberry rhubarb, and chocolate peanut butter. All giant and wonderful.

It was a delightful and comforting meal to start the trip. Perfect for a blustery fall evening.

We stayed at the Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center in Oregon, about 20-25 minutes east of downtown Toledo.

The lodge is located smack dab in the middle of Maumee Bay State Park. It’s steps away from the waterfront, and includes indoor and outdoor pools, a golf course, nature center, walking trails, a full restaurant and bar, gift shop, and more.

Our first full morning had us heading to Toledo’s Old West End for breakfast and coffee at Black Kite Coffee & Pies. We sampled everything from an English breakfast to pumpkin crepes to a Bloody Mary. Click the link for the full scoop.

Just south of the coffee shop, in the same neighborhood, sits the Toledo Museum of Art. This has been long on our list of museums to visit.

The Toledo Museum of Art is free to the public (although some special exhibitions require tickets). The collections range from ancient work to contemporary pieces, and include rotating exhibitions. We moved from floor to floor, looking for favorite artists and marveling at the work.

Global Conversations: Art in Dialogue is on view now through April 26, 2020. It’s a fascinating mix of international artists and medias.

I particularly loved “Everything is Rhythm:” Mid-Century Art & Music. The smaller exhibition pairs a piece of visual work with a piece of music. You collect a pair of headphones, then walk from piece to piece, plug in, and enjoy the two together. It was really fascinating. Be sure to catch this if you go; it’s on view through February 23, 2020.

We took in most of the museum. I want to return some time to see the Toledo Symphony play in the Peristyle Theater, part of the museum building.

We also stopped by the Glass Pavilion, across the street from the main building. You can see intricate glasswork on display and visit the glass studio (where you can sign up for workshops!). The pavilion nods to Toledo’s heritage as the Glass City; museum founder Edward Drummond Libbey was a glass industrialist who assembled the initial glass collections for the institution.

After the museum walk we stopped briefly by International Park across from downtown, where we could see boats zooming up and down the river.

And then it was on to lunch at another Toledo institution: Tony Packo’s!

I was very excited to visit; Tony Packo’s has long been on my list. We stopped by the original location on Front Street, and just like Schmucker’s, it has the feel of a long-loved restaurant.

Tony Packo’s focuses around Hungarian dishes, served in a colorful and convivial atmosphere. We sampled fried pickles, the Hungarian dog with chili, stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikash. All very hearty, served in generous portions and well-seasoned. Beth especially loved the cabbage, while I was a big fan of the paprikash.

One of Tony Packo’s signatures is the signed hot dogs lining the walls. The tradition got started years ago when Burt Reynolds, in town doing a show, was asked for an autograph and promptly grabbed a hot dog bun and signed it. Now you can see signatures from all sorts of celebrities; we spied presidents, astronauts, athletes, musicians, comedians, and actors. I especially loved finding Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan’s entry.

Following lunch we drove just down the road to the National Museum of the Great Lakes. Even having grown up close to Lake Michigan, I found that I learned a lot from this museum, about the history of the region, shipping, industry, boating.

We started first by touring the two boats moored in the river. The Tug Ohio is a newer addition, while the Col. James M. Schoonmaker has a long history there. You can tour the whole thing, both inside and out, including engine rooms, crew and passenger quarters. The cargo holds of the Schoonmaker were especially impressive, as you descend down a stairway from above and find yourself staring into the vast empty space.

The passenger quarters up front were fascinating; the ship’s owner wanted them decked out in luxury. Many of the early-20th century touches reminded us of our first home, built in 1918.

We spent time amongst the museum exhibits, too, which offer detailed insights into shipping history and practice, lighthouses, luxury on the lakes, and more. There are plenty of artifacts, including some of few pieces recovered from the famous wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

We needed a little caffeine pick-me-up, so we made a quick detour downtown to Rustbelt Coffee, which was fortunately serving some donuts from Wixey Bakery.

Beth and I always feel at home at coffee shops. While each one is unique, there’s a vibe to them that feels familiar and welcoming. A lovely little afternoon respite.

Our next stop was in south Toledo for a sampling of adult beverages from Earnest Brew Works. The taproom is the quintessential modern brewery: a former garage space transformed in a popular neighborhood hangout. Solid beer selection, diverse mix of styles.

Dinner that evening was Maumee Bay Brewing Company. The brewpub is located in a multi-level historic building.

They serve all the pub classics: giant pretzels, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, ribs, you name it. It all pairs well with a pint of house-made beer or a cocktail.

The place was hopping when we visited. If you go, take time to explore the space, including the collections of vintage beer cans lining the walls.

The next morning I took a solo stroll along one of the nature trails outside the Maumee Bay Lodge. I spotted cranes (or maybe herons?) hopping and flying through the wetlands.

Before we left, we hit up the breakfast buffet at the Water’s Edge Restaurant inside the Lodge. You get a nice view of the grounds and the waterfront while you feast.

But of course we need a little more coffee, right? On our way out of the city we visited Maddie & Bella Coffee Roasters for a quick cappuccino. Adorable little spot.

As we headed out of Toledo we hit up not one, but TWO local farms with all sorts of autumnal goodness going on. I mean, we seriously head-butted some fall fun into our faces.

The first stop was Fleitz Pumpkin Farm in Oregon. This beautiful and very well organized farm features loads of gourds, a petting zoo, hayrides, kid’s activities…

…and a donut house! We picked up a few pumpkins and joined the line for donuts. Nothing beats the smell of fresh fried donuts on a chilly autumn day.

Fall fun stop #2 was MacQueen’s Orchards in Holland. Our weekend visit coincided with their popular annual apple butter festival; we knew we were in the right place when we discovered cars lining the rural roads leading up to the farm.

They go all-out for the festival: fair rides, animals, a DJ, fried foods, arts and crafts vendors, live apple butter-making (Owen helped stir the pot for a bit), pumpkins and apples galore. Never ones to shy away from fried pastries, we picked up some apple cider donuts and apple fritters before we left.

One of the funny little highlights was a trailer full of birds that you could tour. You would enter the cages at one end, and could purchase little sticks with seeds on them, then slowly make your way down the line. There were hundreds of birds, all madly chirping and hopping around. They would land on your arms and shoulders. If you held your stick out, they flocked together on it. We just couldn’t help but laughing at it all.

And that concluded our time around Toledo! As with any good visit, we loved what we saw, ate, and experienced, and left with a big list of places to try the next time we return.

Disclaimer: our visit was hosted by Destination Toledo.
Accommodations, admission, and food (minus alcohol) were comped.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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