Destination Toledo

. February 1, 2013.

When considering family friendly weekend get-away destinations it hadn't occurred to me to consider Toledo, but after a recent media tour that included our visiting the Toledo Zoo, Imagination Station and the Toledo Museum of Art, I now know why Toledo would make a perfect weekend get-away for the whole family!

Finding treasures

Toledo, approximately 50 minutes from downtown Ann Arbor, is a beautiful river city. It struck me as being exceedingly clean and well maintained, and very safe. While on our visit, we stayed at the Park Inn Radisson (101 North Summit St., Toledo) with a picturesque view of the river, central location and reasonable costs ($80/night) it seems like a great option for a family hotel. Before checking in, consider spending the day at either the Toledo Zoo (2 Hippo Way, Toledo) or Fossil Park (5675 Centennial Rd, Sylvania), where families can experience a very unique fossil dig for Devonian Era fossils – And the best part is, kids can dig for FREE and keep their found treasures!

After checking in at the hotel, experience one of Toledo’s culinary landmarks, Tony Packo’s (1902 Front Street, Toledo). Made famous by Jamie Farr’s character Max Klinger on M*A*S*H, Tony Packo’s has a comfortable family-friendly atmosphere, and hearty delicious Hungarian food that is faintly reminiscent of our Detroit Coney dogs. It is a filling, very reasonably priced meal among the stars. Or should I say their buns? Tony Packo’s, walls are decorated by signed hotdog buns, from politicians, television personalities, and other famous folk — we ate dinner with Kiss AND Jamie Farr! 

After a quick bite, it’s back to park the car at the hotel followed by a quick walk to Fifth Third Park (406 Washington Street, Toledo) where the Toledo Mud Hens play.

The Toledo Mud Hens, a Detroit Tigers Triple-A minor league affiliate, provides the perfect backdrop for family fun. Expect to find inexpensive seats ranging from $9-12 that are close to the action and fan fun. Kids can meet Muddy and Muddonna, vie for t-shirts launched with large air-compressor guns, or watch the games and races on the field. The field even has a playground dedicated to the tiniest of visitors tucked behind the outfield!

Out on the town

Hit the town running Saturday morning with a visit to Toledo’s Imagination Station (1 Discovery Way, Toledo). Being only a scant 0.3 miles away, it would make a nice after-breakfast walk if your family wanted to leave the car at the hotel. I LOVED the various displays at the Imagination Station from the high-wire bike (yes I rode it), the green-screen room, the gravity room and even the wind tunnel. We even conned the staff into putting the wind tunnel on hurricane speed to see the lovely distortion it made to our faces.

After a day learning about science, head back to the hotel for the car to explore the natural world with a family picnic at the Toledo Botanical Gardens (5403 Elmer Dr., Toledo). Pick up food at a local sandwich shop or bring your own picnic basket! The gardens, which are open year round and are free to the public, provide a lush environment where the kids get a breath of fresh air running while mom and dad become enveloped in peace and tranquility. There are even art sculptures located throughout the grounds providing added beauty to the natural surroundings.

On Sunday after check out, pack up your brood to head to the Toledo Museum of Art (2445 Monroe St., Toledo) less than 10 minutes away. The reason to wait until Sunday to visit the museum is for the free family programming on Sundays from 12:00-5:30 p.m. Kids ages 10 and under can create their own masterpieces with the plentiful art supplies after experiencing the art and culture, and it’s all free. That’s right, find free museum tours, free family fun and across the street at the Glass Pavilion, find free glassblowing demonstrations! There are even opportunities for your family, teens and older, to create their own blown glass pieces later on Sunday early evening.

I'll admit I've never thought of Toledo as a place to visit. It's always been somewhere driven by on I-75. After experiencing Toledo with the Destination Toledo Media Tour though, I know that the area has many affordable gems worth exploring further. Toledo is a great place for families, so many sure you consider it for your next family adventure even if it is only for a brief stay!

Tamara Jex-Mayrend is an active mom and blogger from Ann Arbor.