Tips for Gratis Family Fun in Northwestern Ohio
Toledo, Ohio, may be a modest, midsize city, but it offers banner attractions at small-town rates free of charge. Stick to your vacation budget while enjoying some of the city’s most beloved, family-friendly attractions, from renowned art museums to a library with carefully curated programming. Set on the shores of Lake Erie and on the banks of the Maumee River, Toledo offers an inviting natural landscape. It won’t cost you a dime to explore cultivated botanical gardens or pristine natural preserves.
A Stroll Through Nature
Admission to the Toledo Botanical Garden (5403 Elmer Dr., Toledo, OH) is free to the public year-round. Stroll through the more than 60 acres, pausing to admire the views in the colorful and fragrant perennial, herb and rose gardens and along the shores of Crosby Lake. There’s also an area reserved exclusively for picnics. During the summer, the garden hosts weekly jazz concerts, which are free for kids under the age of 12.
The Toledo Museum of Art (2445 Monroe St., Toledo, OH) is free to visit. Peruse the museum’s impressive collection of more than 30,000 works, including everything from ancient Greek pottery to Andy Warhol prints. Drop in to the TMA Family Center, a special wing that features games, arts and crafts workshops for the whole family, and art history lessons geared toward kids. Each Friday, the museum offers extended hours into the evening, during which time you’ll enjoy such possible activities as live music, glass-blowing demonstrations and family-friendly guided tours.
Adventures in the Wilderness
Let the kids run wild at Wildwood Preserve (5100 W. Central Ave., Toledo, OH). Explore the 493-acre park through its extensive system of trails, including paths that run along the Ottawa River and through such diverse landscapes as grasslands, prairies and wooded regions. Vibrant wildflowers bloom throughout the park during spring and summer; keep an eye out for such wildlife as owls and raccoons. Admission to the park is free, as are a series of events held throughout the year, including bird-watching walks, afternoon concerts and story time sessions.
Buried in Books: A Day at the Library
Bring the family to the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s main branch (325 Michigan St., Toledo, OH) for a day of kid-friendly activities. Visit the Creativity Lab, located in the Children’s Library, a space where children can make crafts, create original works of art and play in a demonstration kitchen. Special programming is also offered year-round, including music classes for toddlers, chess lessons for teens, afternoon concerts for the whole family and story reading sessions with authors.
On the Beat: Discovering the Toledo Police
Kids with an interest in law enforcement will enjoy a visit to the Toledo Police Museum (2201 Kenwood Blvd., Toledo, OH). Based in Ottawa Park, this cozy museum offers a host of hands-on and interactive exhibits. Children can examine and compare fingerprints, see what it’s like to get locked up inside a jail cell, have their mug shot taken and get a look inside a 1948 police wagon. The museum is open only on Fridays and Saturdays, and admission is free.
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A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.