Toledo ‘Bucket List’ is ultimate Glass City experienceWritten by Amy Biolchini | | ABiolchini@toledofreepress.com
A “Bucket List,” popularized by the 2007 Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman film of the same name, is a list of life experiences you hope to accomplish before you, you know, kick the bucket.
Thousands of websites compile lists for local communities, states and entire countries.
What should be on the Toledo Bucket List? Toledo Free Press interviewed dozens of local residents and sought Twitter and Facebook feedback to compile the following list. There will no doubt be some places left off that will cause us to smack our foreheads, so help us finish the list with your suggestions, e-mailed to email@example.com or posted on our Facebook wall at www.facebook.com/toledofreepress.
The Hall of Fame
Nearly every person we spoke to agreed on four experiences: The Toledo Zoo, a Mud Hens game at Fifth Third Field, the Toledo Museum of Art and Tony Packo’s. These are all things that say “Toledo,” but there’s more to the Glass City than the big four. So we began by placing those local superstars in the Bucket List Hall of Fame, saluting with great respect, and taking a look at less well-known nominees.
After polling City Council members, artists, writers and Toledo enthusiasts, 11 experiences emerged as the most consistently endorsed out of all those submitted. Compiled into a random-order “Bucket List,” the following places, events and foods lend a perspective on a city that embraces a thriving, creative … thriftiness.
Seven trails spanning approximately 500 wooded acres in the midst of Toledo make Wildwood Preserve Metropark an overwhelmingly popular destination for walkers and runners. Cathy Miller, interim president of Destination Toledo Inc., suggests taking the green trail.
“Less foot traffic than other trails and you may spot a deer in the middle of the day,” Miller said.
The Manor House at Wildwood also attracts many visitors, like Sauder Village director of sales and marketing Jeanette Smith, who said she likes seeing it decorated for the winter holiday celebrations. Fifteen-thousand people are expected to attend the Holidays in the Manor House event during the first week in December, according to Scott Carpenter, media relations manager for the Metroparks.
“It is definitely the busiest of the 10 metroparks,” Carpenter said of Wildwood. “In face-to-face surveys in the park, we have learned that people like Wildwood because it is clean and safe.”
But there’s another reason Wildwood is special: “The park exists today because of the determination of the community to preserve the property as public land. Lucas County residents approved a special property tax levy in the 1970s to purchase the property, which was destined to be sold for a private residential development. It is ‘the people’s park,’ and I think that is part of its popularity today,” Carpenter said.
Wildwood is located at 5100 W. Central Ave. and is open daily from
7 a.m. until dark.
Old West End Festival
Toledo’s Old West End has the largest collection of Victorian, Edwardian and Queen Anne homes in the nation, according to Dan Schmitt, Old West End Association president. The eclectic mix of architecture, families, religions and socio-economic groups makes the neighborhood the “little bohemia of Ohio,” Schmitt said. Bordered by the Toledo Museum of Art, Collingwood Boulevard, Central Avenue and Glenwood Avenue, the Old West End hosts events throughout the year.
The Old West End Festival takes place in June and attracts 12,000 to 15,000 people, Schmitt said. Encompassing all 850 homes in the 25 city blocks of the Old West End, the festival has everything from food to art vendors, a 5K run and tents for children, entertainment and beer.
“It’s the core. The founding fathers of our city raised their families in the Old West End,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt recommended festival-goers visit the house tours, the art fair under the canopy at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion, see the King Wamba parade and check out the numerous food vendors.
“It’s one of the few events that’s family-friendly and you don’t have to spend anything,” Schmitt said. “The parade is on the level of the Greenwich Village Halloween parade: Art cars, fire-eaters and the Glass City Rollers.”
Rachel Richardson, local activist, musician and Toledo Free Press columnist, recommended camping out in the Old West End during the weekend of the festival. City Councilman Steve Steel said that he has resided in the Old West End for 22 years, and definitely recommends the festival.
“Arts, architecture, music and food, all in the most eclectic neighborhood in town,” Steel said.
Sponsored by the Women of the Old West End, the 2010 Tours de Noel offers a glimpse into five to six of the historic homes decorated for the holidays. Both Miller of Destination Toledo Inc. and Amy Adler of the Frogtown Froggy Museum agreed on the beauty of the homes in this annual event. This year, the tours begin Dec. 5 and include the Ferris Copeland-Shull home, the Mallow Lange home, the Rorick Phipps home and the Geleerd Clymer-Wishart Home, all on Scottwood Avenue. Also in the tour are the Mansion View Inn on Collingwood Boulevard and a gift boutique at the Park Lane Luxury Apartments on 23rd Street.
Main Public Library
With Vitrolite murals circling the lobby’s vaulted ceiling, the main branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library is home to half a million books on the first floor alone. An 85,000-square-foot addition in 2001 helped modernize the facility to meet the needs of the public. According to Nancy Foth, manager of library branch services, the main library saw almost 700,000 visitors in 2009.
Lisa Renee Ward, Toledo Free Press columnist and Glass City Jungle blogger, said the best part of the main library is its Local History and Genealogy Library Department for its wealth of information and knowledgeable staff.
The library is trying to attract teens back to the library with the game room specifically for 13 to 18-year-olds, Foth said. With an Xbox 360, a Playstation3 and a Wii, the room sees more than 100 different visitors a month, Foth said. The children’s section also includes numerous Vitrolite murals, and there are trained librarians available to assist kids learning to read. The main library offers services to the public to aid with job searches, small businesses and computer programs. Foth said the computers are the most-used service in the library.
“What we’re doing is expanding our role to meet the needs and interests of people in the community,” Foth said. “We’re trying to reach out, whether you’re fixing your car, writing your resume, learning how to read, reading a good book or watching a movie.”
Miller of Destination Toledo Inc. calls the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo’s Art Walks a “must for anyone who has yet to experience one.”
The Thursday Art Walks, sponsored by the Arts Commission, feature approximately 20 participating Downtown galleries that open their doors for several hours to allow fellow artists and patrons to mingle, peruse and purchase art. Street performers provide entertainment between galleries, including poets, fire-eaters and belly dancers. Richardson said she recommends stopping by Bozarts Fine Art and Music Gallery, owned by Jerry Gray, at 151 S. St. Clair St. Other galleries included in past Art Walks are Sur Saint Clair, Homeslice Pizza, Downtown Latte, the Ford Gallery, the Secor Studios and Madhouse Gallery.
The shops, restaurants and bars with live music, the historic buildings in the warehouse district and the seasonal farmers markets all earned Downtown Toledo a spot on the bucket list. In walking distance from Tony Packo’s and the Spaghetti Warehouse, there are numerous art galleries and storefronts that beg to be visited. South St. Clair Street is home to many small businesses, including Swank Gifts, which vends one-of-a-kind jewelry and Downtown Latte, an inviting coffee shop.
Steel said he would recommend live music at Downtown venues.
“GoLab! at the Ottawa Tavern, Polka Floyd at Mickey Finn’s, Jeff Stewart at Wesley’s, Jason Quick and Vytas at Manhattan’s, Kyle White at PizzaPapalis, Patrick Lewandowski and Bobby May anywhere … you get the idea,” Steel said.
Richardson lent her support for Wesley’s Bar’s Old School Friday nights and suggested Murphy’s Place Jazz Club with Claude Black and Clifford Murphy.
Another Warehouse District gem is the Toledo Farmers Market at 525 Market St., open Saturday mornings in the spring, summer and fall. Ward and Steel both said the fresh, local produce and home made goods make the farmers market a great destination.
Tailgating for UT football
Tailgating a Rockets football game at the University of Toledo is a popular pastime for many Toledoans. Miller suggests parking yourself in Lot 10, the closest lot to the north side of the stadium.
“Everyone enjoys the camaraderie, grilling out and seeing old friends. Top it off with a night game under the lights at the Glass Bowl and you have a great Saturday locked down,” Miller said.
Tailgating the UT game versus rival Bowling Green is an event that City Councilwoman Lindsay Webb said she doesn’t want to miss.
Toledo Botanical Garden
Located at 5403 Elmer Drive between Reynolds and Holland-Sylvania roads, the Toledo Botanical Garden is open 365 days a year, dawn until dusk and always offers free parking and admission. The garden opened in 1964, when George Crosby donated the initial 20 acres of land to the city of Toledo. The present-day 60 acres of gardens, landscapes and outdoor sculptures host many events, including the upcoming Heralding the Holidays festival Dec. 3 to Dec. 5. Roaming musicians will accompany displays of artwork by local artists and the botanical garden’s resident art and horticultural organizations during the holiday festival.
Melissa Shaner, public relations coordinator for the gardens, noted the Crosby Festival of the Arts as the signature event for the garden. More than 200 artists from across the country participate in the juried arts summer festival that attracts almost a quarter of the 120,000 visitors the garden will see in an entire year. The next Crosby Festival will be June 25-26.
‘The river runs through it’
The Maumee River is host to a multitude of events, from summer festivals and fireworks on the Fourth of July to fall color cruises on the Sandpiper. A 100-passenger cruise boat, the Sandpiper leaves from its Jefferson Avenue dock at Promenade Park for public rides, sunset cruises and private parties six months out of the year. It sees approximately 10,000 visitors per year, according to Sandpiper agent and tour guide Mary Dalby.
Miller of Destination Toledo Inc. recommended packing a cooler to bring on the boat ride.
“Bring a lunch and a bottle of wine. The best-kept secret is you can bring your own food and drink,” Miller said.
The Sandpiper has been running continuously since it was built in Maumee at the Anderson Fabrication shop in 1984. Venturing as far upriver as the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse and as far downriver as the Toledo Country Club, the Sandpiper travels by some of the most defining parts of Toledo.
“We are a connecting point,” Dalby said. “The river runs through it. We’re always going past places where people and their families have worked.”
While some may enjoy cruising the Maumee, like City Council member Webb, others may aspire to experience the city from a different angle, like Councilman Ludeman.
“I’d like to go to the top of the pylon on the Veterans Glass City Skyway Bridge, in the daytime and at night,” Ludeman said.
Lagrange St. Polish festival
A ton of kielbasa, 40,000 pierogies, 300 kegs of beer and hundreds of pounds of sweet and sour cabbage, all consumed in one weekend at the Lagrange Street Polish Festival. An annual event since 1984, the summertime festival features polka bands, arts and crafts, food vendors, dancing and a pierogi-eating contest. Proceeds from the festival go toward neighborhood improvements and scholarships.
City Council member Webb recommended visiting on Sunday afternoon for the contests. Ward said the festival is special to her because of ties she has to the community there.
“My great-grandmother and other family lived in the Lagrange neighborhood,” Ward said. “Great food and memories.”
The Lagrange Street Polish Festival started after area business owners and residents met 30 years ago to address neighborhood concerns and the festival was produced as the solution. Initially a one day event, the festival now spans a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in July.
Mancy’s and The Beirut
Mancy’s Steak House has served aged, hand-cut steaks in Toledo since 1921, Mancy’s is undoubtedly a city favorite. City Councilman George Sarantou said his personal favorite is the New York Strip Steak, although his fellow council member Ludeman said he would dine out every night just to try every item on the Mancy’s menu. Located at 953 Phillips Ave., Mancy’s comes as highly recommended as another institution of Toledo cuisine, The Beirut.
Founder and owner of The Beirut, Labib Hajjar, immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon in the 1970s and opened a bakery. As the bakery’s popularity and opportunities grew, Hajjar turned his pita bread enterprise into a Middle Eastern restaurant in 1977.
Although it has seen several locations, The Beirut is now at 4082 Monroe St.
The menu features traditional Lebanese staples of lamb, grains, lentils, parsley, herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and mint. The Beirut also has an extensive wine menu with Californian, Italian and Lebanese varieties. Open for lunch, the restaurant takes reservations for dinner and has three private rooms available for parties.
Hajjar said he spends 60 to 70 hours a week in the restaurant, and learned everything he knows from his mother.
“I used to watch my mother cook,” Hajjar said. “She never wrote any recipes down and tried to hide things from me.”
Fresh pita bread is still homemade at the restaurant for in-house menu items, as well as several Italian dishes like lasagna, pizza and ravioli Hajjar included for the customers who might not be comfortable with Lebanese food.
“People travel and come back and say ‘We’ve never seen anything like this,’” Hajjar said. “We’ve got over 150 years of experience in the kitchen.”
Toledo Symphony Orchestra
With nearly 80 professional musicians, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra has been bringing music to the region for 67 consecutive seasons.
In its 2010-2011 season, the orchestra will conduct more than 400 performances across Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.
Councilman Steel recommended seeing the symphony perform in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle for a special experience.
The next special event for the symphony will be a collaborative performance of Handel’s “Messiah” with the Toledo Choral Society and the Bowling Green State University Choral Society on Dec. 4 and 5.
In May, the orchestra plans a special trip to play at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
What about BG? A Bucket List for Wood County (by Hannah Nusser)
While Bowling Green has much to offer, here’s a list of must-sees for everyone before they kick the bucket.
Whether it’s to admire a historical landmark, catch a concert or work your way through its extensive beer list, the Cla-Zel has earned its name as a legendary must-see spot in Bowling Green. The Cla-Zel was first built as a movie theater in 1926. Its original movie screens still intact, this multifaceted venue offers something for adults seeking an unforgettable experience in Bowling Green nightlife.
The Cla-Zel is now a popular movie house, wine bar and banquet facility; it also serves as a concert venue for many blues and jazz fans.
“By far it is hands-down the classiest place in town,” said Mike Thurau, a senior at Bowling Green State University.
It is located at 127 N. Main St.
Snook’s Dream Cars
The No. 2 tourist attraction in Bowling Green, Snook’s Dream Cars is gleaming with countless age-old treasures. The museum and event venue houses a collection of 1920s-1960s cars, all in working condition, said Amanda Ter Doest, museum director.
With more than 60 years worth of memorabilia, the museum is not just for car fanatics, Ter Doest said.
“We’ve had a lot of [different] people, like the wives that are drug along with their husbands, and truthfully they always find something that they like,” Ter Doest said.
Patrons can admire old slot machines, jukeboxes, paintings of historical BG storefronts and even old theater seats from the Cla-Zel.
“It’s not just a bunch of cars shoved somewhere,” Ter Doest said. “There’s quite a bit of history.”
Admission is $4-6.
Bowling Green goes green with this monumental wind farm. Standing as tall as a 30-story building, no wonder the wind turbines are the No. 1 tourist attraction in Bowling Green.
The wind farm is popular with out-of-towners because it is the only one of its kind in the state, said Wendy Stram, director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The four massive white turbines produce enough electricity for about 3,000 Bowling Green residents.
“Anybody that lives in BG has probably seen them from afar but they might want to take a few minutes to see them up close and personal. It’s the wave of the future,” Stram said.
For those who would like to visit this must-see up close, there is a free informational kiosk located at the base of the turbines, on the corner of State Route 6 and Tontogany Road. Group tours are free and can be arranged by contacting Wendy Stram at (419) 353-9445.
The Portage Quarry may be one of Bowling Green’s best-kept secrets.
Located just a mile outside of town at 12701 S. Dixie Hwy. and isolated from the road by trees, this recreation center offers all kinds of fun in the sun for all ages. The Portage Quarry serves as a campground, swimming and scuba diving hole, concert spot and all-around summer hangout.
Owner Jeff Rice offers scuba diving lessons, too; certified divers can explore a sunken speed boat, school bus, grain silo and even an airplane in the depths of the quarry.
“Who doesn’t love water, sun and sand?” said Meredith Burge, a quarry lifeguard. “It’s a comfortable beach, pretty mellow surroundings and it’s like being at the beach in the middle of Bowling Green.”
The Quarry is open from Memorial Day until Sept. 13.
Ride a bike. Take a stroll. Walk the dog. Have a picnic. Relax with a book. The possibilities are endless at the Bowling Green city parks.
Bowling Green Mayor John Quinn said the city’s many parks range from beautiful to functional, and everyone should visit at least one in their lifetime.
“They’re great places to visit and they’re free 365 days a year,” Quinn said.
The City Park is an all-purpose playground and picnic spot for the whole family. Simpson Garden Park, 1291 Conneaut Ave., has more than 10 gardens, including sensory gardens, sculpture areas and walking trails. Wintergarden Park, 615 S. Wintergarden Road., offers a nature center and two miles of biking and walking trails.
Tags: Art Walks, Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, Bucket List, Cathy Miller, City Park, Cla-Zel Theatre, Destination Toledo, Fifth Third Field, George Sarantou, Glass Bowl, Lagrange Street Polish Festival, Lisa Renee Ward, Mancy's, Maumee River, Metroparks, Mud Hens, Old West End Festival, Portage Quarry, Rachel Richardson, Rob Ludeman, Sandpiper, Snook's Dream Cars, Steve Steel, The Beirut, Toledo, Toledo Botanical Garden, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Zoo, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Tony Packo's, UT football, Warehouse District, Wildwood Preserve, Wind turbines, Wintergarden