One of Ohio’s most important industrial centers, Toledo (pop. 274,975) is the third-busiest Great Lakes port, with many miles of docks, bridges, warehouses, factories, refineries, and power plants lining the mouth of the Maumee River. That may not sound like a good reason to visit, but Toledo is a fascinating place, big enough to be impressive but small enough to get around and get a feel for. Downtown Toledo has long been a rather anonymous place that empties after 5pm (that world-renowned expert on tedium, the late John Denver, went so far as to write a song saying, “Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio, is like being nowhere at all”), but the streets just south hold dozens of gorgeous old cast-iron warehouses and commercial buildings. Downtown Toledo has been given a boost of energy and investment by the delightful Fifth Third Field baseball stadium, home of the lovable Toledo Mud Hens (419/725-4367), Triple-A International League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The stadium is located not at 5th and 3rd Streets (the name comes from a Cleveland bank) but along Huron and Washington Streets. Unlike most ballparks, the playing field is visible from the streets (although tickets are pretty cheap, $13 for good seats).
A mile west of downtown, among the stately homes of the Old West End neighborhood, Toledo’s pride and joy is the excellent The Toledo Museum of Art (2445 Monroe St., 419/255-8000, Tues.-Sun., free). Works by El Greco (who lived and worked in Toledo, Spain) are a highlight of one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of art and sculpture from all around the world, with ancient Egyptian and Greek masterpieces, and paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, the British pre-Raphaelites, and Americans Thomas Cole and Willem de Kooning. The singular strength of the collection is its glassware, a craft at which Toledo once excelled. Across the street from the neoclassical main building, dozens of beautiful goblets and vases, dating from Roman times to the present day, are housed in a transparent pavilion designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architects Sanaa.
Another truly not-to-be-missed Toledo stop offers a different feast for the senses: Tony Packo’s café (1902 Front St., 419/691-6054), whose original location sits at the foot of a gorgeous new Toledo Skyway bridge soaring over the Maumee River (and lit at night by 200 feet of colorful LED lamps). Packo’s addictive chili dogs, made famous by Corporal Klinger (played by real-life Toledo native Jamie Farr) on the long-running TV series M.A.S.H., still pack the crowds into this East Toledo haunt. Tony Packo’s also offers some delicious Hungarian specialties, and other signs of Toledo’s ethnic mix are on the menu at Byblos (1050 S. Reynolds Rd., 419/382-1600), an excellent Lebanese restaurant right on US-20.
A good-value place to stay in the region is the Radisson at the University of Toledo (3100 Glendale Ave., 419/381-6800 or 800/333-3333, from $79) on the southwest edge of downtown.