24 Hours in Toledo, Ohio

by Sabrina Smelko


After growing up in the melting pot on the Atlantic Coast near Philadelphia, Lindsay Williams and her family moved to the cornfields of the midwest. Having a taste and penchant for both locales, when Lindsay decided to move out in her late teens, she sought a city that balanced attributes of both places; a spot that had tons of history and character but also boasted diversity, an energetic culture and four seasons. At 17, she landed in Toledo, OH, which she has called home for over 13 years.

“Toledo is many things,” Lindsay says, “a hanger-on of the automotive industry fallout, an alternative energy incubator, a pulsing arts scene, a convenient gateway to Ohio/Michigan metros and the Windy City, a hop-skip to Lake Erie, a network of well-cared-for parks, and true to our perhaps most famous moniker — The Glass City.” Sometimes overlooked for the big C’s — Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati — Lindsay describes Toledo as a city comprised of lovingly curated neighborhoods, calling it “the biggest small town you’ll come to know.” Today, she has crafted a 24-hour guide of her city in the hopes to leave you with a burning desire to visit what those who live in Toledo lovingly call “the 419.”  –Sabrina

Greetings From Toledo

The Greetings From Toledo mural, located at Main and First on Toledo’s East Side, was completed in fall 2015 by the “Greetings From” team: Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs. Hailing from NYC, the Greetings From couple is on their maiden voyage: a 365-day adventure across the US painting iconic 1930s-50s postcard-inspired murals in as many cities — as time and support allows — across the way. Toledo’s life-size postcard was among the first dozen to be completed by the team. Stop by this wall first (easily accessible from both I-75 and 280 — the turnpike connector to downtown) for the ideal road trip photo op — but pay close attention, as you follow the guide it leads you to much of what is depicted in those letters!

Greetings From mural on Main Street just past downtown in East Toledo.

Michael’s Cafe & Bakery

On Main & Front, just up the street from the mural, you’ll find one of Toledo’s favorite bakeries and lunch spots. Michael’s is located in the historic Weber Block — a three-story Queen Anne-style structure erected in 1888. In the 1920s, the building held a gymnasium and a theater. Today, you’ll find some of the city’s best baked goods, salads, soups, and desserts. More of a sit-down-breakfast fan? There’s another Michael’s just across the bridge that can help you out. Prefer a stronger brew and English muffin to run, with a side of art to peruse while waiting on your pour-over? Bleak House is good, both in a hurry or when you want to relax. (Plus, they carry Rachel’s Handmade Ice Cream. It’s always affogato-o’clock, right?)

The 12

“The 12” is a collection of small murals on a single building in the 100 block of Huron Street, so it’s a quick easy stop on your way to Market. Look for the yellow panel at left to identify the artists, then look for the many murals that have popped up all over downtown in recent years. A few of my favorites can be found along Adams Street, including a Judy Dilloway depiction by local art teacher Maura Meyers, a pet rescue-themed maze mural by Bradley Scherzer, and Toledo’s favorite wall — the Toledo Loves Love mural. (Oh! When you hit the Depo later, don’t miss the historic Moses Fleetwood Walker mural by Natalie Lanese and Douglas Kampfer, which depicts the MLB’s first African-American player who got his start playing in our city.)

An abandoned neighborhood stuffed animal admires the Amazewall progress which is located adjacent the Love Wall and is among the citys most intricate murals.

Toledo Farmers’ Market

If you visit Toledo on a Saturday, you’d best get to the market. With nearly 50 vendors, it’s a one-stop-shop way to experience much of what our area offers. Open year-round, a few of my favorite stalls are Country Grains Bakery (get the challah for your daily sandwich or French toast needs, and the strawberry or pecan cream cheese loaves if your rough week has earned you a treat), Blueberry Hill Orchard, Gardenview Farms, Farnsel Farms, Flying Rhino, Witt’s Orchard, and All Crumbs.

Flowers are my favorite Market treat and if you sneak in right before afternoon close you might just score a few extra stems.

Libbey Glass Outlet

If you are new to Toledo, the museum’s gorgeous Glass Pavilion may have you fooled into thinking it is solely responsible for our “Glass City” moniker. Toledo may be the birthplace of studio glass, but far before that, Edward Drummond Libbey moved his glass company to Toledo from Massachusetts. Since the 1800s move, Libbey glass may have expanded across every continent, but their home base remains here (and thus does their outlet store). Located on the Farmers’ Market campus, the outlet sells basics at exceptional prices. My favorite aisle? The clearance section, as it abounds with retro prints, retail/restaurant overruns, and quirky little glasses for cocktail variations you never knew existed.

The Art Supply Depo

You’re likely getting antsy for lunch, but there are just a few more shops deserving a stop in this corner of downtown, and The Art Supply Depo tops that list. Locally owned and open seven days a week, this downtown creative haven offers artists of all ages and skill levels top-notch products and expert advice. It’s a rare day when the Depo doesn’t have a workshop going in the back studio, so if you’ve got more than 24 hours to spare in our city check out the class list! Not in the mood to create? The Depo also has a hefty supply of soft, well-fitting and city-centric Jupmode tees, jewelry by local artisans, stationery, pottery, glass, soaps and snarky socks for your gift-giving or self-spoiling needs. On the topic of spoiling yourself… if you’ve got a couple of extra moments, check Floral Pursuit flower shop or Ahava Spa across the street.

Shared Lives Studio

Shared Lives, or “The Happiest Place in the World” as my friends and family call it, occupies a colorful corner just across the street from the Mudhens minor league baseball stadium. The studio is a division of Lott Industries, and provides artists with developmental disabilities studio space, instruction, and an opportunity to exhibit and sell their artwork. The artists of Shared Lives bring so much energy and love for color into their pieces that it is impossible not to smile just walking in the shop door.

The cheery life changing rainbow of Shared Lives Studio

If you’re lucky, some artists will be there when you visit, and you may even get a personal tour of what each is working on that day! A favorite for holiday or garden decor, there’s something for everyone no matter the season. Want something a bit more neutral, plush, or even gourmet? Paula Brown Shop carries some very classy gifts, plus they boast an in-shop bar and gallery. Fancy yourself a fashionista? Sophia Lustig and Sophie’s Sister will dress you to impress.

Beautiful Exterior of Paula Brown Shop

Ye Olde Durty Bird

Lunch, lunch, glorious lunch! If your needs include a mimosa or Bloody Mary and a patio, there are two options very close by. Just between the Depo and Shared Lives, on the corner of St. Clair and Washington, sits Ye Olde Durty Bird, where I’ve yet to order a sandwich that I didn’t consider asking to marry me. More the cafe type? Head on over to The Cafe at the Oliver House complex. There’s not a bad choice to be made here, in terms of menu or seating — The Cafe is the only place (in the area) I know of boasting an enclosed courtyard and a fireplace. Feeling more brewery than bistro? Cross that courtyard to Mutz — a subterranean bar serving all of the same burgers, pretzels, and Maumee Bay Brewing Company beers as upstairs, in a more laid-back atmosphere.

Handmade Toledo

Now that you’ve filled your tummy, fill your trunk with a bunch of Toledo-made goodies to impress your friends back home! After a few successful Makers’ Mart events (think indie craft fair), Toledo earned our very own year-round brick and mortar Etsy type of place. Handmade carries vendors galore, and seems to grow a bit each time I walk in. Have you noticed the yarnbombs all around town? Many can be attributed to the anonymous yet prolific Streetspun, and there’s a display bike at Handmade that I’d consider one of her (or his… who knows?) masterpieces. Among the items for sale, I recommend the Crave bullet earrings for yourself, then a Somebody in Toledo Loves Me onesie for the littlest one in your life. Oh, and those gorgeous “Oh Sew Betty” bags? That’s the owner, who’s also been seen on the roller derby circuit. Yep, Toledo’s got that going on, too!

Handmade Toledo where window shopping is nearly as fun as the real thing.

The Old West End

Undoubtedly Toledo’s most stunning neighborhood, the Old West End’s 25 city blocks comprise one of the largest concentrations of late Victorian houses still standing in the US. According to the OWE Historical Association, Frank Lloyd Wright studied this area in his planning of his Oak Park Project. Pristine examples of Colonial, Georgian, Italian Renaissance, Queen Anne, Dutch Colonial, French Second Empire and Arts and Crafts homes fill the streets, which I encourage you to wander for as long as your trip allows. Here in June? Catch a house tour (or house party!) during OWE Fest. December? Don’t miss Tours de Noel. December, February, a random day in May? Hit the neighborhood coffee shop for an OWE Latte or Aztec Mocha and a savory pie. Toledo temps can drop when you least expect it, but Black Kite offers the yummiest respite! (Also, as big as Toledo is, we lack any overly interesting hotels. If you can Airbnb, do, and this neighborhood offers a few.)

Holy Toledough supplies the sweets each weekend for the OWEs Black Kite Coffee shop.

Toledo Museum of Art

Now for the Glass Pavilion! Toledo is the Glass City and our exceptional museum gives us a whole (fairly new) way to explain just what that means to our passers-through. The TMA campus includes a few buildings — the main museum, the Frank Gehry-designed university space, and the Pavilion. Boasting 5,000 works in a completely transparent structure (no, really, all interior and exterior walls of this 70K+ square foot structure are made of curved glass!), the Pavilion offers hot glass demos and a small cafe, too. Travel + Leisure named this section a 2007 Design Award for “Best Museum,” and in 2010 TMA as a whole was voted “America’s Favorite Art Museum.” You could easily spend your entire day here, but I’d advise browsing their easily navigable site for limited-time current exhibits to pick a favorite, waltzing through the permanent collection (don’t miss the Cloister and the Frank Stella), and taking a swing on the giant tire outside upon departure. (Note for new parents: TMA offers once-per-month baby tours — open your eyes to art in a whole new way when you see it through the perspective of your 18-month-old or younger child. Wow.)

Been a bit smitten with his work after an opportunity to meet Frank Stella came through my employer Toledo School for the Arts. Here's an immense piece of his at TMA.


Kengo opened in February of 2015, filling a void in fresh Asian cuisine and sushi downtown. The intimate 23-seat venue does not take reservations with the exception of Omakase — an “up-to-the-chef” experience offered in two-hour blocks for $75 per person. Don’t let the price point scare you — Omakase aside, this gem offers standard pricing for the fare, which includes sushi and yakitori selected daily by Chef Kato, an NYC transplant. Can’t snag a table at Kengo? Catch the sunset from the Docks, where I recommend pizza and a glass of chianti at Zia’s or the zucchini tacos at El Vaquero. Rather keep it casual? Hit The Attic, where you can enjoy Greek cuisine from the neighboring Manos or a wrap and vegan chili mac from the bar’s own menu alongside a craft beer from their frequently rotating taps.

Bocce and a Show

Got time to stick around after dinner? If it’s a Friday, Wesley’s often has DJs spinning old school hip-hop til dawn (or 2 am, as Ohio requires…). For those with two left feet but a fairly accurate arm, just a few steps above the dance floor is a bocce ball court. If the bar isn’t your scene, check the schedule for either the Historic Valentine Theatre or Toledo Repertoire’s 10th Street space.


A long day deserves a long bath. Book the Grand Suite at Casey-Pomeroy and bask in the 6-foot Roman soaking tub before a final rinse-off in their 35-square-foot shower. Full of antique furnishings and love, the home was rescued by its proprietors after being eight years abandoned. Casey-Pomeroy was built in the 1870s and was once considered a Grand Dame of the neighborhood. After many Victorian tea parties and other events funding its extensive restoration, you’ll find she’s quite back to her old glory, and you’ll leave satisfied after that same tea and a homemade quiche or buttery scones.

On The Road Again

With the guide focused downtown, you risk missing some of Toledo’s finest outdoor features — the finest of those being our Metroparks and nearby Ohio State Parks. If you’re heading out of Toledo similar to the direction you headed in, consider a stop at either Pearson Metropark or Maumee Bay! The Bay offers both lake and bay swimming in the summer, a gorgeous walking trail and views of the ice break-ups in the winter, and a family-friendly resort. Pearson’s shady trails are wonderful for runners, but if you move more slowly you can enjoy birdwatching and flower-spotting. This park is also notably one of the last remaining stands of the Great Black Swamp — a notorious forest that once blanketed much of our corner of Ohio.

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  • That Greetings From Toledo mural is very new, and I am so happy it is featured here! It just makes Toledo that much more awesome.

    • Right KellyJo! I adore it, and was lucky to snag some postcards of it recently. I’m excited to go see Cleveland’s soon too!

  • Excellent guide about Toledo, well done, Sabrina. I must have seen this guide somewhere else since it look s so familiar. Thanks to my pal Karen Pearlstein in Philly for turning me on to this Design Sponge article! There are some excellent restaurants around town also, way to go for highlighting Kengo, my favorite Japanese place. Also are Registry Bistro downtown, Element 112 in Sylvania and Revolution Grill. Not to mention the always wild El Camino Real for a margarita.

    • Thanks Charlie! Glad you approve. Hopefully someday soon we can publish one past the downtown boundaries! So many more places to feature!

  • For great photos of the Toledo area and Northwest Ohio in general, follow Photos of NW Ohio on Facebook.

  • After living in Toledo for the first 21 years of my life, when I venture back to visit family, there’s 3 places I always have in mind to visit.

    Manhattan’s: With an award winning chef inspired menu & live music, it’s the perfect spot for night out on the town or a weekend brunch. http://manhattanstoledo.com/

    Wesley’s: If you are looking for your Cheers, a cozy atmosphere & throw-back rock n’ roll music, it’s a great place to meet friends for a beer or two. http://www.wesleysbar.com/

    The ATTIC: This is a classy dive with great craft beers, hip bartenders & comfort food for the foodie in you. http://www.theatticonadams.com/

    • Thanks so much Laura! I love Architectural Artifacts, and now look forward to visiting Leffler’s too! Thanks for the suggestions!

  • I grew up about 30 minutes away from Toledo and while I haven’t visited many of the things on the list, I have to 2nd the Toledo Art Museum. It is absolutely fantastic with amazing exhibits. The Glass Pavilion is also amazing addition to the museum with beautiful pieces and an unique architectural design. One thing missing from the list is the Toledo Zoo. It is one of the best in the country!


  • Probably the best guide to Toledo I’ve seen. Unfortunately Toledo doesn’t have one central area where you can find lots to do. You did a good job of piecing together several things into what sounds like a great day!
    Thank you for not including the overly hyped on overly funded Toledo Zoo. (Don’t get my wrong, it’s a fine zoo if that’s your thing, but it already has enough cheerleaders.)
    And thank you for including my two favorite things about Toledo: the metroparks and the art museum!

  • When you go to the Farmer’s Market, dont’ forget to get a copy of Toledo’s own street paper, aptly named Toledo Streets. You’ll get an inexpensive souvenier and you’ll help a vendor struggling with poverty!

  • And no Schmucker’s love?! My favorite landmark. I’ve been away for 5 years and spending my time in the low country of the South, but I still hold Schmucker’s high up on my list for pie — I’ll even commit a DesignSponge sin and say I prefer it over Back In the Day’s.

    • Hey Sarah – I love Schmucker’s too! There is so much to love in Toledo, but for now, this guide is anchored in downtown only. It’s meant to be a “I’ve only got 24 hours and I want to walk everywhere” kind of thing! Glad you enjoyed the list!

  • Where’s the chili mac places on your tour? There is no place else in this country to find that kind of taste!

  • Hey Steph – I love Michael’s in downtown Toledo on Monroe – it’s included in the guide above. Check out the 4th paragraph :)

    Chili mac game is great there. They make a good Greek salad, and their pie is worth the calories too.