A Family Day Downtown

Downtown Toledo offers a wide variety of family friendly activities


By Nida Ammar

Oh, summer! How I had plans over plans for you! Parks and pools, museums and zoos and day trips galore. Then reality set in.  My car broke down and it will take a while to be fixed; bad timing because, hello, I have kids that want to go places. So what do I do? It turns out that summer exploration is just a few blocks away. Since we live downtown I put the kids and myself in comfortable shoes and set off exploring a family day in Downtown Toledo.

I found some options that worked wonders with my kindergartener and toddler and others that may be better for older kids. Regardless, heed this basic advice:  do not, I repeat, DO NOT do this on a Monday. The two biggest family attractions downtown, Imagination Station and Toledo Museum of Art are both closed Monday.  So travel far and wide this summer if you must. However, for a great “staycation” that has lots of options, try a day in downtown Toledo.

Get ready and go

First of all, make sure everyone has the best walking shoes on, an abundance of sunscreen and, if your children are as young as mine, snacks, water and one change of clothes for them. Hats and sunglasses are a plus for walking time. Downtown is not a jungle, urban or otherwise, and on a hot summer day there is plenty of sunshine, so be prepared.

There are plenty of areas sprinkled throughout downtown for kids to run, jump, play and in general burn off energy.

Now, where will you park your car? You will be happy to know there are many parking garages downtown as well as street parking meters that can be operated by coins or by a credit/debit card. These meters are free during the weekend. Garages differ in fees, so search for one that fits your budget and chosen destinations.

Start with Middlegrounds

A park! Before the sun is hot, I would go to Middlegrounds Metropark down on Summit. This beautiful park has a calming effect with its views and its location right between the east side and the west side. Have a little sandwich picnic with your children there and maybe, if you have a ball, let them play and run. Enjoy the breeze and the shade for later calming memories for the day. And when you finally realize what you have gotten yourself into for the day, move on to your next target, and that is…

Imagination Station, of course! You need your kids to spend some energy while having fun and not getting a sunburn; where better to stop than the Station? It is cool, fits all ages including you and can take anywhere between one hour to at least 3 hours. I do not think you will get the full experience of every single area here in one day, so at entry, ask for a map and choose the best areas for your children’s’ age. Better yet, ask one of the Station’s employees what they recommend and they are always happy to help. When they get hungry, I recommend you have lunch at their own H2O café before we set off to our next spot under the hot sun…

Promenade Park

Within walking distance, a brand new splash pad has been opened here and the children love it. See where the change of clothes comes in handy now? Let the kids run around under your sight while you have a break watching the big screen across the park as there are lots of amazing things that are shown there that will give you more context to downtown. After the splash, you may want to either give them a change of clothes or walk by the river in the park to get them to dry out. At this point, you may or may not have time for one more stop. If you feel up for it, choose one of the following to seal the day:

The home of the Mudhens is one of the highlights of downtown.

A Mud Hens Game (if available)

After a long day, having the ability to sit down and rest while you enjoy the game with your kids is another definition of gold mine. Even the snacks will walk up to you (if you forgot to pack the snacks I told you about). I must say, this was not a big success for my own children for the fact they are perhaps always excited to keep moving around and not wanting to be confined. So, if your kids are like mine, look at the other options. 

Sandpiper Cruises

There are several types of cruises on different days. They have family cruises, private cruises and more! As excited as I am about this, I still did not dare take my children on until I can secure a second or even third adult to go on with me to keep eyes on them. But who would not want to get a boat and cruise around Maumee River and be given context on what you see? This will be amazing after a long day.

The Library (with a shout out to Super Why!)

All the public libraries are great. However, during the summer, the downtown branch has a lot of events for families and I’m sure you will find one that you and yours family enjoy together. If you happen to go on a day with no events, you can still go up to the children’s library and let them explore and read and perhaps borrow some books. Note that after this summer, the main library will be closed until Labor Day 2019, so you may need to use it while it lasts before its big break. Another idea is to pass by the Audio Visual section and choose Launchpads for your kids to use on your way home!

Toledo Museum of Art (if you have time left for crafts)

Crafting at the art museum is a great option for a summer day downtown. A great way for kids (and adults) to explore their creative side.

Go into the family center and spend your, and hopefully your children’s last bits of energy on painting or making crafts. You will find every craft supply you ever dreamed of right there at your disposal. You can also take a tour in the different galleries and play the role of a professional curator and tell stories about exhibits. If your kids are young enough, you can pull this off easily. Also, this activity is free, no admission fee, just the parking fee.

There are plenty other options, National Museum of the Great Lakes, a dinner at one of the many local restaurants, a stroll between Summit, Jefferson and Madison, a visit to one of the art and craft supply stores, Froggy Town Frog Museum and many more. Do not do all of this in one day though! Try different combinations of spots/ locations and go with what you and your family like. There are spots to last you for days of family fun.

Our downtown is beautiful and it houses many local businesses and suits many age groups. So before, you go exploring elsewhere for fun, try right here at home. Downtown Toledo has an amazing concentration of enjoyable, relaxing, and family friendly attractions minutes away from anywhere in the region. Whether a downtown resident or hanging out in the burbs, downtown has tons to explore.

Nida Ammar is the the Communications Lead for CCTRONIC, a design engineering firm focusing on helping farmers and agriculture producers improve their output and efficiency while preserving and respecting the environment. She is also a regular contributor for RSL, including feature articles and providing information for Shoppers on Site. When not writing Nida rides heard on her two kids, one husband and lives in downtown Toledo.