Our Own Backyard

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Maumee River crossing

By Chris Watson

Every time the weather breaks I have the same sense of adventure and gratitude since, not to put too fine a point on it, we live in an awesome town. The Greater Toledo area, along with Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, is home to some of the most interesting, intriguing, inventive, ingenious and imaginative activities, parks, libraries, and museums anywhere in the world. And no, I am not overselling here. Even a casual trip through any generic event calendar or municipal visitors web site will confirm this basic fact: there is an almost continuous stream of great things to do in our own back yard.

Residential Curse

I have had the privilege of living in several diverse communities across the country. I grew up in Wichita, KS. I spent time, via the United States Navy, in Chicago, Orlando, Charleston, even Idaho and the Maine/New Hampshire border. I even spent three summers doing summer stock theater in the middle of North Carolina. A little over a quarter a century ago I landed right here in Toledo. In each place I have resided, whether I measured that time in months or years, I fell in love.

The glass pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art

What I am always disappointed in is the fact that I often find myself alone in my love affair. Residents, especially lifelong residents, have an amazing tendency to overlook anything good about where they live and only focus on the bad. Nowhere is this more evident than here on the western edge of Lake Erie. Here are typical conversations I have, almost daily:

Me: “They just created a new MetroPark downtown. I can’t wait to go run there!”

Native: “Well, finally. I mean, compared to what downtown was…”

Me: “The Old West End Festival is coming up. It is one of my favorites…”

Native: “Sure, I suppose. But I read that at least three festivals closed up shop this year.”

Me: “Have you been to Walt Churchill’s Market?  I love that place.”

Native: “The Anderson’s closed…”

No matter what I say positive about where we live someone will come back with something negative…negative and gloomy…negative, gloomy and depressing. It is a curse.

Our Buzzing Backyard

I realize, of course, that this problem isn’t unique to Toledo. I have lived in other places where the griping is almost as loud. However, it seems we here in Toledo are particularly down on ourselves. We even dis our lake. I love Lake Erie.

Well, it’s no Superior…,” grumble the grumblers. No, it isn’t and I don’t care. Lake Erie is just as Great as Superior. It is way better Ontario…

My point is that if we look around a bit we see a plethora of fabulous activities. Check out the hot list below, complete with links:

This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just the high points. Many of them are free or have a minimal cost (I am still boggled by the fact that our art museum is free). Bowling Green offers at least two great destinations, including Grounds for Thought and the Ben Franklin Store. There are all the islands of course (Put in Bay,

Our area Metroparks offer a wide variety of services, including bike paths, running and walking trails, playgrounds, even overnight camping

Kelly’s), all of Ann Arbor, all of Detroit and just a short drive away there is all of Cleveland.

How about farmers’ markets?  We have at least six…SIX markets going on throughout the week starting on Tuesday and fully operational in June. Plus, there are pop up markets throughout the summer. Check out our calendar TAFI for times and details.

Speaking of markets and festivals, TAFI {Toledo Area Festival Info} provides the region’s most exhaustive listing of outdoor festivals, fairs, and markets around. That should be a bookmark on anyone’s phone.

Yes, they call us the rust belt. Yes, it is flat around here. And yes, John Denver wrote that rather unfortunate song that seems to never go away. But those are observations from outsiders. We in the know…well…we know. The only people who can’t find something great to do in our backyard are in a coma.

Have fun this summer!