Over the past decades, Northwest Ohio has become the mecca of recreation, museums, and outdoor activities. If you happen to pass through this amazing region, make sure to check the list of the top things you can do in Northwest Ohio and prepare for some unforgettable memories.

Aerial view of Lake Erie, Ohio

It really makes no difference whether you are just a tourist or a permanent resident of the area because adventures in Northwest Ohio are aplenty and they cater to people from all walks of life.

1. Harrison Lake State Park

Harrison Lake State Park is one of the gems of Northwest Ohio simply because it has the whole package – hiking trails, beaches, camping ground, and breath-taking surroundings. This 142-acre state park was once a gigantic wetland and the remnants of the bygone time still remain visible through its natural features.

Harrison Lake State Park in autumn

This scenic outdoor gem lets you choose your own adventure, whether it be camping, paddling, hiking, or canoeing. Sprawling across 142 acres of land it offers superb opportunities to spend a few hours in the peacefulness of nature or even camp in one of the campsites. The campgrounds are well maintained and quiet so you should be in for a relaxing outdoor adventure, equally ideal for couples and families with kids.

2. Toledo Museum of Art

Founded in 1901, Toledo Museum of Art has come a long way to become one of the most innovative museums in the states but also the one to harbor an extensive collection featuring Cézanne, Degas, van Gogh, Kiefer, Matisse, and many other iconic artists.

Gabriel Dawe rainbow installation in the Museum of Art in Toledo
© Gabriel Dawe in the Museum of Arts in Toledo, Ohio, Artpeople

Today, visitors to the museum can enjoy a tour across 6 buildings spread across 40-acre campus featuring a sculpture garden, Art Deco, Postmodern, and Neoclassical architecture, or take their little ones to enjoy tons of art-related activities across the campus. The evidence of how extraordinary this museum is lies in the fact that its Glass Pavilion was named Best Museum in 2007 March issue of Travel&Liesure Magazine.

Glass Pavillion in Toledo is one of the most impressive museum attractions

The museum is closed on Mondays and opens Tuesday to Sunday with varying open hours so make sure you check that aspect before paying a visit. The admission to the museum is free of charge although some events and exhibitions may require that you purchase a ticket.

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3. Toledo Botanical Gardens

As a perfectly idyllic getaway in the heart of the city, Toledo Botanical Garden is an oasis of beauty and tranquility. It sprawls across 60 acres of lushness, offering visitors a chance to discover and revel in nature’s beauty.

Toledo Botanical gardens in spring

The Gardens cater to people of all ages and offer an array of displays and activities. Art admirers will be thrilled to discover the Artisan Village in the garden or stroll down the Garden Discovery Trail. If you’re visiting with your little ones, they are sure to have a great time on the trail specially designed for kids with lots of available play areas. The Gardens also host special events so music or food enthusiasts can either get into the groove to the sounds of jazz during summer concert series or learn the latest techniques of sustainable plant growing. The admission is free of charge though there might be an admission fee for certain special events.

4. Imagination Station

If you’re planning a family trip to Northwest Ohio travels, you shouldn’t miss paying a visit to Imagination Station, Toledo’s Science Center. The purpose of this educational non-profit institution is to make science accessible and fun to children and adults alike.

A section of the Imagination Station in Toledo
© Imagination Station

In the Imagination Station, visitors can have fun by taking part in dozens of activities and hands-on, interactive exhibits. In the Mind Zone section of the center, you can challenge your mind in how it perceives the world by exploring the optical illusion section, the gravity room, and many others. Make your own whirlpools in the Vortex Room or feel the force of the Category 1 hurricane in the Hurricane Chamber. The list of fun and educational activities in the Imagination Station is almost endless and the safety of all visitors is guaranteed by the presence of the team members who are more than willing to assist. The station is closed on Mondays although there can be special operating hours on certain holidays so make sure you count that in before you visit.

5. Lake Erie

As one of the five Great Lakes in North America, Lake Erie belongs to the group of the largest freshwater lakes on Earth. Though it’s the smallest and the most shallow of them all, its charm and beauty haven’t suffered as a consequence. On the contrary, Lake Erie is one of the most picturesque attractions in Northwest Ohio and beyond.

A beach on Lake Erie in northwest Ohio

There is plenty of things to do and see on and around the lake. Seeing as Lake Erie is home to 24 islands, visiting it is not complete without taking a tour to the wonderful Kelleys Island and its Glacial Grooves and State Park.

Glacial Grooves on Kelleys Island in Lake Erie

On top of that, Lake Erie is dotted with fantastic beaches and some of them are on Ohio’s side as its shores separate Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and even Ontario. Central Park Beach, Cedar Point Beach, and East Harbor State Park Beach are well worth the visit.

6. The National Museum of the Great Lakes

Situated on the banks of the Maumee River, the National Museum of the Great Lakes not only offers fantastic educational tours of its premises but it also serves as a unique reminder of the rich historical heritage of the whole state of Ohio. The Lakes have been a powerful resource for the states and they have made a significant impact on the economic and social milieu of North America. It comes as no surprise why Trip Advisor awarded the museum with the Certificate of Excellence in 2018.

Entrance to the National Museum of the Great Lakes
© The National Museum of the Great Lakes

In the museum, visitors can embark on a great journey through a 5-century-long history when the first settlers started populating the area around the lakes, leaving behind priceless artifacts and stories. Since the first fur traders in 1600s all the way 1800s and 1900s rum runners, the Great Lakes have born witness to the virtually entire history of the states. As you wander around the museum, you can learn a lot about these bygone times while taking a tour around the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship, exploring an outdoor maritime park, or discovering the six exhibit galleries.

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7. Toledo Zoo

With 720 species and 10 000 individual animals, Toledo Zoo is one of the best places to visit in order to admire some of the most majestic animals in the world. Caring for animals is the zoo’s core mission and they always go the extra mile in keeping the welfare of the animals high on their priority list.

Entrance to Toledo Zoo

As one of the zoos to participate in the Species Survival Plans, they make additional efforts to save endangered wildlife. Their Wild Toledo program does some exceptional conservation work in Northwest Ohio but they also take part in worldwide efforts to implement conservation programs and animal rehabilitation. You can take a unique chance to see the magnificent African Elephant, Amur Tiger, Bornean Orangutan, cheetahs, Indian rhinos, Madai Giraffe, polar bears, and many other grandiose wild creatures. There is an abundance of activities in the zoo so you can also take time to appreciate penguins feed, meet a diver at the zoo’s aquarium, or listen to the keepers talk about their zoo routines.

8. Maumee River

The Maumee River wells out in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and it flows Northwest into Ohio’s Lake Erie. It stretches for miles on end with a dozen connections to stunning parks and some incredible opportunities for hiking, boating, and fishing.

Lush vegetation around the Maumee River in northwest Ohio

The river banks become particularly busy during spring and summer when a great number of people flock to the river to enjoy all sorts of fun outdoor activities. Canoeing is always a great way to explore the waterways of Maumee and admire the gorgeous scenery and wildlife – elusive blue heron, turtles, egrets, and eagles are only some of the animals you’ll encounter here. Of course, nothing quite compares to fishing on the Maumee River which has a bountiful underwater world. The fishing season usually starts in March and one of the most notable events in this period is Walleye Run – a period when the river starts brimming with tens of thousands of walleyes.

9. Sports Stadiums in Toledo

Sports spectators and enthusiasts will surely have plenty of things to see around Toledo in Northwest Ohio. Hockey fans won’t be disappointed to catch Toledo’s professional hockey team Walleyes as they compete in the Huntington Arena. Right in the heart of downtown Toledo, baseball fans can cheer on the Toledo Mud Hens as they play on one of the top minor-league stadiums. To add a final touch the heated atmosphere after the game, you can pay a visit to Hensville, Toledo’s ultimate entertainment destination right next to the Fifth Third Field stadium where Mud Hens play their games.

Fifth Third Field Stadium in Toledo

10. Toledo Lighthouse

Situated on the waters of the Lake Erie and 7 miles from Maumee Bay State Park, Toledo Harbor Lighthouse is one of Northwest Ohio’s most distinctive features. The legend has it that a phantom lightkeeper has been luring the mariners to the rocks but mysteries aside, this lighthouse truly possesses a unique charm and appeal.

A solitary lighthouse on the Lake Erie in Ohio

It was built in the 1900s and since then, it has attracted many curious visitors who appreciate the vastness of the lake and the beautiful vistas. Today, small group tours are organized from the marina at Maumee Bay State Park although it’s not always possible to actually set your foot on the rocks and enter the lighthouse when the weather conditions are bad.

Obviously, you don’t have to travel far in order to relax and enjoy a couple of days off from the bustle of your everyday life. Northwest Ohio is a great staycation destination, guaranteed to provide you with tons of fun and enjoyable moments.