I discovered a wonderful secret this past summer: children do not need to cramp your style while traveling. I’m not sure why I was worried about this, because I grew up on the road with my parents and siblings first in Volkswagen buses, and second in a ‘72 Dodge Motorhome.
Nonetheless, it was a great relief when my wife and I loaded the 18-month-old boy in our Prius and took off for almost three weeks of adventure, which included the Finger Lakes, Maine, Quebec City and Montreal. It was a blast. We all had so much fun. Townes, our little one, saw and waded in an ocean for the first time. We saw a moose on the side of the road on our way up to the Canadian border. I ate lobster and poutine like it was nobody’s business. We hiked all over the hills of Quebec and Montreal, and we all danced to some great music at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
I’d like to share some of my favorite spots near and far. You don’t have to go to Canada to have a great time. We’ll start with two of the closest Day Trips (and check back because I will hopefully be adding more over time):
Bowling Green (under 30 minutes unless you take OH-25 rather than I-75, which I recommend.)
This is a close one. Grab lunch or dinner at South Side 6, which has the best gyros around, and head to either of the following places:
Simpson Garden Park
1291 Conneaut Ave.
Arlyn’s Good Beer
520 Hankey Ave.
The number-one option on my kid-friendly brewery roundup, Arlyn’s is fun for all ages with dirt mounds and toy trucks for the little ones and games for the older kids.
Before or after eating, park downtown and take a walk either through the beautiful neighborhoods to the west of downtown or right down Main St. which has lots of places of interest for anyone in the family, including:
174 S. Main St.
127 S. Main St.
Hopefully, Finders (music and record store) finds a buyer and doesn’t close up shop, because it is a real treasure. Also, a great place to stop on the way down or back is the Curling Center. You have to make an appointment if you’d like to try curling, but you are welcome to stop in to watch others play. They’ve got a cool curling-esque table game to try too. And great beer on tap.
Grand Rapids, Ohio (about 40 minutes)
This is a great drive that I like to do at least once a season. I like to take one side of the river down and the other one back. The Perrysburg side is a more scenic and hilly drive. You can stop at Nazareth Hall (which won Toledo City Paper’s Best of Toledo Wedding Venue award in 2020) and visit the beautiful little grotto.
While in Grand Rapids, there is plenty to see and do. I always walk along the river first and sit on a swinging bench to watch the rapids.
Grand Rapids Park
There is a nice little playground close by for the little ones.
24164 Front St.
This is another place I always stop if it’s open. There are books downstairs and a gallery upstairs. The kids will enjoy this place as well, as there is a wonderful kid’s room in the back and a full size Battlecat (from He-Man) in the main book store.
A lot of other cute gift shops and antique stores line Front St.
24138 Front St.
A great place to eat if you want a nice dinner. Make sure to call ahead for reservations; they book up pretty fast.
24098 Front St.
If you want something a little more casual and family-friendly, it doesn’t get any better than pizza AND ice cream!
On the way back to Toledo, the Maumee side has a lot of Metroparks to stop at and walk off that pizza. Here are some of the highlights of the drive:
13801 S. River Rd.
Providence is a delightful park that also includes the Isaac R. Ludwig Historical Mill and the Canal Boat Experience. Both are interesting experiences for all ages.
10613 S. River Rd., Waterville
In the middle of the Towpath trail, Bend View is the quietest of these three parks if you want some peace and quiet and nature.
Waterville (21 minutes)
8505 S. River Rd., Old U.S. 24
Farnsworth has one of the best playgrounds in the area.
Just after Farnsworth, the road splits into the Anthony Wayne Trail and S. River Rd. I usually choose the river unless we are in a hurry to get home. There are a lot of places to eat in Waterville if you are getting hungry again.
1178 Farnsworth Rd.
The Carruth Garden Smiles store relocated here in 2021. Unfortunately, one can’t visit it while walking around downtown Waterville anymore, but it is still a local treasure.