It’s summer! School is over, the weather is beautiful, and it’s time to get outside and enjoy nature!
But wait–it’s 2020, and our options for getting out are limited! Where can we go? Toledo’s Metroparks, of course!
There are 16 Metroparks to choose from. You can check out more of them on Toledo Mom’s Park Guide! But today I’ll focus on five: Middlegrounds, Side Cut, Swan Creek, Oak Openings, and the Toledo Botanical Gardens. What do these have to offer, particularly for those of us with children in tow?
Middlegrounds Metropark is downtown, right on the Maumee River. They have some short trails, so it’s a great little hike for families with small children. You don’t have to worry about getting too far in and then carrying the kids back to the car! The paths are paved, so it’s easily accessible for strollers. There are benches spread out near the river, and a boat landing and fishing cove at the end of the trail, which is perfect for kids to explore the river ecosystem hands-on!
For those with Fur Children, Middlegrounds also offers a gated, off-leash dog park. If your dog plays well with other dogs, bring him along!
Middlegrounds features lots of great signage about the Maumee River ecosystem, and the picnic shelter has more informative signs about how this Metropark came to be!
Middlegrounds may be one of the only Metroparks without a playground, but there is still plenty for kids to explore here!
Side Cut Metropark is also right on the Maumee River, but just outside of Toledo, on the south side of Maumee. It stretches down the river for a long way, and fishermen and women love to come here!
This was the park where my son decided to learn to fish. Given all the people fishing, my son was collecting hooks off the ground. (To keep him from getting hooked, I stuck all the hooks in a piece of bark, which we carried around.) One of these hooks still had quite a bit of fishing line on it, so my son found a long stick, I tied the line to it, and he was set! Without bait, he was unlikely to catch anything, but he did spend a half hour standing on the bank, trying to attract fish.
There are plenty of great trails at Side Cut, one of which connects to the Wabash-Cannonball Trail which stretches for 45 miles, and can either take trailblazers out to Montpelier, Ohio, or through Whitehouse (depending whether one takes the North Fork or South Fork). Get on your bike and explore NW Ohio!
For those less ambitious, Side Cut has a pond, a playground, and a steep hill, which is great for sledding in the winter or rolling down in the summer!
Once the playgrounds open, Swan Creek Metropark has two playgrounds, one on the Glendale entrance and one on the Airport Highway entrance. Both are a lot of fun, and if you’ve got older kids, have them ride their bikes from one to the other! For any mommas and kids who are cross-country runners, the longer path is great for training for a 5K!
Halfway between the two entrances, there is a swinging bridge over Swan Creek, which my kids love to run back and forth on.
Oak Openings Metropark is wonderful and huge, and ecologically is a bit of an anomaly in the midwest. It’s another great place to teach kids to fish, either at Evergreen Lake or Mallard Lake. There are over 50 miles of trails to explore. There are horse trails, and one trail is a 15-mile loop of the park! My 11-year-old and I have that on our Summer Bucket List as a day-long Mother/Daughter date.
There is so much to explore at Oak Openings that it’s perfect for a day away–or even a weekend, as they do offer camping, too!
Toledo Botanical Gardens
Toledo’s Botanical Garden is a tucked-away, gem of a park with formal gardens, long meadows good for throwing a ball around, trails over streams and ponds, and the most magical playground for older children!
My children love to get up close to the stream just under the bridge at the Botanical Gardens. It’s a great place for exploring. The Botanical Gardens is also home to the Artist Village–a collection of studios where artists work and give classes.
But for kids, the best part of the Botanical Gardens is the Secret Forest! The Secret Forest is a collection of treehouses connected by wooden bridges and rope bridges, with plenty of space to climb! Be warned, though–this is a playground designed for older kids. My four-year-old does well with his older siblings watching out for him, but I do not recommend bringing toddlers here! If a kid does get stuck, the rope bridges and openings in the treehouse are big and sturdy enough for adults.
Almost all the Metroparks have playgrounds, and all the bathrooms I have visited so far have been in excellent condition! Toledo’s Metroparks are a real treasure for all of us in NW Ohio!
Which is your favorite Metropark?