One of the first things visitors to the northwestern corner of the state notice: It’s awfully flat up here. There are no rugged Appalachian glacier cuts as seen in the southeast and no forested regions such as those that blanket the northeast part of the state.
What can be found is water, lots of it. With Lake Erie to the north and the Maumee River plowing through a big chunk of the area, the region is blessed with two mainstays of outdoor adventure.
Add the sprawling Oak Openings Preserve Metropark and its vast array of unique species and plant life, and you’ve got a wonderful weekend of boating, hiking and biking adventures.
Serenity for paddlers
Forgive Chris Martin if he goes all Zen on you when describing his business.
The owner of River Lures can’t help himself when it comes to describing the peaceful adventure that awaits on the big, broad Maumee River that courses through Indiana before dumping into Lake Erie.
“What I preach all summer long is that I’m selling peace and serenity, and what I’ve gathered over the years is that people really need it,” he said.
Martin has owned River Lures in picturesque Grand Rapids (Wood County) for nine years. The village is a destination in itself, with antique shops, arts stores and good restaurants. He has grown the business to 80 watercraft, including kayaks, canoes and pontoon boats.
The Maumee starts in Fort Wayne, Ind., and then works its way north through towns and villages such as Defiance, Waterville, Antwerp, Perrysburg and Maumee before plowing through downtown Toledo, which is about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids.
Martin said wildlife abounds along the river, and he’s seen various kinds of turtles; waterfowl such as ducks, egrets and herons; raccoons; deer; and coyotes. Perhaps coolest of all are the bald eagles that have aeries along the Maumee and that feed in the water.
“Its unbelievable what a great resource we have here, and a lot of sections are remote,” he said.
River Lures offers 6-, 9-, 11- and 13-mile excursions that range from two to five hours. You start in Grand Rapids and then disembark and are driven back.
New this year on the 6-mile trip: Folks can exchange their canoe or kayak for a bike that can be ridden back to Grand Rapids on a bike path.
Costs range from $20 to $35 a person ($10 kayaking and stand-up board lessons are available).
River Lures also rents fishing equipment. Walleye fishing is especially popular on the Maumee because the water is often low enough that you can stand in the river and fish.
(Information: 419-832-0989, www.riverlures.com)
Charter for anglers
Don McGee is drawn to the lake the way some people gravitate toward a job or hobby. In his late 50s, he has been charter fishing on Lake Erie since 1981.
“I bought a boat before I bought a car. I’m just that kind of a person,” he said.
McGee is one of about 500 licensed captains who take everyone from hard-core anglers to inexperienced weekend casters out on the water throughout the boating season, which starts in the spring and goes to the fall.
“I get people who come in with the fanciest equipment and understand the principles of fishing, and I get people who walk in with high heels and dress shoes,” he said. “Our job is to just teach them to understand what we need to get done and what to get accomplished.”
McGee’s King and Eye Charters is about 10 miles east of Toledo in Curtice (Ottawa County) at Meinke Marina. His charter will accommodate up to six people, with the cost about $100 a person for a six- to seven-hour excursion. The fishing is primarily for walleye and perch — which can be kept up to the legal limit — but other fish such as catfish and steelheads are caught for sport and tossed back in the water.
It’s an experience, McGee says, that everyone can enjoy.
“I’m not a tyrant who’s going to stand over you with a club telling you what to do,” he said. “It’s your day, and I get people who don’t fish. They just sit down and enjoy the breeze.”
Paradise for hikers
While in northwestern Ohio, leave time for a hike at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, which is in the southwestern corner of Lucas County near the airport and not too far from Grand Rapids.
The Nature Conservancy has named it one of the world’s “Last Great Places.” Nearly one-third of Ohio’s endangered plant species can be found here, along with a host of rare animals, many of them birds and butterflies, according to the park’s website.
It’s a great place for bird-watchers, who might see geese, red-tailed hawks, owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, bluebirds and sand-pipers.
Much of the terrain is sandy, but some of the trails are lined with ferns and are almost primeval in appearance. Within the park the terrain ranges from oak savanna to woodland and prairie.
The 64-mile Wabash Cannonball bike trail cuts through the park for 5 miles. There also are 20 miles of trails in Oak Openings, including one designated for people riding horses. Plus, this is an excellent place to give your dog a good, long, satisfying walk.
CAN’T-MISS SUMMER FESTIVALS
- Port Clinton Walleye Festival: May 23-27, this neat little town will host a parade, educational programs, food, fishing and a lot more; (Ottawa County); free; www.walleyefestival.com
- Ohio Bike Week: May 31-June 9, ear plugs are optional at this rip-roaring motorcycle-centered party in Sandusky (Erie County) along the Lake Erie shore; the event is free, but there are fees for concerts and other activities; 419-502-0022, www.ohiobikeweek.com
- Old West End Festival: June 1-2, a popular mix of an art fair, home tour and parade that draws tens of thousands of people to the lovely neighborhood just west of downtown Toledo (Lucas County); free, except for the home tour; www.toledooldwestend.com
- 47th Annual Crosby Festival of the Arts: June 29-30, the endless beauty of Toledo Botanical Garden is featured in this celebration of art and nature; Toledo Botanical Garden (Lucas County); admission $8, or free for children 12 and younger; 419-536-5566, www.toledogarden.org
- Lagrange Street Polish Festival: July 12-14, a celebration of Toledo’s Polish heritage with ethnic food, beer and a pierogi-eating contest; in the Lagrange neighborhood in North Toledo (Lucas County); admission $2-$4, or free for children 8 and younger; www.polishfestival.org
- Balloonfest: Aug. 9-11, hot-air balloon flights, a classic car show, parades and other activities mark this festival in Findlay, also known as the Flag City (Hancock County); free; www.flagcityballoonfest.com
- German American Festival: Aug. 23-25, one of the state’s oldest ethnic festivals includes traditional German music and foods, a Hummel lookalike and lots of beer from around the world; Oak Shade Grove, Oregon (Lucas County); admission $7; www.gafsociety.org
- Milan Melon Festival: Aug. 31-Sept. 2, the only summer foods that outrank corn on the cob and strawberries are melons, which are celebrated for the 55th year in downtown Milan (Huron County); free; www.milanmelonfestival.org
- Black Swamp Festival: Sept. 6-8, kind of a miniature version of the massive Ann Arbor Arts Festival only with much better music and food; downtown Bowling Green (Wood County); free; www.blackswamparts.org
— Compiled by Rod Lockwood, The (Toledo) Blade
SUMMER FUN, ANYTIME
A sampling of popular summertime activities, compiled by Columbus Dispatch staff members:
CEDAR POINT, SOAK CITY, CHALLENGE PARK
Description: With more than 70 rides, including 16 roller coasters, Cedar Point has more rides and coasters than any park in the world; the 18-acre Soak City water park has slides, inner-tube rivers and a wave pool. Cedar Point and Soak City border Challenge Park, which features rides, go-carts and miniature golf. Castaway Bay, only minutes from Cedar Point, offers 237 rooms and suites and a large water park that boasts a water coaster, body slides, a wave pool and more.
Location: 1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky (Erie County)
Open: Daily, operating hours vary through Sept. 2; weekends only Sept. 6 through Oct. 27
Admission, Cedar Point: $54.99 for those age 3 and older, 48 inches or taller; or $29.99 for senior citizens 62 and older and those age 3 and older, less than 48 inches tall in shoes; free for children 2 and younger; online, military, evening, combo and group rates available
Challenge Park: open daily, operating hours vary through Sept. 2, weekends only Sept. 6 through Oct. 27 (call for details)
Admission: prices vary, call for details
Soak City: Open daily May 25 through Sept. 2, operating hours vary
Admission: $32.99 for those age 3 to 61, 48 inches or taller in bare feet; or $18.99 for senior citizens 62 and older and those age 3 and older, less than 48 inches tall in bare feet; free for children 2 and younger
Castaway Bay: Indoor water park resort open year-round
Admission: $25 day passes, or free for children 2 and younger; availability based on occupancy; call 419-627-2500 or visit www.castawaybay.com
Parking: $15; $20 for oversized vehicles requiring more than one space; preferred parking $25 for spaces close to the gate
New attractions: GateKeeper roller coaster, featuring a track that flies above the main entrance of the park and passing through front-gate portals for near-miss excitement
Least-busy days: Tuesday through Thursday
Wheelchair access: A guide for disabled guests is available at the park operations office.
Information: 419-627-2350, www.cedarpoint.com
GREAT WOLF LODGE
Description: An indoor water park including slides, pools, a dumping bucket, a lazy river and an outdoor pool area.
Location: 4600 Milan Road, Sandusky (Erie County)
Admission: must be an overnight guest; various rooms and suites available
Least-busy days: midweek May and September
Information/reservations: 419-609-6000, 1-800-641-9653, www.greatwolf.com
Description: The indoor/outdoor water park includes a large wave pool, two indoor surfing attractions, a lazy river, tube rides, body slides and family raft rides as well as the Safari Outdoor Adventure Park — including rope courses, zip-line tours, climbing walls and an animal park.
Location: 7000 Kalahari Drive, Sandusky (Erie County)
Open: year-round, operating hours vary; water park availability to nonguests based on resort occupancy; call first
Admission: varies, check website for availability; Safari Outdoor Adventure Park admission is $24.95
Parking: free; valet parking $12 a day
Least-busy days: weekdays
Where to buy tickets: for nonguests, online (highly recommended) and at the water park entrance when available
Information: 419-433-7200, 1-888-451-5248, www.kalahariresorts.com
Description: A three-story slide, go-carts, a miniature golf course and a bumper-boat pond are among the park’s attractions.
Location: 1530 S. Danbury Road N., Port Clinton (Ottawa County)
Open: daily, operating hours vary May 25-27, June 1-2, June 8 through Aug. 25 and Aug. 31-Sept. 2; call for details
Admission: water park, $16, or $10 for senior citizens 62 and older, free for children 2 and younger; Do It All Pass, including all activities, $17.50 Monday through Thursday, $22 Friday through Sunday (height restrictions)
Where to buy tickets: at the gate
Information: 419-732-6671, 1-866-732-6671, www.monsoonlagoonwaterpark.com
Description: An intimate outdoor venue with a seating capacity of about 1,000.
Location: 5773 Centennial Road, Sylvania, near Toledo (Lucas County)
Performances: June 14 (8 p.m.): “Weird Al” Yankovic; July 9 (8 p.m.): Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson; July 10 (8 p.m.): Doobie Brothers; July 18 (8 p.m.): Willie Nelson; Aug. 4 (6 p.m.): Tesla; Aug. 8 (7:30 p.m.): Happy Together Tour 2013 featuring the Turtles, Flo & Eddie, Chuck Negron
Parking: free to $5, depending on show
Tickets: $25 to $71.50 at www.etix.com or Toledo’s Stranahan Theater box office: 419-381-8851
Information: 419-882-1500, www.centennialterrace.org
ARMSTRONG AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
Description: A museum chronicling Ohio’s contributions to the history of space flight, including the accomplishments of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon.
Location: 500 Apollo Drive, Wapakoneta (Auglaize County)
Open: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $8, or $7 for senior citizens 60 and older, $4 for children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and younger
Parking: Free, on-site
Information: 419-738-8811, www.armstrongmuseum.org
Description: The hands-on science-and-learning center also features a simulation theater.
Location: 1 Discovery Way (corner of Summit and Adams streets), Toledo (Lucas County)
Open: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $9.50, or $8.50 for senior citizens 65 and older, $7.50 for children 3 to 12, free for children 2 and younger
Parking: nearby surface lots
Special exhibits: “Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body,” breaks down the processes of bodily functions through animatronics and hands-on exhibits (through Sept. 2).
Information: 419-244-2674, www.imaginationstationtoledo.org
TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART
Description: The museum covers 4½ acres on two levels, with 45 galleries; the Glass Pavilion features five galleries.
Location: 2445 Monroe St. at Scottwood Avenue, Toledo (Lucas County)
Open: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday (hours will change July 1; call ahead)
Admission: free; fees charged for some special exhibits
Special exhibits: “Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art from the Hood Museum of Art” features 120 indigenous works of art from Australia spanning five decades (through July 14); “Prints by Australian Artists: The Bicentennial Folio,” spotlights the works of 25 Australian artists (through July 21); “Patterns on Paper,” explores the evolution and use of patterns to enhance visual pleasure (through July 21); “Witness to Hunger,” photographic exhibition (June 28 to Aug. 9).
Information: 419-255-8000, www.toledomuseum.org
TOLEDO MUD HENS
Description: The Detroit Tigers’ Class triple-A affiliate is an International League rival of the Columbus Clippers.
Location: Fifth Third Field, 406 Washington St., Toledo (Lucas County)
Home games: May 19-21 vs. Syracuse; May 31-June 3 vs. Louisville; June 6-7 vs. Columbus; June 17-20 vs. Lehigh Valley; June 21-24 vs. Pawtucket; July 3-4 vs. Columbus; July 5-7 vs. Indianapolis; July 8-10 vs. Louisville; July 26-29 vs. Buffalo; July 30-Aug. 2 vs. Durham; Aug. 3-5 vs. Columbus; Aug. 10-11 vs. Indianapolis; Aug. 13-16 vs. Norfolk; Aug. 17-20 vs. Gwinnett; Aug. 28-29 vs. Indianapolis; Aug. 30-31 vs. Columbus
Admission: $9, or $7 for senior citizens and children 3 to 12; free for children 2 and younger
Parking: nearby lots
Tickets/information: available at the Mud Hens office, 419-725-4367; at the park; or online, www.mudhens.com
Description: A showcase for some of the best female golfers on the LPGA tour.
Location: Highland Meadows Golf Club, 7445 Erie St., Sylvania
Dates: July 15-21
Admission: weekly grounds admission, $50; daily tickets Monday through Friday, $15; Saturday and Sunday, $20; free for those 17 and younger with accompanying adult
Parking: $5 daily, or $10 weekly parking pass; Lot B located at Centennial and Brint
Tickets/information: 419-531-3277; www.marathonclassic.com
MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE
Description: A comprehensive motorsports facility, Mid-Ohio features a permanent road-racing circuit with a 2.4-mile, 15-turn, and a 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit.
Location: 7721 Steam Corners Road, Lexington (Morrow County)
Events: June 14-16: Diamond Cellar Classic; June 28-30: Mechanics Bank Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio; July 12-14: Buckeye Superbike Weekend; July 19-21: AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days; Aug. 2-4: Honda Indy 200; Aug. 16-17: Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200
Admission: $20 to $45, depending on event; free for children 12 and younger when accompanied by an adult
Parking: free, non-infield
Wheelchair access: yes
Tickets/information: available by calling the track office, 1-800-643-6446, or online; 419-884-4000, www.midohio.com
Description: Originally built for auto racing, it now has a 5/8-mile track for harness racing.
Location: 5700 Telegraph Road, Toledo (Lucas County)
Season: Saturdays and Sundays (post time 6 p.m.) through Sept. 15; simulcasting daily
Wheelchair access: yes
Tickets/information: available at the gate; 419-476-7751; www.racewayparktoledo.com
Description: More than 8,000 animals representing more than 700 species live on the 74-acre grounds.
Location: 2 Hippo Way, Toledo (Lucas County)
Big attractions: Wild Walkabout: Wonders from Down Under brings the fascinating natural world of Australia to zoo visitors. The adventure starts with a walk-through wallaby exhibit and continues with dingoes, cassowaries and more. In the Reptile House, check out the huge saltwater crocodile, along with some of Australia’s deadliest snakes. Or relax in the Museum of Science with a Great Barrier Reef exhibit showcasing the intrigue of Australia’s coastal waters. Wild Walkabout will be open from May 24 to Sept. 2.
Open: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, till 6 p.m. weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day
Admission: $14, or $11 for senior citizens 60 and older and children 2 to 11, free for children younger than 2
Parking: $7, or $15 for vehicles that take more than one space
Information: 419-385-4040, www.toledozoo.org