Toledo, Ohio has never been hotter. And there's no place where that is more evident than at the glass-blowing studio at the Toledo Museum of Art's two-year- old Glass Pavilion, where the ovens are cranked up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Each day, the resident artisans shape molten glass into beautiful works of art in front of crowds of museum visitors. Master Instructor Leonard Marty completes a glass vase in under 30 minutes to the amazement of seven-year-old Olivia Krueger of Monroe, Michigan.
"That was cool," she exclaims as Marty removes the vessel from the end of a long pipe. Olivia, an aspiring artist, will have to wait a few more years before she can try her hand at this art form. Marty recommends children to be at least 14 before taking one of the several glass-blowing classes offered at the museum, including one-day workshops for out-of-town visitors.
When it comes to glass making, Toledo is ground zero. It was here, 120 years ago, Edward Drummond Libbey founded the Libbey Glass Company and laid the foundation for Toledo to become the "Glass Capital of the World." He also founded the Toledo Museum of Art, which features an impressive collection of glass from all over the world.
The economic heritage of the region permeates a trip to "The Glass City." It's easy to pick up a history lesson or two as you play, shop, and eat your way through the city's many not-to-miss attractions.
Old West End
Those who appreciate art and architecture can enjoy a self-guided sidewalk
tour of the historic Old West End, one of the nation's richest collections
of historic Victorian homes, including the Edward Drummond Libbey House.
The house was recently purchased by a nonprofit organization that plans to
restore the national landmark and feature an historical interpretation center.
"This neighborhood really is a gem," says Brenda Spurlin, a long-time resident of the Old West End. She and her husband, Don, run The Mansion View Bed & Breakfast, which is owned and operated by the Old West End Association. The B&B, located just one block from the art museum, makes a perfect base for exploring the neighborhood (from $129).
And in the morning, Brenda will whip up a delicious two-course breakfast from a stable of recipes she's collected over the years. "This is a front-porch neighborhood, and everyone throws parties. Our specialty is brunch parties, so I have a lot of recipes."
The sweetest spot in Toledo, though, is the corner of Glendale Avenue and Anthony Wayne Trail, where an ice cream shop, chocolate store and
bakery coexist in blissful harmony.
Wixey Bakery, a local favorite, consistently takes top honors in the Toledo City Paper "Best of Toledo" awards for its fresh baked treats. "They have the best donuts," says Esther Durkalski of Perrysburg, Ohio. "We'll drive out of our way to get them."
A trip to the bakery can be combined with a visit to the award-winning Toledo Zoo, located only a mile away. The zoo is well known for its up-close interactive exhibits, including the world-famous Hippoquarium, where visitors can observe the animals sloshing around underwater.
A few inches of glass also separates the polar bears from the crowds that gather at the wildly popular Arctic Encounter exhibit. One of the cubs, Nikita, frolics in the water with a big red ball, eliciting "oohs" and "aahs" from onlookers.
When you're ready for lunch, it's possible to dine on kid-friendly fare behind cage bars at the zoo's Carnivore Café, which originally housed the zoo's big cats.
Downtown and the Riverfront
The Maumee River, which passes through
downtown Toledo, has long been the key to the city's economic prosperity. It's
also becoming the centerpiece for recreational activities on the water, as
well as shopping and dining on both shores.
On the east bank, International Park stretches between Main and Clayton Streets. Stroll along the waterfront, or dine at The Docks restaurant complex.
On the west side of the river, Promenade Park comes alive with free live music on Friday nights and hosts a number of festivals throughout the summer. Take a ride on the M/V Sandpiper, a 100-passenger canal boat that offers scenic cruises, such as a four-hour trip to the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse. And within a few short blocks, you can take in a Mud Hens baseball game at Fifth Third Field; grab a sandwich at The Glass City Café, decorated with Toledo memorabilia; or shop at The Erie Street Market, home to the Libbey Glass Factory Outlet, where you can find great deals on housewares and gifts.
Several lodging options are available downtown. The Toledo Riverfront Hotel (from $159) is ideally located and offers views of the river and the city.
A more intimate option is The Casey-Pomeroy House Bed & Breakfast. The 14,000-square-foot mansion is currently undergoing renovation, but the owners are careful not to schedule work while guests are in residence.
The B&B's rooms (from $135) are lavishly appointed - awash in the timeless elegance of the Victorian era, while keeping in mind the more modern sensibilities of its occupants. The rooms have bathrooms with spacious walk-in showers equipped with rain shower heads, and luxurious bed linens adorn the antique beds.
Convention & Visitors Bureau
Lake Erie Travel Guide