By Tom Driver
For Fourth of July fun this year, think Toledo.
Time to begin planning for the long Fourth of July holiday weekend and a two hour road trip to Toledo may be the perfect way to celebrate. Spend Thursday and Friday in Frog Town and still be home in time for the weekend. The trip centers around a baseball game but includes fireworks, hot dogs at Packo’s, the Imagination Station and a visit to the Toledo Zoo.
Have you ever been eye to eye with exploding fireworks? Your family can experience this mesmerizing perspective by booking a room at The Park Inn in downtown Toledo for the night of July 4. The Park Inn is right across the street from the ballpark and a block west of the Maumee River and Promenade Park. During check-in request a room on the seventh floor or higher, but there’s still a choice to make. Ask for a room with a view of centerfield too see the post-game fireworks show explode outside your window. The display is set off in the middle of Monroe Street, which is the street between the Park Inn and Fifth Third Field.
An extra bonus for choosing a room facing the ballpark is watching the other fireworks displays from around the city off in the distance. Opt for a room facing Promenade Park and you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the Toledo city fireworks. In 2012, the city’s show began ten minutes after the display at Fifth Third Field.
Families will want to leave the game before the bottom of the eighth inning in order to walk back to the hotel before the safety barriers are set up. Another feature of watching fireworks from the hotel room is the multi-pane windows muffle the noise just enough to allow little ones to enjoy the display at a lower volume.
The Imagination Station is only a five-minute walk north on Summit Street from the Park Inn. Leave Columbus by 10:00 AM Thursday to allow plenty of time to tour the facility before dinner and the game. The Imagination Station is free to members of COSI but for non-members the admission is $9.50 for Big Kids (13 and over) and $7.50 for kids between 3 and 12 years old. COSI regulars will recognize a few of the exhibits but the Imagination Station experience is unique and not ‘COSI north’.
The Lower Atrium includes two of the more popular attractions at the Imagination Station, the High Wire Cycle and Boyo. The Little KIDSPACE exhibits are geared toward younger kids but everyone will find something engaging. As one tours the five Learning Worlds look for the Hurricane Chamber, the Distorted Gravity Room, the Science Studio and the whole family can help build a freestanding arch. The Simulator Theater is a 15 seat virtual roller coaster where riders are strapped in to a race car on an electric toy racetrack full of twists, turns, flips, and jumps.
Before the game, take a short walk from the hotel to Packo’s at the Park and sample some Toledo culinary history. Arriving 90 minutes before first pitch will ensure enough time to enjoy dinner before the game. Opened in 1932, Packo’s was made famous in 1976 when Corporal Max Klinger, played by native Toledoan Jamie Farr, mentioned Packo’s by name during an episode of M*A*S*H. The Chili Mac, dumplings smothered in beef chili and cheddar cheese, and Tony Packo Hot Dog Combo is a favorite.
The baseball game is between our hometown Columbus Clippers and the Toledo Mudhens on Thursday, July 4 at Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo; scheduled start is 6:00 PM. The best part of Fifth Third Field, from the perspective of parents with young children, is the Kid’s Play Area located behind the wall in centerfield.
With its spongy floor and many features, the large set-up is something one would find in a neighborhood park. Because of the height of the centerfield wall, the area is shielded from monster home runs and the full summer evening sun. Everything a family needs, including concession stand and restrooms, is located within a few steps of the adjacent picnic tables. Anyone can opt to sit at a picnic table instead of their original seat at no extra charge if the game is not sold out. Keep in mind that while the play area is shaded, the picnic tables are not; bring your sunscreen.
On Friday, allow some time before the drive home to tour the Toledo Zoo. A membership to the Columbus Zoo provides a 50% discount off admission. Parking is $6.00. The train ride African mini-safari is worth the $2.00 per person fee. Other highlights include TEMBO Trail, the underwater viewing area at the Hippo exhibit, and the Museum of Science (search for the hidden passageway).
Consider a visit to our border city to the north for a fun start your holiday weekend this Fourth of July. It’s close, it’s easy on the budget and there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
If you would like to read how our family personally enjoyed this Fourth of July trip check out our three part series right here. Toledo, Part 1 – Imagination Station; Toledo, Part 2 -The Mudhens Game and Toledo, Part 3 – The Toledo Zoo. You can also check out Toledo Expenses and see for yourself how affordable this short vacation can be.