If you’re looking for a low-key way to enjoy Northwest Ohio’s gorgeous summer days, you can’t do much better than a picnic. A family outing, a romantic weekend or a get-together with friends, there’s a picnic locale on this list for every occasion!
Swan Creek Metropark
4301 Airport Hwy.
Filled with deer and bluebirds, Swan Creek offers a green retreat in the middle of South Toledo. Several playgrounds, picnic shelters, grills and open lawns make Swan Creek an ideal spot for a family gathering. Escape the crowds and enjoy the views from several overlooks, peer out through the Window on Wildlife, walk over the swinging bridge or simply rest on a bench and meditate by the water. Keep an eye out for foxes, raccoons, birds and other animals that use this park as a stopover between feeding, hunting and mating locations. Go to metroparkstoledo.com for a map and other information.
Toledo Botanical Gardens
5403 Elmer Drive
You’ll find a designated picnic area near the main entrance, but there are plenty of places to spread a blanket and nibble some snacks at the Toledo Botanical Gardens. Visit the pond gazebo, the herb garden, the pioneer cabin, the perennial garden or pick a spot overlooking Crosby Lake. While you’re there, browse the small buildings in Artist’s Village and check out the exhibits. Visit toledogarden.org to find a map, calendar of events and other information.
5100 W Central Ave.
This 493-acre park, purchased by the Toledo Metroparks system in 1975, is the former estate of the prominent Stranahan family. Now one of Toledo’s most popular parks, miles of trails pass through a range of terrains and environments, including woods, prairie and the Ottawa River. Wildwood’s crown jewel, the Georgian-style Manor House, is open for tours. You will find picnic tables, reservable shelters, play areas and grills near the entrances and parking areas. Read about the park’s other features, plan your visit and check out a map at metroparkstoledo.com.
5675 Centennial Road, Sylvania
The 419 is home to many different parks, but Fossil Park is one of the more unique offerings. While it may lack in sweet-smelling flowers or abundant shade, it’s a great place for families and aspiring paleontologists. This park includes a 5-acre, ADA-accessible rock quarry where visitors can safely hunt for fossils up to 375 million years old! Park admission and fossil hunting are free, and visitors get to keep what they find. The park is accessible by the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail, making it a great place to stop for lunch during your bike ride. Picnic areas and restroom facilities are available. Visit olanderpark.com to get more information.
Side Cut Metropark
1025 W River Rd, Maumee
Named for a “side cut” extension of the Miami and Erie Canal, this park offers a combination of human history and natural beauty. Side Cut offers both sheltered and open-air picnic areas. Grills, vending machines and a playground all make it a great place for family picnics and group events. For a more romantic setting, you can easily find quieter spots within the park’s wooded, riverfront or prairie areas. Stroll the short Wood Duck Trail and watch for wildlife, climb the Canal Locks Trail to see remains of the original canal locks, hike the 3.9-mile Fallen Timbers Trail through open meadowlands, or wander along the Maumee on the Riverview Trail. Rental and general park information at metroparkstoledo.com.
29100 W. River Rd, Perrysburg
You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate Fort Meigs, the nation’s largest reconstructed wooden-walled fort. Originally built during the War of 1812, the fort is now the setting for yearly reenactments, a museum with hundreds of artifacts found on site and several other historic exhibits situated on 10 beautiful acres of woods and meadows overlooking the Maumee River. Take advantage of the picnic tables and shady trees near the visitor center, stroll through the nearby woods or enjoy a view of the river. Learn about the site’s history and schedule of events at fortmeigs.org.
577 E. Front St, Perrysburg
Originally built as a small farm on a larger estate, this 12-acre park was purchased by Duane and Virginia Stranahan in 1935. Virginia chose to preserve the property as the 577 Foundation, maintaining it as a green, peaceful place to be enjoyed by the whole community. Visitors can enjoy several kinds of gardens, including children’s play areas and a geodesic biodome, or take a stroll down to the Maumee River. Bring a picnic and enjoy the grounds at your own pace, or sign up for one of the foundation’s various classes. Bring prepared food, as there are no grills on the foundation grounds. Visit 577foundation.org for more information.
429 East Boundary St., Perrysburg
With a community-built playground, 18-hole disc golf course and open space for kite-flying, Woodlands Park is an ideal picnic space for families. A crushed stone walking path makes a one-mile circuit around the park, and includes a warm-up exercise station. The picnic pavilion includes more than a dozen picnic tables and several electric outlets. Woodlands Park also features several gardens, including a flower garden maintained by the Perrysburg Garden Club, an “Avenue of Trees” and a Japanese style garden maintained by the All Thumbs Garden Club. Get more information, reserve a space and even print out a disc golf scorecard by going to perrysburg.oh.us.
18729 Mercer Road, Bowling Green
Located just off State Route 65, between Grand Rapids and Waterville, this park seems tiny and unassuming at first glance. Otsego Park was established in 1937, and is the oldest park in the Wood County system. Picnic tables and playground areas are located near the parking lot. The park includes fishing areas, a butterfly garden, open grassy areas, a canoe launch and a canoe livery. Follow a looping trail around the park to get excellent views of the Maumee River, wildflowers and wildlife. The elegant Thompson Stone Hall and ample parking make it a popular place for wedding receptions. Get more information at woodcountyparkdistrict.org.
Simpson Garden Park
1291 Conneaut Ave., Bowling Green
Simpson Garden Park stands as an 11-acre refuge in the middle of Bowling Green. Pack a light lunch and claim one of the picnic tables before taking a stroll through the garden’s many features. Listen to the waterfall in the Peace Garden, enjoy the shade of the Willow Walk and peruse the latest exhibit in the Sculpture Garden. You can learn about natural remedies in the Healing Garden, get ideas for your own yard and explore the hands-on Children’s Discovery Garden. The park staff welcome questions! The garden’s year-round beauty makes it a popular spot for weddings and photography. Go to bgohio.org for a map, events, rental information or volunteer information.
Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve
615 South Wintergarden Road, Bowling Green
This 103-acre preserve has been undergoing ecological restoration efforts since 1998. Visitors to this park can enjoy the Rotary Nature Center, a “window on wildlife,” a natural resources library and two miles of walking trails through woods, meadows and wetlands. The city of Bowling Green also offers natural, cultural and historical programs at Wintergarden. Because it is a nature preserve and not a public park, Wintergarden is best suited for smaller gatherings. Visitors should stay on marked trails and in designated public areas. For more information, search for Wintergarden at bgohio.org.
Van Buren State Park
12259 Township Road 218, Van Buren
Less than an hour from Toledo, just north of Findlay and surrounded by farms, lies the unassuming but lovely Van Buren State Park. Originally inhabited by the Shawnee tribe, the park now includes 296 acres of some of the area’s last remaining natural woods and also encompasses Van Buren Lake, making it an excellent setting for fishing, boating and wildlife viewing. The park has six scenic picnic areas, some of them near grills, playground equipment and a volleyball court. There are also three shelter houses available for reservation. For maps and other information, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/vanburen.
Riverside Park Waterfront & Waterfalls
231 McManness Avenue, Findlay
It’s opening in 1908 makes Riverside the oldest park in Hancock County. Enjoy shady picnic sites and views of waterfalls and a dam on the Blanchard River. The park is also part of the Heritage Trail, a 17-mile trail through Hancock County that connects a variety of parks, historic sites and businesses. Work off your picnic calories at the pool, playground or volleyball courts. Riverside also offers boating, fishing and a pool. Plan your picnic around one of their community events! Get more information at hancockparks.com, or by calling 419-425-7275.
Other Outlying Areas
Maumee Bay State Park
1400 State Park Road, Oregon
With 1,336 acres, two sand beaches, open grassy space and gorgeous views of Lake Erie, Maumee Bay is a prime picnic spot in Northwest Ohio. Can’t sit still? Take one of the park’s hiking trails through meadows, woods and marshes, and keep an eye out for a variety of birds and other wildlife. There is also a nature center and a butterfly gazebo. If you don’t feel like eating outside, or if a summer storm rolls in, the Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center offers several dining options. Find more information at parks.ohiodnr.gov/maumeebay or by calling 419-836-7758.
110 Lighthouse Drive, Marblehead
The Marblehead Lighthouse was built in 1821, and remains the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular destination for photography and tours. The lighthouse grounds are perfect for a low-key picnic with stunning views of Lake Erie, nearby islands and passing birds and watercraft. The lighthouse is open 12pm-4pm every day until September 4, 2017. Cost to climb the lighthouse is $3 for adults and children ages 6 and up (free for children aged 6 and under). You can visit the Keeper’s House and Livesaving Station museums at no charge. Visit marbleheadlighthouseohio.org for more history and visiting information.
Harrison Lake State Park
26246 Harrison Lake Rd., Fayette
An hour west of Toledo, Harrison Lake State Park stands as an oasis of woodlands and water in the middle of farmland. Its shady picnic tables and 3.5-mile hiking trail make for a perfect quiet day retreat. Visitors can rent bicycles and boats, or sunbathe at the lake’s 150-foot swimming beach. Bring your furry friend and let them splash around in a lakeside area designated specifically for dogs! Check the website’s calendar to plan ahead and take advantage of the park’s summer nature programs. Reserve one of the park’s three shelter houses by calling 866-644-6727, or going to parks.ohiodnr.gov/harrisonlake.
Oak Openings Preserve
4139 Girdham Rd., Swanton
At nearly 5,000 acres, Oak Openings is the largest park in the Toledo Metroparks system. The park’s 50 miles of trails traverse sand dunes, creeks, woodlands and prairies. Besides hiking, many of the trails are also suitable for biking and horseback riding. The park has numerous picnic shelters, tables and play areas for families to enjoy, and campsites for longer stays. During the Great Depression, WPA employees planted a variety of non-native evergreens to prevent soil erosion. As the trees conclude their natural life cycle, the area will be returned to its natural state of open grasslands. Take the Evergreen Trail to see these trees while you still can! Go to metroparkstoledo.com for the full list of trails, maps and other information.
13827 S. River Rd., Grand Rapids
A hidden gem on the Maumee River, Providence offers amenities for any and all picnickers. Hikers, bikers and romantic couples can enjoy several trails and river views at their preferred pace. Families can take advantage of the playgrounds and open grassy areas. History buffs of all ages will appreciate the preserved section of the Miami and Erie Canal, the historic Isaac Ludwig Mill and its adjacent Heritage Center. During the summer, Wednesday through Sunday, board the Volunteer, a mule-drawn canal boat built to resemble those that once carried goods and passengers along the Miami and Erie Canal. The park has several reservable shelters, as well as vending machines and restrooms. Visit metroparkstoledo.com for more information, or call 419-407-9710 to make a reservation.
Mary Jane Thurston State Park
1466 State Route 65, McClure
This 105-acre park lies just west of Grand Rapids, along the Maumee River. Visitors can make use of the picnic tables, grills and restrooms, or spread a blanket on one of the many grassy spots. This state park not only has great views of the Maumee, but also offers river entry for boats and excellent stream fishing. The day-use lodge, built in 1936, and the remains of the Miami and Erie Canal make it a great stop for history buffs. Overnight camping is also available. The park features four easy-level hiking trails; the 1,444-mile Buckeye Trail also passes through it. Get more information atparks.ohiodnr.gov/maryjanethurston.