With Toledo, Ohio as a starting point, you can easily visit charming small towns in the neighboring states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and West Virginia. Each features its own unique vibe, scenery, activities, and attractions. Whether you feel like ballooning, climbing a lighthouse, or mingling with artsy types, these are all less than five hours’ worth of driving away from most Toledo vacation rentals. Take a look at the top destinations accessible from Toledo.
1. Traverse City, Michigan
Drive just over four hours northwest to reach Traverse City, a lovely Lake Michigan harbor town where lively adventures await your family above, beside, and below the water. Grand Traverse Balloon Company gives you sweeping vistas of the area from about 2,000 to 3,000 feet aloft. Your pilot takes you on a one-hour tour to see the shimmering Grand Traverse Bay, lush vineyards, rolling hills along the peninsula, and Lake Michigan. Back on the ground, book a tee time at Bay Meadows Family Golf Course, a nine-hole, par three course that features three practice greens, a practice sand trap, and a driving range. To join a local scuba diving experience, head over to Scuba North. When your crowd gets hungry, check out the fabulous eateries downtown inside The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The Village includes several diners, an art gallery, boutiques, and a wine tasting room.
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2. Saugatuck, Michigan
When you pack your duffel bags for Saugatuck, Michigan, bundle up your free spirit to bring to this artsy and active Lake Michigan shore village. Look on street corners and in studio windows for original art and sculptures, which are the works of artists who work along the lovely white sands of Oval Beach. Step it up with some sightseeing on the water when you call for a three-hour Saugatuck Wooden Boat tour that takes you up and down the Kalamazoo River before heading out on Lake Michigan to watch the sunset. Take your food and drinks on the boat, enjoy the sun, have some cocktails, and discover the beautiful landscapes along the river. You can get into your weekend quickly here after just a three-hour drive from Toledo.
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3. Nashville, Indiana
A little over four hours from Toledo, Nashville, Indiana lets you feel like you’re stepping back in time. Some call it “the artist colony of the Midwest,” a haven founded by painter T.C. Steele amid the hills and woodlands of Yellowwood State Forest. A very popular family attraction, the Nashville Express is a little train that takes visitors on tours of the town, pointing out sites of interest among the 250 shops and restaurants. Some highlights include one-of-a-kind fashions at Mulberry Cottage, hand-crafted pieces at Brown County Pottery, and mountains of caramel corn, candy, and fudge at the Nashville Fudge Kitchen.
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4. Moundsville, West Virginia
Load the kids in the car for the four-hour drive down to Moundsville, West Virginia, to see some unusual sights. Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, established the New Vrindaban Palace of Gold. Some 400 volunteer devotees constructed the lavish Palace of Gold for this Hare Krishna village that’s nestled in the mountains. Another quirky attraction, the National Museum of the Paranormal, displays historical artifacts and relics, some of which the curators say are haunted. Among the displays, you encounter mortuary items, including embalming tables, creepy dolls, and a haunting portrait of a young woman. Museum personnel completes the spooky ambiance with the warning that you enter at your own risk; they avow that they are not responsible for physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual harm to visitors. On to more tangible history, Moundsville is home to Grave Creek Mound, a prehistoric graveyard. Built between 250 to 150 BCE, it stands at 69 feet high and is the largest burial mound of its kind in America. Be sure to explore the adjoining museum and research center to learn more about the mound.
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5. Kecksburg, Pennsylvania
With a four-hour drive from Toledo to Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, you find yourself out of this world and light-years away from the ordinary weekend getaway. In 1965, a giant fireball crashed in the woods here, a mere 30 miles from Pittsburgh. Locals heard and felt the event, and firefighters reported finding an acorn-shaped object that had some strange writing on it. The U.S. military hauled it away, and later said it was just a meteor. There’s a giant acorn on a pole in town that has the funky writing on it. There’s a gift shop that sells hats and T-shirts, and there’s even a UFO Festival every summer over the last weekend in July. It’s only about 10 minutes over to Mount Pleasant to grab a bite for dinner and watch an old-fashioned drive-in movie.
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6. Marblehead, Ohio
It takes an hour to reach your Marblehead, Ohio, vacation rental, but it turns out to be a million smiles away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The 1821 Marblehead Lighthouse sits at the tip of the peninsula. The oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes, it opens up for tours during the summer, beginning Memorial Day weekend. The spiral stairs are steep and open, and those who feel ready to tackle the 77-step climb get a scenic view of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay. The adrenaline rush kicks in when you hop onto one of the famous roller coasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park. Some fan favorites include Millennium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, and Maverick. The park includes plenty of kiddie rides, midway attractions, and food options from end to end.
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7. Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Hop in the car for a quick one-hour drive, then watch the kids’ eyes pop when you drive right onto a boat for a 30-minute ride to Bass Island. Whether you stay in your car on the ferry or get out and look around is your choice on this relaxing little cruise. When you reach the island, settle into your Put-in-Bay vacation rental, and leave the car behind while you hit The Boardwalk to get fantastic seafood, steaks, sandwiches, and any cuisine you want. The Goat serves up world-class food and drinks, or you can try the Sweet Heat Chicken Sandwich at the Keys for a real treat. Keep the family busy sightseeing on the trolley-style trains, kayaking, parasailing, or exploring the world’s biggest geode.
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