Jeeps and their owners assembled at Toledo Jeep Fest (photo courtesy of Toledo Jeep Fest)
Travel | Cities

4 Reasons to Visit Toledo This Year

Celebrate the legacy of the Jeep in the city where it was born, see paintings from renowned Italian painter Caravaggio and more. 

Celebrate a Classic at Toledo Jeep Fest

Each summer, 1,500 Jeeps in a wide range of models, colors and custom designs line up and parade through downtown during Toledo Jeep Fest’s signature event. Highly customized Jeeps as well as those seen on the road every day from Cherokees to Patriots to Wranglers gather to pay homage to the city’s role as the birthplace of the beloved vehicle.

“It’s really meant to be for everybody, whether you’re a mom who goes in your Jeep to get groceries or an off-roader,” says Whitney Rofkar, Toledo Jeep Fest event director. “It’s a huge spectacle and a huge source of pride.”

After the Jeep parade, which covers five city blocks, vehicle owners park downtown, where festival attendees can see the different models, unique paint jobs and customizations. The parade is the centerpiece of the three-day event, which runs Aug. 2 through 4, and includes vendors, an exhibitor hall of historic and custom Jeeps at Glass City Center, food trucks, speakers on a variety of Jeep-related topics and a kids zone with a remote-controlled Jeep course. Concerts are scheduled downtown throughout Toledo Jeep Fest, including a performance by country music star Jordan Davis on Aug. 2 at the Huntington Center.

Since 1941, when Toledo companies teamed up to produce the Jeep for the United States military during World War II, the city has had a deep connection to the vehicle. The Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator are still assembled in Toledo today.

Auto workers helped drive the creation of Toledo Jeep Fest in 2016, the 75th anniversary of Jeep. Last year, an estimated 72,000 people came from 40 states (including a participant who brought his Jeep from Hawaii) and three countries for the festival.

“It’s been wildly successful,” Rofkar says. “There’s a really emotional tie to Jeep. It’s just a huge source of pride that Toledo makes Jeeps that are known around the world.”


Michelangelo da Caravaggio’s “Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy” (photo courtesy of the Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund. On loan from Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Hartford, Connecticut)

See Paintings by Caravaggio at the Toledo Museum of Art

Four masterpieces by an Italian painter who changed the way people viewed artwork and the techniques painters used for generations after him are part of a highly anticipated special exhibition this spring at the Toledo Museum of Art. (It runs through April 14).

“The Brilliance of Caravaggio: Four Paintings in Focus” features pieces from the 1500s by Michelangelo da Caravaggio, a late-Renaissance painter who used dramatic, theatrical light and shadow to emphasize the themes in his work.

Caravaggio asked everyday people who had irregular or rough features to serve as models representing saints and Biblical figures, which was unheard of at that time, says Lawrence W. Nichols, curator emeritus at the Toledo Museum of Art, who has been working on this exhibition for the past six years.

“He said, ‘I’m going to paint what I see and feel from the streets,’ ” Nichols says.

On display at the museum through April 14, the exhibition highlights Caravaggio works on loan from other institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and four works in the museum’s collections from painters influenced by Caravaggio’s style. This is the first time since 1951 that a Caravaggio work has been on display at the Toledo Museum of Art and the first time in 11 years that this many Caravaggio paintings have been shown together in the United States.

Caravaggio’s “The Cardsharps” is the work that made the artist famous and propelled him into commissions of religious paintings for churches in Rome. In this painting, three men who look like average people of the time are playing cards, and it is evident two of them are working together to cheat the third. The painting represents people doing something wrong, and it challenges the viewers to think about their own lives, Nichols says.

“It’s the immediacy of the imagery,” he says. “[Caravaggio] also lets us into the scene. People did and do see themselves in this kind of imagery.”

In addition to “The Brilliance of Caravaggio: Four Paintings in Focus,” the Toledo Museum of Art has two other special exhibitions travelers can see during their visit. The ongoing “Expanding Horizons: The Evolving Character of a Nation” features American art from the museum’s collections and is an experiment to reimagine how the museum displays its art, says Adam Levine, director and chief executive officer at the Toledo Museum of Art. By 2027, the museum plans to completely reinstall its works, effectively creating a new museum within the current one.

Levine explains that “Expanding Horizons: The Evolving Character of a Nation” focuses on two themes in American art: myth-making and religion.

“This is an exhibit about exploring what makes us American,” he says. “It’s complicated.”

It allows the museum to expand the story the collections tell and consider the whole breadth of American history. Combining pottery created by Native Americans, glasswork, paintings, sculpture and textiles, the exhibition looks at origin stories in mythology and religious influence.

Another special exhibit “Beth Lipman: ReGift” features a large-scale glass work created in the museum’s Glass Pavilion hot shop. Lipman re-created the parlor of the Toledo home of Florence and Edward Libbey, who used their wealth to help establish the museum. Using white and transparent glass, Lipman created the chairs and table, vases, wall art and other features of the room. “Beth Lipman: ReGift” is on display through Sept. 1.


Man at sauce dispenser at Northwest Ohio Rib Off in Toledo (photo courtesy of The Blade, by Rebecca Benson)

Experience the Region’s Food Festivals 

Throughout the summer, Toledo-area food and drink festivals celebrate barbecue from across the country, authentic German fare and some of the area’s best pizza. The food and drinks are accompanied by live entertainment and family-friendly activities and make for fun events to include as part of a visit.

Celebrating its 40th year in 2024, the annual Northwest Ohio Rib Off brings pitmasters from throughout Toledo and across the country to compete for the title of local favorite, national favorite and judges’ favorite from July 26 through 28 at the Lucas County Fairgrounds in Maumee. Entertainment during the event includes rock and country music concerts and a kids zone with inflatables, face-painting and laser tag.

A tradition started in 1966 and continued by generations of families, the German-American Festival offers three days of authentic German food, beer, traditional dancing, music, games and more Aug. 23 through 25 at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon, just east of Toledo, where the event has been held each year since 1987.

Bands from across the country perform, beer gardens serve imported German beer and craft brews, and volunteer cooks dish up potato pancakes, brats, sauerkraut and other German favorites. Festivalgoers can even pick up German garb, such as lederhosen, from some of the vendors, and there are rides for kids.

With nearly six decades of experience, many of the families who started the festival with a group of German American organizations in Toledo continue the tradition with their children and grandchildren, says Mike Willinger, the festival chairman whose father got him involved in the annual celebration at age 12. The day before the event begins, dozens of volunteers peel potatoes to make the festival’s renowned homemade German potato salad.

“We peel upwards of 2,000 pounds of potatoes,” Willinger says. “We have a potato salad chairman, and her job is to follow the recipe we’ve followed for years. It seems to be the most popular recipe we have. Everybody raves about it.”

In Sylvania, the 12th annual Pizza Palooza, which is planned for July 19 and 20, offers pizza by the slice or a whole pie, with choices ranging from simple favorites like pepperoni and cheese to specialty pizzas made by restaurants across northwest Ohio. Attendees can sample different varieties and styles and vote for their favorite while listening to live music at Centennial Terrace, which partners with the Sylvania Chamber of Commerce each year to host the event. A kids zone gives families and young ones plenty of activities to enjoy between slices.


Pizza from Souk Mediterranean Kitchen & Bar in Toledo (photo courtesy of Souk Mediterranean Kitchen & Bar)

Explore the Toledo Dining Scene

Toledo offers cuisines that span the globe and dining offerings that range from upscale to casual fare. Souk Mediterranean Kitchen & Bar serves dishes inspired by those chef Moussa Salloukh grew up eating from his mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens.

“I took everything I grew up on, all the authentic stuff and put kind of a hip twist on it,” says Salloukh, whose family emigrated from Lebanon to Toledo when he was 3. “We’re able to hit every nook and cranny of the Mediterranean. It gives me the latitude to kind of explore and do what I want to do and be myself and show Toledo some stuff it normally wouldn’t see.”

Inside the cozy, exposed-brick building, diners sip on Souk’s signature cocktails, such as the Turkish old-fashioned or Turkish coffee made from beans roasted in-house, and dine on seasonally changing dishes such as hummus, lamb shanks and grilled octopus diavola.

Kengo Sushi & Yakitori brings another flavor to downtown Toledo with its 26-seat bar for sushi and yakitori. A popular experience is the reservations-required Omakase, which means “leave it up to the chef.” For upscale dishes in a casual environment, Registry Bistro serves modern fare with a Midwestern flair that changes seasonally. The Scotch olives and the Midwestern meatloaf burger are available all the time, as are vegan and gluten-free offerings.

Just outside Toledo in Perrysburg, Rosaria’s on 3rd Street offers an upscale option for Italian dining. The spot serves gourmet pizzas, strombolis and higher-end dishes such as filet mignon, lamb chops and chicken marsala with a Sicilian flair.

Brunch and lunch are the specialty at Focaccia’s in downtown Toledo. Patrons can enjoy mimosa flights with juices made by Focaccia’s head bartender and drinks that use herbs from the garden located next to the restaurant’s outdoor seating.

“People know our reputation of fresh, made-from-scratch food,” says owner Ed Beczynski. “We make everything in house.”

Brunch options include chicken and waffles with bourbon pecan syrup and the ever-popular The Cure All, a potato pancake with sausage, ham, eggs, mushrooms, cheese and more. Saturday and Sunday brunches feature music ranging from polka to pop.

For Irish fare, The Blarney offers beer-battered fish and chips, house-made corned beef and traditional Irish boxties (potato pancakes with corned beef or salmon), as well as 24 taps of beer. The Adams Street Cafe smokes all its meats, from salmon to turkey to brisket. A popular stop for burgers and sandwiches, the cafe also has standout entrees such as poutine, baked mac and cheese and ramen bowls.


When You Go

Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo Jeep Fest

German-American Festival

Northwest Ohio Rib Off

Pizza Palooza

The Adams Street Cafe

The Blarney


Kengo Sushi & Yakitori

Registry Bistro

Rosaria’s on 3rd Street

Souk Mediterranean Kitchen & Bar