Travel Treasures Close to Home: Great Lakes Museum

by Tom Reed
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Story filed June 20, 2014

The National Museum of the Great Lakes, which opened this spring in Toledo, is a great destination for a family visit. People who live in the region sometimes fail to appreciate that the five lakes hold 84 percent of the North Americaís fresh water, and 21 percent of the fresh water in the world.


Begin your visit by watching a short introductory video in the rotunda near the entrance, and then explore the exhibits on shipping, shipwrecks and safety, the lakes' role in industry, and many other aspects.

Among the items on display in the shipwrecks section are some items recovered from the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sunk in November 1975 during a storm on Lake Superior with a loss of 29 lives. You can see one of the two inflatable life rafts, which floated to the surface, and the oars from a steel lifeboat, which were later recovered. The Fitzgerald sinking is notable because itís in recent memory, and because itís the subject of the famous Gordon Lightfoot song. But Lake Michigan is the most dangerous of the lakes, accounting for nearly 35 percent of the thousands of shipwrecks over the years. The reason: itís located on a north-south axis, leaving ships little room to maneuver if they run into bad weather.


Interactive exhibits are scattered throughout the museum, to help tell the historical and geographical story of the lakes.

Just outside the museum on the Maumee River is the restored freighter Col. James M. Schoonmaker. The 617-foot vessel was saved from scrapping when funds were raised to restore it as a museum ship. The self-guided tour is well marked, with arrows to guide you to each station. You can see the pilothouse, the crew quarters, and other areas on the deck, and go below for a look at the engine room and peer into the enormous cargo holds. The tour includes a lot of stair climbing, but unless you have a problem with that, donít miss a chance to see what a Great Lakes freighter looks like.


Admission to the museum only is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, children, and AAA members. For both the museum and the Schoonmaker, the prices are $12 & $11 respectively. No charge for children under 5.

The museum, at 1701 Front Street in Toledo, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, go to inlandseas.org

If youíre looking for a place to have lunch, you canít do better than Tony Packoís, located less than a mile away at 1902 Front Street. Packoís was famous locally for its Hungarian hot dogs, and became nationally known thanks to the M*A*S*H show on TV. Jamie Farr, a Toledo native who played Corporal Max Klinger on the show, mentioned the restaurant a few times, and the rest is history. Packoís now has several locations, but the original is the one on Front Street.


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