7 Must-Dos When Visiting the Home of Jeep
If there’s one road trip that every diehard Jeep fan should make at least once, it’s the trek to Toledo, Ohio, the official birthplace of the American nameplate. Think of it as a rite of passage of sorts, considering that the heart of Jeep is so heavily rooted in the Great Lakes city.
“This vehicle has been made in Toledo for 75 years. That’s made for a really special connection between Jeep and the city,” explained Amber Durand-Barber, one of the volunteers for the Toledo Jeep Fest, which kicked off its inaugural event August 13.
It’s a connection that I’ve written about here at JK Forum from a personal perspective as a Toledo native, and a proud owner of a Wrangler myself. That said, there’s still nothing like experiencing that connection for yourself as a Jeep fan. So, I’ve pulled together a list of must dos when visiting the city, highlighted by driving a 75th Anniversary Wrangler.
The plant where the first Willys MB rolled off the assembly line during World War II is long gone, replaced by a new industrial district currently in development called Overland Industrial Park. But one of the original Overland smokestacks still stands, towering high above the former grounds of the plant that built the Wrangler for decades. Currently, construction in and around the site makes it tough to get close to the smoke stack. However, it’s still a must-see for any Jeep fan visiting Toledo.
Location: Central Ave. & Jeep Parkway
Best Time to Go: Tough call, considering that there’s so much construction going in the area. But mid-afternoon might be your best shot when traffic is light if you want to try to snap a photo.
National Museum of the Great Lakes
For a deeper historical look at the era that helped birth Jeep, you should visit the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The interactive exhibit doesn’t focus specifically on Jeep. But it does showcase the Great Lakes history during the period that led to the production of the Willys MB as the provider of more than 80-percent of the steel work that was used during World War II. The museum even features a ship called the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship that’s ported at the site that serves as part of the exhibit.
Location: 1701 Front Street
Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.
Sunday: 12 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.
Best Time to Go: Check the website for special exhibits and documentaries.
Ask anyone who works at Jeep (or pretty much anywhere else for that matter) what the most popular restaurant is in Toledo, and Tony Packo’s is sure to top the list. The Toledo eatery, which specializes in Hungarian-American food, serves up a few notable dishes. But it’s more commonly known for its signature hot dogs, which gained national fame as a favorite of Toledo native, Jamie Farr, who played Corporal Klinger on the hit ‘70s TV show, M*A*S*H. The restaurant has three major dinning locations including one in downtown Toledo (pictured above). But we strongly recommend trying the original Tony Packo’s on the city’s eastside for a more authentic experience.
HOURS: Original Tony Packo’s Location: 1902 Front Street
Monday – Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Best Time to Go: Whenever it’s open.
Toledo North Assembly Complex
What better place to get a true feel for Jeep than by touring the Toledo North Assembly Complex, the plant where the Wrangler is built? Unfortunately, inside tours of the plant are rare. So, about the only thing you really can do to experience the Jeep plant is drive the roughly two-mile loop around the facility. In fact, maybe this can help spark a grass roots campaign to get Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to consider adding a more regular Jeep plant tour for visitors in the near future.
Location: 4400 Chrysler Drive
Best Time to Go: Practically anytime considering that you’re pretty much limited to doing a loop around the plant.
Zingers Bar & Grille
Given that the Toledo Jeep plant doesn’t offer any public tours, about the only way to connect to the plant that produces the iconic Jeep is to spend time at Zingers Bar & Grille, a popular watering hole for Jeep workers. But remember this is diehard, blue-collar country where wings and a Bud Light are standard fare. So, you definitely don’t want to request something like a Martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives at this spot. Oh, and make sure to tell Serena (one of the bartenders) that the team at JK Forum said hi. She’s a huge Jeep fan as well.
Location: 920 Matzinger Rd.
Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.
Sunday: 12 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.
Best Time to Go: After 5 p.m., when Jeep workers from the first shift start settling in for a few drinks before heading home.
Chances are if you own a Jeep, you already own tons of Jeep T-shirts. If not, you can always order those online. But for a more authentic piece of Toledo apparel you need look no further than the Holy Toledo Brand, a merchandise line named after the saying that (along with Jeep) has helped make Toledo a household name. The Swamp Shop (where the memorabilia are sold) is also an apparel retailer for the Toledo Mud Hens, a farm team for the Detroit Tigers that has also come to represent one of the unique things about the city.
Location: 3 North St. Clair St.
Monday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Best Time to Go: Anytime there isn’t a home Toledo Mud Hens game because of all the traffic — unless you want to catch a game.
Classic Toledo Photo
Every road adventure needs a memorable Facebook-worthy photo to commemorate the experience. Of course, the go-to photo usually involves a breathtaking city skyline. Trouble is, Toledo’s skyline doesn’t have much of a signature view that’s identifiable from the tons of other cities with a waterfront.
That said, you might want to consider a historical backdrop like a mural that pays homage to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who many say was actually the first African American to break the color barrier in major league baseball as a catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings. Or you might want to take a photo in front of Thomas A. DeVilbiss High School (pictured) where, back in 1944, the student body raised money by selling War bonds and stocks to buy 14 Willys MBs to send to U.S. troops in Europe with the slogan “A dime a day, a Jeep a week.”
Of course, the Jeep assembly plant and smoke stack make nice cover pics as well.
Moses Fleetwood Walker Mural: 19 South St. Clair St.
Thomas A. DeVilbiss High School: 3301 Upton Ave.
Best Time to Go: Early mornings or early afternoons are usually good times to snap a quick photo at all the sites mentioned.