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“New, exciting and informative”

National Museum of the Great Lakes
Ranked #4 of 79 things to do in Toledo
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: This is a maritime museum dedicated to the Great Lakes. There are six exhibit galleries, an outdoor maritime park, and the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship. While the Ship is open seasonally May- October, the museum and maritime park open year round.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children, Wheelchair access
Level 5 Contributor
57 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“New, exciting and informative”
Reviewed August 28, 2014 via mobile

One of the best museums I have visited. Interactive, not boring at all, lots of information packaged in a good way. Smaller but still great.

Don't miss out the ship on the outside. Use AAA and you get a small discount.

Visited August 2014
Thank Basi1Fawlty
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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206 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Homewood, Illinois
Level 6 Contributor
110 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 53 helpful votes
“Immerse Yourself In The Great Lakes”
Reviewed August 28, 2014

A correction before I review: The new name of this museum is the National Museum of the Great Lakes. All other information, such as the address and the telephone number, remains the same.

You'll want to get the name correct, because you'll want to make sure you visit. With 84% of the continent's fresh water supply, the Great Lakes are vital to the health and economy of North America, and this museum tells the lakes' stories in a manner interesting to both adults and children. And you get to explore a real Great Lakes ore ship (more about that later).

There is nothing about the Great Lakes that isn't covered here. The exhibits are arranged so you can either go right to an area of greater interest, or you can follow a sort of self-guided tour, from the earliest exploration and settlement, through the story of expansion of lake usage, and the industries it developed. Unfortunately, shipwrecks have also been a part of the Great Lakes, and there is a shipwreck gallery; however, exhibits showing lake safety are also part of the museum.

There are some really great scale models of the ships that have sailed the lakes over the years. Not all were finished when my wife and I visited, but they could be there for your visit. One exhibit gives an excellent view of how boats have changed (and enlarged) from the canoe to the modern freighter, by having the models next to each other. There are also other exhibits of maritime technology. A good starting point for museum exploration is watching the introductory movie, "The Great Lakes: A Powerful Force".

To get the full experience, purchase the combination admission, which allows you to board the Col. James M. Schoonmaker, an ore boat that plied Great Lakes for many years. Much of the boat is still as it was during its service, and various rooms are equipped as when they were in regular use. There are the cabins, from the regular seamen, to steward (kitchen chief), to captain, to the special owner's/guests' suite. The kitchen, while no longer fully-stocked, still has most of the appliances and food storage units. The beautifully-paneled dining room used for the captain and upper members of the crew (and guests) is also intact.

You can tour the pilothouse, plus get an idea of the amount of ore that could be loaded onto the ship by standing on a platform within an actual cargo hold. There are people aboard at all times to answer questions.

When you visit the museum, be prepared to spend some time, as you will find yourself fascinated by all on exhibit. However, because the combo ticket requires a wrist band, if you need to interrupt your visit, as we did (to break for lunch between exploring the museum building and the ship---Packo's is real close), you can come back the same day.

As people who live near Lake Michigan, and have visited all the Great Lakes, my wife and I found the National Museum of the Great Lakes especially fascinating. But wherever you live, you, too, will be fascinated.

Visited July 2014
1 Thank LKTravelerboy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Level 4 Contributor
30 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Little boys dream”
Reviewed August 26, 2014

This is great for kids. Our 4yr old was looking for pirates. He got to see where they slept and cooked food, steer the ship and the huge cargo hold. There was a schooner The Niagara and he was thrilled an we were too. They enjoyed the museum also which has some hands on activites. There was a boat show also which was good also.

Visited August 2014
Thank Samm1020
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Saint Clair Shores, Michigan
Level 4 Contributor
41 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Even 12 year old daughter enjoyed walking around the ship”
Reviewed August 25, 2014

We really enjoyed our visit. The museum was nice and touring the ship was a lot of fun. The tall ship Niagara was there for us to walk around also. My wife, 12 year old daughter and I had a blast walking around the ship and seeing how the sailors use to live on this ship.

Visited August 2014
Thank dredawn1313
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toledo, Ohio
Level 6 Contributor
74 reviews
36 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 115 helpful votes
“They have done a great job restoring this ship!”
Reviewed August 17, 2014

We visited this ship and museum and thought it was great. We have been through several other ships before and I felt you could see quite a bit with thus one. I thought the cargo hold at the bottom of the ship was very interesting as well as the passenger area. The museum was of medium size and did have a number of interactive exhibitions. I would definitely recommend this to those of all ages.

Visited August 2014
1 Thank Visa711
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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