Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Bowling Green, OH

  • Published 2023/03/02

Bowling Green is the seat of Wood County, Ohio.

Founded in 1832, Bowling Green became a town in 1855 and incorporated as a city in 1901.

The city took its name after Bowling Green, Kentucky, with locals calling it BG in short (pronounced as Bee Gee).

Surrounded chiefly by flat farmlands, this city is “green for miles” with plenty of lush areas to get some fresh air and outdoor recreation.

The city also has its flair for festivals, historical museums, sports, on-campus events, shopping, and local restaurants.

Bowling Green, however, is most known for its public university, the Bowling Green State University.

As a result, Bowling Green is at a crossroads between college culture and country lifestyle.

Here are the best things to do in Bowling Green, OH:

See Ohio’s First Utility Wind Farm

Windmill farm of bowling green

Fogonthedowns at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bowling Green is home to the first utility wind farm in Ohio, which you will see from a distance when driving down State Route 6.

Standing on an old landfill, the wind farm started operation in 2003.

Solar panel post at Bowling Green's Wind Farm

Photo by and ©2009 Dustin M. Ramsey (Kralizec!), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Each structure stands 257 feet with three 132-foot-long rotating blades, soaring nearly 400 feet at its apex above the corn fields.

The turbines can generate 14,000 megawatts, enough to power 1500 homes.

Today, you can see windmills in various sizes and locations throughout the state.

Travel in the “Past Lane” with Snook’s Dream Cars

Snook’s Dream Cars, located along County Home Road, brings automotive history to life.

The museum showcases the vast collection of the late car enthusiast Bill Snook.

The Snooks restored a 1929 Model A Ford in 1963, igniting their passion for cars.

Bill’s son Jeff drove the car at 16.

Since then, Bill and Jeff have built up their collection of cars and car memorabilia to represent the past’s beauty and style.

The museum includes a replica of a Texaco gas station from the 1940s.

Find a stunning showroom of their dream car collection presented in various settings, including a general store from the 1930s to a racetrack from the 1960s.

The models in the collection are convertibles, coupes, race cars, roadsters, and sedans, made from the 1930s to the 1970s.

These cars also represent Alfa Romeo, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Datsun, Ford, Jaguar, Kaiser, MG, Packard, Pontiac, Triumph, and Willys.

Considered a living museum, all cars can still go; Jeff drives them around town regularly.

Bike the Slippery Elm Trail from Black Swamp Preserve

Slippery elm trail at Black Swamp Preserve

Mbrickn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Black Swamp Preserve is a nature preserve located on South Maple Street, created with BG City Parks.

This nature preserve features grass trails, pollinator gardens, and bluebird nesting boxes.

It also offers paved access to the Slippery Elm Trail, a 13-mile trail from Bowling Green to North Baltimore, Ohio.

A bird at Black Swamp Preserve

Mbrickn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Slippery Elm Trail, opened in 1995, is a popular multi-use trail for bicycling, walking, and in-line skating in northwestern Ohio.

The route begins from the Black Swamp Preserve in Bowling Green, passing through Portage and Rudolph to North Baltimore.

The Wood County Parks District maintains the Slippery Elm Trail.

Experience the Great Depression at the Carter Historic Farm

Carter Historical Farm is a restored farmhouse that tells the tale of Ohio during the Great Depression.

Take a fascinating look at a pivotal period in history that had a significant impact on people’s lives.

The Carters bought the farmhouse in 1901 and were lucky to pay it off before the decade-long economic depression.

Their reliance on locally-grown food and community aided the family through that period.

They owned the farmhouse for generations until they donated the property to the Wood County Park District.

The property is now both a working farmhouse and a living history museum depicting the daily life of a farming family in the 1930s.

The farm features restored farm equipment, a barn, a chicken coop house, short forested trails, a 20-acre wetland, and an 1890s schoolhouse.

Visitors can tour the house and the grounds for free from Fridays through Sundays.

Attend the Wood County Fair

Every summer, nearly 100,000 people attend the Wood County Fair.

It’s a longstanding tradition of Wood County celebrated for more than a century.

Many of the county’s youth and the rest of the community have benefited from this tradition, providing education, exhibitions, and entertainment.

It instills pride in everyone in the community, including the county and the state.

The Wood County Agricultural Society hosts this annual event at the Wood County Fairgrounds, which starts before or after the end of July.

The fair features a youth parade, harness raising, truck and tractor pull, king and queen contest, and concerts.

You can also watch a cheerleading competition, antique tractor display, catch a pig contest, kiddie pedal pull, water ball tournament, and so much more.

The Wood County Fair has helped numerous individuals create unforgettable experiences.

Gaze at the Stars at the BGSU Planetarium

The Planetarium, located inside the Bowling Green State University (BGSU) campus, is a science theater classroom for the University’s Astronomy classes.

The Planetarium serves not just the University students but also other campuses and the community of northwest Ohio.

The Planetarium first opened its doors in 1984 and underwent significant renovations from 2013 through 2014.

The 114-seat Planetarium is in a 40-foot dome with modern SciDome video technology.

Spectators can see the universe and the sky as they appear from any location on Earth.

Everyone is welcome to attend public Planetarium activities, including a star talk and a Planetarium show.

Weekend events are followed by public stargazing through the 0.5-meter telescope on the observatory roof, where guests may see the sky up close and learn about astronomy.

Visit the Wood County Museum

Buildings at Wood County Museum

Mbrickn, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Wood County Museum is the original location of the Wood County Infirmary, also known as the Poor Farm.

This 50-acre site features the Wood County History Museum and the Lyle Fletcher Arboretum.

Find several outbuildings, including an oil derrick, a pest house, a lunatic house, a hog barn, and a log cabin.

Built in 1868, the main building housed the poor, the physically disabled, and mentally ill patients in Wood County.

The presence of the infirmary in Bowling Green contributed to its selection as the county seat instead of Perrysburg, Ohio.

The infirmary closed in 1971, relocating residents to a new facility.

A local historian and city parks director persuaded the county commissioners to save the building.

By 1975, it reopened as the Wood County Museum.

The museum features over 30 exhibits about the history of both the building and Wood County.

You can also join a tour of the museum grounds, walking trails, and an Animal Crossing scavenger hunt for the kids.

Join a Class at Big Fab Lab

Are you an aspiring engineer, inventor, or artist?

Big Fab Lab can help you unleash your technical and creative side by experimenting with tools and creating prototypes of whatever you can think of.

Big Fab Lab is a community-run, open-access workshop in Northwest Ohio where people with comparable interests can meet and collaborate.

The lab provides hands-on expertise in crafting, design, and manufacturing, to individuals, schools, and businesses.

Members can also sell and test their products in the lab’s retail space.

They have equipment for laser engraving, 3D scanning, 3D printing, metalworking, welding, electronics, programming, photography, pottery, woodworking, and more.

Big Fab Lab provides regular sessions with competent instructors who teach individuals how to use the tools and equipment to materialize their ideas securely.

After becoming a member and passing training for basic tool safety, members can access all tools and equipment in the lab.

Visit the Construction Equipment Museum

The National Construction Equipment Museum is a non-profit committed to preserving the history of heavy equipment used primarily in dredging, construction, and surface mining industries.

The Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) runs the museum.

Find various construction equipment such as bulldozers, concrete mixers, cranes, drills, dump trucks, rollers, scrapers, shovels, and other heavy machinery.

The HCEA rented land in Bowling Green in 1992 to operate an equipment museum.

The collection now has more than 90 machines from the 1800s to the 1960s.

The museum is more than simply a tourist attraction as it has hosted multiple international conventions of the HCEA.

The National Construction Equipment Museum also archives a vast collection of historical artifacts used by researchers worldwide.

These artifacts include documents, pictures, movies, slides and videos representing more than 2,600 firms.

Explore the Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve

The Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve is a 103-acre nature preserve with forests, meadows, and wetlands.

Bowling Green was previously part of the Great Black Swamp, covering most of Northwestern Ohio.

The area used to overflow with wildlife, vast forests, and savannas covered in lush vegetation.

Bowling Green bought Wintergarden Woods after WWII.

People went there to indulge in passive leisure activities.

It heralded the city’s acquisition of more properties, including St. John Woods, Twyman Woods, and Bordner Meadow, among others.

Today, the Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve offers more than three miles of hiking/walking trails with various loops winding through acres of prairie meadows and woodlands.

The staff naturalists of Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve conducts a range of events to educate the community about plant and animal life in the area.

See Art at the BGSU Fine Arts Center

Exterior of BGSU Fine Arts Center

Mbrickn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Fine Arts Center at the Bowling Green State University campus.

The Fine Arts Center features three galleries with items curated by the BGSU School of Art.

The exhibits showcase contemporary art, including work by national artists, students, faculty, and some of the region’s most brilliant and successful artists.

Visitors can participate in inclusive and collaborative events that bring social, political, and cultural issues to the forefront through dialogue and new ideas.

All exhibits are open to the public for free.

Watch the National Tractor Pulling Championships

The National Tractor Pulling Championships is the world’s largest outdoor tractor and truck pulling event.

For over 50 years, people have traveled worldwide to attend and participate in the National Tractor Pulling Championships.

Held in late August, this event features all types of tractor and truck pulling, from Two-Wheel Drive Trucks, Mini Rods, Super Farm, to Super Semis.

This three-day event has five thrilling pull sessions, delectable food stands, live bands, campsites, and a merchandise tent.

The organization has partnered with the Make A Wish Foundation for more than 20 years, with volunteers running around the stadium to help raise funds for the foundation.

The weekend event draws 65,000 people and has more than 2,000 campsites, making it the ideal way to close the summer in Bowling Green.

Get Active at the BGSU Student Recreation Center

Opened in 1979, the BGSU Student Recreation Center has improved the well-being of the University and the local community.

The center offers state-of-the-art facility spaces, including a weight/strength area, ab/stretching area, slam wall area, and activity courts for basketball, volleyball, and badminton.

You can also play tennis, a 35-foot climbing wall, an indoor track, swimming pools, and more.

The BGSU Student Recreation Center has earned the “Official Hammer Strength Training Center” level.

You need a day pass or a membership to use the facility.

Go Skating at Slater Family Ice Arena

Entrance doors of Slater Family Ice Arena

Mbrickn, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Slater Family Ice Arena is a must-visit if you love the ice or want to learn something new.

Since 1967, the Slater Family Ice Arena has served the local communities and the University for more than 50 years.

Previously known as the BGSU Ice Arena, it was renamed Slater Family Ice Arena in 2017.

The arena held about 2,800 seats until 1989, when they expanded it to 5,000 seats.

The Slater Family Ice Arena is home to the Bowling Green Falcons under the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).

The arena also hosts several other high school hockey teams, the Bowling Green Youth Hockey Association, and the Bowling Green Skating Club.

The Slater Family Ice Arena offers a wide choice of programs for people of all ages and skill levels, including hockey, figure skating, and recreational skating.

Play Golf at the Stone Ridge Golf Course

Stone Ridge Golf Club is surrounded by 150 acres of magnificent gentle slopes and rolling hills.

It’s an 18-hole, 72-par, 7,064-yard bent grass course.

Stone Ridge Golf Club has quickly established itself as Northwest Ohios’ best public golf course.

It ranked among the “Top 10 Best Public Courses” and continues to live up to that reputation by delivering outstanding service to visitors in a first-class facility.

Stone Ridge Golf Club offers dining at the clubhouse and caters to banquets and weddings.

Have Fun Bowling with the Whole Family at Al-Mar Lanes

Throughout Bowling Green, Al-Mar Lanes is one of the famous independently-owned and operated bowling centers.

It takes pride in its budget-friendly rates and kid-friendly bumper bowling lanes.

One of its stunning amenities includes special lighting effects, so you can bowl to your heart’s content with the regular lights down.

Take on the challenge of joining leagues and tournaments while you’re there, too!

Situated off of North Main Street, Al-Mar Lanes promises you a grand time with your family or group.

Enjoy the Nature Scenery at Simpson Garden Park

Signage of Simpson Garden Park

Rosamar /

Simpson Garden Park is your ideal outdoor flower sanctuary on Conneaut Avenue.

Established in 2002, this urban garden has about 13 sections of special flower exhibits and attractions.

It sits on about 11 acres of rolling slopes and native flowers and plants.

For your little ones, the wondrous Children’s Discovery Garden offers a world of education in the midst of flowering plants and shrubs.

A vibrant flower at Simpson Garden Park

Rosamar /

Deepen your knowledge about trees when you stop by the Terrific Trees section.

There’s also a Healing Garden dedicated to herbs and healing plants and a Sensory Garden that offers plant displays that cater to each of your senses.

Simpson Garden Park offers more for your floral preferences, so be sure to drop by this site sometime.

A trail at Simpson Garden Park

Mbrickn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brave a Tour around Distracted Haunted House

When it comes to spooky encounters, Distracted Haunted House should be at the top of the list of your must-experience attractions in Bowling Green.

This haunted house offers original scares and creative rooms to get you to shout in surprise.

But what makes this horror site more haunting is its origins.

Lucy Aberknacky, also going by the name Lucy Demon, was a girl who died sneaking into the horror house in Woodland Mall.

Many claim her spirit continues to roam around the mall, wreaking havoc all over.

Alongside creepy props and rooms, the house also comes with a Shock Camera photo booth and the Recovery Zone where you can sit by the fire.

Distracted Haunted House is on North Main Street.

Go for a Quiet Stroll along the River Banks at Otsego Park

Get your outing essentials ready because, at Otsego Park, you’re in for a stunning naturescape surprise.

At 21 acres, this recreational site has served the community since 1937.

This park is home to the Thompson Stone Hall where many come to celebrate various events and gatherings.

Surrounding the park is a river trail that looks out into the Maumee River.

Get to Fuller Preserve by driving along West River Road.

Feel Inspired by the Art Mediums at Black Swamp Arts Festival

People at Black Swamp Arts Festival

Mbrickn, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Swamp Arts Festival is your ultimate arts and music destination on South Main Street.

It spans three days and offers free admission.

On top of that, it’s also known as the largest festival of its kind in all of Ohio.

Meet new artists and bands as you listen to lively and moving tunes during the festival’s performances.

Visit art exhibitions, especially that of the Chalk Walk competition, and expand your knowledge of art.

Free your schedule for Black Swamp Arts Festival every September!

Final Thoughts

Apart from permanent attractions and annual festivities, this small “college town” has seasonal activities, not to mention the bustling downtown.

Overall, Bowling Green is a city of character and charm that will satisfy your thirst for travel.

It’s a must-visit during your trip to beautiful Ohio.

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