Exploring Bowling Green
Community offers a wide range of things to do
By Marie Dunn-Harris
As the beginning of a new school year gets underway, the Bowling Green State University campus is filled with excitement for students living on their own for the first time and for those who couldn’t wait to return. Each year brings new adventures and experiences in the place that most consider their home away from home. Happily for all, both the campus and the community offer a variety of things to do and places to visit.
Earlier this year, the BGSU Visitors Center, located just off East Wooster Street near I-75, formed a partnership with the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote events happening on and around campus.
Executive Director Wendy Stramm said BGSU is her number one tourist attraction. “There are plenty of things to do on campus that our office promotes. And our new partnership with BGSU is huge because we now have a presence right off the highway.”
On campus, you can hit the links at Forrest Creason Golf Course, skate or take in a hockey game at the Ice Arena, see a changing lineup of shows at the Planetarium or enjoy art in all media at the three BGSU art galleries.
Located in the Fine Arts Center, the galleries are free and open to the public. The Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery and the Willard Wankelman Gallery feature student and faculty work plus regional, state and national artists. The Hiroko Nakamoto Gallery is an authentic Japanese tea ceremony room.
Those who enjoy theater have several options to choose from. Student productions, from lively musicals to drama to edgy experimental works, are regularly scheduled in the Donnell Theatre and Eva Marie Saint Theatre, both in The Wolfe Center for the Arts, and the Joe E. Brown Theatre, in University Hall.
Film buffs can see free movies at the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater and Gallery, located in Hanna Hall. It features Tuesday Night Films (mainly American), the Thursday International Film Series, and the Sunday Matinee Series, featuring older and silent film classics, often with live piano accompaniment.
“The best-kept secret on campus is the Gish Film Theater,” said Stramm. “Every single seat has the famous person’s name on it that bought that seat. It’s a beautiful facility that most kids on campus don’t know is there.“
One place for students to see a new movie off campus at a reasonable price is Cinemark Cinema, in the Woodland Mall. Ticket prices are just $3 for a matinee and $5 for an evening show.
Also on campus, students can show their school spirit by attending sporting events for free. New this year are Ziggy Points. Students are awarded points for attending selected events and can redeem them for prizes. The eligible events are not limited to sports but include an array of other opportunities.
Not only is the beginning of the school year an exciting time for students, it’s also a busy time for businesses that anticipate their return. The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, Downtown BG and the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau spent time during freshman orientation to promote the city.
“We had a great opportunity through SOAR (student orientation and registration) to acclimate incoming freshmen and their families to what the community has to offer as a whole. We also encouraged parents to explore the community,” said Earlene Kilpatrick, executive director of the chamber.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau has an easy way for families to explore the city during Falcon Family Weekend, Sept. 21-22. Passport to BG features local businesses and restaurants that offer discounts. The idea is to give families fun ways to visit local businesses and return there in the future.
“We want the community to take advantage of that weekend because there’s an opportunity to come to something that maybe you haven’t had time to do, or would love to do,” Stramm said.
Those who want to participate can pick up a passport at the Visitors Center, travel around to get the passport stamped at participating locations and then turn it in to the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 119 E. Court St. to receive a gift and be entered into a drawing for a weekend getaway.
Many of the locations participating in Passport to BG are close to campus. Bowling Green is known for its vibrant downtown and its business owners who embrace the community. The historic area on Main Street is filled with charming and unique shops, restaurants and bars that offer something for everyone.
“We have clothing stores, a music store, used book store, two relaxing coffee shops and a fantastic number of restaurants all within walking distance,” Kilpatrick said.
Ask any current or former student, faculty or staff member for a recommendation, and most can tell you their favorite. Barbara Ruland, executive director of Downtown Bowling Green, said there are lots of hidden gems. “You have to check out the candy counter at Ben Franklin, the Mosaic Consignment Shop, Happy Badger and Calico, Sage and Time,” she said.
Ruland’s organization also offers Downtown Dollars, which are $5 gift certificates that can be used at more than 70 local businesses. “I have many parents who order Downtown Dollars for their kids, and you can do so right from our website using Paypal,” Ruland said.
Downtown Bowling Green hosts several events throughout the year, which helps attract more people to the area and keeps families coming back. They include the Farmers Market, held every Wednesday afternoon through October, The Black Swamp Arts Festival from Sept. 6-8, Wood County Air Fair on Sept. 14, Downtown Trick or Treat on Oct. 24, Community Tree Lighting on Nov. 22, Downtown Dollars Day on Nov. 30, and Winterfest from Feb. 14-16.
Every year, the city’s chamber of commerce hosts the holiday parade, attracting up to 4,000 people who line the streets to watch.
“It is THE annual community holiday parade, with roots dating back 40 to 50 years now,” said Kilpatrick. This year’s parade is on Nov. 23. Most students will still be in the area before heading home for Thanksgiving break.
To make it convenient for students to get to these events and to visit local businesses, the University Shuttle makes a stop downtown on its daily route. The stop is on the North route and is located on Court Street just east of Main Street. It’s also the same stop that the shuttle makes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights on the Red route.
While most students will experience the Bowling Green nightlife, there are also plenty of affordable places to visit during the day.
“There are a number of quality businesses outside the downtown, and I would encourage anyone to go to our website or community website and look and see all what we have to offer,” Kilpatrick said.
Some of those places include: The Bowling Green Wind Farm, Wood County Historical Center, Snook’s Dream Cars, the National Construction Equipment Museum, the Slippery Elm Trail and Portage Quarry.
The city also has several parks that offer various activities. Carter Park, located at 401 Campbell Hill Road, features an 18-hole disc golf course, sand volleyball courts, a softball complex and playground. Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve, at 615 S. Wintergarden Road, provides miles of hiking trails through forests and prairie meadows. Simpson Garden Park, at 1291 Conneaut Ave., is a community garden featuring a walking path, colorful flowerbeds, a Peace Garden and a Sensory Garden. Down the street is Bowling Green City Park, which has basketball courts, horseshoe pits, inline skating rink, skatepark and the city pool.
On weekdays from 6-9 a.m., WBGU 88.1 FM broadcasts “The Morning Show.” The show is a partnership with the chamber of commerce and serves as a community resource, detailing weekly events in Bowling Green and featuring interviews with community officials. The show is also streamed online.
We also asked fans on the BGSU Facebook page where their favorite places to visit are. Check out their answers.