Are you looking for a little fresh air and sunshine? (Well, we’ll settle for overcast, Columbus.) If so, bundle up the kids and explore one of the many awesome Columbus Metro Parks! A few summers ago, I set a goal to visit every Metro Park in the Columbus area with my children. Here are some of my favorites:
Highbanks sits at the top of the list with its wooded trails, gorgeous bluffs, and beautiful vistas. The city feels far away yet the location is very central with easy access to the highway.
- Nature Center: Close to the main entrance, the nature center is a year-round destination with its large indoor play area. The play area is stocked with puppets, puzzles, books, and coloring materials. There are also live turtles, snakes, and frogs on display as well as a couple of interactive exhibits. My kids love viewing the birds at the feeders as well as playing in the large treehouse.
- Bald Eagles: Drive to the newer River Bluff section of the park and see if you can spot a nesting bald eagle!
- Trails: Directly behind the nature center is a beautiful overlook to the ravine below and a gravel trail for a nice walk through the woods. Also, a great family hike is the easy .6 mile Scenic River Trail which follows the Olentangy River. Be prepared for a lot of stone skipping!
- Programs: Every program we’ve attended has been so fun and informative filled with animal facts, stories, crafts, and short hikes. One very popular (and dirty) event in the summer is the International Mud Day celebration!
- Nearby: Get a sundae at the Cookie Dough Creamery and visit the children’s indoor play area at the Shops at Worthington Place.
Be still my heart. This place will put a smile on your face as you stroll through the different gardens and see the seasonal blooms.
- Gardens: My kids love smelling the roses and all of the different herbs as well as watching the waterfall in the rock garden.
- Children’s Play Area: The Sisters’ garden has great activities for kids including a playhouse and a water wheel. Tip: The kids can get soaked here! The nearby pond is always filled with croaking frogs and sunbathing turtles. Follow the paved trail in the woods and you will discover an adorable “secret garden” as well as a fun tree house and rope bridge.
- Trails: This whole park is extremely stroller-friendly. The main garden loop is paved and the short hiking trails are either gravel or on a boardwalk. Try the .5 mile Boardwalk trail.
- Tips: No dogs are allowed. Also, food is only allowed near the parking lot area.
- Nearby: Visit Schneider’s bakery and the Naturally Curious Kids shop in Uptown Westerville.
Kudos to the city planners of Columbus for turning this once industrial site into an incredible metro park for residents to enjoy right in the middle of the city!
- Nature Center: One of the highlights of this park is the newly built nature center which is great for cold or rainy days. There is an indoor play area with a climbing structure, costumes, and a puppet theater as well as a classroom with live reptiles to view. Be sure to check out the library with its play tent, books, and puzzles. From the grand library windows, watch the birds at the feeders or catch an amazing view of the skyline.
- Playground and Climbing Wall: Explore the new, fully-accessible playground and the climbing wall. My kids love to watch people rappelling from the 35′ climbing walls. There is also a 10′ boulder for kids to climb. Other activities in the area include sand volleyball and bocce ball.
- Skyline Views: Climb the red water tower for a sweeping view of the Columbus skyline!
- Story Time: A regular preschool storytime happens on Thursday and Saturday mornings.
- Trails: Take a walk along the Boardwalk trail that begins at the nature center and ends at the playground area. The trail cuts through a wetlands area with plenty of turtles and frogs to spot along the way. For a great family bike ride, try the Scioto Greenway trail that runs through the park.
- Nearby: Try a macaron at Pistacia Vera in nearby German Village.
This is one of the largest metro parks in central Ohio with many sections to explore. My advice is to head directly to the awesome nature center to start your exploration.
- Nature Center: This newer, eco-friendly nature center has great activities for kids. Your kids will love the indoor live stream that is filled with creek wildlife. Watch the staff feed the fish and reptiles during scheduled feeding times. Animal furs and skeletons are also on display for your kids to handle. In addition, there is a large play area that is filled puppets, puzzles, and interactive exhibits.
- Bison: Bison in Columbus? The park system reintroduced bison in the area, and they are roaming in pastures throughout the park. To find the bison’s current location, check out the bison cam at the nature center or ask a staff member. During the winter, the bison graze near the nature center but in warmer months it takes a little hike to reach them. They can usually be seen along the Darby Creek Greenway trail.
- Trails: For a short, shaded walk try the first part of the gravel Riffle run trail that runs from the nature center to the creek. The first part of the trail is flat and has great views of the woods and creek below. Tip: Carry young kids for safety reasons. For bike-loving families, the 5.0 mile Darby Creek Greenway trail runs throughout the park.
- Nearby: Get a sweet treat at Capital City Cakes in downtown Grove City.