A Family Visitor’s Guide to Westerville

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When we moved to Westerville three years ago from a more urban, centrally-located portion of Columbus, I was excited but also had a few reservations. What if the sense of community I was hoping to find wasn’t what I imagined? What if life was humdrum and dull out in the suburbs? What if I had to drive everywhere, all the time? Luckily, these fears were unfounded. Westerville is a place that I have come to love tremendously–one that provides a dizzying array of opportunities for recreation, entertainment and family fun. Here are just a few of the many aspects of Westerville that families will want to check out if they visit.

Uptown

Westerville has one of the most gorgeous, vibrant and highly-walkable “downtown” areas of any Columbus suburb. Steeped in history and abundant in Victorian and turn-of-the-century architecture, Uptown Westerville is a fabulous destination for a family day out. Or for a fun and unique evening with the kids, try one of Westerville’s Fourth Friday celebrations, which take place April – September.

The business district stretches along State St. for several blocks between Home St. and Walnut. There is ample free parking in lots on Home St. and behind the police station/city offices off W. College Ave., as well as along State St. itself. 

As you stroll along the bustling sidewalks, you’ll find a plethora of independent and locally-owned shops, including:

If Antiquing is your game, be sure to visit:

After all that shopping, you’ll probably be in need of refreshment. Uptown won’t let you down here either:

Coffee

Sweet Treats

Lunch and Dinner

Adult Beverages

This last crop of listings is particularly interesting (and recent!) as one of Westerville’s claims to fame is its nickname “Dry Capital of the World.” This is due to the city’s heavy involvement in the Prohibition movement in the early 1900s. You can learn all about Westerville’s dry past at the Anti-Saloon League Museum housed within the Westerville Public Library. You can also take a stroll through “Temperance Row,” a cluster of beautiful craftsman style homes located near Otterbein University (just don’t expect to get a tour–these homes are privately owned).

The social and moral crusaders of Westerville’s past didn’t merely concern themselves with alcohol. Abolitionist roots run deep here, and Westerville’s has a history of involvement in the Underground Railroad. You can learn more about this history at the Hanby House, also located near Otterbein University. For more information about Westerville’s rich history, check out the Westerville Historical Society’s website

Parks and Recreation

While many people only think “Uptown” when they think of Westerville, as a resident with kids, I am most thankful for its amazing system of parks and trails and its state-of-the-art Community Center. The city boasts 13 parks with playgrounds, a skateboard/BMX park, a community tennis complex, a fabulous community pool, and a dog park. It also contains several mini parks and wetlands. The City of Westerville also operates a 44-mile multi-use recreational trail system, and biking is a way of life for many Westerville residents. You can find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Westerville’s parks system here

With so many parks and recreational opportunities in Westerville, I’d never finish writing this if I were to list them all, but here are a few standouts that tend to wow visitors and residents alike:

Millstone Creek Park, 745 N. Spring Rd.

A 15-acre park with massive playground, sand pit, natural play areas, wetlands, boardwalk, little free library, and bathrooms. When we visit (which is often), my kids can never decide between playing on the playground or hanging out on the boardwalk looking for frogs, ducks, and even the occasional mink! So they do a lot of running back and forth, getting tired out in the process. Works for me! The only potential drawback to this park is its lack of shade. We prefer to visit in the summer evenings or the cooler days of spring and fall. 

Alum Creek North Park, 221 W. Main St.

A great shady pick for summer, this 12-acre park just west of Uptown offers a fabulous playground with a pretend train (thus dubbed “the train park” by many locals) and impressive climbing structures as well as a huge sand pit. There are also basketball courts, a sand volleyball court a baseball diamond, and of course, bathrooms. My kids can always find something fun to do here. 

Indoor Playground at the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave.

This place is truly a lifesaver during the cold and dreary months. It’s free, fun, and almost always well-stocked with potential playmates for my kids. While hanging out on the playground, you can also catch a great view of The Watering Hole, aka, the community center’s indoor pool, which is open to the public year-round (for a fee). Be sure to check hours and rates before you go. 

As if all of the above weren’t enough, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to my little slice of Westerville, Genoa Township. Just to the north of Westerville proper, Genoa Township also operates an impressive array of parks and trails. Be sure to check out the parks on offer here

I could go on and on….

Seriously, there is so much more about Westerville that I could include, but that would entail turning this into a book, or at least a hefty pamphlet, and I’m pretty sure the city’s paid staff have already done that to a much higher standard. But hopefully, this little taste of my chosen home has inspired you to visit, or, if you already live here, has made you feel the warm glow of pride in our awesome city. 

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Erin
Erin grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and prior to her arrival in Columbus ten years ago, had seen snow only once in her life (when she was five years old). Due to this early lack-of-snow trauma, she has become a compulsive coat and jacket hoarder. Or maybe she's just a real Midwesterner now. Erin has a career past in PR, Marketing and Communications and is currently a stay-at-home mom to a Kindergartner girl and preschooler boy. She has dreams of freelancing now that both kids are out of diapers. She also has dreams of buying a sheep farm in Nova Scotia, but the former is much more likely. Erin's husband is from Derbyshire in England. He has never read Pride and Prejudice, but possibly saw one of the movie versions in school. Erin and her family enjoy not taking long road trips (Driving to Florida? Really?!), entertaining friends at home, and ordering everything through Amazon Prime. As an individual, Erin enjoys walking, listening to WCBE but never pledging (actually she did pledge once and knows she should do it again and promises she will next year), and spending too much time on Facebook. She and her family live in Westerville. You can contact her at [email protected]