A couple of years ago we were inspired by a great post to get outside. The writer basically outlined 10 great reasons to get outside throughout the year, and how this benefits you. We decided to adopt this goal and to encourage ourselves to explore all of the metro parks in Central Ohio. While we still haven’t hit all of them (insert parenthood interrupting most of my goals), we have seen beautiful spaces that are only a short drive from home. Having enjoyed many years living in Michigan which is known for and blessed with tremendous amounts of green space, finding refreshing areas near Columbus was a challenge at first. As I have stepped into more and more local parks, however, I have found that Columbus is also blessed with some incredible FREE parks and nature spaces.
There are technically 19 metro parks in the greater Columbus area. You can see a fantastic map of them here. We have hit 8 of them so far and hope to venture to more in the south-east corner of central Ohio this year. Here is a rundown of some of our favorites.
Recommended Columbus Metro Parks
We love Highbanks! Exploring dirt paths in the woods, and the river is so much fun. It is a great place to let littles be little. They can get dirty, muddy, and enjoy the outdoors in a great safe environment. Highbanks also has a fantastic paved path for strollers which is super nice. They have benches along said path that made nursing/feeding/diaper changes a little more convenient as well. This is our go-to park for outdoor walks and exercise!
Website: Highbanks Metro Park
This little gem is so worth exploring. Their paved path is out of this world. While you’re walking, you would never guess being just a few miles outside of the 270 “loop”. It is quiet, breathtakingly beautiful, and has nature trails throughout great open green space. I really enjoyed exploring some of the nature trails through the wildflowers, as they didn’t venture too far from the paved path making them super convenient! They also have, my favorite, a mommy and me swing! It brought our little so many smiles and giggles and I would drive back just for the swing! So worth it! Those with dogs will be happy to hear that there is a dog park here, too.
Website: Rocky Fork Metro Park
Inniswood Metro Gardens
Be prepared to see about 85 people getting family/prom/engagement/etc pictures done while exploring Inniswood. That being said, GO. EXPLORE. See the beauty! It is a sight to be hold in the spring with all of the various blooming flowers. The notorious tulips are NOT over-rated and are worth the drive. A fantastic bonus here for those with toddlers is the play area towards the back of the park. It is seriously so cute and so much fun for the kiddos and can occupy them for a LONG time. You cannot enjoy a picnic at Inniswood so plan accordingly. This is a park that forces you to pause and soak up the beauty that is there. While there are some runners, there are mostly couples and families strolling and letting the beauty sink in.
Website: Inniswood Metro Gardens
Y’all. Glacier Ridge is a must when considering central Ohio parks to check out. The wetlands are so fun to walk through on the wooden walkways, and there are endless amounts of green space to enjoy picnics and to let toddlers toddle and babies crawl about. We happened to visit on the day the Columbus Zoo was hosting an event with animals at the park, too, which was so fun to watch some of the bigger kids enjoy. I loved the community feel of this park, too. Whereas some of the paths at other parks are more intimate and private, Glacier Ridge had a very open, friendly, welcoming vibe and there were many people talking and chatting around the park. This is my favorite “Picnic Park” by a landslide! It was a wonderful day!
Website: Glacier Ridge Metro Park
The “new-er” Natural Play Space at Blendon Woods is worth multiple trips, weekly trips even. When smaller, Annabeth was obsessed with the net swing, watching big kids playing, and crawling around. As she got a little bigger, she liked exploring the climbing nets and was able to play with lots of new friends in this space. Me, well I was envious of those using the zip line! Next time I will be sure to bring my husband so he can man baby duty so I can play, too. 🙂 Blendon Woods has many paths to walk, as well, if you want to get your steps in after your kids play for a bit. I also enjoyed driving through the park (with my sleeping baby in the car seat). So many tree covered roads, and beautiful places to see.
Website: Blendon Woods Metro Park
The lake views at Sharon Woods are phenomenal. One of the best/easiest places to rent canoes locally, too. We enjoyed several walks through this park the last few summers as it is very close to our home, and even closer to St Ann’s where Annabeth and I attended a wonderfully supportive breastfeeding group during my maternity leave. This park is excellent for play dates, picnics, and walks. This park is also home to multiple events throughout the year that are worth checking out. The one caution I give about this park is that several of the trails are closed to strollers. So be sure to keep an eye on the signage!
Website: Sharon Woods Metro Park
The Metropark website is a wonderful place to keep saved. I am still amazed at the number of wonderful events hosted in the parks throughout the year- from yoga to eclipse watching! 🙂 We are really looking forward to adding new favorites to our list this year! What parks are your families’ favorites? What motivates you to get outside?