Get Outside- Central Ohio Metro Park Style


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

Highbanksmetro 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

Rocky Fork

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 Rocky Fork Metro Park“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

Glacier Ridge

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

metro parks

Blendon Woods

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 

Sharon Woods

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

metro parksThe 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?

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Jaclyn Groh is citizen of the world, and has lived in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Argentina, a short stint in Paris, and now back to where she was originally born- Columbus! Jaclyn is a mother to a sassy 1 year old, wife to her best friend Christopher, and a clinical medical social worker at Nationwide Children's. Her family moved to the Westerville area 2 years ago, and they have loved exploring Uptown, all of the fantastic parks, and the metro parks here in Columbus. Her passions are moms and babies- they are our life givers and our futures! Professionally, she has helped parents navigate pregnancy, labor and delivery support (she’s a doula!), breastfeeding challenges, pediatric chronic illness, organ transplant, grief and loss, and adjustments across the lifespan. And because of these professional experiences and her education in child development she once believed she would be a well prepared parent, with everything figured out… her daughter works hard to show her that she’s just living in the chaos of parenthood and trying to enjoy the journey along the way like the rest of us. :) She spends every ounce of her free time laughing with her family, scoping out fantastic gluten-free food, or traveling and enjoying adventures with her family across the mid-west. Her many life experiences, including losing her mother just a few years ago, have shaped and influenced her parenting style to be one filled with love, strong attachment, lots of patience, and even more adventures. Jaclyn and her family hope to always be happy, always be kind, and never shy away from an adventure in this city that we love! You can follow more about Jaclyn at :)