When the stay at home order began, my husband and I were fearful of what was going to come. Like other families, we were struggling with our new normal of being home and engaging with our kids without socializing and burning off energy at our usual indoor and outdoor facilities. We realized very quickly that we could not stay at home all day without sibling rivalry kicking in or succumbing to boredom and watching the television. We decided to responsibly venture out.
Here are some areas that we visited in central Ohio and beyond, that helped us through the first half of the stay at home order. We strategically chose the following locations to visit because we knew there would be few people doing the same and if there were others, we could appropriately social distance ourselves. Though the stay at home order has been challenging the silver lining in this experience for us has been visiting areas we may not have thought to visit that are free and safe, providing a nice change from being at home.
Hopefully, some of these suggestions will encourage you to enjoy responsibly leaving your house as the state slowly opens back up.
- Salt Fork State Park is about 1.5 hours from Columbus and was one of the first places my family and I drove to after the stay at home order. The park has a large lake that centers around several hiking trails through the woods and down to the lake. The trails we decided to travel on were loose stone and not paved. It was fun for the kids to find colorful rocks on our walk through the woods. There is a paved path with steps through the forest from the lake up to the resort. At the time, the resort was closed and we were the only people in sight exploring the property.
- Bryn Du Mansion in Granville has a special place in my heart because this is where my husband and I were married. The grounds are beautiful and full of flowers and foliage throughout. The hill in the front of the mansion that leads to a huge open field is so fun to watch the kids run up and down. There is a neighborhood next to the mansion with sidewalks and a walking path up and down the hills. Our kids took their bikes and scooter and we rode up and down the hills before having a packed lunch in the car.
- Hoover Dam in Westerville was a bit crowded on the walking paths, however, there is an open field near the dam that is perfect for flying a kite. We walked down the hill and flew our kite with the kids and raced back up the hill on our way out. The dam was very fascinating to watch for our little ones too.
- Creekside in Gahanna has some great walking and biking trails. We have done both and enjoy letting the kids feed the ducks and fish. This time of year the baby ducks are hatching and it’s fun to watch them learn to swim. If the water is not too high from rain it is nice to let the little ones get close to the water and look for crawdads or muscles. Here is a helpful Visitor’s Guide to Gahanna and some additional creeking locations in Columbus.
- Hocking Hills is about an hour or so drive from Columbus and offers an out of the way hiking area called Boch Hollow. Not many visitors travel here so it would be easy to feel as though you are the only people there. There is a nature trail that winds through the woods leading to a dock where you could fish or try to catch tadpoles.
- Franklin Park Conservatory has beautiful grounds with lots of blooms and fun bridges to walk over. There is an outdoor coy pond and it is free to the public at all times of the year. On a beautiful sunny day there will be lots of visitors so plan your trip wisely to safely social distance. Here are more reasons to love Franklin Park Conservatory.
- Hannah Park in Gahanna has a solid paved loop for stroller rides and bike rides that is flat and easy to ride on. Our daughter learned how to ride her bike there when the stay at home order first began.
- Delaware State Park is a very large park that offers a lot of camping and hiking trails. There is a beach as well that is fun for the kids to run on and look for shells as well as watch the sea gulls. It would have been even more fun if I had thought to bring some sand toys to play with at the beach. When we visited, we were the only people on the beach and the kids enjoyed the change of scenery the park had to offer.