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Marcy’s Clayground

Make memorable works of art at paint-your-own-pottery studio


One of my favorite memories of attending Garfield Elementary School in Medina, Ohio, was when Mrs. Werger brought out big slabs of gray clay for us to fashion into works of art.

In first grade I made a basket that I painted “robin’s egg blue” – that’s what the bottle labeled it. Although my basket lacked luster when I handed it over to my art teacher, it came out of the kiln as a vibrant, colorful object d’art.

Our children recently had a similar experience at Marcy’s Clayground, at 6685 Dublin Center Dr. in Dublin. Marcy’s allows you to select a piece of unpainted pottery off a shelf, paint it and pick it up one week later after it’s been fired.

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There’s no charge to use the space, so you potentially could work on something for weeks, using the space as your studio. We stayed for several relaxing hours. Our daughter selected a piece that portrayed a dragon atop a castle. Our son chose to paint a piggy bank because he loves pigs.

The kids weren’t crazy about the dullness of the paint on their artwork. The real thrill was returning a week later to retrieve the creations. The rich colors and shiny glaze brought them to life, just as I remember with my robin’s egg blue basket.

Our kids proudly display them today on their dressers.

Marcy’s website touts having more than 150 ceramic items and more than 80 shades of paint. Prices range from $3-$50. You’re charged half the cost of the figure to decorate it. So if an item costs $10, it’ll be $15 after you paint it.

For more information, visit marcysclayground.com.

SportsOhio is located at 6314 Cosgray Rd., Dublin.
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SportsOhio

Spaces for city kids to play inside and out


Playing outside was easy when I was a kid growing up in northeastern Ohio. I simply walked out our front door and explored the world, often following streams wherever they led.

SportsOhio in Dublin offers spaces for city kids to leisurely play inside and out.

SportsOhio is a hundred-acre campus of rec centers with indoor and outdoor areas for soccer, baseball and ice skating. It’s also a fun zone for playing miniature golf, driving go-karts, hitting golf balls and baseballs, and jumping on inflatables.

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Two ways for families to sample what’s available at SportsOhio are during “Open Play Days” on select Fridays throughout the year and at “Phat Fridays” in the spring and summer.

My children and I checked out an “Open Play Day” at the FieldSports building in early April. I signed a waiver and paid $8 apiece for my kids to play for three hours. Rosie and Max went straight for the bounce-house area that included a jump house, inflatable slide and obstacle course.

They jumped, slid and bounced until they were red in their faces, at which point I purchased blue Slushies for them at the concession stand. We then climbed a set of stairs to rows of picnic tables. The perch also served as a lookout post over the vast indoor facility.

We spied ball fields on either side and a fierce game of dodgeball taking place in a court in front of us. Behind that was a basketball court where kids were riding scooter boards across a shiny, wood floor. The most appealing area was a turf-covered field filled with toys normally found outside, like hula hoops, bouncy balls, scooters, frisbees and big-wheeled tricycles.

The three hours zipped by, leaving my kids pleasantly exhausted for the ride home.

We’ll most likely return for “Phat Fridays,” when visitors get unlimited access to outdoor activities such as go-karts, mini golf, inflatables, batting cages and outdoor fields for $15 apiece from 7-10 p.m., beginning April 24.

SportsOhio is located at 6314 Cosgray Rd., Dublin. For more information, call 614-791-3003 or visit www.sportsohio.org. Learn about upcoming “Open Play Days.”

Chuck E. Cheese’s
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Chuck E. Cheese’s

Confessions of a closet fan


Don’t judge, but we’re regulars at Chuck E. Cheese’s. In one moment, as parents, we were saying we’d never step foot into the chain restaurant that’s got a ratty-looking animatronic mouse for a mascot. But the next moment we realize we’ve been there five times, saving up game points so we can redeem top-shelf prizes for our kids. (We only need 500 more tickets to get the Star Wars Fighter Pods, which go for 2,500 tickets.)

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How did this happen? I blame it on an invitation for a preschooler’s birthday party, which we didn’t even attend because we were on vacation. But once the thought entered our son’s brain of a mystical place “Where a kid can be a kid,” it was over. The requests poured in.

“When are we going to Chuck E. Cheese? Can I have my birthday there, too?”

Going there on our own would be easier than hosting a party, we thought. We spent two hours at the Dublin location playing video arcade games, a bargain considering we’d spent $20 on 80 brass tokens, which filled two plastic cups. It took just one coin to play each game instead of two or more like at other entertainment centers. And the games worked, dispensing tickets as they were supposed to.

The restaurant also was clean and the environment felt safe, thanks to a woman who served as gatekeeper at the entrance. She made sure family members displayed matching glow-in-the-dark stamps before they exited.

The menu offered plentiful options beyond pizza, and the salad bar looked appetizing. We soon found out we weren’t the only closet fans, as the place has been packed each time we’ve visited.

There are three Chuck E. Cheese’s locations in central Ohio:

  • 2711 Martin Rd., Dublin, 614-791-9480
  • 4284 Macsway Ave., Columbus, 614-863-6482
  • 3631 Soldano Blvd., Columbus, 614-351-8884

For more information, visit www.chuckecheese.com.

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Indian Run Falls

Uncover a waterfall at downtown Dublin park


There’s a small, hidden park with a waterfall in the middle of historic downtown Dublin.

I didn’t know about it until recently, and I wonder how many people do.

Indian Run Falls makes a perfect picnic spot, photo op or place to skip rocks, concealed from the businesses along High and Bridge streets in Old Dublin.

Once the stomping grounds of Native Americans in the area, the park features walking trails, picnic shelters and observation decks overlooking a gorge and stream with a series of cascades.

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One entrance to the park is near the Dublin Library at 75 N. High St. My children and I, though, entered via a parking lot at 700 Shawan Falls Dr.

We walked along a dirt path, passing a field of wildflowers, to an observation deck. It was tough to see the waterfalls from atop the gorge because of the trees, so we descended a staircase to the creek below.

There were no signs telling you to stay out of the water, but common sense says it’s probably a good idea. Wearing water shoes, my son walked in the shallow stream, venturing farther than I wanted him to go. Not knowing where the stream led, I jumped into the water wearing my tennis shoes and went after him. This was by far the most exciting part of this adventure! I quickly retrieved him and held his hand from then on.

Otherwise, this park is low-key, best kept as a secret. So, shhh.

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Central Ohio Farm Markets

Prime picking time for farmers markets


One of the best things about summer in Ohio is the bounty of fruits and vegetables. There’s nothing like a sun-ripened tomato, picked fresh from the vine. Even better is dicing it up and combining it with peeled cucumbers, strips of basil and a freshly made vinaigrette for a tasty summertime salad.

You can find these ingredients and more at the many farm markets sprouting up this time of year in central Ohio. I recently visited the farmers market in the Columbus neighborhood of Clintonville, held each Saturday from April through November.

Vendors from around Ohio set up temporary shops along N. High Street, offering fruits, vegetables, pastries, jams, honey and flowers. The farmers grow their produce within 75 miles of Columbus, so it’s made for flavor — not made to survive long trips on trucks or trains.

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Here is a brief look at some of the many farm markets around central Ohio:

Bexley Farmers Market: 4-7 p.m., Thursdays, May through October, Bexley City Hall, 2111 E. Main St., Bexley. Learn more: www.bexleyfarmersmarket.com.

Canal Winchester Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon., Saturdays, May through October, Main Street in downtown Canal Winchester. Learn more: www.thecwfm.com.

Clintonville Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, April through November; and 4-7 p.m., Wednesdays, June through August, west side of N. High Street between Orchard Lane and W. Dunedin Road, Columbus. Learn more: www.clintonvillefarmersmarket.org.

Delaware Farmers Market: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Saturdays; 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, May through October, Sandusky Street, downtown Delaware. Learn more: www.mainstreetdelaware.com/farmers-market.

Dublin Farmers Market: 3:30-6:30 p.m.., Wednesdays, May through September, Oakland Nursery, 4261 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., Dublin. Learn more: www.dublinfarmersmarket.com.

Franklinton’s Market at 400: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturdays (biweekly), year round, 400 W. Rich St., Columbus. Learn more: 400westrich.com.

Grandview Avenue Farmers Market: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturdays, July through October, 1371 Grandview Ave., Grandview Heights.

Grove City Farmers Market: 8 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, April through October, Grove City Town Center, at the corners of Park Street and Broadway.

Hilliard Farm Market: 4-7 p.m., Tuesdays, June through September, parking lots at the corner of Wayne and Center streets, Hilliard. Learn more: hilliardfarmmarket.com.

Jefferson Township Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, June through September, Jefferson Community Park, 7494 Clark State Rd., Blacklick.

Lancaster Farmers Market: 8 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, May through October, Government Services parking lot, 239 W. Main St., Lancaster. Learn more: www.lancasterohfarmersmarket.org.

Pearl Market: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays, May through October, Pearl Alley, one block north of the Ohio Statehouse, downtown Columbus. Learn more: downtowncolumbus.com/pearlmarket.

Powell Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, May through October, City of Powell Municipal Building, 47 Hall St., Powell.

Reynoldsburg Farmers Market: 3-6 p.m., Thursdays, June through August, Huber Park, 7300 E. Livingston Ave., Reynoldsburg.

Worthington Farmers Market: 8 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, May through October; 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, November through April (indoors), downtown Olde Worthington. Learn more: worthingtonfarmersmarket.blogspot.com.

Upper Arlington Farmers Market: 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, May through September, Upper Arlington Senior Center, 1945 Ridgeview Rd.

Uptown Westerville Farmers Market: 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, May through October, N. State and E. Home roads, Westerville. Learn more: www.marketwednesday.com.

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Chief Leatherlips

Play by 12-foot-high limestone head at park by Scioto River


Little did we know that on the very day we visited the Leatherlips monument in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, the limestone sculpture of a Native American chief was quietly celebrating its 22nd birthday.

Not that we would have known. There was no one else around the 12-foot-high limestone head on this sweltering day. But on July 1, 1990, the Dublin Arts Council held a dedication ceremony at the statue’s location in Scioto Park, an area along the Scioto River that was once home to the Wyandot chief, as well as near his unfortunate place of death.

In addition to the Leatherlips statue, the park has a play area, several picnic shelters and an amphitheater with grass seating and a 1,000-square-foot, wooden stage. During June and July, the park hosts “Sundays at Scioto,” featuring musical acts from 7-8:30 p.m. at the amphitheater.

Our family of four stopped by the roadside attraction at 7377 Riverside Drive on a whim to let the kids play at the playground and to explore the statue, which you can climb atop for intriguing family photos. The outing ended up being a delightful, impromptu adventure that also included skipping stones into the Scioto and climbing an easily scalable tree.

The highlight, however, remains the monument and its mystic lore. Situated on a sloping lawn, the statue stares westward – the setting sun illuminating its white stone. Legend has it that Leatherlips, who was a friend to the early white settlers, wouldn’t follow his tribe as they headed northward in 1810, so they gave him an ultimatum: Either he’d join them or face certain death.

Leatherlips knelt down beside his own grave, looked toward the sun and took a tomahawk to the forehead.

These days, it’s popular around central Ohio to blame Leatherlips for the inclement weather that typically accompanies the Memorial golf tournament held in the spring at nearby Muirfield Village. I don’t know about curses, but we found Leatherlips and his cozy park to be a real charmer.

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Ballantrae Spray Park

Beat heat, dance with 15-foot-tall bunnies


Housing developments tend to look alike with “rows of houses that are all the same,” as the Monkees sang in their 1960s hit song “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

But the whimsical community of Ballantrae, in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, is a pleasant exception. It resembles an Irish countryside with stone houses, fabricated rolling hills, decorative grasses and hand-stacked, rubble walls.

And then, of course, there are the 15-foot-tall dancing rabbits.

The three statues, titled the “Dancing Hares,” are part of a 32-acre community park at the entrance of the development at 6350 Woerner Temple Rd. The park also contains the Ballantrae Spray Park, an outdoor water fountain that’s a popular hangout for families in the summer.

The fountain is open daily from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., May 26 through Sept. 3.

I enjoy taking my two young children to inspect the rabbits, which have everyday objects embedded in their bronze bodies. We climb the hilltop where the rabbits are perched and play a quick game of “I Spy” before heading back down to the adjacent fountain. “Look, Mommy, a camera,” my daughter, Rosie, says.

We can hear children squealing with delight as they splash in the fountain.

The spray park, which opened in 2002, is a great place for a picnic. It’s surrounded by a lawn containing big boulders, a fishing pond and a jogging path. The center is the earth mound, or hillock, with the dancing hares. In front of the hill is a 125-foot stone-like (it’s really concrete) wall that frames the spray park. Leprechaun faces are carved into the wall and a wave of water cascades from its center.

Rosie and Max like to play in the fountains that shoot from the ground. Water jets change pattern and heights from one foot to three feet. Less-adventuresome children can take their time getting used to the water in little fountains that spew low, frothy water, while thrill seekers can run under the gushing waterfall.

There’s a nearby parking area with public restrooms.

Take a blanket, chairs, towels and toys and a picnic basket. There’s not much shade on sunny days, so bring along sunscreen and an umbrella.

The Ballantrae play area is located across the street from the Dublin Community Pool, which is open only to Dublin residents.

For more information, visit dublinohiousa.gov/parks-open-space/ballantrae-community-park-spray-fountains.

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Our CupCakery

Decorate your own dessert


A cupcake can be a real treat. But a handful of moist cake can taste even better when you decorate it yourself, as my 4-year-old daughter, Rosie, recently found out at Our CupCakery in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.

The bakery, which opened seven years ago in the city’s historic downtown, specializes in made-to-order cakes, cookies and confections. Customers also can stop by the little shop and purchase to-go items including cookies and gluten-free cupcakes.

Rosie, however, wanted no part of the pre-decorated sweets. Her eyes were on the cupcakes she could frost herself.

The bakery’s cupcake bar is a kid-sized shelf lined with jars of toppings including crushed Oreos, candy bars and gumballs. There are also spice bottles filled with a variety of colored sprinkles and nearly a dozen types of bagged frostings to choose from.

Decorated cupcakes and cookies are priced by weight. At $1 an ounce, the average cost is $3.

The activity allows kids to be imaginative with food and works their manual dexterity as they squeeze frosting from a pastry bag.

Rosie chose a strawberry cupcake among a selection of chocolate, red velvet and vanilla. She piped chocolate frosting on top and layered it with spoonfuls of Froot Loops and Skittles. She completed her masterpiece with a shake of butterfly sprinkles.

One bite of the sugary concoction was enough to appease my sweet tooth. The freshly baked cupcake certainly was the best part.

Rosie and I sat at a quiet café table, looking out the window into the historic neighborhood. The bakery has an upstairs space for decorating parties and baking classes, too. But on this day, one cupcake would do.

Our CupCakery is located at 16 N. High St., Dublin. For more information, visit OurCupCakery.com.

Art in Public Places driving tour helps demystify Dublin’s unique sculptures.
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Art in Public Places

Driving tour helps demystify Dublin’s unique sculptures


The first time I stepped inside Watch House in Dublin’s Coffman Park, I ran out terrified.

It was evening, and I could have sworn I just saw a dead cat hanging from inside the structure’s copper-domed roof. I later reasoned that the black blob I saw on the ceiling was probably a colony of bats, finding the small house set atop a circular earth mound the perfect home. Whatever it was, I didn’t quite understand this thing called public art.

Recently, while taking the Dublin Arts Council’s Art in Public Places tour, I finally understood.

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The self-guided driving tour consists of nearly two dozen installations commissioned by the city of Dublin and the Dublin Arts Council. A pamphlet containing a map and descriptions of each sculpture on the tour is available at the Dublin Arts Center, 7125 Riverside Dr. – or click here for an online map and details about a cell-phone tour.

As part of the tour I re-entered Watch House at 5600 Post Rd. To my surprise, I discovered that there really is a cat mounted on the planetarium-like ceiling. There’s also a curled-up dog. Both figures are cast in bronze and located alongside dozens of other familiar shapes, such as eating utensils and pieces of fruit all cut out of the roof.

The tour helped me see Dublin’s public artwork as less spooky and more unique. The city’s arts council developed its Art in Public Places program in 1988 to enhance the quality of life for Dublin residents as well as to establish a public art tour throughout the city. The tour reinforces the importance that art plays in the community and also demystifies some of Dublin’s more unusual public art installations such as Watch House.

Other installations include Field of Corn, 109 human-sized ears of concrete corn at the corner of Frantz and Rings roads; Leatherlips, a 12-foot-high limestone portrait of an Ohio Indian chief in Scioto Park; and Going, Going…Gone! a bronze sculpture that marks the passage of time through the imagery of baseball at Darree Fields.

Learn more at www.dublinarts.org.