Rocky Fork Metro Park: New Metro Park glimmers with classy touches
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Rocky Fork Metro Park

New Metro Park glimmers with classy touches


Secondary_Rocky Fork Metro ParkIn New Albany, where the roads are lined with white, picket fences, you’d expect to find public spaces with superb fit and finish. And that’s just what you’ll find at Rocky Fork Metro Park, which opened just north of New Albany in August 2015.

One of 19 central Ohio Metro Parks, Rocky Fork was developed through a partnership among New Albany, the city of Columbus and Plain Township.

Nature does its own work to make this 1,003-acre plot of land attractive. But it’s the details in the man-made construction that makes Rocky Form Metro Park a bit more fashionable.

Fine craftsmanship is especially noticeable in the park’s picnic shelter, where guests will find glossy-topped picnic tables surrounding a two-sided fireplace with stone chimney. Nearby are knotty pine Adirondack chairs.

Kids will like the play area, which has fake boulders to climb and a rolling slide, all set on a squishy surface.

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Parents will appreciate the clean bathrooms. And pet owners will like the off-leash dog trail and dog park with fountains for Fido to cool down.

Other than these few accoutrements, the space is pretty sparse. That’s fine, especially for nature lovers, who’ll find miles of quiet trails for walking, biking and horseback riding.

We enjoyed the North Meadow trail, which meanders one mile around a field that’s abuzz with bees visiting fragrant clover and daisies. Highlights included seeing deer, watching the summer breeze cause the field flowers to sway and finding droves of young frogs hopping across the path toward a cattail-lined swamp.

Rocky Fork Metro Park is located at 7180 Walnut St., Westerville. For more information, visit metroparks.net.

Westerville Golf Center: Well-manicured miniature golf course suitable for all ages
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Westerville Golf Center

Well-manicured miniature golf course suitable for all ages


A game of miniature golf seems well suited for all ages and occasions. While playing a round with our two children at the Westerville Golf Center, I took a moment to survey the field of players on an warm afternoon in April.

There were timid teens out on dates, rowdy twenty-somethings extending their happy hours, and retirees dressed in their country-club best taking calculated swings amid the course that looks like a small town with wooden houses and white picket fences.

Then there were our children, who like others, carefully selected the colors of their golf balls – green for Max and pink for Rosie – which they soon whacked several times into the water features. They also created their own obstacles by standing like bridges over pathways, enticing one another to knock their ball underneath their opponent’s legs.

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The Westerville Golf Center we’ve found is welcoming – and tolerating – to all audiences big and small, and has been since it opened at the corner of Schrock and Cooper roads in Westerville in 1970.

Before getting married, Mike and I used to practice our golf swings at the driving range. The facility has covered, heated tees, so you can practice year round. Mike would buy a bucket of balls and attempt to teach me how to properly hold a club and consistently hit balls in a straight line. My lessons typically ended with me hitting softballs at the batting cage instead. Now softball’s a game I understand.

Mike now prefers to take Max to the driving range and rekindle with the rest of the family for a game of miniature golf on one of the two 18-hole courses.

Youth golf lessons are available, but Mike learned how to play the game from his dad and hopes to instill the same love of golf in our son.

For now, though, it’s all fun and games.

Cost for mini golf is $4 for children and $6 for adults. Children 2 and younger are free. Deals are offered throughout the week such as play both golf courses for the price of one on Monday and Wednesday.

Spring hours are 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Westerville Golf Center is located at 450 W. Schrock Rd., Westerville. For more information, visit www.westervillegolf.com.

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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.

Westerville Community Center
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Westerville Community Center

Year-round, indoor playground


Catch this idea about the Westerville Community Center, put it in your pocket and save it for a rainy day.

The Westerville Community Center, at 350 N. Cleveland Ave. in Westerville, is a great place to take young children when our Ohio weather isn’t cooperating. Daily passes allow use of the indoor offerings including a gym, climbing wall, pool and playground.

Westerville Parks and Recreation operates the 96,000-square-foot facility, which opened to residents and outsiders, like me, in November 2001.

Like many moms around central Ohio, I discovered the center while attending a birthday party. The pool and climbing wall are available for party rentals.

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The indoor pool is called the Watering Hole and includes a shallow area with fountains and a slide. There’s also a lazy river and swirling slide for tube rides. Daily resident rates for a child to swim in the pool is $7.50 and $2 charge to observe.

The concrete wall, called the Zenith Climbing Wall, measures 27 feet. It’s designed for beginners and experts alike. Daily rates for a non-resident child is $5.25. Children must weigh 40 pounds.

A great way to check out the facility is to visit the indoor playground, which is free. Children aged two and younger are admitted for free to all activities.

For more information, visit www.westerville.org.

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Alum Creek Park

Find fun playground, sand volleyball, charcoal grills


Some of my favorite memories of childhood involve impromptu outings to neighborhood parks with my brothers and sisters.

As teenagers, my older siblings were surprisingly adept at selecting fun places for us to visit. They often packed a picnic of hotdogs and hamburgers that they’d cook on the charcoal grills that dotted the landscape in the 1970s.

Recently seeing several charcoal grills alongside a picnic shelter at Alum Creek Park in Westerville brought back this fond memory. It made me want to return to revive the park picnic in the near future with my family.

On this day, however, I was content enough to appreciate all the park’s other fine offerings, including a sand volleyball court, ball diamond and basketball court that’s lit up at night.

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My young children enjoyed the plentiful playground equipment with uncommon features such as a climbable train donned up in primary colors, and a spinning contraption that allowed them to rotate in a circle while hanging by their arms. “Again, again!”

Operated by Westerville Parks and Recreation, Alum Creek Park is situated on 12 tree-filled acres alongside Alum Creek at 221 W. Main St. It’s home to many events throughout the year, including a free summer concert series that gives center stage to the domed-shaped amphitheater with its natural, stadium-style seating.

The park also offers a nearby bike path, canoe launch and clean restrooms – a must for families with young children.

For more information, visit www.westerville.org.

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Millstone Creek Park

Urban park mixes massive playground with Mother Nature


My 2-year-old son is on a playground kick. He shouts, “Playground, playground,” whenever we pass one while driving. So recently I decided to take him to the playground of all playgrounds in the Columbus area – Millstone Creek Park in Westerville.

The $1.6 million play area, operated by Westerville Parks and Recreation, opened at 745 N. Spring Rd. in May 2010.

The sprawling complex has two personalities. One side contains a colorful, multi-dimensional playground built on a rubberized surface. The other side is inspired by nature and includes native plants and a mini swamp, with croaking frogs and curious turtles.

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Max and I started our adventure on the manmade side. Its main structure is a two-layered labyrinth of climbing devices and twisty slides. Built in are little skill games and musical instruments, such as big plastic whistles that toot when you push fat buttons. The structure’s underbelly is more geared toward toddlers and is partially shaded by the upper portion.

Max enjoyed banging a mallet on one of four xylophones. I was disappointed, though, to see that three of the instruments were missing their mallets, which wasn’t the case when our family visited on a warm day last November.

Other cool features, many of which are handicapped accessible, include a “Sway Fun” rocking boat and a funky gyroscope-like contraption for multiple kids to spin upon at once. There are even electronic games, including one that tests players to see how quickly they can press 40 lights.

The adjacent natural playground mixes native plants, such as bright black-eyed Susans, with felled trees and boulders for climbing. There’s also a sandy beach near a pebbly stream.

Max liked walking through a wire-framed tunnel with flowering shrubs growing around it. Then it was off to build a dam in a water trough fed by a hand pump.

The park is framed by a wooden fence, and just beyond the surrounding bike path is a grove of large cottonwood trees.

Near the bathrooms are drinking fountains and a basketball court.

Max and I got more than our fill of playing, then headed out for ice-cream cones at Graeter’s in historic uptown Westerville. State Street, the city’s main drag, is beautifully decorated with American flags and full baskets of purple and pink petunias hanging from lampposts.

Max, tuckered out, fell asleep on the way home, allowing other playgrounds to pass by like dreams.

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Inniswood

Metro gardens offer magical places for kids to explore


Inniswood Metro Gardens in the Columbus suburb of Westerville is a scenic nature preserve that’s delightfully kid-friendly. The 121-acre site at 940 S. Hempstead Rd. contains colorful flower gardens, easily navigable walking trails and – best of all – a children’s area where kids are encouraged to frolic about a storybook maze and a secret garden.

I recently took my daughter Rosie to Inniswood to escape the summer’s heat. We headed for one of the park’s six walking trails, some of which wind through the woods. We walked along a boardwalk trail called Frog Talk Walk that extends a tenth of a mile and ventures through the woods, past an herb garden and alongside a small pond where you’re sure to see and hear a frog or two. The path is especially good for toddlers because the boardwalk has raised sides to deter them from wandering off. The path also is great for strollers.

Rosie and I then walked among the park’s 10 feature gardens that showcase more than 2,000 species of plants and flowers, some of which attract big, bold-colored butterflies. The Woodland Rock Garden features a cascading waterfall that rushes down a manmade stream alongside a winding path. It’s a favorite spot for picture taking.

Children will enjoy the Sisters’ Garden, named in honor of Grace and Mary Innis, whom the park is named after. The sisters lived on part of the property before it was turned into a park in 1972. They enjoyed gardening and wildlife, and their joys have been translated into a magical place for kids to explore. They can walk across a wobbly bridge, investigate marbles inside a wall of the secret garden or cool off in a misty spray at the garden’s entrance. They’ll also enjoy climbing a ladder into a tree house and playing in Granny’s House, which is a miniature-sized playhouse that has furniture and portraits of frogs painted on the walls.

Inniswood is open daily from 7 a.m. to dark.

For more information, visit www.inniswood.org.