Places to go and things to do in Grove City

Shelly Boso loves raising her family in Grove City, the town where she grew up. But she and her family also appreciate the rapid growth the city has enjoyed in recent years.

"There used to be nothing to do here. Now, there's tons of restaurants, businesses and shopping on Stringtown Road," Boso said. "Once Kohl's gets here, I won't have to leave."

The road is not the first bit of infrastructure to impact the town, which was founded in 1853. Early settlers used the proximity to Harrisburg Pike as a means of promoting growth. Later, train tracks that paralleled the roadway created more business opportunities for the residents of Grove City.

When I-71 and I-270 were constructed in the 1960s, more businesses located there because of its access to the highways.

Today, the town offers a nice mix of chain restaurants and stores as well as locally owned businesses, said Boso, who owns Broadway Design Group and Spa.

The city also offers a wide array of kid-oriented events, including Balloons & Tunes, a hot-air balloon festival in late August; Boo on Broadway, where kids can trick or treat at downtown businesses and visit a fortune teller on Halloween; and Winter Lights Christmas Celebration, which features ice sculptures, carriage rides and a light parade (this year's celebration is Dec. 2). Families will appreciate the small-town feel of many of the attractions.

The fun and funky Skate America is a great place for beginners to get rolling. The skating rink offers sessions for elementary-aged children and programs them accordingly. The rink also offers party packages and skating lessons. Kids will enjoy checking out the various arcade games.

Grove City Lanes also makes a great family outing. It's one of the smallest bowling alleys around and features real wood lanes and an above-ground ball return. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming.

For a bit of outdoor fun, visit the Putt-N-Play Family Fun Center. The miniature golf course is handicapped- and stroller-accessible, so guests of all ages and needs can participate, said Crisha House, general manager.

The attraction also includes batting and soccer cages and an arcade. The business tries to attract families by keeping prices competitive, House said. Many families take advantage of the $40 family four-pack, which includes four rounds of golf, four cage tokens, a large pizza and a 2-liter bottle of pop, she said.

During the summer, kids will love the chance to cool off at the city's Big Splash water park. The facility includes a zero-entry pool, water slides and a poolside climbing wall. The attraction offers water fun for kids of ages. The climbing wall and the attraction's two larger slides require a user to be at least 48 inches tall.

Another great outdoor space is Gantz Park. Kids will love dining al fresco at the shelter house or under a shady tree. They also will enjoy romping through the fields and exploring the shallow creek that meanders through the park.

The park features an herb garden, numerous paths and plantings designed to attract birds and butterflies. Lisa Radwanski and her two daughters visit the park weekly during the summer.

"My girls love smelling and touching the plants in the herb garden and the farm house garden, and comparing them to our home garden," the Grove City resident said. "We love picnicking in the shade of the cottonwood trees by the creek and then creeking in the clear water looking for mollusk-shell treasures."

Radwanski said she appreciates the town's great park system, lack of traffic and friendly citizens.

"The community is full of fun, entertainment (options) and is a safe place to raise a family," she said.

Fryer Park also makes a fun stop for families. The park, where the city shows kid-oriented movies in the summer and boasts a great sledding hill in the winter, features a space-themed playground (but be forewarned that the playground has no shade, so bring the sunscreen.) Kids can toss a line into Rotary Lake, a stocked pond provided by the local chapter of the service club.

When hunger strikes, head to the city's downtown. For yummy breakfast fare and plenty of hot coffee, Lilly's is the place. For heavier fare, try Plank's on Broadway. The pizza joint has the feel of a neighborhood hangout. Locals love the restaurant's half-price pizza special on Tuesdays. Nearby Graeter's serves up cool treats for hungry kids.

The downtown area offers several inviting attractions, including the Grove City Library and the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. The library has a full roster of story hours and activities. The museum has a nice combination of rotating and permanent exhibits. Museum staff and volunteers are eager to answer kids' questions and will even allow them to touch a few of the historical items.