Pickerington has plenty of reasons to look forward.

Pickerington has plenty of reasons to look forward.

The bustling suburb is widening its major thoroughfare. The community recently welcomed a standalone emergency room and new medical facilities constructed by OhioHealth. New houses continue to be built.

Yet, the community has spent much of 2015 reminiscing about its past as it celebrates its Bicentennial, said Tammy Sawyer, executive assistant to the mayor.

The city, which has already hosted a Bicentennial tea and opened a time capsule, has a major party planned for Labor Day weekend. The yearlong celebration has been a way to bring residents together, said Sawyer, who is coordinating the events.

"We're a fast-growing community. A lot of people aren't rooted here. We want them to be involved and get engaged. The Bicentennial has been a great way to do that," she said.

History also plays an important role in neighboring Reynoldsburg, where the community just hosted its 50th Tomato Festival in August. The celebration was part of the city's ongoing recognition of its agricultural heritage, said Mary Hudson, executive director of the Reynoldsburg Visitors and Community Activities Bureau.

The festival celebrates the city's distinction as the birthplace of the commercial tomato, she said. She encourages visitors to schedule a time to tour the Livingston House Park & Museum, which tells the story of Alexander Livingston's work on the tomato and the history of the city. Tours are free but by appointment only.

In addition to a shared interest in the past, the cities also have active recreation departments and high-quality park facilities.

Alison Ross, who will be a senior at Pickerington High School Central this fall, shared her memories of Pickerington's parks in an essay that led to her being chosen as a member of the Bicentennial's special court of attendants. Her favorite activities included watching movies and sledding at Sycamore Park and ice skating at the outdoor rink the city constructs at Victory Park each winter.

"I've always enjoyed our Pickerington parks," she wrote. "I have a memory of going there every season."

The Reynoldsburg Parks and Recreation Department works with other local organizations to host Halloween, Christmas and Fourth of July events.

"That's one of the unique things about our city," said Chuck Cochran, president of the Reynoldsburg Community Association. "There's close collaboration among all of the organizations."

The city also boasts wonderful green spaces, including Blacklick Woods Metro Park, said lifelong resident Barth Cotner. He and his wife enjoy taking their two elementary-aged children there to hike, visit the nature center and play on the playground.

"It's a great place to pack a picnic and enjoy the day," he said. "It's wonderful year-round."

His son and daughter also enjoy taking art classes at the Central Ohio Art Academy, which serves children and adults.

Families in Pickerington enjoy hanging out at Rule (3), a restaurant with an arcade and bowling alley, and the Marcus Pickerington Cinema, which screens films for $5 on Tuesday evenings.

Another interesting dining option is the Red Velvet Café, known for its panini sandwiches, gourmet coffee and cupcakes. In Olde Pickerington Village, Froggy's Sweets & More offers custom-made cakes, cupcakes and old-fashioned candies. Owner Lucricia Brown regularly offers kid classes, organizes special events and hosts birthday parties. Customers also can create their own ice cream sandwiches by choosing their preferred cookies and ice cream flavors.

Reynoldsburg also offers a nice mix of family-friendly dining options. For Italian food, try Scali Ristorante. The Hickory House restaurant slow cooks its ribs and offers premium steaks. Kids with a more mature palate would enjoy Prost Beer and Wine Café. The eatery serves upscale sandwiches and salads. It also has numerous beers on tap and wines by the glass for moms and dads.