Check out 22 places to play in parks throughout Central Ohio.
Editor’s note: This story is from our Spring 2020 issue, which came out before the coronavirus outbreak took hold in Ohio and caused playgrounds to close. But we bet you’ll find a few places you’ll want to explore when the pandemic subsides.
With the changing of the seasons comes the growing allure of the outdoors. The good news for families throughout Central Ohio is that, when it’s time to run, climb, swing and slide, there are plenty of local parks, often right in your own neighborhood.
But if you’re looking for a new spot to explore, we’ve compiled this list of some of the region’s top outdoor playgrounds. All of our recommended destinations are in public parks, most of them owned either by Metro Parks or local municipalities. Many of them have ADA-accessible features. Since these venues are open year-round, winter amenities are listed where available.
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Alum Creek Park North
221 W. Main St., Westerville; 614-901-6500; parks.westerville.org
Originally developed in 1935, this quaint-yet-scenic 11.9-acre park along Alum Creek has dedicated playgrounds suitable for younger and older children. The park boasts a spiderweb climbing feature and a NEOS 360-brand accessible electronic play structure, which features games, lights and sounds. There is a leisure path for walking and biking, and the creek that meanders through the site offers fishing or just a pleasant spot to sit. Other amenities include a shelter house, performance amphitheater with band shell, and basketball and sand volleyball courts. ADA-compliant bathrooms are open seasonally.
Amberleigh Community Park
4715 Vista Ridge Drive, Dublin; 614-410-4700; dublinohiousa.gov
Perhaps better known for its outdoorsy appeal, given its river overlook and a canoe/kayak rail, Amberleigh also features a unique playground and play village. There is a walking path, fishing, a shelter house and restrooms as well.
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park
1775 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway; 614-370-6254; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/battelle-darby-creek
You might consider this park to be west of the West Side, but it’s easily accessible and a scenic gem well worth an excursion no matter where you live. Visitors are welcome to walk along and explore the Big and Little Darby creeks. But there’s much more in this picturesque, 7,000-plus-acre park, including a nature center with educational exhibits and animals who call the creeks home; a 9-acre natural play area near the Indian Ridge Picnic Area with a ravine and creek access, plus a nearby foot golf course; and of course, the well-known bison. Additionally, there are several playgrounds, numerous trails and picnic areas, ice skating, sledding and plentiful restrooms. Fishing and hunting both are available.
Delaware Lake Recreation Area
3920 U.S. Route 23 N., Delaware; 740-363-4011; lrh.usace.army.mil/missions/civil-works/recreation/ohio/delaware-lake
This playground and green space is located at the dam maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, not to be confused with the playgrounds at Delaware State Park farther to the north. Amenities include a large playground with equipment for different age groups, fishing, trails, bicycling, two shelter houses with wheelchair-accessible tables, grills, power outlets and ADA-compliant restrooms.
Every Kid’s Playground at Liberty Park
2845 Home Road, Powell; 740-881-5432; libertytwp.org
Liberty Park is well-known for its abundant open space for soccer fields, but if you make your way inside the park, you’ll come to what was the first “universally accessible” playground in Ohio, full of equipment on which kids of all abilities can play. The playground also has an ADA-compliant shelter house and restrooms. In addition, the park features a fishing pond, a walking path and a sledding hill.
3375 Kioka Ave., Upper Arlington; 614-583-5340; upperarlingtonoh.gov/city-parks
Here’s a classic city park, complete with a nostalgia-inducing name. It’s also one of (sadly) few places where you can choose between a playground and shuffleboard. This 25-acre multigenerational park’s amenities also include a multiuse path with fitness stations, sports fields, picnic areas, a shelter house, grills and restrooms.
3899 Orders Road, Grove City; 614-277-3050; grovecityohio.gov/parks-and-recreation
This combination recreational and educational park is located on 110 acres. The main park features a space-themed, ADA-compliant Discovery Frontier playground and also features the Century Village historic area with a renovated one-room schoolhouse, log cabin and barn. The playground is particularly suited for toddlers. A splash pad and sledding hill make Fryer a year-round outdoor play space. Other amenities include sports fields, trails, catch-and-release fishing and restrooms.
Glacier Ridge Metro Park
9801 Hyland-Croy Road, Plain City;614-216-8859; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/glacier-ridge
A farm-turned-park, Glacier Ridge now boasts wetlands, biking and walking trails, horseback riding and disc golf. For kids, the three-section wooden climbing apparatus close to a traditional playset is a fun way to round out a day. It even includes a zip line. There is also an adjacent obstacle course, suitable for both children and adults, plus a shelter with a grill and restrooms.
120 W. Goodale St. (Short North), Columbus; 614-645-3300; columbus.gov/goodalepark
This historic 32.71-acre park bordering the urban Short North and Victorian Village neighborhoods features standard playgrounds, a gazebo, walking paths, sports courts, a sledding hill and portable toilets, all centered on a pond with a popular fountain topped with elephants. There is some free parking available within the park; metered streetside spots encircle the area.
6547 Clark State Road, Gahanna; 614-342-4250; gahanna.gov/parks
A terrific “little” park with a partially landscaped pond and adjacent playground, this 34.5-acre site also has a cool garden area and plenty of open space. Hiking trails, fishing, athletic courts and more are also available. There are heated restrooms and a covered shelter with a fireplace and outdoor grill.
Homestead Metro Park
4675 Cosgray Road, Hilliard; 614-216-8859; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/homestead
Homestead feels like being in the country, removed from everything, which is among the numerous benefits of this sprawling, 44-acre site in suburban Hilliard. There are multiple play areas from which kids can choose, most with different features, including one with an adaptive play area. Fish the 2.5-acre pond, take advantage of the covered bridge, train station replica and caboose, play on sports courts and fields and enjoy the trails, fitness stations, shelters with grills, an amphitheater and a 10-acre prairie garden. Restrooms are available.
Huber Village Park
362 Huber Village Blvd., Westerville; 614-901-6500; parks.westerville.org
Planet Westerville, the playground at Huber Village Park with designated areas for ages 2-5 and 6-12, combines modern features with a classic playground feel. The 27.56-acre venue also boasts sports fields, a leisure path, a nature area with woodlands and wetlands, a shelter and ADA-compliant restrooms.
165 N. Parkview Ave., Bexley; 614-559-4300; bexley.org/parks-facilities
This nearly-40-acre park adjacent to historic Jeffrey Mansion is a great setup for toddlers, with a playground suitable for ages 2-5, nature trails with a boardwalk along Alum Creek, canoe and kayak access, sports fields, picnic areas with grills, shelter houses and restrooms (typically open April to October). The park also is home to the Bexley Community Pool and the Bexley Historical Society. A heads-up, though, that dogs are not allowed in the park.
Millstone Creek Park
745 N. Spring Road, Westerville; 614-901-6500; parks.westerville.org
Amenities at this 15.27-acre park include an “inclusive boundless” playground geared for ages 2-12, a natural play area, wetlands, a boardwalk and a sand pit. There are athletic courts and fields, walking paths, a gazebo and ADA-compliant restrooms with changing stations.
North Orange Park
7560 Gooding Blvd., Delaware; 740-657-2630; orangetwp.org
Adjacent to the North Orange Aquatic Center, this park has a playground with areas designed for ages 2-5 and 5-12; many features are ADA-compliant. Other park amenities include an open-air shelter with fireplace, sports courts and fields, walking and nature trails, fishing ponds and a sledding hill.
Olentangy River Parklands
600 W. Wilson Bridge Road, Worthington; 614-436-2743; worthington.org
This city of Worthington park, established in 1974 and situated along the Olentangy River, is ideal for play, natural exploration and sports. The 100-acre park contains two playgrounds, Highgate and Whitney—both with equipment and trails—as well as Winding Adventures Skate Park. Other amenities include a 2-mile multiuse trail, sports courts and fields, river access for canoes and kayaks, and a sledding hill.
1069 Jaeger St. (German Village), Columbus; 614-645-3300; columbus.gov/schillerpark
The statue of German poet Friedrich von Schiller, for whom the park is named, is not the only piece of public art in this 23.5-acre green space in the heart of German Village. That said, your exploration should also include the playground. The park boasts a walking trail, gardens, a gazebo, a fishing pond, sports fields, a tennis court and a sledding hill. An outdoor stage is home to Actors’ Theatre of Columbus, which presents free productions throughout the summer.
Walnut Woods Metro Park
6723 Lithopolis Road, Groveport;614-357-9375; metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/walnut-woods
An 1,170-acre park with wetlands, trails, dramatic stands of trees and a creek might not be the first place you’d look for a play area, but the cool, natural design of the playground, located near the shelter in the park’s Buckeye Area, is a great place to play. The shelter borders a hiking trail, includes two grills and is ADA accessible. In winter, the low hill, also in the Buckeye Area, is ideal for young sledders. The park also offers fishing and canoe/kayak access.
3923 N. High St. (Clintonville), Columbus; 614-645-3217; columbus.gov/whetstonepark
This signature green space boasts the 13-acre Columbus Park of Roses (3901 N. High St.; parkofroses.org), but there is plenty of outdoor fun to be found in this 136.3-acre park along the Olentangy River. Start with a universally accessible playground, add sports courts and fields and plenty of river access, and it’s easy to see why Whetstone is a favorite for all ages. There is a fishing pond, a gazebo, picnic areas, a shelter house, a prairie and a walking trail as well. The park is located next to the Whetstone Community Center and near the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Note that the Park of Roses has two sledding hills.
4414 Broadway, Grove City; 614-277-3050; grovecityohio.gov/parks-and-recreation
Two playgrounds, one a traditional outdoor play space and one designed for children with physical and mental challenges, are featured at this Grove City park, which also is home to 10 baseball/softball diamonds and the Dream Field for special needs players. The Evans Center, which serves the community’s senior population, is located at the park. The 38-acre venue has three shelters/gazebos, sports courts and restrooms.
Woodside Green Park
213 Camrose Court, Gahanna; 614-342-4250; gahanna.gov/parks
Thank a local Girl Scout troop for building a playground at this park—a cool, 32-acre green space with plenty to do. The play area features an obstacle course, tunnels, fort building, climbing and more. The park connects to the Big Walnut Trail and features a canoe launch into Big Walnut Creek. Sports fields and courts, a fishing pond, shelter house and heated restrooms are also featured.
1520 Goodale Blvd., Grandview Heights; 614-488-3111; grandviewheights.org
Wyman Woods sits in the center of Grandview Heights and features a playground, a multiuse field, paths, a sledding hill and a shelter house with a kitchenette and accessible bathrooms.
This story is from the Spring 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.