The former TV anchor and her family have some tried-and-true favorites.

When it comes to enjoying summer in Central Ohio, former NBC4 TV anchor Ellie Merritt and her family have a few favorite spots they enjoy. Merritt, who stepped down from the news desk in May 2018 to spend more time with her daughters, talked with Columbus Parent about how she and her family, husband Matt Zeiger and daughters Caroline and Claire Zeiger, plan to spend their summer vacation.

One thing they love? Travel. And on the docket this year is a big trip: a safari in Botswana. They’ll also visit Arizona and Merritt’s home state of Minnesota.

Locally, there’s plenty they’ll do near their New Albany home. “We live close to Easton and go there a lot,” she says. “That’s kind of our go-to. We do a lot of bike rides and picnics here in our neighborhood. We’ll go down to Hocking Hills and do some hiking down there. My youngest daughter is adventurous and loves ZipZone.”

When the girls were little, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was a popular spot, and the family still enjoys Columbus Clippers baseball games. “It’s a beautiful view of our city [at the games], and they are so family-friendly,” Merritt says. “Another thing we definitely do is some type of volunteer project. It started with a lemonade stand. They will raise money for places like orphanages in Africa.”

If it’s a rainy day, no problem: Merritt says cooking and baking are favorite activities. Caroline is currently interested in old movies, so Merritt plans to take advantage of that. “I think this summer, we will sit down and have some big old movie nights,” she says. “That’s one thing I will carve out time for, some movie nights and girls nights. They are older, so we can do some of these things.”

This year, Merritt told Caroline, 12, and Claire, 9, to make a summer bucket list, to help give them a sense of accomplishment when the season is over. “I said, ‘Put it on your list and we’ll figure it out.’ ” Merritt explains. “The last thing I want is to sit around and say, ‘We’re bored.’ This is not going to be a wasted summer. It’s easy to do that. You get out of school and then all of a sudden June is gone. What did we accomplish? The summer flies by.

“We are also going to do a countdown to the first day of school and rip off each day, so we’re reminded it is coming,” Merritt says. One other priority: not sitting around. “I want my daughters to be physically active. You want them to be active physically and mentally.”

Editor’s note: This is an extended version of the story that appears in the Summer 2019 issue of Columbus Parent.