Columbus Zoo Playgrounds
For most parents, the Columbus Zoo's Stings, Wings 'n Playthings park holds a special place in our memories because it's where many of us first experienced the bittersweet joy of "letting go."
Once your children heads into that three-story-tall Tinkertoy of a structure, you will find yourself alternately panicking when they disappear from sight behind the canvas screens, wondering how sturdy that netting is, and vowing to whup any bully who messes with your bambino up there.
And is there any moment of relief sweeter than when your unbullied, unbroken child comes sliding out the gaping maw of that giant caterpillar slide? No, I can tell you, there is not.
I have yet to see a kid (who has to be 54 inches tall or less to play here) fall out of the big structure, but if one did, they'd have a bouncy surface to land on. And at least you have a comfortable place to sit (more comfortable in warm weather if you can score a spot with shade). There's also a well-appointed playspace at one end for kids ages 4 and younger.
This playground is near the food court if you want to get something to sip or snack on during the (easily) 30 minutes you'll spend here. It's also a good year-round space, even when temperatures drop, because it's fairly well sheltered from the wind.
When the Polar Frontier area opened earlier this year, the Polar Playground came with it. I'll be curious to see how this one does in the winter, because the one factor that made it a bit inhospitable in the summer - its blinding-white, heat-reflecting color scheme - might actually make it a warmer-than-average destination in the winter. Because, let's face it, once it gets cold, the kids still need their fresh air, but you don't need to freeze while they're getting it.
This space also is open only to children 54 inches and shorter. There's adequate, but not abundant, seating for everyone else. But it's another imaginative playspace with its "Tundra Buggy" and playhouse. And when it's time to warm up, you can always duck into Habitat Hollow nearby, a play-friendly indoor exhibit.