It's quitting time in downtown Columbus and the number of suits racing from their offices is rivaled only by the number of folks coming into the city for an evening of family fun.
May 2013 Issue
The Great Outdoors
Consider Columbus for some fun in the sun.
These days, it’s a familiar scene. In recent years, Columbus has transformed the site of an urban mall into a sprawling green space and a once-forgotten riverfront into a place where anyone can play. Add these new developments to some old favorites and you have the perfect family getaway to the great outdoors: Columbus
Columbus Commons (columbuscommons.org) is a nine-acre park that sits on the space formerly occupied by the Columbus City Center, a once-thriving shopping complex smack in the middle of downtown.
It’s a massive rectangular green space bookended by a pavilion on one end and a carousel on the other. The carousel offers rides for a buck and the stage hosts concerts — including the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s longstanding Picnic with the Pops series — throughout the warm-weather months (columbussymphony.com).
Picnic with the Pops will kick off its nine-concert season June 14. Two of those concerts — on June 21 and July 19 — are custom-made for the children in your life. “Popcorn Pops” are special Friday evening shows that combine face-painting and other activities with a one-hour concert offering a kid-friendly theme.
“We do all kinds of things to keep [children] occupied and active,” symphony publicist Rolanda Copley says. “They have a great time.”
According to Copley, this will be the second season for Picnic with the Pops at Columbus Commons after 28 years at its former location near The Ohio State University campus.
Even when the symphony isn’t on stage, the park is still a great place to visit. It features gardens maintained by the Franklin Park Conservatory and an electronic playground called the NEOS 360, which uses video-game-like technology to trick kids into getting a good aerobic workout. Throughout the spring and summer months, it seems like there’s always something going on at Columbus Commons. Frequent visitors, such as food trucks and children’s bookmobiles, add to the fun.
On the River
Thanks to a $40 million public-private investment, the Scioto River has become a focal point of downtown Columbus. Dubbed the Scioto Mile (sciotomile.com), the riverfront comprises a series of parks and trails, filled with new features to keep your family active and amused.
Be sure to pack your swim gear, because the Scioto Mile’s crown jewel is an interactive 15,000-square-foot fountain at Bicentennial Park that shoots water 75 feet into the air. There are also hundreds of nozzles above and below that spray you from all directions.
Hungry? Milestone 229 (milestone229.com) is a glass-faced restaurant adjacent to the fountain with an outdoor patio and sweeping views of the riverfront and folks frolicking in the water. If you’re in the mood for dessert, word has it they serve a killer banana pudding.
The Scioto Mile is also home to a longtime Columbus icon, the Santa Maria. It’s a full-on replica of the ship Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World. Forty-five-minute tours of the vessel, which first docked in Columbus in 1992, are available throughout the spring and summer. May 18–19 is “Pirates Weekend” aboard the Santa Maria as pirate re-enactors storm the ship for a jolly good time. If you plan to go, practice your best “argh!” and be sure to secure your booty.
For nature lovers, the Scioto Audubon Metro Park is the place to be. Located on 120 acres of the Whittier Peninsula, the park is a beacon for birds of different feathers. Look around and you’ll see osprey, herons, egrets, wood ducks and a variety of other wild winged creatures.
The park also offers a 35-foot-tall climbing wall. With an overall size of more than 6,100 square feet, it’s billed as the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the United States. If you plan to climb, make sure you pack your own gear and be prepared to sign a liability waiver.
On site, the 18,000-square-foot Grange Insurance Audubon Center (grangeinsuranceauduboncenter.org) is dedicated to educating visitors about the benefits of going green. It’s home to gardens, a natural playground area, an observation deck and a nature store. The center also offers family education programs and children’s camps throughout the summer.
You never know what you might see, taste or experience on a stroll through Columbus’ Short North (shortnorth.org), a district filled with independent shops, galleries and restaurants. There’s seemingly something for everyone and plenty of stories behind every door. In shop after shop in the Short North, a purchase is more than a simple transaction. It’s an experience.
For instance, a painting or antique might catch your eye through the window of the Sharon Weiss Gallery. When you step through the door, you’ll not only be able to see it up close and buy it, but you’ll be able to learn all about the artist and the inspiration behind the work.
Step into Homage and you’ll see some familiar images from the past. At Homage, it’s all about nostalgia. You know that T-shirt you bought in school with the mascot emblazoned on the front? Chances are, Homage has something a lot like it. And the coolest part: Your kids will dig it.
To soothe your senses, pop your head into The Candle Lab. As its name suggests, this shop is filled with candles of many colors and aromas. Some favorite scents include clothesline, whipped cream and mulled cider. There’s even one that promises to smell like dad’s den.
For the palate, there are plenty of options. The Rossi Bar and Kitchen is a good choice for dinner to top off your day of discoveries. The menu includes some eclectic entrees that you won’t see many places — things like beef cheek and rabbit sausage. Don’t worry if your tastes aren’t so adventurous. Rossi also offers a full slate of New York-style pizzas.
For dessert, you can’t miss by taking the family to the now-famous Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. With unique flavors like Bangkok peanut and brambleberry crisp, you never know what the ever-inventive Jeni is going to come up with next.
Have a Ball
The Columbus Clippers (clippersbaseball.com) may play minor league baseball, but they give their fans a big-league experience. For that reason, a visit to the team’s Huntington Park should be at the top of any spring or summer trip into the city.
Don’t worry if your household isn’t full of baseball fans. A Clippers game offers much more than balls and strikes. Gahanna resident Ryan Precht, who brings his brood to the ballpark every summer, says it’s affordable fun.
“The kids enjoy being outside and there’s plenty of space for them to be active,” Precht says. “The patio with its space, the grassy seating area in the outfield and the water fountain in center field are all family favorites.”
There’s also a variety of food choices, including wings, barbecue and the traditional ballpark hot dog. Speaking of the hot dog, the Clippers have nine “Dime-A-Dog Nights” scheduled this season, including May 6 and 20.
Want more? You can continue your sports tour of Columbus by heading just north of downtown to the State Fairgrounds. That’s home to Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew (thecrew.com), which hosts New York on May 4 and Colorado on May 11.
Another popular pastime in Columbus is golf, and there are dozens of courses in the area.
That said, you should take the time to choose the right one for your game, especially if you’re introducing golf to members of your family. One of the best options for novices is Wilson Road Golf Course (columbuscitygolfcourses.com), one of six municipal tracks in the city. It’s a nine-hole course, featuring six par 3s and three par 4s — short enough to ease beginners into the game, yet challenging enough to keep any sweet swingers in your group interested. Remember, patience is the key.
If your household is filled with experienced drivers, pitchers and putters, you might want to make a tee time at a more traditional 18-hole course. In fact, you’ll find one right next to Wilson Road. It’s Raymond Memorial Golf Course, also a municipal course, designed by legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. nearly 60 years ago. In addition to its famous designer, this municipal course has a rich history, having hosted LPGA tournaments from 1968 to 1971.
If you don’t want to pack your clubs, but still want to get some swings in, a friendly game of miniature golf might be the answer. Columbus has a pair of Magic Mountain Fun Centers (magicmountainfuncenter.com), one on the east side and another to the north, that both offer mini golf, along with go-kart racing and other fun activities for the whole family.