Exploring the Parks of Columbus, Ohio

Columbus is a green city in more ways than one. We have plenty of public green spaces -- Metro Parks, community parks, and nearby state parks. They're filled with trails, ponds, activities, and oodles of wildlife. You set the pace and choose the activities, so a day at one of these Columbus parks is as relaxed or invigorating as you want it to be. To make the experience even better -- most park activities are free.

01 of 09

Metro Parks

Inniswood Metro Garden Poison Ivy.
Photo by Kevin A. Lynch.

Millions of people go to a Columbus-area Metro Park each year -- more than six million in 2008. It's not hard to understand why. Central Ohio's 15 parks offer:

  • Trails for walking, jogging, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, pets, and inline skating;
  • Canoeing and fishing
  • Golf and disc golf;
  • Programs for all ages, on a wide range of subjects;
  • Playgrounds, picnic areas, and reservable shelter houses;
  • Ice skating and sledding;
  • Ranger-guided hikes and nature exploration.

Columbus-area Metro Parks are open 365 days a year, and most activities are free to the public.
Metro Parks are not Columbus parks. Metro Park funding comes from a Franklin County property tax levy, some state, and local government monies, grants and earned income.

02 of 09

City of Columbus Parks

The skyline of Columbus, Ohio.
John Hudson Photography / Getty Images

Columbus maintains several thousand parks and recreation areas. Most of them are neighborhood parks like English Park (1277 Bryden Road) and Indianola Park (1501 Indianola Avenue). They have picnic tables, a playground, maybe basketball and tennis courts.
Other parks, like Lincoln (580 Woodrow Avenue) and Antrim (5800 Olentangy River Road) are community parks. They're larger than neighborhood parks and have programs, athletic fields and ball diamonds, playgrounds, and picnic areas. They may have walking/biking trails, pools, recreation centers or shelter houses.
Columbus' regional parks draw people from all over central Ohio. These include Berliner Sports Park (325 Greenlawn Avenue), the seven public golf courses and the Columbus Zoo.

03 of 09

Franklin Park

Photo courtesy of the Franklin Park Conservatory.

Franklin Park is east of downtown, at 1755 E Broad Street. It's dramatic gardens, water features, and walking paths host the Asian Festival and other Columbus happenings. There are picnic areas, a shelter house, and a playground.
The focal point is the Franklin Park Conservatory. The Conservatory is nationally known for its plant collections, educational outreach, its community gardening program and its collection of glass works by Dale Chihuly.
The Park is open 365 days a year, and admission is free. 

04 of 09

Goodale Park

The fountain at Goodale Park.
David Shvartsman / Getty Images

Goodale Park (120 West Goodale Boulevard) is tucked between Victorian Village and the Short North. It's Columbus' oldest park. Surprisingly, it's also one of the oldest parks in the United States.
Goodale Park is perfectly located to be the hub of activity that it is. There are picnic areas, basketball and tennis courts, and -- in the Dennison Ave parking lot -- recycling bins. Bands play everything from classical music to pop, reggae, jazz, military and hard rock in the historic gazebo. Tens of 1000s of people flock to the park for annual festivals like ComFest. There's also a playground, recreation center, 650 trees (169 species), and a very cool pond with loads of waterlilies. (It took volunteers two years to count the trees.)

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05 of 09

Topiary Gardens and Skateboarding (But Not Together)

The topiary gardens in Columbus, Ohio.
Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Take 20 minutes to wander around the Topiary Garden/Deaf School Park (480 East Town Street). It's in the middle of downtown Columbus, behind the Columbus Metropolitan Library's main branch on Grant Street. Sometimes there's music, sometimes a program, but the bushes are the thing here. They're grown and trained to resemble George Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte. Pretty amazing.
Dodge Park (667 Sullivant Avenue) is on the other side of downtown Columbus. It has a recreation center, swimming pool, athletic fields, ball diamonds, and a playground. There's also a skateboard park. World-class skateboarder Tony Hawk and his father, Frank Hawk, contributed to its design.

06 of 09

Dog Parks

dog lying on grass
Photo by Carol Ottolenghi.

Central Ohio has lots of leash laws, but the leashes are OFF at these public dog parks. Please make sure that your dogs have all necessary shots before visiting the parks.

  • Big Walnut Dog Park, 5000 E. Livingston Avenue, Columbus.
  • Alum Creek Dog Park, Hollenback Road, Lewis Center.
  • Nando’s Dog Park at Darree Fields, Cosgray, and Shier-Rings roads, Dublin.
  • Pooch Playground Dog Park at Pizzurro Park, 940 Pizzurro Park Way, Gahanna.
  • Three Creeks Dog Park at Sycamore Fields, Spangler Road just south of Watkins, Columbus.
  • Wheeler Memorial Dog Park, 725 Thurber Drive West, Columbus.
  • Prairie Oaks Metro Park, 2755 Amity Road, Hillard.
  • Brooksedge Bark Park, 708 Park Meadow Road, Westerville.
07 of 09

Downtown Waterfront Parks and the Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile Park
Holly Hildreth / Getty Images

Downtown Columbus has parks on both banks of the Scioto River. More than half a million people gather here each year on July 3rd for Red, White, and Boom. Festivals and concerts keep the Genoa Park & Amphitheater in front of COSI busy from spring until fall.
On the east bank, closer to the Statehouse, is the "Scioto Mile." The Scioto Mile links a string of parks via the Scioto River Greenway Trail. The trail runs from Alexander/AEP Park on Long Street past the Santa Maria and Battelle Riverfront Park to Bicentennial/Galbreath Park (closed until 2011 for renovations). The path and other parks are great places to walk or jog. The trail is open and well-maintained, there are benches and great scenery, and the geese aren't too aggressive.

08 of 09

Whetstone Park and the Park of Roses

Whetstone Park in Columbus Ohio.
Holly Hildreth / Getty Images

Whetstone Park (3923 North High Street) boasts tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, extensive playing fields, and ball diamonds, programming for young and old, walking trails, a bike path, and a great creek to play in. It's directly behind the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and serves as a community focal point for weekly outdoor concerts, annual festivals and a July 4th fireworks extravaganza.
The Columbus Park of Roses is located inside Whetstone Park. It has over 11,000 rose bushes, making it one of the largest municipal rose gardens in the country. It also has herb gardens, a perennial garden and a daffodil garden that welcomes spring each year with a startling expanse of yellows and whites.

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09 of 09

Ohio's State Parks

Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park.
Dustin M. Ramsey / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.5

Ohio's state parks have cabins, camping, rent-a-camps, fishing, boating, dog parks, nature programs, golf, hiking, biking and all the other things you'd expect them to have. Not all parks have all of the facilities, so check the link above for more information.
Central Ohio's state parks include:

  • Mt. Gilead
  • Delaware
  • Alum Creek
  • Madison Lake
  • John Bryan
  • Buck Creek
  • Deer Creek
  • A.W.Marion
  • Hocking Hills
  • Lake Logan
  • Buckeye Lake
  • Muskingum
  • Dillion
  • Mohican
  • Malabar Farm.
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