Westgate Park in Columbus is Full of Unique Things to See and Do

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Westgate Park in the Westgate and Hilltop Neighborhoods of Columbus is full of unique landmarks you won’t find anywhere else in Columbus!

Westgate Park is one of our favorite parks in Columbus, not only because it’s our neighborhood park, but because it has great playgrounds, the ABC’s and it’s home to some really great events and festivals! 

Where is Westgate Park?

Westgate Park is on the west side of Columbus, about 5 miles west of downtown Columbus. The park is bound by Wicklow Rd. on the north, Parkside Rd. on the South, Demorest Rd. on the west and S. Westgate Ave. on the east. The park is home to a nice, rentable shelterhouse, a fishing pond and the Westgate Community Recreation Center.

What is the History of Westgate Park?

Westgate Park has a very interesting history! The neighborhood bordering the park was home to Camp Chase, an American Civil War training camp and Confederate prison! Make sure to visit the Heroes of Camp Chase Mural on the west side of the park near the Community Center. You can’t miss it if you park in the Community Center Parking lot at 455 S Westgate Ave, Columbus, OH 43204.

Kwanzan Cherry Trees in Westgate Park.

Kwanzan Cherry trees in Westgate Park

What is There to See and Do in Westgate Park?

Check out this list of things to see and do in Westgate Park!

1. Heroes of Camp Chase Mural

Heroes of Camp Chase mural in Westgate Park, Columbus.

The Heroes of Camp Chase Mural depicts well known people and events in Camp Chase history and was designed by artist Curtis Goldstein. A display near the mural lists out a description of each of the 10 images and events depicted in the mural. 

Heroes of Camp Chase Mural and recognition boulder.

As a side note, if you are interested in Civil War history, you will want to make a visit to the nearby Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery at 2900 Sullivant Ave., not far from the park!

2. The ABC’s of Westgate Park

The letters A B and C in Westgate Park in Columbus, Ohio.

One of my favorite features of Westgate Park are the ABC’s. These ABC’s were once on display outside of the now closed Westland Mall. They were moved to Westgate Park in the early 80’s.

a boy sitting in the B at Westgate Park.

The B was destroyed by a car in the 80’s and was replaced by the Westgate Neighbors Association in 2015!

3. Three Playgrounds

Blue Jackets Playground at Westgate Park.

Yes, playground is plural! There are three separate playgrounds within Westgate Park. 

This first one is in the south central part of the park. There is a parking lot off of Parkside Rd. that is closest to this playground as well as several ball fields.

small playground area at Westgate Park.

This second playground is accessible from the Westgate Community Recreation Center Parking lot and includes a traditional play structure and swings. 

playground area at Westgate Park columbus.

The third, and in my opinion, best playground area is the Columbus Blue Jackets Playground behind the Rec Center.

boy on playground at westgate park columbus.

This is also accessible from the Rec Center parking lot. This one is hockey themed and has some fun climbing structures, swings and a picnic area. The play structure for older kids has a couple of slides and a climbing wall. 

playground at westgate park in columbus, ohio.

There is also a smaller play structure for toddlers which has a steering wheel – always popular with my boys!

playground at westgate park in columbus.

4. Summer Jam Mural: The Fantastic Food Garden

summer jam west mural in westgate park, columbus, ohio.

Make sure to check out the Summer Jam Mural on the opposite side of the racquet ball court from the Heroes of Camp Chase Mural! Summer Jam West commissions a mural on the west side of Columbus each year in conjunction with their annual festival! This one by Danielle Poling is one of our favorites!

5. Mum Beds

mum beds in Westgate Park.

Another little known fact about Westgate Park is that it has been the home to mum research beds! For several years the beds were part of a research project to determine how different kinds of mums grew in our climate. 

mum beds in Westgate Park Columbus.

The mums are near the enclosed shelterhouse on the north central side of the park. They are currently not part of a specific research project in 2021 so they may soon be joined by some new flowers and plants! All of the flower beds in Westgate Park are carefully maintained by Friends of Westgate Park a non-profit, volunteer organization!

6. Westgate Community Recreation Center

Westgate Rec Center, Columbus, Ohio.

The Rec Center here is home to many community events, classes and programs for the community. There is also a nice fitness center which was remodeled in 2014. An annual Fitness Room Membership good at any of the Columbus Community Recreation Centers is only $60! See more info here.

7. Westgate Park Shelterhouse

The Westgate Shelterhouse is available for rent and accommodates 175 people. It has heat and air conditioning. In addition to the indoor area, there is a covered patio.

8. Fishing Pond

fountain and pond in westgate park.

The heart of Westgate Park is the pond with its fountain and surrounding landscaping. The pond is open for fishing and is regularly stocked by the city of Columbus.

pond in westgate park columbus.

9. Rain Garden

rain gardens and butterfly sculpture in westgate park.

This was the first Rain Garden in a Columbus City Park! With flowers and native plants to attract butterflies, check out this area and it’s beautiful butterfly sculpture!

butterfly sculpture in Westgate Park, Columbus, Ohio.

10. Walking Paths

walking paths and picnic tables in Westgate Park.

Within the park there are walking paths to enjoy the mature trees. The perimeter of the park is a 1.2 mile loop. The West Side Running Club makes use of this path on a weekly basis!

What Festivals Take Place in Westgate Park?

1. Hilltop Bean Dinner

boys looking at classic cars at the hilltop bean festival in westgate park.

The Hilltop Bean Dinner is a family friendly festival that remembers the role of Westgate Park in the Civil War. The park was the site of a prison camp, Camp Chase, and the festival offers some traditional food (like beans) but much more: food vendors, craft vendors, a car show, music and more!

The Hilltop Bean Dinner typically takes place on the third Saturday of June.

2. Summer Jam West

boys looking at the art cars at the Summer Jam West Festival in Westgate Park.

This festival celebrates local artists, local bands and supports the curation of a mural on the west side of Columbus each summer. The day is filled with live music, food and handmade goods!

The Summer Jam West festival takes place in early July.

Mums and Mummies

boys at Mums and Mummies in Westgate Park.

Mums and Mummies is the Halloween celebration sponsored by the Westgate Neighbors Association and Friends of Westgate Park and is held at the shelterhouse at Westgate Park! During this public event there are activities for kids, community resources and the opportunity to “trick-or-treat” from participating neighborhood organizations (like yours truly)!

Mums and Mummies takes place near Halloween.

handing out candy in Westgate Park.

Westgate Park is full of fun for all ages! Pack a picnic and enjoy a day in this beautiful park on the west side of Columbus! While you’re in the area make sure to check out my Unofficial West Side Ice Cream Trail for a nearby ice cream treat!

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Westgate Park in Columbus Ohio.

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5 Summer Adventures for Kids in Columbus

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These fun outings in Columbus will get your family out of the house and exploring this summer!

This summer we have also been on the search for new, outdoor activities to keep our cabin fever at bay! Whether it’s wading in a creek, looking for outdoor art or watching a super cool model train weave in an out of a city made of natural materials, there’s an outdoor activity for the whole family to enjoy!

5 Fun Outings for Kids for Summer:

1. The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

  • 1777 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43203

model train at the Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

The Paul Busse Garden Railway will be on display at Franklin Park Conservatory through January 9, 2022. This is an outdoor display that takes up a large portion of the Grand Mallway.

The Garden Railway is made of all-natural plant materials and features 4 botanical themes: Fairytale Land, Wild West Town and an animal themed “Who Lives Here” and a European Travels section! Each theme has its own section of the display and there is a sign listing what each building is and what to look for! It was fun for the kids to find all of the different displays!

boy looking at the model railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

Read more about the railway and see more photos here: The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory is Now on Display and it is Magical!

2. Suspension Sculptures in Schiller Park

  • 1069 Jaeger St, Columbus, OH 43206

suspended statues at Schiller Park in German Village, Columbus, Ohio

Polish artist Jerzy Kedziora’s floating sculptures will be on display indefinitely in Schiller Park in German Village! This is part of an exhibit of around 30 some sculptures that are hanging all around Columbus including Thurber Park Livingston Park, Main Library and more!

Schiller Park is home to the bulk of these suspended sculptures (at least 17) and my kids had a lot of fun looking for them throughout the park! Our favorite was The Rower over Schiller Pond! 

Balance Statues in Schiller Park

Schiller Park has a great playground and lots of shaded picnic tables! We spent the late morning looking for all the sculptures and then had a picnic in the park!

3. Creeking at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

  • 1775 Darby Creek Dr, Galloway, OH 43119

two boys playing in the creek at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Battelle Darby Creek has become our go-to metro park since moving to the west side of Columbus! But we have always entered through the same entrance and done the same hike again and again. Now don’t get me wrong, seeing the bison in the park and visiting the Nature Center are two of the best things you can do in the park, but trying out a new entrance gave us an entirely different experience in the park!

In order to find this creeking spot you can enter through the Indian Ridge Picnic Area or the Canoe Access Area. If you walk the Terrace Trail, you will come across even more creeking opportunities! The Indian Ridge Picnic Area also has a playground and lots of picnic areas.

railroad bridge over Darby Creek

4. Whetstone Prairie

  • 3923 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43214

deer peeking his head out of the grass at Whetstone Prairie in Whetstone Park, Columbus

My husband and I stumbled upon the Whetstone Prairie while visiting the Columbus Park of Roses in June! We were shocked to find that this area existed after years of visiting the park and having no idea! The prairie is in the western part of the park along the Olentangy Trail. (Park in or near the Park of Roses parking lot.)

The prairie area is a peaceful place to walk, look for butterflies and other wildlife! I did not expect to come upon a deer in the middle of Whetstone Park! There are large clear paths for walking and enjoying solace in the middle of the city!

path at Whetstone Prairie in Columbus, Ohio

In addition to The Park of Roses and the Prairie, Whetstone Park is home to a library, rec center, pond and playground!

5. Rope Bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park

  • 5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City, OH 43123

two boys walking the rope bridge in Scioto Grove Metro Park

Let this be another lesson to us all about the value of exploring new parts of the Metro Parks! Again at Scioto Grove Metro Park, I have been guilty of only driving to one area within the park: the playground (which is more of a large climbing structure)!

There are a lot of good hiking areas around the playground, so don’t discount that if you haven’t done it, but this summer we were on a mission to find the Rope Bridge! We kept driving on past the playground to the Grove Lodge (where we parked) and then headed south on the REI River Trail. The Rope Bridge can be found where the REI River Trail meets the Mingo Trail (and it’s marked on the official Metro Parks map.)

view of the creek from the rope bridge in Scioto Grove Metro Park

The path to the Rope Bridge is very shady which is great, but I will caution you that it can be muddy and there were a lot of mosquitos. 

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10 Beautiful Things to See and Do at Franklin Park in Columbus, Ohio

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No matter the season, Franklin Park on the east side of Columbus, Ohio is a beautiful city park you will visit again and again throughout the year!

I think it’s fair to say that Franklin Park gets overshadowed by Franklin Park Conservatory. And I totally get it. There’s nothing else in the city that can really compare to Franklin Park Conservatory, but Franklin Park (the city park as a whole) is definitely worth setting aside some time to visit either on its own or in conjunction with a visit to the conservatory!

I think the most distinctive feature in the park are the Cascades. This area is stunning in every season. The first time we visited was in the fall, several years ago, and I was taken aback by what we found! We just happened to stumble across this area without knowing it was there!

Franklin Park Cascades in the Fall.

Read on to learn more about the park and to find out what there is to do and see at Franklin Park!

Where is Franklin Park?

Most of us are familiar with Franklin Park Conservatory on E. Broad Street. Franklin Park is the public park that surrounds the Conservatory and is bordered by E. Broad St. to the north, Franklin Park West to the west, Franklin Park South to the South and Nelson Rd. to the East. 

What is the History of Franklin Park?

There are some really informative signs in the park and I wanted to share some of the highlights of the park that I learned from reading them!

  • Franklin Park was the site of the first Franklin County Fair in 1852 and the Ohio State Fair first took place in Franklin Park in 1874.
  • The fairgrounds were destroyed in 1890 and the park was given to the City of Columbus.
  • In 1992, Ameriflora was held at the park as part of the Columbus Quincentennial! 5.5 million visitors visited the park!

Things to See and Do at Franklin Park in Columbus, Ohio:

1. The Franklin Park Cascades

Two boys sitting in front of the Franklin Park Cascades.

As I mentioned above, the Cascades are probably the most distinctive feature of Franklin Park. You can find the cascades in the southwest corner of the park. The Cascades run along Franklin Park South and a small portion of Franklin Park West streets. This is the corner opposite of Franklin Park Conservatory.

The information I learned about the Cascades comes from several informational signs that are posted in the park! The Cascades are filled with water that overflows from the Upper Pond.

The pond at Franklin Park.

The water then flows from the pond throughout a stream channel surrounded by a flood plain. A pump house moves the water throughout the system keeping the water flowing through the roots and stems of the native plants.

The Franklin Park Cascades.

The Cascades provide a wetland environment, clean water and stormwater management. The area has been planted with native plants and blooms. This area is home to native Ohio wetland plants and native species like Great Blue Heron, American Bullfrogs, Midland Painted Turtles and more!

A blue heron in front of the pond in Franklin Park.

In 2019, the Franklin Park Cascades were repaired and restored. The picture directly below was taken in April, 2021.

The Franklin Park Cascades in the spring.

2. Franklin Park Playground

A play structure in the playground at Franklin Park.

The playground at Franklin Park is a fun one! It has a natural theme with play structures that resemble honeycomb, spiders and logs. There are swings, balance beams and a spider-shaped climbing structure that my kids loved!

The playground area at Franklin Park.

A boy playing on the playground at Franklin Park.

There are picnic tables in the area and decent shade in the periphery of the park. The playground area is a mix of soft rubber and mulch surfaces. 

Picnic tables at Franklin Park.

3. Reach Out Sculpture

The Reach Out sculpture in the park.

Near the playground there is a memorial to those who are living with and have died of AIDS. The sculpture is called Reach Out and was created by Columbus Artist Alfred Tibor. The sculpture was completed for the Ameriflora exhibition and its location was moved in 2016 to make room for the Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Two boys playing in the park.

The sculpture is surrounded by tulips during the spring.

4. Peace Sign and Trees

The peace monument in Franklin Park.

Near the middle of the Cascades area, look for a monument that says “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in multiple languages. Surrounding this area there are a multitude of trees with country names on plaques under them. I haven’t been able to find any official information on this display, but I can only assume the plants are native to each of the countries listed.

Blooming trees with plaques from different countries.

In this same area is a First Link monument surrounded by beautiful, pink trees in the Spring. The month of April is a beautiful time to visit this area when the trees are beginning to blossom.

The First Link monument in Franklin Park.

5. Amphitheater

The amphitheater seating area in Franklin Park.

There is a great outdoor amphitheater within the park! Outdoor performances take place including annual festivals in Columbus! Even if nothing is going on at the time, it’s a fun place for kids to run around and a beautiful place to take a rest and enjoy the scenery!

the stage in Franklin Park.

6. Walking Paths within Franklin Park

A walking path and bridge in Franklin Park.

There is so much to see within the park and the views are gorgeous! Additionally, there are a lot of paths to walk in order to see everything! The roadway path around the outer edge of the park is 1.1 miles. 

A bridge over the cascades area in Franklin Park.

7. Community Garden

The Community Garden in Franklin Park.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus is free for the public to visit! Community Garden plots are available for rent (though there is a long wait list). Keep an eye out for the Free Little Farmstead where members share what is grown in the gardens. Otherwise, picking or eating from the gardens is not allowed.

8. Farmer’s Market

The Franklin Park Conservatory’s farmer’s market takes place in the main Conservatory parking lot off of E. Broad St. on Wednesdays from 3:30 PM – 6:30 PM during the summer.

It is free to visit this market even though it is technically on the grounds of the Conservatory. There are vendors and food trucks that would be a fun addition to your visit to Franklin Park.

9. Franklin Park Adventure Center

The Franklin Park Adventure Center is home to the Therapeutic Recreation Program for individuals with disabilities. People of all ability levels are welcome to join into the programs that they offer!

The building is also available for rent for private parties! See more information here.

10. Franklin Park Conservatory

Last but not least, I will mention more information about Franklin Park Conservatory! There is not enough room in this post to cover all there is to see and do on the grounds of Franklin Park Conservatory! Rotating exhibits keep us visiting over and over again and the amazing Children’s Garden is a must-visit destination for families in Columbus!

A boy walking inside Franklin Park Conservatory.

Highlights of Franklin Park Conservatory include:

  • Blooms and Butterflies where you can walk amongst the butterflies and see them released at certain times during the day.
  • Seasonal events like Pumpkins Aglow in October and Gardens Aglow in December.
  • The outdoor Children’s Garden full of imaginative play opportunities, natural play areas, water features and special programs.
  • Indoor biospheres to visit featuring Desert, Mountains and Rainforest environments. 

Tips for Visiting Franklin Park in Columbus, Ohio:

It may seem complicated, but it’s actually fairly easy to visit Franklin Park! Here are some tips to make you visit go more smoothly!

A bridge in Franklin Park.

Is there a cost to visit Franklin Park?

No! There IS a cost to visit Franklin Park Conservatory, but beyond the grounds of the conservatory, there is no cost to visit the public areas of the park! Don’t worry, thanks to clear fencing, you will not be confused and accidentally wander into the part of the park that requires admission!

A pink tree reflecting in the water.

Where do I park to visit the public part of Franklin Park?

When visiting the park, it’s easiest to park in the parking lot of Franklin Park Conservatory. There is no charge for parking here and it will be the most straightforward place to park.

There are also a parking lots off of Franklin Park West and off of E. Broad St. west of the entrance to the Conservatory. The parking lot off of Franklin Park West is close to the pond and the Cascades!

The Cascades in Franklin Park.

If you’d like to get closer to the Cascades, there are usually plenty of spaces (and free parking) along Franklin Park South if you are comfortable parking on the street. I’m including this pretty little highlighted map below of where the Cascades are in the park! 😉

A map of Franklin Park.

Franklin Park is definitely worth a visit! With a great playground for kids, beautiful cascades and other free community activities, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours!

A bridge over the water in Franklin Park.

Know Before You Go:

  • Address: 1755 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203  
  • Hours: 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM

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Why You Must Visit Franklin Park

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