Step Inside a Fairy Tale at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio

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Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio is a must visit destination in Central Ohio with magical gardens, hiking trails, and some of the best scenery no matter what the season!

boardwalk in Inniswood Metro Gardens, Westerville Ohio

Inniswood Metro Gardens is one of the most unique parks in Columbus! It is just a gem. One of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, this park is free to visit year round and will surprise and delight you during all four seasons. We LOVE this park. There is so much to see and there is quite a bit of the park geared towards kids as well!

Statue in Inniswood Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio

One of the “stricter” Metro Parks, Inniswood Gardens does not allow biking or active sports. Pets are not allowed, nor is picnicking. Picnicking might be the most challenging of the garden etiquette for families to follow, (kids and their snacks, am I right?!) but for your convenience, there is a picnic area called “The Patio” near the parking lot.

treehouse and boardwalk trail inside Inniswood Metro Gardens

So this park is focused on seeing and hearing more than touching and doing but there truly is so much to see. The gardens have become one of my favorite places to visit in the fall ever since we tried out the Boardwalk Trail during an extra warm November a couple years back. But more about that in a few minutes . . .

What is Inniswood Metro Gardens?

flowers and gardens surrounding the main entrance of Inniswood Metro Gardens in Columbus, Ohio

As mentioned above, Inniswood Metro Gardens are part of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and was donated to the parks by two sisters (Grace and Mary) in 1972. The Gardens and the Innis House once belonged to the sisters and they desired to allow the public to enjoy (and preserve) their 37-acre estate.

The area is now 123 acres with 10 Feature Gardens, 6 trails, educational programs, and a non-lending library.

Feature Gardens at Inniswood Metro Gardens

There are 10 Feature Gardens inside the park. Each of them is unique in its own way. Some of the feature gardens are smaller with just a path to walk through and some are larger with multiple areas to explore.

1. Circle Garden

two benches in the Circle Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens

The Circle Garden is the area you will encounter as soon as you walk through the main entrance of the park. Consisting of a circle made of bricks, benches and beautifully landscaped flower gardens.

2. Rose Garden

the Rose Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens, Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

The Rose Garden is a popular spot for weddings and family and/or senior photos. However you should know that this area is not reservable. There is no fee to have a wedding here, but it is on a first-come, first-served basis and wedding parties are limited to 50 people. See more details about weddings here.

3. Cutting Garden

sign and flowers in The Cutting Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Don’t be fooled by the name. “Cutting” does not mean you. 😉 This area has annual and perennial flowers that would look great in a vase!

4. Herb Garden

gazebo and flowers in The Herb Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens, Westerville Ohio

The herb garden contains herbs of all kinds, common and uncommon and has some picturesque structures and benches.

boys walking through multiple arches in the Herb Garden at Inniswood Metro Park

5. Fern Garden

The Fern Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens, Columbus, Ohio

The Fern Garden features hardy ferns and is a test site for the Hardy Fern Foundation.

6. Woodland Rock Garden

waterfall in the Woodland Rock Garden area at Inniswood Metro Park

This is one of my favorite areas in the park. The Woodland Rock Garden consists of layers of rock with waterfalls, plants and just beautiful landscaping.

7. Conifer Garden 

arches in the Conifer Garden at Inniswood

The Conifer Garden features various evergreen and deciduous conifers.

8. Brookwood Trail Garden

The path on the Brookwood Trail

The Brookwood Trail is a seasonal display with shade plantings.

9. Memorial Garden

sign, benches and blue trellises in The Memorial Garden area

The Memorial Garden has various garden beds and is home to the Inniswood Gate. This is a great area for sitting and reading (you know, if you visit without kids).

10. Sisters’ Garden

plant covered arches in The Sisters Garden at Inniswood

I’ve saved the biggest area for last. The Sisters’ Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens is made up of so many exquisite gardens and fun areas for kids. If you just look at the main map of the park, you will not know what you are missing!

Check out this map for all the details in the Sisters’ Garden. Wind your way through the 2.8 acre area that is bordered by the Sisters Garden Loop and discover so many hidden gems! The Sisters’ Garden is made up of these 9 areas:

Entry Garden

The Entry Garden features a statue of Grace and Mary Innis: The Sisters!

Statue of The Sisters in Inniswood Metro Gardens

Country Garden

two boys playing in the Water Mill in the Sisters Garden at Inniswood Metro Park

The Country Garden is home to Granny’s House and Bessie’s Barn. There is also a windmill pump which kids love to splash in!

Granny's House in The Sisters' Garden at Inniswood Metro Park

by inside Granny's House looking at brightly painted walls

Wetland Garden

The Wetland Garden inside the Sisters' Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Woodland Garden

The Woodland Garden area

Turtle Mound

Turtle Mound at Inniswood Metro Garden

Story Maze

Earth on Turtle's Back a Native American Story at Inniswood Metro Garden

The Story Maze features a Native American legend which you can read following the stones along the path.

The Story Maze at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Circle Maze

The Sky Woman is the focal point of the Circle Maze!

The Sky Woman at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio

Trellis Cave

Look for imprints of leaves and animals on the trail in the Trellis Cave built from Ohio limestone. 

The Trellis Cave at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Secret Garden

The Secret Garden is one of my favorite areas of the park featuring inspiring quotes, hidden treasures in the walls and a sense that you are alone in your own story book fairy tale!

The Secret Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Hiking Trails Within Inniswood Metro Gardens

There are 6 short trails within the Inniswood Metro Gardens, ranging from .1 miles (Frog Talk Walk) to the longest at .6 miles (Chipmunk Chatter Trail). I have mentioned that pets are not allowed in the garden, however there is one exception and that’s the Chipmunk Chatter Trail. This trail is technically on the outside of the garden and pets are allowed on this one!

These are two of my favorite trails within the park:

Boardwalk Trail (Preserve Trail)

a boy on the Boardwalk Trail in Inniswood Metro Park

I first happened upon this trail during an unseasonably warm November and I was stopped in my tracks. (See photo above.) It was slightly foggy and the trees were in full color. It was just magical. I felt like I was in a fairy tale. I made a point to go back in the fall of 2020 and I was not disappointed! (See photo below.)

Two boys on the Boardwalk Trail

Sisters’ Garden Loop

wooden treehouse within The Sisters' Garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens

For those of us with kids, the Sisters’ Garden Loop is a must. Not only does it surround the most kid-friendly area of the park, but hidden along the path is a wooden bridge and tree house that you just might miss if you don’t know to look for it!

boy in the wooden treehouse at Inniswood

the swinging bridge near the treehouse at Inniswood

Other Things to See and Do at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Innis House

The Innis House front view

The Innis House is home to offices, educational programs and a non-lending horticulture and natural history library. You can also visit the Main Room to see local artwork. 

Behind The Innis House there is a scenic overlook and a wooden train track which is fun for kids to see.

The Innis House backyard view with train track at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Education Pavilion

people in the Education Pavilion at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Outdoor classes and activities for all ages are held throughout the year at the Education Pavilion. We attended a class for preschoolers there a couple of years ago and the kids got to make musical instruments and do other crafts and activities!

The Patio

Across the parking lot, directly opposite of the main entrance to Inniswood Metro Gardens is a picnic area called The Patio. If you need a place to sit and/or have a picnic, this is it!

metal sunflowers at the entrance to The Sisters' Garden at Inniswood Metro Park

Tips for Visiting Inniswood Metro Gardens

1. Remember that food is not allowed in the Gardens so plan your visit in between meal times or have a snack in the car on the way to the park. If you pack a lunch, plan to eat it at one of the picnic tables surrounding the parking lot.

2. There is only one vehicle entrance to Inniswood and parking is abundant and adjacent to the entrance.

3. There is a lot to see in the park, but if you are visiting with kids you may want to focus on the the Sisters’ Garden and Sisters’ Garden Loop for the most kid-friendly attractions.

4. With the exception of the Chipmunk Chatter Trail outside the park, pets are not allowed at Inniswood Metro Gardens.

Know Before You Go:

Address: 940 S. Hempstead Rd., Westerville, OH 43081

Hours: Open Daily from 7:00 AM – dark

Metro Parks Info Line: 614-508-8000

Innis House Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM; Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Closed Mondays and Holidays

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Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks: Inniswood Metro Gardens


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Glacier Ridge Metro Park Offers Tons of Fun For Families

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Glacier Ridge Metro Park is one of the most unique of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and offers lots of fun for kids and families!

Glacier Ridge Metro Parks in the Plain City/Dublin/Jerome area of Central Ohio and is named after the glaciers that shaped the park many years ago! The park is full of little gems that make it extra fun for kids! It’s truly one of my favorite of the Metro Parks to take my kids because there is enough to keep them active and entertained for a good portion of the day!

two boys hiking at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

There are two entrances to the park, the Main Entrance and the Honda Wetland Education Area Entrance. Both entrances are on Hyland-Croy Road. If you have the time, I definitely recommend checking out the activities at both.

If you bike, there is a trail between the two entrance areas. The Ironwood Trail is 2.8 miles long and connects to both ends of the park. Otherwise, driving is between the two is your best bet! There is ample parking at both entrances. See the park map.

Things to do at the Main Entrance of Glacier Ridge Metro Park:

The address of the Main Entrance at Glacier Ridge Metro Park is 9801 Hyland Croy Rd Plain City OH 43064. There are a couple of parking areas around a loop within this area of the park.

1. Ninja Course

ninja course natural play area at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

I don’t even think “ninja course” is the official name for this play area.  It’s considered one of Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park’s natural play areas but I and lots of other people I know call it the Ninja Course! Because here kids can pretend they are on their very own episode of American Ninja Warrior!

This natural play area was built in partnership with The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture and is made up of three “Play Forms”: The Ramps, Towers and Platforms.

Natural Play Area Play Forms at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

This has to be one of the coolest things in all of the Metro Parks if you have kids! We happened to stumble upon this by complete accident the week that it opened a couple of years ago! It was a hit with the kids!

The Ninja Course has several climbing structures, a rope hammock, wall climbing, rope climbing, a small zip line and lots of opportunities to hide and seek!

boy on zip line at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

The Marsh Hawk Zip Line is probably the most popular feature of the park. It’s designed for kids ages 5 and up with a weight limit of 350 lbs. 

2. Challenge Course

 

boy on the challenge course at Glacier Ridge Metro park

The Challenge Course at Glacier Ridge Metro Park offers 13 obstacles like the Tire Run, Frog Jump, Tunnel Crawl and more. For the record, this course is designed for those who are age 12 and up. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and the obstacles are to be encountered at your own risk.

There, now that all of the disclaimers are out of the way, my kids (who were 6 and 9 at the time) really enjoyed trying out the obstacles. I was shocked to see my usually cautious 9 year old scale the Cargo Climb!

boy on the Cargo Climb at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Of course serious athletes use the Challenge Course as a darn good workout, but some of the elements are fun and challenging exercises for kids and amateurs , too!

kids on the obstacle course at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

The Challenge Course is right across the path from the Natural Play Area/Ninja Course so there is plenty in this area to keep kids active and employing large muscle movement!

3. Natural Play Area

kids in the Natural Play Area at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Just behind the wooden “play forms” that I am calling the Ninja Course is a Natural Play Area consisting of stick forts and tree trunks. Kids can be king (or queen) of their own wooden castle! I love the open ended imaginative play these Natural Play Areas inspire!

Glacier Ridge Metro Park Natural Play Area

If you’re looking for more ideas, Blendon Woods has a great Natural Play Area!

4. Hiking

Red Oak Trail at Glacier Ridge

The most hiking we have done in this area of the park is on the Red Oak Trail, a pretty trail through the Natural Play Area. It’s a great spot for a walk in the fall! There are lots of kid-friendly trails within the Metro Parks!

5. Playground

playground at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

After listing all of the really unique areas for kids to play, an actual playground seems a little bit anticlimactic, but there is one and it’s right there by the Natural Play Area, Ninja Course and Challenge Course, so if your kids have any energy left (somehow they always do) send them over to the playground!

Things to do at The Honda Wetland Education Area Entrance of Glacier Ridge Metro Park:

The address of the Honda Wetland Education Area Entrance is 7825 Hyland Croy Rd., 43064. There is one main parking area here by the Education Center.

1. Honda Wetland Education Center

Honda Wetland's Education Area

While I wouldn’t call this a full on Nature Center, the Honda Wetland Education Center is a barn-like structure that offers information about the inhabitants of wetland areas. There is posted information about birds, ducks, insects and other plants and animals that can be found in the area including a list of 68 plants and animals that can be found in the wetlands.

Honda Wetland Education Center at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

I’ve visited this area when it was wet and when it was dry, in the summer and in the fall. It’s definitely more striking when wet, but it’s interesting to see how it can change based on how much precipitation we have had and what season it is when you visit. I’ve included some pictures for comparison in the next few sections!

boy at the Honda Wetland Education Center at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

2. Observation Tower

25 foot observation deck at Glacier Ridge

This 25-foot observation tower has binoculars and is fun to climb. It’s great to view the park from the top! It’s also a great place for kids to play pirates and soldiers! 😉

This picture in June 2018:

boy looking through the binoculars at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

This one in November 2020:

boy looking through binoculars at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

6. Hiking

bare tree at the end of a boardwalk at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

The Boardwalk Trail is a short walk (.2 miles one way) from the Honda Wetland Education Center. The last time we were there it was pretty dry, but in theory, the boardwalk is through the wetland area.

I always think there’s something extra special about walking on a boardwalk trail and this is an easy and picturesque trail to do with kids. I love the tall trees here. They are always so striking.

This first picture was taken in June of 2018:

boardwalk trail at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

And this one in November 2020:

two boys on the boardwalk trail at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

As you can see, Glacier Ridge Metro Park offers tons of fun for families! I hope you can plan a trip to visit this unique Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park!

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Exploring Glacier Ridge Metro Park


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8 Ways to Explore Mt. Gilead State Park with your Family

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Mt. Gilead State Park, south of Mansfield Ohio, is a small Ohio State Park that offers a getaway in nature for families!

bench next to the lake in Mt. Gilead State Park

My family visited Mt. Gilead State Park during the summer of 2020 when nearly everyone was seeking out outdoor activities for their families! The park was a great halfway location for us to meet up with my parents who live in Northeast Ohio and we were able to spend the day together fishing, picnicking and playing in the park!

Mt. Gilead Lake, Ohio

Mt. Gilead is a smaller state park which makes it very manageable and easy to see in a day or an afternoon. With picnic shelters, a natural-themed playground, fishing and creeking there are many activities that families with kids of all ages can enjoy!

Here are some activities your family can do when visiting Mt. Gilead State Park:

1. Camping at Mt. Gilead State Park Campground

While my family did not camp during our visit to the park we noticed the campground immediately when we arrived!

The campground has 22 full-service sites with water, sewer and electric and 37 electric sites. There is a shower house and camp store. There are two Camper Cabins inside the campground area that offer 2 bunk beds, microwave, refrigerator, TV, and household items.

Reservations can be made at the campground at Mt Gilead State Park up to 6 months in advance. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-866-644-6727. 

2. Fishing in Mt. Gilead Lake

dad and two boys fishing at Mt. Gilead Lake

The ODNR website states that the Mt. Gilead Lake contains bass, bluegill and other panfish. I don’t know my fish very well and we didn’t manage to catch anything while were were there so I will take their word for it. LOL! There were other fishermen there having better luck than us so I can validate that there are fish in the lake!

Trees reflecting in the water in the lake at Mt. Gilead State Park

A valid Ohio fishing license is required to fish in the lakes if you are 16 and older. Your Ohio fishing license can be purchased online or at a local marina.

3. Creeking

boy walking on the rocks in the creek

My boys enjoyed playing in the shallow area west of the dam at the Lower Lake. In fact we spent a LOT of time here. They were very entertained and were not deterred when it began to sprinkle! Bring water shoes and some nets to play in the water and look for minnows if that’s your jam!

the dam at Mt. Gilead State Park near Mansfield, Ohio

There is a parking area closer to this creek area that is west of the main park entrance on Route 95. Or you can access this area by walking on the hiking trail around the lake. Take a look at the map of the park before you visit!

4. Playground

playground at Mt. Gilead State Park Campground

There is a small, natural-themed playground on the property with a tunnel, slides, climbing structures and swings. There is also a basketball court and volleyball court available as well as disc golf. 

natural themed playground at Mt. Gilead State Park

5. Picnicking

picnic pavilion at Mt. Gilead State Park

Picnic areas are located throughout the park. There are convenient pavilion areas near the restrooms and across from the playground.

covered picnic pavilion at Mt. Gilead State Park in Ohio

6. Hiking the Trails within Mt. Gilead State Park

hiking trail at Mt. Gilead State Park

Hiking in Mt. Gilead State Park is on unpaved trails. There are 6 trails, the longest being the Lake View Trail at 1.7 miles. Most of our hiking was done around the Lower Lake and the Piney Woods Loop which extends north of the dam. 

boy walking on the path in Mt. Gilead State Park

7. Boating on the Upper and Lower Lakes

lake and trees in the park

Paddle boats, sailboats and boats with electric motors are allowed on the Mt. Gilead Lake. 

8. Pick up an Ohio State Parks Passport

If exploring Ohio State Parks is something you enjoy, make sure to pick up a Park Passport! When you visit, you can collect stamps from park rangers. The book also includes stickers you can use if a Nature Center isn’t open or you can’t find someone to stamp the book for you. 

This little gem is just $10 and gives lots of information about each park. It’s actually a really great reference tool if you’re looking for somewhere new to visit! There were so many parks I didn’t even know about. The book is conveniently divided by area of the state!

Ohio State Park Passport

You can purchase the Park Passport online or within the parks. We were able to purchase our Passport at the Salt Fork State Lodge.

Things to do Near Mt. Gilead State Park

Ohio Bird Sanctuary

If you’re looking for something else to do in the area, about 25 minutes from Mt. Gilead is Ohio Bird Sanctuary where you can see birds who have been injured and can no longer live in the wild. There is an outdoor bird display, butterfly gardens, a natural play area and opportunities for hiking!

Downtown Mansfield, Ohio

Take a ride on the carousel, grab lunch or a cup of coffee, and visit Little Buckeye Children’s Museum in downtown Mansfield, about 40 minutes away.

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Exploring Mt. Gilead State Park in Ohio

 

 


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