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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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Kid-Friendly Trails at Columbus Metro Parks

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Choose one of these short trails that will be easy for kids to walk or hike for your next outing in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks!

Getting outside has been the name of the game this summer and we are enjoying making trips to many of the local Metro Parks! We have discovered so many new areas! It really takes an astute studying of the park maps to figure out where to go and what to do! 

I’ve said it before, we have a habit of always parking at the same entrance in most of the parks, therefore we do and see the same things over and over again! Some of the parks are HUGE and we have been missing out on a lot!

kids walking across a rope bridge in a grove city metro park

Rope Bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park

This summer I am making an effort to explore new parts of the parks! For instance we discovered where to go creeking at Battelle Darby Metro Park and we finally found the Rope Bridge at Scioto Grove

I’m taking some of the guesswork out of map reading for all of you and providing this list of trails that are easy for kids to do! These trails are, generally speaking, less than 1 mile and most of them go in a loop. A bonus is the great scenery along the way!

6 Easy Trails for Kids in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks:

1. Turtle Pond Trail

kid looking out over Darby Bend Lake

Park: Three Creeks Metro Park
Distance: .4 miles
Terrain: Gravel
Where to Park: Confluence Trails Area, 3860 Bixby Rd., Groveport, OH 43125

Take a walk around Turtle Pond! The great thing about this trail is that it goes completely around the pond so you always have a great view of the water. This trail is less than a half a mile! It’s also within walking distance of a playground which is always a bonus!

2. River Rock Trail

Trail at Prairie Oaks Metro Park

Park: Prairie Oaks Metro Park
Distance: .7 miles
Terrain: Gravel
Where to Park: Darby Bend Lakes Entrance, 2755 Amity Rd., Hilliard, OH 43026

This is a trail that has a good amount of shady areas and takes a loop around one of the Darby Bend Lakes. I think it’s beautiful here and it’s one of my favorite Metro Park areas!

3. Boardwalk Trail

kid walking a trail at Inniswood Metro Park in Columbus

Park: Inniswood Metro Park
Distance: .5 miles
Terrain: Gravel and Boardwalk
Where to Park: Main Entrance, 940 S. Hempstead Rd., Westerville, OH 43081

This path is so beautiful! With so many things to do and see at Inniswood Metro Gardens, I think it can be easy to overlook this trail! I love this trail in the fall because of the changing leaves! I mean just look at this picture! I remember it like it was yesterday!

See more about Inniswood Metro Park in: 3 of the Most Unique Parks in Columbus Ohio

4. Lake Trail

two boys holding hands on a trail in Blendon Woods Metro Park

Park: Blendon Woods Metro Park
Distance: .3 miles (one way)
Terrain: Paved
Where to Park: Nature Center, Enter at Main Entrance: 4265 E Dublin Granville Rd., Columbus, OH 43081

Take this trail behind the Nature Center to the Thoreau Lake and Walden Waterfowl Refuge. This one doesn’t go in a loop, but it’s an easy there and back for .6 miles. Plus when you get to the lake, there are observation blinds (with binoculars) for watching birds. When we took this trail for the first time it was such a fun surprise! (P.S. that picture above is so old, but it is one of my favorites!)

Read about all there is to do at Blendon Woods here: Exploring Blendon Woods Metro Park

5. REI River Trail

boy walking on a trail at Scioto Grove Metro Park

Park: Scioto Grove Metro Park
Distance: less than .5 miles (one way)
Terrain: Dirt
Where to Park: Grove Lodge, Use Main Entrance: 5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City OH 43123 

The entire REI River Trail is 1.8 miles, but for kids, I am only recommending the portion of the trail that goes from Grove Lodge to the Rope Bridge. The REI River Trail ends at the Rope Bridge (it becomes the Mingo Trail). We simply cross the bridge and then turn around and go back over it and walk back to Grove Lodge!

6. Edward S Thomas Trail

kids at the wildlife observation deck at Sharon Woods Metro Park, Columbus

Park: Sharon Woods Metro Park
Distance: 1.1 miles
Terrain: Gravel
Where to Park: Schrock Lake Picnic Area, Use Main Entrance: 6911 Cleveland Ave., Westerville, OH 43081

This is a nice, shady trail through the Edward S Thomas Nature Preserve. The cool part about the trail is the Wildlife Observation Deck which is just about at the halfway point of the trail. If you want to keep your hike to a mile, you could turn around at this point and head back to the parking area, but going all the way around the loop is just about the same distance.

On our hike we saw 3 wild turkeys, 2 deer and a chipmunk, which made the trail pretty memorable in my kids’ minds! 

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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kid friendly trails at columbus and franklin county metro parks


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5 Socially Distant Summer Adventures for Kids in Columbus

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

This summer has been a summer of major change for most of us and one of the biggest changes is how much time we have been spending at home! We managed to snag one of the coveted blow up pools for our backyard, we have taken a gazillion walks around the neighborhood, and I’ve even bought 3 (!) bird feeders for our yard! 

But while we are trying to make the most of a life lived mainly at home, we have also been on the search for new, outdoor activities this summer in order to keep our cabin fever at bay!

Please remember that masks are currently mandatory indoors in Franklin County and outdoors when you are not able to socially distance. 

5 Fun Outings for Kids for the Summer of 2020:

Here are 5 things we’ve done this summer that pass the test for being outdoors and also able to be socially (or physically) distant from other groups!

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 10, 2021. 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!

Masks are currently required at Franklin Park Conservatory.

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 through September 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 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. 

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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