(BTW, many of these parks are maintained with public funds and volunteers are always welcome.)
1. Metro Parks
- 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;
- Rangers-guided hikes and nature exploration.
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.
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.
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. Entrance to the Franklin Park Conservatory is $5-$10, free for members.
4. Goodale ParkGoodale 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.)
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 and his father, Frank Hawk, contributed to its design.
6. Dog 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.
7. Downtown Waterfront Parks and the Scioto Mile
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 agressive.
8. Whetstone Park and the Park of RosesWhetstone Park (3923 North High Street) boasts tennis and basketball courts, playgounds, 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 Whestone 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.
Central Ohio's state parks include:
- Mt. Gilead
- Alum Creek
- Madison Lake
- John Bryan
- Buck Creek
- Deer Creek
- Hocking Hills
- Lake Logan
- Buckeye Lake
- Malabar Farm.