Get into water-gun battle around wooden fort

Entertaining youngsters and cooling them down on a hot day is easy at the Homestead in Hilliard. That’s because the 44-acre park, at 4675 Cosgray Rd., is full of fun things for kids to explore, including a wooden fort with water guns.

The Homestead, operated by Washington Township Parks and Recreation, offers an array of recreational activities for people of all ages and abilities. The park has a farm-like atmosphere with white picket fences, a pair of barns, apple trees and a 2-acre pond stocked for fishing. There’s also a covered bridge, a train station and a caboose.

The play equipment, though, is what attracted this mother of two young children. We recently visited the park on a warm, drizzly afternoon, which proved to be a good move since the rain appeared to keep others indoors.

The wooden Fort Washington looks like the set of a Western movie, except it’s child-sized. There are three water hoses with trigger-activated nozzles. Two are located at the base of the fort and one is on top, which makes for a good three-way water battle.

My kids didn’t seem too interested in getting wet. They just liked running barefoot on the pebbles and ducking in and out of passageways throughout the fort.

Near the fort is another play area with water features for children ages 5 and younger called Norwich Toddler Farm. Bordered by a picket fence, this area contains wooden cutouts in the shapes of farm animals, little slides and shallow water troughs, best controlled by adults.

The Homestead also has basketball and sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and two playgrounds linked by a tunnel that my kids enjoyed more than the slides, swings and climbing apparatuses. A third play area is wheelchair accessible.

Circling the property is a paved path, which links to the adjacent the Heritage Rail Trail that stretches 7 miles from downtown Hilliard to Plain City.

For more information, visit

  • 654
Dawes Arboretum: Explore 1,800 acres of plants, trees at Newark nature preserve

Explore 1,800 acres of plants, trees at Newark nature preserve

I’ve driven by the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, many times while traveling to and from my husband’s hometown two hours east of Columbus. I’d often think to myself, “One day I’m going to visit that place.”

I recently fulfilled that desire on a hot weekday in July, driving the 30 miles from Columbus to explore the arboretum’s 1,800 acres. I found an abundance of plant collections and gardens in an attractive, rustic setting.

[wowslider id=”69″]

My first stop was the visitor’s center, where I picked up a map. There are 8 miles of hiking trails and a 4-mile auto trail looping around the property. I decided to walk the auto trail, part of which was closed for grounds maintenance. I put my son in his stroller, and we ambitiously set out to explore the more than 16,000 plants and trees.

At times the place looked like a cross between a golf course and a cemetery. It was spacious, well manicured and peaceful. I felt a little guilty walking all over what seemed like private property. But I adhered to the arboretum’s motto: “Explore. Experience. Enjoy.”

There were surprises at every turn. Colorful butterflies landed on white hydrangea. Geese squawked alongside a lake with an island, which was accessible via a bridge. Closely planted shrubs spelled out the words “Dawes Arboretum.”

Other highlights included a seasonal garden, a cypress swamp and a Japanese garden with a serene lake and stepping-stones. They say the Japanese garden is especially beautiful in the spring, when the cherry trees are in bloom. (View the flowering schedule here.)

Beman and Bertie Dawes founded the arboretum in 1929. The couple loved trees and nature, and lived on the property with their five children.

Beman Dawes became wealthy while working in the gas and petroleum industry. He was the founding president of the Ohio Cities Gas Co., which later was known as the Pure Oil Co.

Bertie Dawes loved gardening, fishing, bird watching and photography. Both died in the 1950s. The Arboretum continues its founders’ mission of education, conservation, research and maintaining plant collections for the public to enjoy.

The property is huge, but I conserved enough energy to climb a 36-foot observation tower to view the “Dawes Arboretum” hedge lettering. Measuring 2,040 feet long, it’s one of the largest of its kind in the world. Beman Dawes thought it would be an interesting landmark for pilots as they arrived and departed nearby Port Columbus Airport.

Mission accomplished.

Dawes Arboretum is located at 7770 Jacksontown Rd. SE in Newark. It’s free to visit and open 7 a.m. to dusk every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Visitors Center is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Guests are welcome to picnic on the property, except near the Japanese Garden. Dogs, on leashes, also are welcome.

Tours of the Daweswood House Museum are offered weekends at 1:30 and 3 p.m. and cost $2 for adults, $1 for children.

For more information, visit or call 800-443-2937.

  • 654