Entertainment complex offers bowling and gourmet grub

When my husband and I decided to take our two young children bowling, I was prepared for the idea to strike out.

After all, we sometimes have trouble holding the attention of our 2-year-old and 4-year-old when they try new things. But at Rule 3 in Pickerington, we ended up having a ball, with some adult fun to spare.

Rule 3 is an entertainment complex in a quiet suburb 20 minutes east of Columbus that offers bowling, mini bowling, billiards and darts, as well as outdoor sand volleyball in the summertime.

It also has a large arcade and a sit-down restaurant that serves fancy grub such as strawberry pecan salad, garlicky calamari and Ohio bratwurst. Kids meals include the standard mac and cheese, chicken tenders and cheeseburgers.

“We offer something for everybody,” said events coordinator Blaire Ramey. “Mom and dad can have a draft beer at the sports bar while the kids play.”

Opened in 2009, the business abides by three rules (hence the name): “Play hard. Play happy. Play here.”

We didn’t break any of the rules, for the most part. It’s hard to keep a toddler “happy” all the time.

We arrived one early Friday afternoon and easily got a lane. Costs range from $12-$30 an hour per lane, depending on day and time. If you don’t finish your game in an hour, you pay more to play.

The scores are kept automatically, although my husband noticed a couple of times when the scoring was inaccurate. Rule 3’s bowling alleys are well-rigged for families, though, with gutter guards that pop out when a young player’s turn comes up and a common-sense approach to choosing your bowling balls based on color.

There are 18 lanes, four of which are in a swanky private room and can be reserved for $160 an hour. The cost includes unlimited bowling for up to 24 people.

One hour of bowling was sufficient for our family, as our kids became more interested in venturing into the arcade. We played ski ball and other fun games, and took a few pictures in the photo booth. I won two big, bouncy balls in a crane game, leaving me quite happy as we headed home.

Rule 3 is located at 650 Windmiller Dr. in Pickerington. For more information about Rule 3 visit www.rule3.com.

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From neat nature center to natural play area, metro park pleases kids

The Highbanks Metro Park in Lewis Center has served me well during my more than 20 years of living in Columbus.

When I was single, I’d often jog around a circular wooded path at the 1,159-acre park, forested with oaks, hickories, aspens and ash trees.

Before getting married, my husband and I would partake in the park’s many free programs, such as evening hikes, where we’d call out to barred owls: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you, all?”

Mike and I recently returned to Highbanks on a pleasant November day with our two young children, Rosie and Max. The outing proved to me that the park is perfectly suited for all ages, but especially for youngsters.

We began our visit at the Nature Center, which features a bird observation window, well-stocked library and neat displays, such as a 30-foot replica of a giant prehistoric fish found in the area.

Rosie and Max enjoyed the interactive activities best, including reaching into drawers to discover stones, feathers and bones. They also discovered a wooden, cutout tree and a cabinet full of hand puppets to create their own stories.

We left the nature center in search of a playground, and we found several, some with only swings, and others with slides and climbing contraptions. We had great fun jumping into piles of leaves near a picnic area that was buzzing with people.

The park has miles and miles of trails for exploring. Some parts overlook the banks of the Olentangy River and have deep ravines cut by glaciers 10,000 years ago. There also are two Native American burial mounds to observe.

Other kid-friendly attractions include a sledding hill and a natural play area, where it’s OK to climb a tree or play in a stream. Families also can take part in free organized activities such as campfires and moonlit hikes.

Highbanks is located at 9466 U.S. 23 N. in Lewis Center. From I-270, take U.S. 23 north about three miles. The entrance is on the left.

Learn more about the 16 central Ohio Metro Parks at www.metroparks.net.

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Small bakery serves delectable gluten-free goods for autistic community

While on a recent field trip with my preschool-aged daughter, Rosie, I discovered a unique bakery in Columbus that specializes in delicious, gluten-free baked goods that taste like they’re not missing a thing. In fact, my savory slice of cheese pizza tasted more wholesome than typical take-out pizza.

Food for Good Thought, 4185 N. High St., offers take-and-bake pizzas, bread, muffins, brownies and cupcakes for customers with special dietary needs. Here, people with sensitive digestive systems, such as those with celiac disease, can order pies and cakes, like a flourless chocolate cake with whipped-cream frosting, and not forgo the flavor.

Owner Audrey Todd also teaches classes to families on how make the gluten-free baked goods that are sold in her small house-turned-business.

Rosie and her classmates went there to watch dough turn in an industrial mixer and scoop batter into muffin tins. They also gobbled down cheese and pepperoni pizza and decorated and devoured chocolate-chip cupcakes.

Gluten, we learned, is a protein found in such grains as wheat, barley and rye. It can cause inflammation in the small intestines of some people, so eating a gluten-free diet controls symptoms and prevents complications. Goods in Todd’s bakery are made with gluten-free flour.

Todd, a clinical psychologist, personally understands the impact of a gluten-free diet. Her 7-year-old son, Liam, has autism and also has trouble digesting certain foods. By putting him on a gluten-free diet, Todd discovered that not only did Liam’s abdominal pain and diarrhea go away, but so did some of his neurological behaviors associated with autism.

Todd founded Food for Good Thought in 2008 in honor of her son and others like him who could benefit from gluten-free products. She has 11 employees, seven of whom are autistic.

“Our aim is to provide prepared gluten-free foods to our community, as well as support employment and vocational training for a wide range of individuals living with autism,” Todd said.

She’s also providing exceptionally tasty homemade baked goods. And that’s good for the community, too.

Food for Good Thought offers field trips to school-aged children. Hours are noon-4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. For more information, visit foodforgoodthought.com or call 614-447-0424.

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