Watch football while kids play games of skill for prizes

While thinking of a place to watch an Ohio State football game with our young children, my husband and I decided to visit Dave & Buster’s at Polaris Fashion Place, 1554 Polaris Parkway. The restaurant seemed like a good fit for the four of us. It offered a sports bar with big-screen TVs for dad and a bustling arcade with more than 200 games for mom and the kids.

I figured, though, that we wouldn’t be the first ones in this football-crazed city to come up with the idea, especially on a rain-soaked Saturday. But, likely because the Buckeyes were playing in Columbus, the place was far from packed.

There are two Dave & Buster’s locations in central Ohio and more than 60 across the United States. The chain was founded in 1982 in Dallas by two friends, not surprisingly, named Dave and Buster. Earlier in their careers the two owned side-by-side businesses that attracted the same clientele. Buster ran a casual eatery, and Dave ran an arcade. Why not include both experiences under one roof, they thought.

The restaurant contains three areas: a dining room, sports bar and game room. We ate lunch first while watching the Buckeyes take on the Florida A&M Rattlers. Some of the wall-mounted, flat-screen screen TVs were as wide as 180 inches.

The menu is described as “fun gourmet,” which boils down to traditional American dishes with some twists, such as a side of sweet-potato fries instead of French fries. The kids menu offers some interesting choices, too, such as linguine, Caesar salad and doughnut holes for dessert.

Our kids, though, could hardly keep still during lunch thinking about the flashing and buzzing games in the room around the corner.

We paid for our lunch and ordered Power Cards, one $10 card for each child that totaled $24 with a charge-up fee. Cards can be kept and used again later.

The usage went fast – about 15 minutes of play per each card. The best deals were the ones that spit out tickets that could be used to redeem prizes in the Winner’s Circle. These included several Skeeball-like games and another game with piles of shiny gold coins that you tried to shove over the edge to win tickets.

In no time I was putting $10 more on each card to appease my ticket-hungry children, who were now collecting coils of them in plastic buckets, casino style.

We turned in all their tickets to be weighed, and they totaled about 750 points. The prize room was filled with kid-drooling prizes such as remote-controlled cars and Hello Kitty and Angry Bird toys. Top-shelf items included XBOX games, iPads and an electric guitar with amplifier. “Who earns enough points to claim these?” I thought.

Our loot included two strawberry suckers with laser lights, two neon-colored bracelets and a package of gummy bears. We also got to enjoy OSU’s 76-0 victory over the Rattlers, allowing us to head home full and satisfied.

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Find fun playground, sand volleyball, charcoal grills

Some of my favorite memories of childhood involve impromptu outings to neighborhood parks with my brothers and sisters.

As teenagers, my older siblings were surprisingly adept at selecting fun places for us to visit. They often packed a picnic of hotdogs and hamburgers that they’d cook on the charcoal grills that dotted the landscape in the 1970s.

Recently seeing several charcoal grills alongside a picnic shelter at Alum Creek Park in Westerville brought back this fond memory. It made me want to return to revive the park picnic in the near future with my family.

On this day, however, I was content enough to appreciate all the park’s other fine offerings, including a sand volleyball court, ball diamond and basketball court that’s lit up at night.

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My young children enjoyed the plentiful playground equipment with uncommon features such as a climbable train donned up in primary colors, and a spinning contraption that allowed them to rotate in a circle while hanging by their arms. “Again, again!”

Operated by Westerville Parks and Recreation, Alum Creek Park is situated on 12 tree-filled acres alongside Alum Creek at 221 W. Main St. It’s home to many events throughout the year, including a free summer concert series that gives center stage to the domed-shaped amphitheater with its natural, stadium-style seating.

The park also offers a nearby bike path, canoe launch and clean restrooms – a must for families with young children.

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Please young royals at castle-like playgrounds

Sometimes I prefer a wooden, rickety rollercoaster to a streamlined, steel one. Therefore I thought my children might like to try an “old-school” wooden playground instead of the newfangled community play areas we usually visit.

Wildwood Park, at 785 W. Broadway in the village of Granville, has a great wooden playground. Volunteers built it in 1993, according to a sign on the property.

At its entrance, the structure resembles a castle or a fort, depending on which of my children you ask. It’s got wooden towers with pyramid-shaped tops and a labyrinth of walkways with lots of hiding places. There are multiple levels, with several metal slides, and swings and tunnels made of old tires.

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We visited the park, 40 minutes east of Columbus, on a hot day before school started in August, as a way to celebrate the impending end of summer. We spent most of our time under a shady tree amid the structure, which lent a tree house feel to it. I sat in the middle as my children ran around me, looking for clues that led to a pot of gold painted on a treasure map.

The park also contains soccer fields, clean bathrooms and a water fountain.

The promise of ice cream inspired my kids to wrap up their play. We headed a half mile west back toward downtown Granville where we found Whit’s Frozen Custard at 138 E. Broadway.

Whit’s is a decade-old, local establishment where they make the custard fresh every day. We got cups of the Buckeye flavor – peanut-butter custard with chunks of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups – and sat an iron table under a market umbrella.

It was a fitting end to an old-school adventure that never goes out of style.

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