Castle playground in Upper Arlington is full of fun, friendly features

The Wickliffe Playground in Upper Arlington is a study in friendship.

Volunteers in the community built the castle-like playground within a week in 1990 and dedicated it “to children of all ages,” according to a bronze plaque on one of its spires.

Constructed out of plywood and car tires, it’s where boys and girls can engage in adventuresome games of hide-and-go-seek and tag.

  • Volunteers in the community built the castle-like playground in 1990 and dedicated it “to children of all ages."
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The playground is surrounded by colorful benches with positive messages about friendship like “you are amazing” and “treat others kindly.” They’re the works of students from the adjacent Wickliffe Progressive School, known for its art-centered curriculum.

Also on site is a Little Free Library – a birdhouse-like structure where children can borrow and lend books – another friendly gesture by the school.

I learned about the playground from a friend who lives in the neighborhood and regularly visits with her son. I went with my children, who quickly made new friends while traversing a labyrinth of walkways and bridges.

Other neat features include a tunnel of tires, a portion of a walkway that rocks back and forth, and a section that looks like a locomotive. There also are swings that don’t squeak – perfect for swinging alongside a friend.

Visit during non-school hours or on weekends. Parking is available along the 2400 block of Eastcleft Drive in Upper Arlington.

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Introduce youngsters to rock climbing at Upper Arlington park

Sure, Columbus doesn’t have mountains, but that doesn’t stop our desire to climb.

Children and adults can exercise this craving at Reed Road Park in Upper Arlington. That’s where you’ll find four natural looking boulders made of concrete on a squishy surface.

  • Children and adults can climb artificial boulders at Reed Road Park in Upper Arlington.
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The fabricated boulders were installed at the park in 2012 and manufactured by a Canadian company called RockCraft.

Weighing in at about 3,000 pounds apiece and standing at roughly 8 foot tall, the rocks have sculpted holds and ledges for hands and feet. They’re recommended for ages 5 and up as a way to get a physical and mental workout without experience or safety equipment.

My kids just thought they were fun to climb, not knowing they were exercising and improving their confidence with each upward step.

The park, located at 3855 Reed Rd., also has two sand volleyball courts, baseball diamonds, a multi-purpose trail, a picnic shelter, a small playground and restrooms.

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Walk on bridge over muddy water in Galena will ease your mind

I like boardwalks. Whether they’re situated at a beach, through a wetland or over a stretch of water, I find these wooden walkways enticing. Plus, they usually signal that there’s something interesting to look at beyond the path.

Such is the case with a 1,500-foot boardwalk over the Hoover Reservoir in Galena, 30 minutes northeast of Columbus. It’s a popular spot for strolls at sunset, offering a view of wildlife, fishermen and kayakers, all drawn to the 3,000-acre body of water.

  • The Hoover Mudflats Boardwalk in Galena is a popular spot viewing wildlife, fisherman and kayakers, all drawn to the 3,000-acre Hoover Reservoir.
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The Hoover Reservoir is formed by the Hoover Dam blocking the Big Walnut Creek in Westerville. It was created in 1955 as a major water source for the city of Columbus.

Columbus Parks and Recreation Department oversees the reservoir and the boardwalk. Water depth in the reservoir is lower in the fall, making the area near the boardwalk more favorable for migrating shore birds such as the heron, egrets, gulls and sandpipers and the occasional bald eagle.

Even though the water gets murky, fall is the perfect time to spy wildlife from the boardwalk and take in the colorful trees. Bring binoculars to get a better view of birds pecking the mud in search of worms and small fish.

Afterward, have a meal at one of the nearby restaurants – Mudflats Bar & Grill or the Galena Diner. We ate grilled cheese sandwiches at the diner, which is open seven days a week.

To get to the Hoover Mudflats Boardwalk, travel northeast on S. Old 3C Road toward downtown Galena, where the road is called Columbus Street. Turn right onto Front Street, just before reaching downtown. The parking lot is on the right.

Learn more about Hoover Reservoir Park at

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Smell flowers, wade in a stream, walk a labyrinth

The Gardens at Gantz Farm is more than a pretty space to look at flowers. The Grove City park also is a learning grounds for thoughtful landscaping, a natural play place for curious kids wanting to turn over rocks in a stream, and a fine spot for contemplating life as you twist and turn through a brick-paved labyrinth.

Plus, it’s got a good playground.

  • The Gardens at Gantz Farm in Grove City is more than a pretty space to look at flowers.
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But, like its name implies, Gantz is first a garden. Visitors can pick up a brochure and take a self-guided tour through the gardens, situated alongside a historic farmhouse. Plant species are categorized by usage: cooking, floral arranging, producing natural dyes, making medicines, landscaping and even their pollution-fighting abilities.

My kids, though, were mostly interested in walking the labyrinth. Unlike a maze, the path of a labyrinth has one entrance that leads to its center with no dead-ends. I was delighted to see how much my children enjoyed this ancient, meditative activity.

Rosie and Max also joined other children in a nearby stream. Those, who didn’t join the fun, sat on the grassy embankment and watched others partake in another simple pleasure – flipping over stones in search of snails and crayfish.

The Gardens at Gantz Farm is located at 2255 Home Rd., Grove City. For more information, call 614-871-6323 or visit

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