Declassified: Columbus’ Best Parks

Emerald Fields 2

As my daughter Emma is a major playground enthusiast, by extension Erin and I become well versed in the city’s park offerings, too. Emma gives us the lowdown on all the latest park related trends, and as such, backed up by considerable hands-on investigations of our own, I can safely report on the best of the best here in C-bus. Never before made public secrets are now available to faithful readers of this blog.

Emerald Fields in Dublin is a relatively new offering, carved into the former forested region behind the Kroger Marketplace on Sawmill. The above photo finds Emma partaking of a little bongo action, following a day of otherwise standard playground activities. The rubber matting beneath most of the equipment, while commonplace today in most newer and/or upscale parks, was nonetheless unheard of a few decades ago, and seems luxurious to us parents who remember crashing into asphalt one too many times. Aside from that, this place is massive, with tons of playground acreage, multi-use trails, ballfields, plenty of open lawn and also this interesting hand-eye coordination set piece involving lights and music. In addition Emerald Fields prides itself on being one of the more handicap accessible parks in the region.


Emma and her dad at Emerald Fields Park

But this isn’t to suggest that Emerald Fields is necessarily Emma’s preferred destination. Newer doesn’t always mean better, and one cannot rush into snap judgments such as these. Selecting a favorite park is serious business. As such, sometimes you must forget the emeralds and opt for previously unearthed gems –  a mindset which might help explain her fascination with Perry Park.

Bored with Emerald Park, she has us drive directly from there to Perry. She has us driving to Perry Park on bitter winter days where faces made in photos suggest even she is rethinking this strategy. At four years old she still says “neighvorhood” when describing Perry Park’s location to the unfamiliar…but is nonetheless able to provide spot on directions for getting there. When Clif and I decide to get together for a daughters’ playdate, only Perry Park will suffice:

Mining for acorn tops at Perry Park

Mining for acorn tops at Perry Park

Perry Park 3

Erin & Emma at Perry Park

Erin & Emma at Perry Park

So yes, it is first at Perry Park – tucked away on an unassuming side street off of Linworth Rd, in case you’re wondering – that we learn acorns and wood chips are currency. As an added bonus, Clif’s daughters go absolutely berserk with excitement when a real live locomotive rumbles through on the nearby track, as they jump up and down, clap, squeal, and point. Keep this in mind, railroad enthusiasts, and also that you can’t always judge a park’s merits at first glance.

On another pleasant late afternoon into evening, meanwhile, we will find ourselves downtown at Columbus Commons. The occasion would be a free nighttime screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark splashed against the Ohio Theatre’s backside. For those of us who recall what used to occupy this site, the City Center mall, coming here is still a mighty peculiar experience, as the leveled block looks almost like a severed limb, or Tom Selleck without his mustache. But once you adjust, you recognize that this is clearly a better use of the space, a sprawling, fun, action packed environment perfect for a family outing. And this is just the initial lesson learned. Here are some others:


  1. Emma is a “light fairy bringing gifts of light to all her precious friends,” as she explains it to us.



2. Daddies can be thrown in jail for not playing with cardboard dolls the right way.



3. Emma looks kind of demonic when gloating over such.


If you find yourself in unfamiliar terrain, meanwhile, it’s good to remain well versed in other emergency options around town. Rhodes Park, located along West Broad between the Hilltop and Franklinton regions, is a perfectly nice, spacious, and entertaining alternative for this neck of the woods. Another treasured outpost if ever exploring Upper Arlington is the Wickliffe Progressive Elementary playground, one which features a gigantic  wooden fort.

Rhodes Park

Rhodes Park


So this concludes our dossier concerning Columbus’s best parks. Remember, this information is highly classified and available only on a need-to-know basis. Please use the utmost discretion when sharing it with others.


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