Westerville, Ohio, is a suburb of Columbus surrounded by nature-filled experiences you won’t want to miss. There is an abundance of lakes, rivers, reservoirs, parks, and nature preserves in this area. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly experience or a place to escape on your own or for a relaxing date, central Ohio has loads of great options. Each of the experiences included in this list is within a 15-minute drive from the center of Westerville. It can’t get much easier than that. Here are five local places you must visit for outdoor fun. 

Inniswood Metro Gardens

A display of springtime trees at a local arboretum.

Image via Flickr by silver marquis

Maintained by the Inniswood Garden Society, the Inniswood Metro Gardens offer a beautiful outdoor space filled with picturesque views of flowers, trees, and shrubbery throughout an intricately designed park. Visit their website for a virtual tour of the gardens and keep an eye out for local events and programs. There are several children’s programs offered throughout the year in the gardens, including Preschool in the Gardens, Children’s Garden Day, and a Halloween celebration that features crafts and live animals. 

The Inniswood Metro Gardens were first established in 1972 when sisters, Grace and Mary Innis, gave their estate to the Metro Parks organization. Various specialty gardens were added and dedicated in the following years. Today, the 123-acre park includes a greenhouse, rose garden, rock garden, herb garden, and many walking trails. The natural woodland area is home to wildlife and wildflowers native to the area. With more than 2,000 species of plants represented in the gardens, this is a great place for sensory and tactile learning for children of all ages. 

Six different trails welcome explorers to enjoy the area. Every trail is easy enough for beginners and several are ADA compliant. The Inniswood Metro Gardens are free and open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. On Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., visitors can also tour the Innis house where Grace and Mary lived. 

Sharon Woods

Sharon Woods is ideal for adventurers of all skill levels and interests. Covering 761 acres of land, this state nature preserve protects the wildlife of the area and provides a safe place for people to appreciate the natural habitats of local critters. Schrock Lake is a small fishing spot in the center of Sharon Woods. The water is stocked with bass, catfish, and bluegill and all visitors are welcome to fish while adhering to catch and release rules. 

For a more heart-pounding experience of the woods, check out their 3.8-mile multipurpose trail, great for biking, running, and walking. There’s a small fitness station right off the trail with pull-up bars for some muscle-building work as well. Head to the 7.5-acre natural playground and let your kids climb the trees, search for bugs, and dig in the dirt. They might need to be hosed down after this nature-filled experience, but they are sure to have a great time. Sharon Woods welcomes visitors any day from sunrise to sunset.

Alum Creek State Park

Visit Alum Creek State Park for tons of outdoor activities, including camping, boating, hiking, swimming, and fishing. Hikers love the more than 40 miles of trails that wind through the wooded forests, around the lake, and over deep ravines. The Alum Creek State Park Beach allows daylight swimming with a 3,000-foot beach, a concession stand, and bathrooms with changing areas. Reserve a space at the campground to make a vacation out of your visit or simply stop by during the day, any day of the week. Campsites offer electrical hookups and hot shower facilities. 

U.S. history buffs will have a lot to enjoy during a visit to Alum Creek as this area was once home to a fort built during the War of 1812, which was also used during the Civil War. One of the Underground Railroad trails of Ohio actually ran along Alum Creek, and escaped slaves waded in the waters of the creek to get away from their pursuers. Many freed slaves ended up settling down and raising families in the area years later. 

Hoover Reservoir and Nature Preserve

For a great game of disc golf, head to the Hoover Reservoir and Nature Preserve. The 4,700-acre nature preserve and lake offer visitors many opportunities for idyllic experiences. Avid bird watchers must visit the bird sanctuary along the Hoover Meadows Bluebird Trail. There have even been multiple recorded sightings of the American bald eagle from year to year. The Mud Hen Marsh wetlands area is also ideal for sighting rare and local bird species, including the northern cardinal, tree swallow, eastern bluebird, mud hen, house finch, and the eastern kingbird. 

If you’re interested in getting out on the water, the reservoir is perfect for all kinds of water activities. Several boat launches are available for small fishing and motorboats. Locals come here to fish, paddleboard, kayak, and more. Boat speed is limited in areas to keep the waters safe for others. The Hoover Reservoir and Nature Preserve are open to the public daily during daylight hours. 

Blendon Woods

Blendon Woods is home to some amazing rock formations that can help kids learn about natural processes and are simply cool to look at. The woods cover 653 acres of land and feature various species of waterfowl, songbirds, and land animals. Head to the Walden Waterfowl Refuge and Thoreau lake to see many of these birds in their natural habitat. A natural play area has zip lines, climbing trees, and a cargo climbing net for kids to let out some energy. 

Pets are also welcome in Blendon Woods, especially on the 1.3-mile Golden Rod trail. During the winter, when the conditions are safe, visitors can ice skate on a small skating pond in the park. Explore Blendon Woods any time of the week from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Be sure to check out these great outdoor Westerville destinations recommended by Crème de la Crème of Westerville. Make time to visit each spot and decide which is your favorite. All of these experiences are kid-friendly, so you can bring the whole family or enjoy some alone time. Don’t miss out on the natural beauty of central Ohio!