As parents, we want to entertain our kids and ensure they build fond memories of their childhood. However, many of the area’s top venues can be pricey. You don’t have to bust your family’s budget to have a good time. Here are six completely gratis gems you can visit with the kids in Westerville, Ohio.

Discover Hoover Reservoir Park

Image via Flickr by j33pman Licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

The Hoover Reservoir is just north of Columbus on Sunbury Road. This 4,700-acre parkland offers families a peaceful and serene destination to get away for the day. You can enjoy numerous free activities at the park, like playing a round of disc golf on the full-length, 27-hole championship course. Then, launch your watercraft from the concrete Baldridge Boat Ramp. It’s on the Reservoir’s eastern shore and there’s plenty of parking for your truck and trailer.

Explore the stroller- and wheelchair-accessible Meadows Bluebird Trail. The trail winds through an area of the park that’s home to local wildlife like ring-necked pheasants, bobolinks, and bald eagles. Winter visitors include Lapland longspurs, snow buntings, and horned larks. Discover even more species within Mud Hen Marsh. The entrance is just west of Sunbury on Big Walnut Road. Access the Hoover Reservoir Park area daily between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m

Visit Inniswood Metro Gardens

Your family will love Inniswood Metro Gardens. This stunning, 123-acre urban garden is ideal for an afternoon stroll with the kids. It offers six easy walking paths, babbling brooks, and incredible outdoor sculptures.

Towering beech, maple, hickory, and oak trees provide shade and give the garden a woodsy feeling. They also provide a magnificent backdrop for a family photo. Numerous wildflowers, exquisitely landscaped beds, and themed gardens collectively display thousands of plant species. That means something is always blooming at this scenic nature preserve between May and the first frost in October.

Sisters Grace and Mary once lived in The Innis House. Staff now offer education programs from the building, and it contains a non-lending horticulture library and restrooms. The main area showcases a rotation collection of work by local artists. Innis House is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Find the gardens on South Hempstead Road.

Explore the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library

Next time you’ve got idle kids in tow, take them to the museum. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum is an Ohio State University library system affiliate. Located in Columbus on North High Street, this art research facility is open for walk-in visitors and admission is always free. Inside, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of American cartoon and graphic novel materials since the 1970s. 

Curator Jenny Robb invites enthusiasts to take advantage of this public library and examine the many treasures housed here. You’ll love seeing examples of original art that you know and love, along with some new works to explore. It contains 45,000 books, 6,300 boxes of archival materials, and 2.5 million newspaper comic strip clippings. These cultural narratives reflect our society through political satire and editorial commentary. Explore Billy Ireland’s galleries Tuesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn Something New at the Orton

The Orton Geological Museum is an outstanding natural history gallery on the main campus of Ohio State University. Located on South Oval Mall inside of Orton Hall, the museum serves the university’s Earth Sciences department. Professors and students rely on its archives for research, outreach, and teaching. The Orton is open to visitors, and there’s no cost for admission.

Guests can browse exhibits with fossils, rocks, and minerals from around the state and other parts of the world. Plan to join museum staff at the Statehouse in October for Earth Science Week and National Fossil Day. You and the kids will get a tour of the property and search for fossils in the building stones. The Orton is open to visitors Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it’s occasionally open on Saturday.

Catch a Flick at McNamara

Each summer, the Genoa Township hosts two special nights featuring a movie under the stars. Grab your little ones and head to McNamara Park on Big Walnut Road. Join your friends and neighbors, and remember to bring seating like camp chairs or a blanket, then relax and enjoy the show. A new release will light up the silver screen at dusk. The schedule includes Sing 2 on June 11, 2022, and Luca on July 9, 2022. August 13, 2022, is the makeup date in the event a showing gets rained out.

McNamara Park is the city’s premier outdoor space. It sprawls across nearly 30 acres and is the site of many local events. It offers Westerville residents a shelter house, picnic tables, grills, a playground, a historic barn, outdoor fitness equipment, a 1.2-mile walking path, and year-round restrooms.

Make a Splash at Hanby Park

There are several places in Westerville where you and the kids can cool off during Ohio’s warm weather, like the spray ground at Hanby Park on East Park Street. Park officials open the splash pad each year on Memorial Day weekend. 

In addition to this cool water feature, Hanby Park offers guests a climbing structure, playground equipment, and swings. Mom and dad will definitely appreciate the shaded swinging benches and their proximity to the parking area and the restrooms. There’s also a train depot, a drinking fountain, a bike rack, lockers, and an air pump if you need to fill your tires. Once your kids have their fill of the splash pad, you can explore the park’s Presidential Oak Grove, too.

That’s a wrap! Crème de la Crème of Westerville put together this list of six awesome free things to do near home. What do you think of our picks? Did we miss your family’s favorite complimentary activity — one other Ohio parents will love? If we did, let us know! Drop us a line so we can add your ideas to our growing guide.