Venues beyond I-270 that are worth the drive

It looked like a castle and they were treated like royalty.

That's what sold Liz and Bryce Wagner on having their wedding reception at Royal American Links in Galena last fall, despite the fact that the golf course and event center is 25 miles from Downtown Columbus.

“It's really cool, right out in the middle of nowhere, and it's based off a Scottish castle,” Liz explains. “Scotland was a theme for us, since we both like Celtic things and my husband is Scottish. I had Scottish thistle in my bouquet and on my cake. My mom surprised us with a bagpiper.”

The Wagners' royal treatment came through just as effectively as their Scottish theme. “Lisa [Johnson], our wedding coordinator, was fantastic. Anything we wanted, she made it happen,” Liz explains. “She put the flowers on our cake for us. She moved the dance floor and rearranged the entire room for us. She even cried on our wedding day.”

Venturing outside the I-270 loop for a wedding reception has other advantages, Liz adds.

“We got married during football season, and there would've been so much more traffic and issues like that if we'd gone Downtown,” she explains. “That definitely was a plus. We didn't have to deal with traffic at all.”

Read on for a glimpse at five wedding and reception venues beyond the Columbus city limits whose outlying destinations have become part of their appeal.

Royal American Links

Distance from Downtown: 25 miles northeast

Located in: Galena

Most distinctive feature: Castle-like, two-story, stone-and-wood event center on an 18-hole championship golf course

From the multiple-peaked roofline to the tall arched windows and cut-stone facade, the clubhouse at Royal American Links looks like a postcard of the Scottish countryside.

“It's very fairy-tale,” says wedding event coordinator Lisa Johnson. “Most people say they haven't seen a building like this before. There's something magical about it.”

Being in Galena, a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of nearby Polaris, just adds to the storybook feel, she says.

“It's remote, but it's not that remote,” Johnson explains. “You have unencumbered views of nature, but it's only 10 minutes to New Albany and 20 minutes to Polaris. People can turn it into a mini-vacation, since Polaris offers so much as far as shopping and restaurants. Then they can throw in the zoo.”

The castle features a vast banquet room with exposed wood framing across a vaulted ceiling, a large stone fireplace and a wrap-around balcony overlooking the golf course.

“The room lends itself to anything from cozy country to a more elegant setting,” Johnson says. “With the different structural elements in the building, it even feels a wee bit like the trendy barn look some couples are going for.”

And being in a non-urban setting allows for some event personalization that would never fly in the big city.

“We had a December wedding where they had a Clydesdale-drawn carriage on wheels touring around the place,” Johnson recalls. “I thought that was the coolest. We also had a girl who worked for the zoo, and she had zoo animals on the deck. A couple weeks ago, we had Irish dancers come out.”

A bagpipe entry or exit—like the one the Wagners had—also is common at Royal American.

In addition, couples are permitted to take golf carts out to scout for photo locations before—or on—their big day.

“Not all golf courses will let you take pictures on the course,” Johnson says. “But we have a lot of water and bridges and mature trees; there are endless possibilities for pictures.”

One of the most appreciated advantages of Royal American's location, however, is the hassle-free travel.

“Not having traffic congestion, not having to look for parking or pay for parking—people seem to respond well to that,” Johnson says.

Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center

Distance from Downtown: 18 miles north

Located in: Lewis Center

Most distinctive feature: A campus-like setting with cobblestone streets and vast greenspace

Couples wanting an all-in-one venue with a country club setting may find Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center to be exactly what they're seeking.

“We have a 192-guest-room hotel and on-site pub for guests to enjoy,” says senior director of catering Bryan Wright. “We do provide group room rates for our weddings, with a full-service breakfast buffet included.”

Other big draws, Wright says, are the venue's “amazing food,” numerous outdoor ceremony locations, intimate feel and abundant photo opportunities.

“Our beautifully manicured campus comes with plenty of trees, flowers, green-space, amazing Georgian architecture and picturesque front porches that are all great for photos,” he adds.

The 15-acre property also includes a poolside patio overlooking a duck pond, a brick paver terrace with arched floor-to-ceiling windows behind it, a white pergola with climbing wisteria vines and an expansive lawn area accented with flowers and shade trees. All are popular sites for both ceremonies and photo opportunities.

Despite its location near the busy intersection of U.S. Route 23 and Polaris Parkway, the conference center's campus sits back from the road enough to maintain a tranquil ambience, while still being easily accessible.

“We constantly hear from guests that they've driven by our campus regularly, but would never in a million years think the campus would look the way it does when you walk through it,” Wright says.

“The secluded feeling that the guests have, coupled with our phenomenal culinary team and conveniences of the hotel and pub on-site, make our venue the perfect fit for many couples.”

Bloomfield Meadows

Distance from Downtown: 40 miles northeast

Located in: Centerburg

Most distinctive feature: All-organic berry farm on 20 rolling acres with a heart-shaped island on its spring-fed pond

For the laid-back, nature-loving couple, Bloomfield Meadows is the place to be.

“We are out in the country and very relaxed,” says owner Lisa Row-Taylor. “You have the whole 20-acre venue to yourself for the whole day. We don't restrict you. We have lots of nature and wildlife. We even had some baby fox this spring. And we're only 30 minutes from Polaris, so we're not that far removed. Yes, you're driving, but you're not sitting in traffic.”

Another surprising benefit to being in the country is the temperature.

“It's 5 to 10 degrees cooler out here than in the city,” she says, which can be especially valuable during summer weddings.

“We have a lot of great photo opportunities here, too,” Row-Taylor continues. “You don't have to go to a park or anything. We have a garden and fruit trees. We have a pond. We have a meadow … of Queen Anne's lace and daisies, and there are lots of woods.”

An Amish buggy can also be used as a backdrop in photos and offers a nice nod to another advantage of Bloomfield Meadow's location: Ohio's Amish country is just 15 minutes up the road, which can be a pull for out-of-town guests staying a few extra days.

“We're also a you-pick blueberry farm,” Row-Taylor says. “Sometimes I'll make jams or pies, either as favors or for the reception. And the bride can take classes with her bridesmaids to learn how.”

As for overnight accommodations for guests, Row-Taylor says camping is permitted on the property, but there also are full-service campgrounds nearby, and Mount Vernon hotels are only a 15- to 20-minute drive.

“It's very romantic up here and, being in the country, it gets very dark at night so you can see all the stars,” she adds. “Most guests say it's very beautiful here, and they realize it's not as far as they thought.”

Granville Inn

Distance from Downtown: 35 miles east

Located in: Granville

Most distinctive feature: Recently renovated 93-year-old English inn with a rich history and full modern conveniences

Nestled at the end of a quaint street lined with shops bearing colorful, New England-style awnings, the Granville Inn can feel like a destination wedding without all the hassle.

“We try to bill ourselves as the inn where you can bring all your guests and stay for the entire weekend,” says Linda Turk, director of sales and marketing for the inn. “We want to make it an entire experience, and our goal is for the families not to do an ounce of work while they're here.”

Couples and guests can settle in for the weekend in any of the inn's 39 guest rooms, including three suites, then meet up with family and friends at the on-site Tavern at the Inn or head out to explore the town.

“You can walk up and down the street and visit the custard shop, the chocolate shop, souvenir shops, clothing stores,” Turk says. There's even a couple of art galleries, flower shops and a vintage bookstore in town.

The inn's management company also manages Denison Golf Club, “so we can arrange golf for groomsmen or bridesmaids who want to do that as part of their wedding package,” Turk adds. “The 18th hole overlooks the entire village, so that's a great view and a really pretty photo op for the bride and groom.”

For wedding guests arriving a day or two early or wanting to stay late, the Homestead Beer Co. and Lynd's Fruit Farm are only a few miles up the road, and there's a vast system of bike trails throughout the area.

“We also have a self-guided wine trail tour, where we give you a map of the local wineries and pack you a picnic lunch,” Turk says.

“People think we're far removed from Columbus, but it's only about 30 minutes,” she adds. “And it's a totally unique experience. That truly makes it worth the drive.”

The Old Blue Rooster Event Center

Distance from Downtown: 17 miles southeast

Located in: Groveport/Lithopolis

Most distinctive feature: Two venues: the Shelter House, on 40 acres of pet-friendly farmland in Groveport, and the Barn, a rustic but air-conditioned venue just up the road in Lithopolis

If special requests—like having your dog at the ceremony or catering your reception from a food truck—are paramount to a perfect wedding day, one of the Old Blue Rooster Event Center's two venues may be a good fit.

“I think the big thing with us is our flexibility,” says general manager Lorraine Goodyear. “We want [couples] to make their day what they want. We try to be accommodating.”

For military service members (or folks who are just really patriotic), ceremonies and photo shoots can take place in front of a nearly-two-story-tall American flag hung proudly on one side of the Shelter House. And if you need to entertain children during the reception, there's a playground on-site.

“A lot of people want to do something with the outdoors, but also want the security of being inside,” Goodyear notes. The Barn accommodates that with its vast indoor space for 200 guests and adjacent outdoor ceremony area, the Garden, which features permanent bench seating.

Add to that numerous photo backdrops at both properties—including white rail fencing, a covered bridge, a creek, a pond with a lighted fountain, wagons, woods and even an old John Deere tractor—and there's something to suit almost any couple's taste.

“Most people say it's unique and they like the atmosphere here,” Goodyear says. “We are all pretty laid-back.”

Although there is a newlywed suite at the Shelter House, there are no overnight accommodations at the Barn. However, Goodyear says it's less than a 10-minute drive to lodging in Canal Winchester.

“We're not so far out where you can't make it work,” says Goodyear, who got married at the Shelter House in 2014. “This gets them outside the city, but not so far out.”