Melissa Kossler Dutton

Driving around Pickerington you're likely to see houses on big lots, schools set back from the road and small businesses offering unique goods. The community, which straddles Franklin and Fairfield counties, offers residents a taste of the country with some big-city opportunities for fun.

"Pickerington has a somewhat rural feel," said resident Stacy Bender. "It's nice that we're not a big city. We have the best of both worlds."

The small-town feel extends to local business, added Jen Dear, membership director for the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce.

"A lot of businesses are locally owned," she said. "There's a sole proprietor or one or two employees."

Families need to check out one of the city's newest attractions, Rule (3). The family-entertainment center features a restaurant, bowling alley and arcade. The facility, which opened in August 2009, includes a giant claw machine (think Toy Story, only bigger), duck-pin bowling and Wii lounges. Customers pay for most games and activities with a card they preload with money.

"It's perfect for anybody of any age," said Dear, a mother of three.

Another fun option is Rock Factory Art & Music Studios, where kids can take music and art lessons, record songs, join a band or pursue other creative interests.

Younger kids can romp and run in the area's plentiful outdoor spaces. The recently installed equipment at Victory Park is different than typical playground offerings, said Mabry Morrow, who likes to go there with her two daughters. The play set is modern with fun climbing areas and a funky slide. Plus, Morrow said, "It has a really great cushy surface."

Across the street at Sycamore Creek Park families will find a more traditional play set, skate park and covered bridge.

Pickerington Ponds, part of the Metro Parks system, has much-used walking trails. The park, designated as one of the state's best birding areas by the National Audubon Society, is a good place to spot blue heron.

Inside fun can be had at the Pickerington Public Library. The farm-themed children's area hosts regular story hours.

The Marcus Pickerington Cinema often has special events geared for children. The movie theater presents a children's film series each winter. Frosty Flicks, featuring $2 movies, starts Feb. 6.

Local kids really look forward to the weekend movies every year, Morrow said.

"Pickerington is really kind of centered around the kids," she said. "It's friendly. You run into people you know."

Even the local coffee shop, Planet Coffee and Tea Co., welcomes youngsters. Owner Lisa Brown usually greets kids with a piece of candy. It's not uncommon for little ones to color or even to munch on sides of bacon while adults visit the shop, which sells homemade baked goods and serves breakfast and lunch.

"We have a meeting area where moms can come in and bring their kids," she said.

Brown, who bought the business in July, plans to host cookie and cupcake decorating parties in the meeting room.

The Kindred Spirits Gifts and Home Dcor offers an ever-changing selection of goods. Fun finds include homemade hair clips, decorated onesies and wood stepstools for kids.

In downtown Pickerington, Feather Your Nest, is another sure bet for interesting gifts and home-decorating items. The store has great hanging lamps, fun hair accessories and pretty baubles for the home.

Environmentally conscious shoppers will want to check out Resale Furniture, which sells used furniture in a wide variety of styles.

Shop Spotlight

Learn more about Rule (3)

Discover Pickerington