Enjoy the Outdoors

Jillian Span Hofbauer
Columbus Parent
Maia Armstrong, 8, (right) and Kennedy Cade, 6, explore the Blendon Woods Metro Park Natural Play Area.

The arrival of cool fall air doesn't mean it's time to retreat indoors until spring. There are plenty of reasons to get outside and take in the season's beauty. From specialized programs to spontaneous adventures at a Central Ohio park, help your kids burn off some energy with these fun ways to enjoy autumn outdoors.

Scout for Wild Turkeys

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's the perfect time to learn about Ohio's wild turkey population. Head to Sharon Woods Metro Park near Westerville on Nov. 18 forFamily Fun: Turkey Time, a program centered around Thanksgiving's iconic bird. There will be discovery stations, activities and games for ages 10 and younger from 10 a.m. to noon at Spring Hollow Lodge.

Then, lace up your shoes for a guided, off-trail hike to scout for wild turkeys. “There's a large flock that hangs out by Spring Hollow Lodge,” said Stephanie West, a naturalist at Sharon Woods. Hikers also will search for common signs of turkeys, such as scratches and footprints, and discuss their eating and roosting habits. The Turkey Trek begins at noon and is open to all ages.

Any chance to get outside in the fall and take a break from electronics is a good way to bond as a family, West added. “It's a great opportunity to explore a park that's close to home and that has a lot of wild adventure in it.”

Tour the City

Introduce your children to some of the region's most treasured public art pieces, architecture and historic sites during one of the self-guided Columbus Art Walks. Developed by Columbus Public Health's Healthy Places program, the tours are a great way for families to get active and explore neighborhoods around the city any season of the year, said Kelli Newman Myers, a public relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

“Every route is diverse and features a little bit of everything,” Newman Myers said of the 14 Art Walks districts, which span Clintonville to Merion Village and the Near East to Highland West. From historic Civil War landmarks to the mansions of early business tycoons, visitors will get a deeper look into Columbus's rich culture and history. “These walking tours give parents a new opportunity to get moving with their kids to experience some great art, and to maybe even discover a few unexplored ‘nooks' in Columbus,” she said.

With 14 maps available, parents can be selective about which walks will interest their families. Downloadable companion audio tours share fascinating stories about artists, elected officials and other notable people. Find the series in the MyColumbus app or online atcolumbus.gov/publichealth/programs/healthy-places/columbus-art-walks.

“Because the tours are self-guided, parents can do as little or as much of the walks as they want, depending on the ages of their children,” said Newman Myers. “It's probably something most families have never done, and I guarantee they will find a few surprises and fun things along the way.”

Take a Hike

If your family includes a four-legged friend, here's an activity everyone can enjoy.Preservation Parks of Delaware County will offer a Hound Hike at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at Char-Mar Ridge Park in Genoa Township. Open to all ages, the hike is led by a naturalist who will talk about some of nature's seasonal changes and how local wildlife prepares for winter.

“Nature is ever-changing,” said Sue Hagan, marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks. “And the naturalist is able to turn it into an educational experience.”

Amid the leafless trees, hikers will search for items such as bird and hornets' nests, fungi and wild berries. “November is kind of the time you start to see some of that stuff that was not visible [in summer],” said naturalist and education services manager Rich Niccum. “Without the vegetation, it really makes seeing deer and some of the smaller animals, like chipmunks and squirrels, visible so you're more likely to see them.”

If you don't have a dog, or just want to venture out for a nature walk, there are many fun things to do at area parks, Hagan said. For example, seek out a playground or natural play area, or have a picnic at a park shelter. Preservation Parks has“a great picnic shelter with a fireplace at Emily Traphagen Park near Powell,” Hagan said. “Sometimes there's something cool about having a cookout on a cool fall day, with a fireplace going.”

Metro Parks, Preservation Parks and even municipal parks are always open, no matter the season. “Getting kids running on the trails gets their energy out, and it also introduces them and exposes them to pieces of nature that they might not be as familiar with,” Hagan said.