Melissa Kossler Dutton
Groveport offers many recreational opportunities.

Groveport resident Laura Slaby has plenty of choices when it comes to planning close-to-home outings for her four daughters.

The family enjoys visiting the area's numerous parks and attending the city's many free or low-cost, kid-friendly events.

"They have programs frequently - very frequently," she said. "We can't make it to all of them."

The city has focused on becoming "Central Ohio's recreation destination," said Kyle Lund, director of parks and recreation.

"With just over 5,200 residents, the city of Groveport has many amenities that many larger communities can only dream of," Lund said.

Nonresidents can take advantage of most of the recreational opportunities in the historic community located southeast of Columbus.

The Groveport Recreation Center opened in 2004. The 67,000-square-foot facility features a fitness center, elevated track, indoor pool and a rock wall. Nonresidents can purchase a day pass for $10. Children ages 12 and younger cost $7.

The center hosts birthday parties, visits with Santa Claus and other special events throughout the year.

Across the street from the recreation center is the Groveport Aquatic Center. The facility, which opened in the spring of 2003, has won Columbus Parent's Best of Columbus award the last two years for Best Outdoor Municipal Pool. The center offers a zero-depth entry pool, in-water playground, lazy river with inner tubes and two water slides. The facility's concession stand is operated by Dairy Queen and serves many of the items on the fast-food restaurant's menu. Day passes cost $6 for residents, $8 for nonresidents.

Groveport also is home to Motts Military Museum founded by Warren Motts. The museum includes Motts' collection of Civil War artifacts and military items from other eras, as well. Soldiers and their families have generously donated uniforms, ID tags and weapons from many of the wars fought by U.S. soldiers. Kids will particularly love the collection of military vehicles located behind the museum.

The Slaby girls, who range in age from 3 to 6, regularly attend the free preschool-type classes at Crooked Alley KidSpace. The drop-in play group is offered Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The program, which is open to children from birth to 6 years old, focuses on movement, letter recognition and crafting, said Angela Martin, play group coordinator. Weekly themes range from space to holidays to animals.

Children - and their caregivers - enjoy the socialization the program offers, she said. Parents often ask questions and share advice, Martin added.

"It generates conversation with parents," Martin said. "They see that they're not alone."

The city also offers special events and children's classes in the facility, which can be rented for parties. Crooked Alley also features an on-your-honor lending library of children's books.In good weather, the Slaby kids also play at Degenhart Park, Three Creeks Metro Park and Walnut Woods Metro Park.

Degenhart Park has a nice mix of new and old playground equipment: Think tall metal slide sitting in the sun and old-school jungle gym. The park has plenty of mature trees that provide shade and a pavilion with picnic tables.

Three Creeks, so named because it is where Alum, Big Walnut and Blacklick creeks join, offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Visitors can bike, hike, fish and canoe. Birdwatchers flock to the park, where more than 100 species of birds have been spotted.

The new play area at Walnut Woods has lots of kid appeal. The nature-themed play area includes climbing toys that look like rocks and a spider web. The park also offers a 1.5-mile monarch trail and 4-acre dog park.

If the park's greenery inspires you to garden, be sure to check out Dill's Greenhouse. The family-owned business sells plants, shrubs, fruit trees, statuary and much more. The greenhouse also hosts classes throughout the year and a fall festival in October.

For indoor fun, Cake Decor offers classes for kids and adults. The store, which sells cake-decorating and candy-making supplies, teaches kids to decorate cupcakes and mold chocolate.For food you don't have to make yourself, try Little Italy Pizza. The family-owned business serves pizza, subs and pasta. Salads are served with homemade dressing that diners can buy by the quart.

For ice cream, locals favor Dairy Queen. In addition to the pool concession stand, the city has a full-size Dairy Queen on Main Street.