WARM-UP TO SNOWY ADVENTURES

in Grove City, Ohio

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler – Your Tour Guide to Fun!

There’s an enchanting little town ripe with winter adventure central to all Ohioans – Grove City!

It promises endeavors featuring cool winter discoveries and some rare experiences mixed in the snow and ice.  Oh, and there are plenty of toasty retreats to warm up in between.

“Winter in the parks is one of the best times to enjoy the outdoors,” said Grove City Director of Parks and Recreation Kim Conrad. “Do something good for your body and soul, get out in the fresh air and enjoy nature.”

Best of all, Grove City’s 21 parks are free! So for the recommended 30 minutes of daily activity, walk through the woods or sled down a hill.

For an extraordinary adventure, explore the snowy trails at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park to discover a herd of bison roaming freely within two enclosed pastures that span 18-acres of the 7,000-acre park. The terrain includes rolling prairies, woodlands, and wetlands.

Herds of wild bison were last seen in Ohio more than 200 years ago. Bison are well insulated for the winter cold as their hide is very dense and the fur around their heads is so thick that they can face a blizzard. During a snowstorm, bison sometimes look like they are buried in the snow because it does not melt on their backs.

“If they did not shake off the snow, you could build a snowman on their back,” said Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park Nature Center Senior Naturalist Debbie Ruppersburg.

Since the trails around the bison pastures can range from easy to more difficult, visitors may want to stop at the nature center to locate the herd first. There are mounted binoculars on the elevated terrace that can be used to scan the horizon.

But to expedite a wintry trek to get closer to these massive animals, a tower camera may be accessed to project its view onto a large touch-screen. There’s a control to pan side-to-side or to zoom in or out to locate the herd. Still, there’s no guarantee that the herd will stand in one place long enough for the expedition party to arrive. People who choose not to hike can still help by staying at the indoor controls and relaying by phone the herd’s movement. It’s a unique experience that everyone can partake in.

A sunset bison walk is magical.

The two-story 18,000 square-foot nature center was designed to blend into the natural landscape, minimizing its impact on the surrounding environment. Inside, there’s a 53-foot living stream flowing down the middle. It is a microcosm of the nearby Big Darby Creek ecosystem, including its very water. The stream provides hands-on experience, even in the middle of winter.

Outdoor enthusiasts may want to venture to more of the park’s offerings, knowing that the nature center is there to retreat to and warm up. With 18 miles of trails, Battelle is a popular destination for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and even has a route designated for the latter.

“I recently had the opportunity to go snowshoeing through the Metroparks (at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park),” said area resident Alexander Rogers. “I was closed-minded for years when it came to snowshoeing and never gave the activity a chance. It was a fun experience and, furthermore, a good workout walking up and down the rolling terrain!”

It’s not uncommon to see snowmen dotting the trails where hikers stopped to take a break.

Other winter pastimes like sledding, ice fishing, and birdwatching are hot pursuits at the 110-acre Fryer Park.

The laughter and excitement zip across the snow with all makes and models of snow sleds. Moms and dads hover over their little, first-time, sled riders from the start. Then, after a few runs, the kids usually declare their independence and do it alone. With a loose mitten wave to their parents, they try and fly through the snow like daredevil teenagers.

This park also has a less common activity available – ice fishing! A catch and release pond offers a dock perched over several holes cut through the ice. No fishing permit is needed, making this a great introduction to an age-old cold climate tradition that is more novelty than necessity, at least in Ohio. When floppy scales emerge from the hole against that frosted backdrop, the subsequent grins are enough to warm any heart.

A wintry catch of a different kind is partaking in an organized bird count, or just seeking that ultimate photograph of a red cardinal against snow lined branches. Birding is a popular pastime across the area parks during the winter months because visibility is so much more clear without the foliage and leaves typical in other seasons.

Birding isn’t just a daytime activity. Full moon hikes are scheduled when owls are likely to be seen and heard.

A sanctuary of winter hiking and backpacking trails, great for birding and geocaching, are found across the 620-acre Scioto Grove Metro Park. Its bluffs, riverbanks, prairies, and woods attract a variety of birds that stand out against a white backdrop like the Blue Jay or Black Crow.

Birds aren’t the only thing soaring across the cold sky; the park also allows drones. Scioto Grove is a newer park designed so that nature and recreation can coexist. So, its designated drone field is another activity that draws people into the fresh outdoors, even in the colder months of the year.

Winter is also a great time to look for those hard-to-find geocaches. Although, having less brush but more snow to dig through may be a trade-off. Nonetheless, this activity is accessible every season. Scioto Grove has 20 different hidden caches that make traipsing through the elements that much more rewarding. Find all twenty, and there’s a prize for the dedicated explorer.

Winter in Grove City has its abundance of heartwarming pursuits in the chilliest of times across its parks. Also, there are a couple of heart-pounding stops to kick the adrenaline up another notch before seeking a variety of places to go and warm up, afterward.

If you miss your rounds of golf, no worries, Pinnacle Golf Club has its Nineteenth hole – Cimi’s Bistro – open Tuesdays through Saturdays during winter.

Its main dining room has a toasty fireplace. The full windows on each side provide sweeping views of the snowed-over golf course. The openness of the outdoors pours through the large windows, flowing with the comfortable indoors. The only thing dividing the frosty landscape from the warm brick and wood interior is a pane of glass. It’s the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a lunch or dinner with a partner, friends, family, or even larger gatherings.

Not to make the bison herd over at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park nervous, but the bison burger here is delicious. The American and Italian dishes come with vegetarian-friendly, and gluten-free options.

Once fully recharged, the real adrenaline junkies may find that the colder months are the perfect time to participate in some polar bear paintball.

“The game of paintball is so unique, but the experience is completely different in the snow vs. the sunshine,” said LVL UP Sports Paintball Park founder Dave Pando. “Dressed in heavy layers with snow boots, beanies, and gloves on, the pace of gameplay slows down. But senses are heightened, and the scenery behind your goggles is amazing.”

The scenario fields offer colorful tractor-trailers to contrast against the foggy white landscape. There’s also a massive two-story Valken Village, six acres of woods, and other maps to navigate in the snow. Beginners can rent everything they need at the Pro Shop. Experts can come ready to play.

Parents of kids with winter birthdays know that the selection for group outings during the colder months is slim. So when mom or dad think paintball in the snow is a memory that won’t soon melt, they’re not wrong.

When it’s finally time to come in from the cold, the best place to warm up is in Grove City Town Center.

Like a snow globe, there’s a smaller version of the town’s winter scene behind glass. When visitors gaze through the windows of Grove City Guide + Gear, housed within the visitor center, they will see samples of the altogether adventure promised throughout the area.

“The immersion experience offers samples of many destinations in the area,” said Visit Grove City Executive Director Amanda Davis.

There’s plenty to see at this winter warm-up stop. A spin on the stationary bike inside is the start of learning about the bicycle adventures sponsored by Heritage Cycles. Even in the snow, rides start every Wednesday in the historic town center.

An art gallery in the shop displays 20 pieces by local artists, including a 3-D adventure for the eyes.

This may lead to learning about the nearby Sommer House Gallery, Coffee Break Pottery, or a few museums in the area. One of which features the largest baseball memorabilia collections in the Midwest.

Every staff member is a trained certified tourism ambassador (CTA), so when someone is seeking “déjà vu all over again,” A CTA may suggest a fun-filled retro outing at Skate America. It’s a 1990’s flashback to indoor roller skating fun.

In addition to guidance, the shop also offers gear for the experiences ahead.

During the dog days of winter, a portable dog dish for K9 companions may be of need, especially considering the numerous dog-friendly adventures available in the area. Another dog-friendly item perfect for the season is Puppy Paw Protection, used to treat dry skin, and is made in Grove City.

In the winter it’s important to keep hydrated and nourished. To help, there are four different kinds of trail mix are available in the shop. Each is locally produced and includes Bison Blend, Hiker Fuel, Family Picnic Mix (which is PB&J flavor), and of course, the Altogether Adventure Mix.

“After snowshoeing, we traveled over to Transcend, our local downtown roastery and coffee house to warm up and socialize!” Alexander said. “I’m a weekly patron of Transcend bringing out-of-town clients here to meet, as well as bringing my son here to learn how to play chess!”

Transcend Coffee + Roastery is the ultimate warm-up spot in town. Sunlight pours across the wood floor. It works with the steady flow of hot cocoa, coffee, and green brews to thaw guests from the inside out. Add some pastry to dip, and comfort wafts through the air.

It’s also a good rendezvous point to plan visits to the other warm-up stops. Different people may have different interests, so the adventure ahead may lead some to the spas and salons for some relaxation, or others to spend hands-on family time.  But one of the most prominent warm-up activities in Grove City is to go shopping because of the variety of exciting businesses. These feature collectibles and home styling, antiques and boutiques, comics and toys, and mouth-watering food places offering honey, fruit, and jerky.

Country Hearth Primitives, Farm Table on 62, and Zassy’s Tap Room & Home Decor are just a few places, for starters, to get a better idea of what’s ahead.

The historic building that was once the Grove City Farmer’s Exchange is now a 7,000 square foot expedition up and down several levels to explore Country Hearth Primitives.

Inside, more than 30 vendors have vintage furniture, antiques and hand-crafted items that are sure to be conversation starters. With this much area to wander, a discovery is bound to end up in the car trunk on the way home.

Another place with an interesting variety of offerings is Farm Table on 62. When heirlooms or antiquated pieces of furniture need re-purposed or resurrected, this is the place to go. They even carry Dixie Bell Paints for those who want to try their hand at creating something special on their own. The shop is especially known for providing healthier farm-to-table foods, as well as a selection of baked goods sure to tempt any New Year’s resolution. From healthy body care to gifts, and decor, there’s a lot to unpack here.

If you happen to be in town on the one weekend (four days) per month that Zassy’s Treasures is open, make sure to look for this former bowling alley and step inside.

“It’s like being in the know,” said Amanda. “They have this cool little thing, like a pop-up shop with unique offerings and an exclusive feel. But that’s just for starters. Grove City is a perfect shopping getaway for unique boutiques anytime.”

Here, they curate and create unique pieces to sell. After their monthly sale, it’s back to the drawing board to build their inventory up again over the next month and then do it all over again.

If you come any other time of the month, this eclectic place offers much more and is open six days per week as Zassy’s Tap Room & Home Decor. They have several taps and a diverse selection of bottled craft beers along with a light menu and delicious salsa. Always with an eye for beauty to be reborn, the owners repurposed wood from the old bowling alley to build the tables for the taproom. And just like that, old is new again.

The food and drink scene in Grove City is as rich and diverse as its shopping scene. Here are three samples of the foodie experience in town.

Beers from around the world are offered at Hop Yard 62, but only for a brief time. People flock to try the rotating selection, and before long, there’s just no more of that kind left. Some of the beers are so rare that they may not be offered anywhere else in the country.

“Once word gets out, the opportunity to try a particular kind may only last a day or less,” said Amanda.

There are usually more than 70 different brews at any given time, including 21 rotating taps. Customers may bring food from elsewhere or have it delivered on-site.

So from one end of Grove City Town Center to the other, you can have flavors from around the world or tastes made locally.

For locally produced brew or wine, the next stop should be Grove City Brewing Company and Plum Run Winery. No need for tough choices, because both establishments are conveniently located under the same roof.

The microbrewery is part of the Columbus Ale Trail. It’s a place for gatherings around big tables and big-screen TVs, ordering from a full menu, and enjoying a unique view of the glass-enclosed brewhouse. Its massive stainless steel vessels are directly behind a sprawling bar.

Visitors may walk through an interior door and down a hall to the quaint winery. There, the atmosphere is quieter and the pace, slower. They not only make their wine but concoct a tasty cider, too.

If dinner and a show is on the menu, Grove City has a real treat – Little Theatre Off Broadway (LTOB).

“We produce shows which make you feel good and have a laugh when you have cabin fever or the winter blahs,” said Little Theatre Off-Broadway board secretary Rosemary Cullison.

The theatre is tiny but packs an audience and puts on a show that people rave about across social media. The experience is so intimate that the last row is closer to the stage than the front row in many other theatres. There’s simply no better way to enjoy a live musical, comedy, or drama.

By the end of the night, guests may not want to leave.

Grove City is a destination in its own right but also attracts business travelers headed to Columbus, which is only seven miles north. There are 16 lodging facilities around town, including pet-friendly and Marriott properties.

One features an infinity pool with a glass wall where swimmers can go underneath it from the inside to the outside and back again. This heated pool is open year-round, so when a swimmer surfaces outside during winter, it’s with a lot of steam coming off of their body.

How’s that for a winter adventure – swim outside and still be warm!

“Whether you’re alone, traveling with family or friends of all ages, or looking for the perfect place to go on a date, Grove City has something to offer everyone,” said Alexander. “Grove City is the definition of adventure with the perfect amount of hospitality.”

If seeking a snowy adventure, whether yearning for the winter classics or exploring something entirely new, remember, there’s a new tradition in Grove City: Hop four times in a complete circle inside or outside, then expect snow in the weather forecast. Do it altogether as a group, and you may cause a blizzard …of fun!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler – Your Tour Guide to Fun!

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