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Building Character in Columbus

A city where character has many forms

By Wendy Pramik

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Building Character in Columbus

A city where character has many forms

By Wendy Pramik

It was birthday season in our household, and my husband, Mike, and I were stuck for ideas for our soon-to-be 7-year-old son, Max, and 9-year-old daughter, Rosie. The kids were holed up in the living room, one incessantly playing video games and the other staring blankly at an iPad.

Columbus, Ohio, Easton Town Center, Build-a-Bear, American Girl, North Market, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Columbus Children's Theatre

Their birthdays should be more. They should be special.

I remember my 10th birthday so vividly—my dad took my friends and me on a boat ride and I got a stuffed turtle.

Ah. There it is.

Building a new friend

Columbus, Ohio, Easton Town Center, Build-a-Bear, American Girl, North Market, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Columbus Children's Theatre
Cuddly characters coming to life at Build-A-Bear Workshop
Columbus, Ohio, Easton Town Center, Build-a-Bear, American Girl, North Market, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Columbus Children's Theatre
Best friends pick matching outfits at American Girl

Building a new friend

“Can we bring our iPads?” Max asked as we headed out the door.

“No,” Mike and I uniformly replied.

We were driving to Easton Town Center to have some fun and simultaneously shop for birthday presents. Our first stop was Build-A-Bear Workshop for Max.

“Go make a friend,” Mike said, laughing at his punny dad joke.

Columbus, Ohio, Easton Town Center, Build-a-Bear

“Awesome,” Max said, inspecting the selection of un-stuffed toys before settling on a Pikachu. The lemon-colored Pokemon character is well-known around our house. It beams on the front of one of Max’s baseball caps, and its face is plastered on dozens of trading cards, as well as Max’s lunchbox.

Max hugged his toy form as he waited in line to stuff it with white fluff that swirled around in a machine like cotton candy. A kind worker helped him, allowing him to step on the machine’s pedal to stuff. The worker also recorded his voice onto a chip and inserted a “heart” inside the toy before it was stitched up.

Max then made a birth certificate for his new pal, “Pika,” before we moved onto our next destination across the street. Max held hands with Pika, who hung right by his waist, as we traveled to the American Girl store, which was the first of its kind in Ohio when it opened at Easton in 2013.

Columbus, Ohio, Easton Town Center, American Girl

We encouraged Rosie to pick out a new outfit for her American Girl doll, Rosebud.

“There’s a surprise for you birthday celebrators later tonight.”

The Easton store offers an astounding selection of clothes, pets and furniture for these 18-inch divas, and she happily made her selection after carefully considering all the options. Rosie picked a peach dress with a glittery tutu, and we picked up a matching dress in her size. Full of excitement, Rosie assured us that her doll would just love the new outfit.

Creative eats

Columbus, Ohio, Easton Town Center, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Memorable flavors at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Creative eats

Our day continued with a trip to the North Market in Columbus for a special treat before our day’s grand finale.

The North Market is a feast for the senses. A fixture in downtown since 1876, the market features 35 vendors selling a cornucopia of food-related items in a 44,000-square-foot space. The goodies include homegrown fruits and vegetables, kosher meats, fresh fish, European pastries, spicy chicken and gourmet ice cream.

Columbus, Ohio, Easton Town Center, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

A family favorite is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, an artisanal treat made with local ingredients concocted into exotic flavors such as Strawberry Rose Petal, Backyard Mint and Pear Riesling sorbet. Flavors like these are memorable, so I felt that it fit our plan for the day.

We had pizza and Indian food before grabbing four Jeni’s cones and walking next door to our final stop, the Columbus Children's Theatre for a viewing of a musical called “Snoopy!!!”

Imaginative theater

Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Children's Theatre
Sparking imagination with new characters

Imaginative theater

The theater was founded in 1963 with a mission to offer theatrical instruction to children throughout central Ohio. In addition to about eight productions a year, it offers a professional touring company that performs at schools around Ohio, as well as acting classes and workshops for children as young as three.

The venue has three sections of stadium-style seating, with the actors positioned on the ground in the center. All seats provide good views and we eagerly filed in.

Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Children's Theatre

Our children took their seats along with their toy friends, Pika and Rosebud. They carefully perched them on their laps to give them better views of the action onstage. Like their pretend friends, our children had looks of total engagement on their faces the entire performance, which included children their own ages singing and dancing skits straight out of the Peanuts comic strip.

The cast members stayed afterward to sign autographs on playbills and pose for pictures.

When we got home, we recapped the fine day we’d had creating new friends and outfitting old ones, eating good food and watching a fun, live performance. Our kids smiled as they snuggled up on the sofa with their character friends. Character, in many forms, had been achieved, and hopefully the characters they created today would help them to remember their birthdays for much longer than a day.

Explore more family-friendly attractions in Columbus.