Places We Love: Sweet Carrot

The Sweet Carrot Counter at the Westerville Location

The following is a sponsored post thanks to Sweet Carrot.

Full disclaimer: I’ve loved Sweet Carrot well before taking my kids there (and well before this partnership with CBUS Dads).

Another full disclaimer: I’ve loved taking my kids to Sweet Carrot well before they introduced a Kids Eat Free promotion on Tuesdays.

But now there’s even more reason to dine at Sweet Carrot.

If you’re not familiar with Columbus-based Sweet Carrot, the offering includes flavorful, creative comfort food made from scratch in its on-site kitchens in both Grandview and Westerville (with a Dublin location coming soon).

Upon arrival, you’re greeted by a friendly employee who guides you to the counter to order. The kids menu (reminder, kids eat free on Tuesdays) are the kind of kids menus my wife and I seek: quality dishes that vary between turkey, mac ‘n cheese, pulled pork, beef brisket, and vegetables as options.

For the adults, the food is clearly incredible, but a more-than-serviceable lineup of brews are available on ice at the counter. For our most recent trip, I opted instead for the authentic soda pop that I simply couldn’t put down. Very underrated element of Sweet Carrot.

Authentic Soda from Sweet Carrot
Authentic Soda from Sweet Carrot

Still not convinced Sweet Carrot deserves your consideration for your next family dining outing? Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives recommends the corn cake and brisket and the Ohio chicken meatball sandwich.

By Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor

Coloring and Sweet Carrot Kids Menu
Coloring and Sweet Carrot Kids Menu

What a Time to be a Parent in Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets outdoor Winter Park

Being a child of the 90s growing up in Westerville, my family’s pilgrimages downtown were few, beyond annual trips to Columbus City Center for school clothes or for Red, White and Boom. It’s certainly not that my family was sheltering me or adverse to the short drive – it’s simply that there wasn’t a ton for families to do downtown.

My initial intention with this post was to highlight our first trip to the Columbus Blue Jackets Winter Park a few weeks ago. We took our daughter on a relatively mild Saturday and had a blast skating on an NHL-sized rink in the heart of the Arena District. With Columbus’ climate, outdoor activity can be scarce this time of year, but this is truly a remarkable amenity geared toward families that, quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine existing twenty years ago. Hell, it’s pretty unfathomable ten years ago.

CBUS Dads dad blogger Steve Michalovich skating with his daughter at the Columbus Blue Jackets outdoor Winter Park in Downtown Columbus
CBUS Dads dad blogger Steve Michalovich skating with his daughter at the Columbus Blue Jackets outdoor Winter Park in Downtown Columbus

After our skate, we checked out the new Fox in the Snow in German Village for a warm drink. I’ve always been a fan of the Italian Village location, and they’ve absolutely replicated the unique vibe and delicious drinks in German Village. We marveled at the fact that it was packed and busy in the middle of a cold Saturday. The clientele varied from college students to young hipsters to reading retirees to families with kids.

CBUS Dads dad blogger Steve Michalovich's daughter enjoying her hot beverage from Fox in the Snow in German Village
CBUS Dads dad blogger Steve Michalovich’s daughter enjoying her hot beverage from Fox in the Snow in German Village

On this random Saturday, I had this feeling (that I’ve had many times before) that it’s a tremendous time to be raising a family in Columbus. No longer should parents feel that they’re banished to the suburbs. In one winter weekend, we made an afternoon out of outdoor ice skating in the center of our city’s downtown and feeling incredibly comfortable taking our daughter to a popular new coffee shop in the heart of an urban neighborhood. More importantly, we felt remarkably safe and welcome doing so.

By Steve Michalovich, Regular Contributor

Swim Lessons at Goldfish Swim School – Part Three: The Little Things

Ribbons CBUS Dads dad blogger Steve Michalovich's daughter earned through three months of swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School in Westerville.

The following article is a result of a partnership between CBUS Dads and Goldfish Swim School.

For the last three months, Mondays have been a day I look forward to. My daughter and I have spent those Monday evenings at Goldfish Swim School in Westerville.

The experience has been tremendous on all fronts. My daughter – who will turn three at the end of this month – has grown immensely as a swimmer as a result of her lessons. I already can’t wait to enroll my son – who will turn one next month – in the very near future.

I’ve shared my perspective on the experience, both in the water and everything that happens before and after a lesson.

As we break for the summer and look to put her learnings to the test at the community pool and at the beach during family vacation, I wanted to sum up our experience by listing all of the subtle details that comprise the incredible experience with Goldfish Swim School.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it starts with the staff. Everyone was amazing, but special shoutout to my daughter’s two primary instructors: Lauren and Sidney. Even when my daughter had advanced beyond their classes, she always had to say hello to them, because they made such a strong connection with her.

As a marketing professional, I appreciate good communication, and Goldfish makes this a priority. The website and emails are user-friendly and well organized. Moreover, I was impressed by the personal touch they prioritized when they called me the day of a lesson to let me know a different instructor would be filling in. Not necessary by any means, but much appreciated.

The literal warmth of the facility can’t be overstated. They make it incredibly comfortable for the kids and the parents who are getting wet – at the expense of a hefty utility bill I’m sure.

The kids all seem to be comfortable in the water, and I’d imagine this is attributed to the attention each is given. The instructor-to-student ratio is amazing. Once she was in classes where I wasn’t in the pool, there was never more than four students in a class.

Goldfish also makes scheduling a breeze. You pay for the month, and within that month, get four classes. If you know you’ll miss one of your scheduled lessons, they make it extraordinarily easy to reschedule to a different class throughout the week. We had to do this a couple of times.

The instructors truly make the kids feel like they’re accomplishing something. After a sensational lesson, the kids receive ribbons. She was always really proud of her achievements and couldn’t wait to share them with Mommy when we got home.

It’s little things like ribbons that have made this experience special and have extended it beyond our time in the water. I thank Goldfish Swim School for a fun three months.

-By Steve Michalovich, Regular Contributor

Swim Lessons at Goldfish Swim School – Part Two: The Learning Experience

CBUS Dads blogger Steven Michalovich's daughter swimming in a Westerville Goldfish Swim School swim lesson.

The following article is a result of a partnership between CBUS Dads and Goldfish Swim School

I recently shared my family’s experience with Goldfish Swim School in Westerville through a few weeks of lessons.

This month, I’d like to share what the instructors are teaching my daughter and how she has progressed.

Each class is 30 minutes and generally entails some variety of paddling, kicking, back floating, going underwater, and swimming short distances with decreasing levels of assistance from the teacher, as she’s progressed through three levels of classes thus far.

It’s evident there’s an emphasis on swimming skills but also survival skills. The kids are taught to swim to the wall. Part of each class has the kids holding onto the edge of the pool and inching themselves right or left while still holding on.

The biggest physical challenge comes when the teachers have the kids pull themselves out of the pool from this position with little to no assistance. They stress that they need to be able to do this on their own in the event no one is there to help them.

Based on her age, my daughter has participated in the following class levels thus far:

  • Mini 2 (one teacher, max six kids, parents in the pool)
  • Mini 3 (one teacher, max two kids, no parents in the pool)
  • Junior 1 (two teachers, max three kids, no parents in the pool

Each builds on the previous class and has pushed her to new heights and added to her comfort level in the water.

If you’re interested in getting a feel for Goldfish for your child, they are hosting a Water Safety Awareness Event Saturday, May 20 from 4-6 p.m.

Total side note, but during our most recent lesson, we saw how fast the instructors can react in an “emergency”. One of the swimmers in another lane had an “accident”, which resulted in the teachers swiftly getting all of the kids out of the water, and sadly ended swim lessons for the evening.

My daughter will be back at it next week.

-By Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor

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Swim Lessons at Goldfish Swim School – Part One: The Lay of the Land (or the Pool)

CBUS Dads dad blogger Steven Michalovich and his daughter pose for a picture after their first swim lesson at Goldfish Swim School in Westerville.

The following article is a result of a partnership between CBUS Dads and Goldfish Swim School


Spring is upon us, with summer soon to follow. For my family and many others, weekends will soon be spent at the pool, and an annual pilgrimage to the beach is in the near future.

Because of this, it becomes increasingly critical for my two-and-a-half-year-old to gain more confidence in the water. We’ve enrolled her in swimming lessons at our local community center in the past, but this spring we were looking to make a larger splash with her development.

In March, we started attending weekly lessons at Goldfish Swim School in Westerville. From the start, the staff and instructors have been accommodating, patient, enthusiastic, and helpful in the process, from getting us on-boarded to us actually stepping into the water. I can’t say enough about the team they’ve assembled.

The facility is just as marvelous. You’re greeted by an online check-in and reception desk that is reliably staffed with several people who can help. The facility – which is always remarkably clean – is divided into two areas: a dry side and a wet side.

The pool has been quite the treat during some of these lingering colder days, as they keep the temperature of the room and the water at 90 degrees. The entire process for entering the pool is very efficient. Prior to their lesson time, the kids line up outside the door. Once it’s time to enter, the staff files the kids in with an encouraging high five. From there, the kids are in the pool and put to work swiftly.

After lessons are over, most kids march over to the showers adjacent to the pool. With their suits still on, they’ll rinse off and soap up. When my daughter is done, we’ll gather our stuff, and head to one of the many changing rooms to get dried off and into her pajamas. Her lessons are at 7 p.m., so we are nearing bedtime when we finally get home. The dry side has stations with hair dryers and mirrors to aid in getting your kids as close to bedtime ready as possible. There’s also lockers for use.

At her current level, I am in the pool with her. If you’re unfortunate enough to not participate in the lesson, Goldfish has a glass-walled viewing gallery with chairs that overlook the pool on the dry side.

On our way out, my daughter gets a lollipop from the reception desk if she’s been good during her lesson.

We haven’t taken advantage yet, but Goldfish offers birthday parties on Saturday afternoons. They also open the pool to family swim time several instances a week.

We are still getting our feet wet, but my daughter has already grown her swimming capabilities immensely in just a few weeks. This is a testament to the first-class facility and team of professionals at the Westerville Goldfish Swim School.

-By Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor

The Chilly Open Lives Up to its Claim as the “Best Winter Party in Town”

The Debits adorn the stage at the Chilly Open

An underrated Columbus event that has been rapidly climbing my rankings of events and festivals around town – even before having kids – is the Chilly Open. Put on by the Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club, the Chilly Open has taken place annually (the first Saturday in February to be exact) for 20 years. In those 20 years, the event has raised $2.5 million for local charities. The Rotary Club organizes and runs everything the day of, along with the help of 300 volunteers. Because of this support, all proceeds go to charity. Kroger and Papa John’s are the title sponsors, with an impressive list of local businesses and individuals chipping in too.

On paper, this event already has a lot going for it in my book. One, it’s in February, which is typically dreary, cold and lacking for things to do. Two, the Chilly Open lives at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, so it’s an excuse to come out to the Zoo in winter. All of the pavilions at the Water’s Edge Events Park are consumed by the Chilly Open. Conjoining them is a large heated tent where the main stage is located.

I’ll start with why this event is awesome for adults. Tickets are $45, which is an admittedly steep ticket price, especially if you and your wife go. But that ticket gets you four drinks (wine or Miller Lite draft). It also gets you unlimited food from 30 incredible food vendors that include local favorites Polaris Grill, Skyline Chili, Watershed Distillery, Bon Vie Bistro, Winking Lizard, Old Bag of Nails, City Barbecue, Cameron Mitchell, 101 Beer Kitchen, Asterisk Supper Club, and Koble to name a few. Each offers small plates and samples of their finest dishes and recipes.

That aforementioned stage houses local band The Debits for the majority of the five-hour day (noon-5 p.m.). They have a funny story in how they came together, but they rock out the Chilly Open every year. I was completely hooked well before their third John Mellencamp cover for the day. They are a fun group and completely interactive with the crowd, promoting dancing and fun with women, children and over-served gentlemen.

Bonus for Dom Tiberi, everyone’s favorite local sportscaster, serving as the emcee.

This is all great stuff, but what about the kids?

Superheroes at the Children's Open

Included in the price of admission is access to the Children’s Open in a separate heated, indoor facility. It’s a little kid’s fantasyland that includes face painting, animal visits, bounce houses, inflatable mazes, Wii games, food and drinks, laser tag, and seemingly endless activities. Kudos to the volunteers in costume adding to the thrill (honestly I think I was more psyched than any of the kids).



We started our day there to let my daughter blow off some steam before transitioning to the Chilly Open. She’s only two, but kids 5-12 can be left without their parents. It’s wildly secure with matching wristbands for kids and their parents and a full staff of volunteers supervising all activities.

To cap the day, my daughter got a ride on the conveniently adjacent carousel for giving her mom and dad two solid hours at the Chilly Open.