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35 FREE Things to do with Your Kids This Summer in Columbus (2024)

Summer is back! There are so many free things to do in Columbus, especially during the summer!

Summer is the best time to get out and experience lots of fun things with the kids! Luckily for us, there are lots of FREE things to do in Columbus this summer! If you need some inspiration, here are 35 things you can do for free around town!

Also, if you’re planning a Columbus Staycation this summer, make sure to check out The Ultimate Columbus Staycation for families!

This post was updated on May 2, 2024.

1. Climb aboard the train at Homestead Metro Park

train car in Hilliard, ohio columbus, ohio
Train at Homestead Metro Park

Homestead Metro Park also has a great playground and a fun little Nature Center!

2. Check out a farmer’s market

westgate farmer's market in columbus, ohio
Farmer’s Market

See this list of farmer’s markets in Columbus listed by day of the week!

3. Watch an outdoor movie

Summer is time for outdoor movies and drive in movies! Most of them are free to attend!

4. Have fun at KidX at Polaris Fashion Place

kids splashing in fountains at polaris fashion place, columbus, ohio
Fountains at Polaris Fashion Place

The KidX program at Polaris features a theme, activities, special guests and more!

5. Play at Commons for Kids every Friday

Columbus Commons Park in Columbus, Ohio
Commons for Kids

Commons for Kids takes place on Friday mornings at Columbus Commons from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, June 9 – August 11, 2023. There are games, inflatables, face painting, and special visitors each week! Read about 12 Fun Things to do at Columbus Commons this Summer for more ideas!

6. Climb into the tree house at Inniswood Metro Gardens

tree house at Inniswood Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio
Treehouse at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Exploring Inniswood Metro Gardens can feel like you are entering a fairy tale! There are so many beautiful gardens and the kids love the tree house!

7. Join a Summer Reading Club.

Register for a Summer Reading Club at a Columbus Library or take advantage of one of these national programs listed by Mission to Save.

8. Try out one of Columbus’ many free festivals

Check out this list of festivals around Columbus happening this summer!

9. Try out a new park

park in gahanna, ohio
Friendship Park in Gahanna

The best place to start is with my Ultimate Guide to the Best Playgrounds in Columbus! Explore one of these 12 Columbus Parks or pick a Columbus Park that’s perfect for toddlers!

10. Follow the path of the Dublin Irish Fairy Door Trail

Visit 10 local businesses on the Dublin Irish Fairy Door Trail in Historic Dublin and the Bridge Park area to find the fairy doors at each location! Turn in your trail card at the end to win a t-shirt! While you’re in Dublin check out my list of things to do in Dublin, Ohio to round out your day!

11. Get wet at a local splash pad

kids at a splash pad in columbus, ohio
Splash pad at Veteran’s Spray and Play in Delaware, Ohio

See my list of Free Columbus and Central Ohio Splash Pads and Fountains! Most splash pads and fountains are free to visit including the amazing “Dinosaur Park” in Delaware!

12. Bowl for free with the Kids Bowl Free program

Kids Receive 2 free games of bowling each day of the Kids Bowl Free program all summer long! There are 4 locations in the Columbus area! (Disclaimer: I am a member of the Kids Bowl Free affiliate program.)

Check out the family pass option that allows adults, older siblings and babysitters to bowl along with the registered kids. The family pass is a one time payment.

13. Attend the Hilltop Bean Dinner

hilltop bean dinner meal in columbus, ohio
Hilltop Bean Dinner

The annual Hilltop Bean Dinner commemorates the role the Hilltop played in the Civil War! Admission is free and there is a huge car show, food vendors, arts and crafts and more! 2023 Date is Saturday, June 22nd from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM in Westgate Park.

14. Shop local vendors at the Powell Street Market

There will be two Powell Street Markets in 2023: May 5 and September 8! The markets take place in downtown Powell from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

15. Visit a Little Free Library to borrow or donate books

kid getting a book from a little free library in columbus, ohio
Little Free Library at Jeffery Mansion Park in Bexley

Little Free Libraries are a great place to drop off some of your gently used books for others to enjoy and to pick up a few new ones to keep kids interested in reading!

16. Tour the Ohio Statehouse

Statue at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.
Statue at the Ohio Statehouse

You can do a self-tour of the Ohio Statehouse any time it’s open! The Ohio Statehouse Museum on the ground floor is interesting AND educational! Read more about this in my list of free indoor activities for kids in Columbus!

17. Learn about nature at one of the Preschool Programs at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

kids participating in free metro park program in columbus, ohio
Programming at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

Our Columbus Metro Parks have great programs for preschoolers! All ages, really! Plus you can visit any of their their Nature Centers for more free fun! Read more information about the Nature Centers:

18. Do a scavenger hunt at the Outdoor Gallery at 934 Gallery

kids at the free Outdoor Gallery at 934 Gallery in Columbus, Ohio.
Outdoor Gallery at 934 Gallery

It’s free to visit the Outdoor Gallery at 934 Gallery! It’s a great spot for colorful murals! They have a scavenger hunt where kids can look for specific things in the murals! It’s a fun way to introduce kids to art!

19. View the Suspended Sculptures in Schiller Park

Suspended sculpture in Schiller Park, Columbus, Ohio.
Suspended Sculpture in Schiller Park

The suspended sculptures in Schiller Park were part of a temporary exhibit in the park by Polish painter and sculptor Jerzy Kedziora, but, in 2022, 5 sculptures were purchased from the artist to remain as a permanent exhibit in the park!

20. Enjoy a free concert at Celebration at the Station at Hilliard’s Station Park

celebration at the station in hilliard, ohio
Hilliard’s Station Park

These free concerts take place from 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM on Thursdays, June 6-August 15, 2024 (except for July 4) in Hilliard’s Station Park.

21. See a painting depicted by trees at Topiary Park

Topiary Park in Columbus, Ohio.
Topiary Park in downtown Columbus

Topiary Park features a plant-based recreation of the famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Combine with a visit to Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Library! The park is accessible from the library!

22. Visit a waterfall in Columbus (or beyond)

Milikin Falls at Quarry Trails Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio.
Quarry Falls Metro Park

The new Quarry Trails Metro Park features a stunning waterfall! Park off of Old Dublin Road and the waterfall overlook is just steps away from the parking lot! Or plan a road trip to one of these 10 waterfalls in Ohio!

23. Watch a free movie at Gateway Film Center

Admission to their Book to Film series is free with your Columbus Metropolitan Library library card! These movies based on books will take place every weekend throughout July, August, and September. Screenings take place Fridays and Saturdays at 1:30 PM, with a Memorial Day screening at 5:00 PM on Monday, May 27, 2024.

24. Explore the Blendon Woods Natural Play Area

kid climbing in the natural play area at Blendon Woods Metro Park in Columbus, ohio
Natural Play Area at Blendon Woods Metro Park

 Kids can build forts, swing through the woods on a wooden swing, go creeking and more at this wonderful natural play area at Blendon Woods Metro Park!

25. Attend Gallery Hop in the Short North

arches in the short north in columbus, Ohio
The Short North in Columbus, Ohio

Gallery Hop happens on the first Saturday night of each month. Enjoy street performers, special deals and treats and the shops stay open late! Hours at individual businesses may vary.

25. Explore the Free Activities at Olentangy Caverns

It's free to play on the Fire Truck on the playground at Olentangy Caverns.
Real fire truck on the playground at Olentangy Caverns

There is a lot to do at Olentangy Caverns but did you know that some of the activities are actually free? Your kids will love the real fire truck on the playground and you can take an easy hike on the Bigfoot Walking Trail for free! These free activities are available during business hours (9:30 AM – 5:00 PM).

27. Visit Franklin Park Conservatory on Community Day

boy walking across stones at the Franklin Park Conservatory Children's Garden.
The Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

Community Day takes place the first Sunday of each month. Admission is free for residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus (with valid ID) during regular operating hours of 10am to 5pm.

28. Stop to smell the roses at Columbus Park of Roses

Roses and fountain at the Park of Roses in Columbus, Ohio.
Columbus Park of Roses

The Columbus Park of Roses is typically in peak bloom the second week of June, but you can see flowers throughout most of the summer! The Park of Roses is part of Whetstone Park and is free to visit anytime!

29. Explore Columbus Museum of Art when admission is free on Sundays

play for free at the columbus museum of art on Sundays!
Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Museum of Art is free on Sundays from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Don’t miss the Center for Creativity and the Wonder Room, an area just for kids! (P.S. The museum is $5 on Thursday nights if you’re looking for another cheaper option!)

30. Explore an ancient burial mound

Shrum Mound is an ancient burial mound that is part of the Ohio Historical Connection! It’s a quick and fun stop to show the kids something unique!

31. Walk across the rope bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park

boys walking across the rope bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio.
The Rope Bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park

The rope bridge is a fun destination at Scioto Grove Metro Park! Park at the Grove Lodge and take the REI River Trail south.

32. See the giant praying mantis at Chadwick Arboretum

A larger than life praying mantis statue at Chadwick Arboretum at the Ohio State University.
Chadwick Arboretum

Find this huge praying mantis in the Lane Avenue Gardens of Chadwick Arboretum. The arboretum is on the campus of OSU and is free to visit! Want more ideas? Check out my list of arboretums in Ohio!

33. Beat the heat with a free indoor play area

free indoor play area in columbus ohio

Find a free indoor play area in Columbus where your kids can stay cool and entertained!

34. Take a ride on the carousel at Columbus Commons

Carousel at Columbus Commons

All summer the carousel will be free to ride every day at Columbus Commons! There are lots of free events at Columbus Commons this summer including fitness classes, concerts and more! See more info on this blog post: 12 Fun Things to do at Columbus Commons this Summer!

Hours are 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM daily. Hours may vary during special events. The carousel will close on holidays and for inclement weather. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m (closed on holidays)

35. Listen to a family-friendly jazz concert at PBJ & Jazz

PBJ & Jazz offers kid-friendly jazz concerts each month and they during the summer they are held in Topiary Park behind the Main Library and they are free!

Need more ideas? Try 100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio

Feel free to share what kind of free activities your family likes to do around Columbus in the comments!


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35 Free Things to do this summer in Columbus, Ohio


More Fun with Kids in Columbus, Ohio

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Tuesday 12th of March 2024

[…] more ideas? Check out Free Things to do this Summer in Columbus, Free Things to do this Winter in Columbus or 10 Free Indoor Activities for Kids in […]


Wednesday 30th of May 2018

Great list! Always looking for free things to do!


Tuesday 29th of May 2018

We still haven't done several of these. Adding them to our summer list now!


Tuesday 29th of May 2018

Such a great list!!!

Heidi Curie

Sunday 27th of August 2017

Julie!! I was looking on Pinterest for things to do in Columbus and I came across this post! You're Pinterest famous now lol!

Julie Miller

Saturday 2nd of September 2017

Yay!! :)