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The Ultimate Columbus Staycation for Families

Columbus, Ohio is full of family-friendly fun! There are so many attractions in Columbus Ohio for families that it’s easy to spend a weekend or an entire week enjoying all the city has to offer!

Thanks to Experience Columbus for sponsoring this post!

This guide will help you plan the Ultimate Columbus Staycation! Whether you’re traveling to Ohio or you live in Columbus and are looking for things to do, this list of things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids will help you plan an itinerary the whole family will love!

In this guide you will find Indoor Activities, Outdoor Activities, Arts and Cultural Activities and, finally, suggestions for family friendly hotels and restaurants to help you plan your trip to Columbus, Ohio!

Downtown Columbus, Ohio. The Scioto Mile and LeVeque Tower.

Indoor Activities in Columbus, Ohio:

There are plenty of options for indoor family fun in Columbus! If the forecast calls for rain, head to one of these super fun indoor attractions in Columbus that your kids will love!

1. Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

Address: 333 W. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215

COSI has been named the #1 Science Museum in the country by the USA TODAY 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Award Contest for the past three years in a row! And for good reason! Things are always evolving at COSI and even if you’ve visited before, there is guaranteed to be something new to see or do!

Dinosaur skeleton at the American Museum of History Dinosaur Gallery at COSI in Columbus, Ohio.
American Museum of History Dinosaur Gallery at COSI

Not only does COSI have it’s classic exhibits like Ocean, Life, Progress and Gadgets, it’s also home to the American Museum of History Dinosaur Gallery! If you have kids who are in 1st grade and under, they will enjoy Little Kidspace, one of the greatest indoor play areas in Columbus for toddlers

This spring, plan on a visit to the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit! If you are a Marvel fan, this is a must-see exhibit! There is an additional fee to visit this limited time exhibit of over 300 original artifacts including the first ever Marvel comic book!

Pro tip: COSI participates in two reciprocal admission programs. So, if you have a membership to a participating museum outside of a 90 mile radius from COSI, you may be eligible for free or reduced admission!

2. PlayCbus

Address: 535 Lakeview Plaza Blvd., Worthington, OH 43085

There is something for all ages at PlayCbus! Adults and older kids can test their skills on ropes courses, rock climbing walls, zip line, a ninja course and more! There is also a kid-sized ropes course, smaller climbing walls and a soft play area!

Boys doing the kid's ropes course, an indoor activity for kids at PLAYCbus.
Kids’ Ropes Course at PlayCbus

PlayCbus also boasts a full service restaurant and bar so you don’t have to break up the fun to get a meal! Options include appetizers, sandwiches and local craft beers, wine and seasonal cocktails.

Pro tip: Admission is half price on Wednesdays!

3. Scene 75

Address: 5033 Tuttle Crossing Blvd., Dublin, OH 43016

Did you know Scene75 is the largest indoor entertainment center in the country? Yes, you can actually ride an indoor roller coaster in Columbus, Ohio!

Boys watching the indoor roller coaster at Scene75 in Columbus, Ohio.
Nuclear Rush indoor rollercoaster at Scene75

Other attractions at Scene75 include indoor go-karts, laser tag, a Drop Tower, mini-golf, batting cages, a 4-D motion theater, bumper cars, and so much more! Younger kids will love the inflatable play area and kid-friendly arcade games. In fact, Scene75 is home to over 200 arcade games! 

Scene 75 has its own Restaurant: Illusions. My son crowned their pizza one of the “best I’ve ever had!” There are also 3 bars and a Snack Zone for quick treats!

Pro tip: The Scene75 Gold Membership is $29 for an entire year and grants you $10 in FREE play every time you visit!

4. LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

Address: 157 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH 43219

My kids are major LEGO fans so we have spent countless hours at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus! There probably isn’t a week that goes by that one of my kids doesn’t ask when we can go to LEGOLAND!

Boy playing at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Earthquake Tower at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

The Columbus location of LEGOLAND is housed at Easton Town Center and is home to two indoor amusement rides, a soft play area, a DUPLO building area, a LEGO Friends play area, a 4D cinema, a Miniland replica of Columbus and much more!

Your admission includes unlimited rides, movies and access to attractions. When you visit you can also participate in LEGO builds in the Creative Workshop for $5.

Pro tip: Admission is limited so buy your ticket online in advance in order to guarantee admission!

5. Ohio History Center

Address: 800 E 17th Ave., Columbus, OH 43211

Ohio History Center is a great spot to learn all about Ohio! Some of my kids’ favorite exhibits include the Nature of Ohio, and Ohio Through Time!

You won’t want to miss the Ohio – Champion of Sports exhibit to learn about famous Ohioans who have contributed to the sports world! The 1950’s Lustron House is another must-see exhibit! An entire pre-fabricated house is built inside the museum!

A mastodon skeleton at Ohio History Center, a family friendly museum in Columbus, Ohio.
Mastodon skeleton at Ohio History Center

Ohio History Center is the hub for the Ohio History Connection and because of their preservation efforts, you can visit historical sites all around the state! If you visit between April and October, your admission includes entrance to Ohio Village, a historical town set in the 1800’s!

Pro tip: I am always impressed with the gift shop at Ohio History Center! Check it out for a unique Ohio souvenir!

Outdoor Activities in Columbus, Ohio:

There are so many outdoor activities in Columbus that your family will love to experience together! Whether it’s a scavenger hunt, a garden or adventure sports, there is something for everyone!

1. Franklin Park Conservatory Children’s Garden

Address: 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203

Franklin Park Conservatory offers a mix of indoor and outdoor gardens and you really must make time to see it all! But if you’re visiting Columbus with kids, you can’t miss The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden, one of the most popular attractions in Columbus for kids! Entrance to the garden is included in admission to Franklin Park Conservatory!

The Franklin Park Conservatory Children's Garden, an outdoor attraction in Columbus, Ohio for kids.
Canopy Walk at Franklin Park Conservatory Children’s Garden

One of the most popular features in the garden is an area called My Ohio Woods which features a creek where kids can play and explore! My kids love the Wetland Explore area where you can walk along a floating boardwalk.

Kids will also enjoy the Nature Play Zone with a sand box, web climb and stump jump! Another highlight is a canopy walk with a larger than life-sized bird’s nest and a Hammock Lounge that can hold 7 elephants!

Pro tip: Bring water shoes and a change of clothes if your kids plan to play in the creek and/or sandbox!

2. Topiary Park

Address: 480 E. Town St., Columbus, OH 43215

One of the most unique parks in Columbus is certainly Topiary Park, hidden downtown behind the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Main Library. This hidden gem in Columbus is a topiary depiction of the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

Topiary Park is a unique park in downtown Columbus, Ohio.
Topiary Park in downtown Columbus

You can walk amidst the larger than life characters who are enjoying a day at the park. This area has been a park since the 1800’s. The topiary part of the park was sculpted by James and Elaine Mason, Columbus residents, in 1989.

The park is open from dawn to dusk and is in full bloom from April to November, but I have it on good report that it’s also pretty cool to visit when it’s covered in snow!

Pro tip: You can enter the park through the back doors of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, which is 100% worth a visit if you haven’t been!

3. Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Address: 9801 Hyland-Croy Rd., Plain City, OH 43064

In my opinion, Glacier Ridge Metro Park is one of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks that offers the most fun for kids! A visit to this park in the Plain City/Dublin area makes a great outing to fill a morning or afternoon!

Glacier Ridge Metro Park Ninja Course for Kids in Columbus Ohio.
“Ninja Course” at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

One of the most popular things to do in the park is the Natural Play Area (affectionately called “The Ninja Course”). This unique play area has several climbing structures, a rope hammock, wall climbing, rope climbing, a small zip line and lots of opportunities to hide and seek!

Also within the park is a Challenge Course, playground, hiking trails, and the Honda Wetland Education Center, a barn-like structure that offers information about the inhabitants of wetland areas.

4. Outdoor Trails Pass

Address: multiple locations

If you want to experience as much of the outdoors as Columbus has to offer, download the Outdoor Trails Pass via email or text. Explore 25 trails, creeks and bike trails, checking in as you go to complete the trail!

Kayaks on a lake at Prairie Oaks Metro Park, one of the stops on the Outdoor Trails Pass in Columbus, Ohio.
Kayaking at Prairie Oaks Metro Park

This trail will give you the opportunity to see some of the most scenic spots in Columbus and beyond all while staying active and enjoying family time together!

Pro tip: If you’re already exploring downtown Columbus, check out either Scioto Trail #1 or Scioto Trail #2 which begin downtown!

5. Irish Fairy Door Trail

Address: Dublin Visitor & Information Center: 9 S. High St., Dublin, OH 43017

Maybe your vacation doesn’t include a trip to Ireland this year, but you can search for Irish Fairy Doors in Dublin, Ohio!

Pick up a Fairy Door Passport and visit 11 businesses in downtown Dublin to find a fairy door at each location! 10 of them are within walking distance and the 11th is optional. Along the way you will visit some great stores and find some tasty treats!

Two boys participating in the Irish Fairy Door Trail in Dublin, Ohio.
Historic Dublin, Ohio

When you find the fairy door, write the name of the fairy who lives there on the card and turn it into the Dublin Visitor & Information center or email it to to receive a free Fairy Door t-shirt!

Pro tip: Most participating businesses are guaranteed to be open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

Arts and Culture Outings in Columbus, Ohio:

The arts scene in Columbus never fails to surprise! Pick one or more of these cultural outings for your staycation in Columbus and introduce your family to the finer side of the city!

1. Columbus Museum of Art

Address: 480 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215

If you’re looking for a great way to introduce your kids to fine arts, check out the Center for Creativity at the Columbus Museum of Art! In the hallway of the first floor there are several hands-on activities for kids! Recently, my kids enjoyed contributing to a group drawing and making sculptures out of twist-ties!

Two boys creating in the Center for Creativity, one of the most popular attractions for kids at the Columbus Museum of Art.
Center for Creativity at the Columbus Museum of Art

You’ll also want to visit the Wonder Room, a space dedicated to kids where they can create their own fashion pieces, make spiders out of textiles and weave on a giant loom!

Pro tip: The Columbus Museum of Art is free to visit on Sundays and children 3 and under are always free!

2. Columbus Children’s Theatre

Address: 177 E. Naghten St., Columbus, OH 43215

If you’re not quite ready to take your kids to a Broadway show, it’s easy to introduce young kids to the theater with shows at Columbus Children’s Theatre! These shows are designed with kids in mind and CCT is really good at letting you know what to expect when you attend a performance!

A program for the show Mary Poppins Jr. at Columbus Children's Theatre in Columbus, Ohio.
Mary Poppins performance at Park Street Theatre

There are even shows geared toward toddlers and preschoolers aged 0-5 that are just 30 minutes in length and full of interactive fun!

Pro tip: If you have a budding actor in the family, Columbus Children’s Theatre also offers classes and camps!

3. CATCO is Kids

Address: multiple locations

CATCO has performances at 3 locations around Columbus and Central Ohio. If you’re looking for a show for the whole family, these performances are perfect for older kids and teens. Visit their calendar to see what’s coming up next!

CATCO also offers camps and classes for kids beginning at age 5!

Pro tip: Make sure to visit their website and click on “More Information” about each show for advice on appropriate ages for each show!

4. 934 Outdoor Gallery

Address: 934 Cleveland Ave., Columbus, OH 43201

Stop by the Outdoor Gallery at 934 Gallery to explore over 40 outdoor murals! These colorful murals change every year and they make some really fun backgrounds for family photos!

Boys in the Outdoor Gallery at 934 Gallery, an outdoor attraction for families in Columbus, Ohio.
Outdoor Gallery at 934 Gallery

You can even participate in an online scavenger hunt that will help kids interact more deeply with the murals. Questions include things like “how many heads do you see?” or “what color paint is the tiger using?”.

Pro tip: Free parking is available on E. 3rd St. or in the 934 Gallery parking lot.

5. Short North Art Trail

Address: multiple locations

If the Hiking and Biking Trail isn’t your thing but public art and murals are, make time to stroll around the Short North neighborhood! The Short North Art Trail can be delivered directly to you via text or email! This art-focused trail is a great way to explore the galleries, public art and performance spaces in the Short North Arts District!

A mural in the Short North Arts District in Columbus, Ohio.
Mural in the Short North Arts District

Several of the featured visits on the trail include public, outdoor murals! All of the public murals are visible from High Street, except one. But you don’t want to miss the famous “Mona Lisa Mural” in Italian Village just a few blocks east of High Street!

Pro tip: Combine your activity on this trail with a visit to the historic North Market for lunch! (See more info below.)

Family-Friendly Dining Experiences in Columbus, Ohio:

There are so many good places to eat in Columbus, Ohio! It’s really hard to narrow down the choices, but here are some family-friendly restaurants you must try when you visit Columbus!

1. North Market

Address: Downtown: 59 Spruce St., Columbus, OH 43215; Bridge Park: 6750 Longshore St., Dublin, Ohio 43017

The North Market is one of our favorite places to eat with our kids in Columbus! One of the best reasons for your family to eat there is that there’s something for everyone! The Downtown North Market is home to over 30 individual vendors so everyone in the family can take their pick depending on their preferences!

The historic North Market, a great place to eat in downtown Columbus, Ohio.
The historic North Market in downtown Columbus.

North Market now has two locations: Downtown and Bridge Park. Both are wonderful! Choose the Bridge Park location if you are doing the Fairy Door Trail or the historic downtown location when doing the Short North Arts Trail!

Pro tip: Make sure to get your parking ticket validated when you make a purchase at Downtown North Market for discounted parking!

2. Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace

Address: 248 S 4th St., Columbus, OH 43215

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly restaurant in downtown, Columbus, look no further than Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace! Not only can you get a great hot dog, it’s also home pretty inventive side dishes! How about a hot dog octopus over Mac & Cheese (The Octodog) or tater tots with coney sauce and cheese sauce on top!

Two hot dogs and tater tots at Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace, a restaurant  in Columbus, Ohio.
Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace

Don’t worry, If your kids are as risk averse as mine, rest assured you can get your hot dog plain or with two toppings of your choice!

Pro tip: Check out 16-Bit Bar + Arcade right next door where all video games are free to play with a food or drink purchase! (21+ after 8:00 PM.)

3. Schmidt’s Sausage Haus

Address: 240 E. Kossuth St., Columbus, OH 43206

Schmidt’s Sausage Haus opened in 1967 and has been a Columbus destination ever since! Plan to dine here for traditional German food, live German music throughout the week and, of course, their famous cream puffs!

Schmidt's Sausage Haus, a restaurant  in the German Village Neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio.
Schmidt’s Sausage Haus

Eating at Schmidt’s will be a cultural experience for your family and afterwards, you can walk around historic German Village enjoying the quaint brick streets, unique houses and local businesses.

Pro tip: After your meal, head to Schiller Park in the heart of German Village where the kids can run off all their excess energy!

4. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Address: multiple locations

A visit to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is a must when you’re spending time in Columbus! Jeni’s is a Columbus institution. This amazing homemade ice cream shoppe started here and has expanded across the country!

An ice cream cone at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – Grandview Location

You’ll find some of the most unique and intense ice cream flavors you have ever tasted! My personal favorite of combination of Salty Caramel and Darkest Chocolate seems rather boring next to Goat Cheese and Red Cherries or Lemon and Blueberries Parfait but I guarantee you cannot go wrong with whatever you pick!

Luckily, you can find a Jeni’s location near you no matter where you are on this itinerary! Check out locations in the Short North, North Market, Dublin and Easton Town Center!

Pro tip: You can get a free ice cream at Jeni’s on your birthday! Just visit on your birthday and show your ID!

5. Mitchell’s Ocean Club

Address: 4002 Easton Station, Columbus, OH 43219

If you are looking for an extra-special meal to enjoy on your trip to Columbus or you have a special occasion to celebrate, head to Mitchell’s Ocean Club at Easton Town Center! The menu features fresh seafood, which is flown in daily, and prime cuts of steak.

Boy eating a chicken finger at Mitchell's Ocean Club, a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.
Mitchell’s Ocean Club at Easton Town Center

You can’t go wrong with any of the Cameron Mitchell restaurants in Columbus, Ohio! If you choose to stay in the Easton Town Center area you could also have a great family-friendly meal at Rusty Bucket! Either way, you family will have more than just a meal, they will have a memorable dining experience!

Pro tip: Reservations are recommended at Mitchell’s Ocean Club!

Family Friendly Hotels in Columbus, Ohio:

If you’re planning a getaway to Columbus or you’re local and are looking for a family-friendly staycation option, try one of these kid-friendly hotel options in Columbus!

1. Courtyard Columbus Easton

Address: 3900 Morse Crossing, Columbus, OH 43219

Hotel room at Courtyard Columbus Easton in Columbus, Ohio.
Courtyard Columbus Easton

My family stayed here for a recent Columbus staycation and we LOVED being able to step outside and walk to all of the attractions at Easton Town Center! There is a great pool and a bistro on site for an easy breakfast option.

2. Drury Inn & Suites Columbus Convention Center

Address: 88 E. Nationwide Blvd., Columbus, OH 43215

This hotel has a convenient downtown location, is an affordable option for families and includes a great breakfast and an indoor pool.

3. The Graduate

Address: 750 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43215

3 kids on a bed in a hotel room at The Graduate in Columbus, Ohio.
The Graduate Hotel in the Short North: Photo Credit: Experience Columbus

Give your family an unforgettable experience in the Short North at this hotel that has fun and playful decor and rooms with an Ohio theme!

4. Hotel LeVeque

Address: 50 W. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215

Families will enjoy top notch service at the historic Hotel LeVeque where they can reserve adjoining rooms for and take advantage of available pack-n-plays!

5. Spring Hill Suites by Marriott Columbus Dublin

Address: 4475 Bridge Park Ave., Dublin, OH 43017

Enjoy a stay in the heart of the Bridge Park District near the North Market Bridge Park and convenient to the Irish Fairy Door Trail!

I hope this guide of things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids will help you make memories that your family remembers for years to come!

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