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10 Beautiful Things to See and Do at Franklin Park in Columbus, Ohio

No matter the season, Franklin Park on the east side of Columbus, Ohio is a beautiful city park you will visit again and again throughout the year!

I think it’s fair to say that Franklin Park gets overshadowed by Franklin Park Conservatory. And I totally get it. There’s nothing else in the city that can really compare to Franklin Park Conservatory, but Franklin Park (the city park as a whole) is definitely worth setting aside some time to visit either on its own or in conjunction with a visit to the conservatory!

I think the most distinctive feature in the park are the Cascades. This area is stunning in every season. The first time we visited was in the fall, several years ago, and I was taken aback by what we found! We just happened to stumble across this area without knowing it was there!

Franklin Park Cascades in the Fall.

Read on to learn more about the park and to find out what there is to do and see at Franklin Park!

Where is Franklin Park?

Most of us are familiar with Franklin Park Conservatory on E. Broad Street. Franklin Park is the public park that surrounds the Conservatory and is bordered by E. Broad St. to the north, Franklin Park West to the west, Franklin Park South to the South and Nelson Rd. to the East.

What is the History of Franklin Park?

There are some really informative signs in the park and I wanted to share some of the highlights of the park that I learned from reading them!

  • Franklin Park was the site of the first Franklin County Fair in 1852 and the Ohio State Fair first took place in Franklin Park in 1874.
  • The fairgrounds were destroyed in 1890 and the park was given to the City of Columbus.
  • In 1992, Ameriflora was held at the park as part of the Columbus Quincentennial! 5.5 million visitors visited the park!

Things to See and Do at Franklin Park in Columbus, Ohio:

1. The Franklin Park Cascades

Two boys sitting in front of the Franklin Park Cascades.

As I mentioned above, the Cascades are probably the most distinctive feature of Franklin Park. You can find the cascades in the southwest corner of the park. The Cascades run along Franklin Park South and a small portion of Franklin Park West streets. This is the corner opposite of Franklin Park Conservatory.

The information I learned about the Cascades comes from several informational signs that are posted in the park! The Cascades are filled with water that overflows from the Upper Pond.

The pond at Franklin Park.

The water then flows from the pond throughout a stream channel surrounded by a flood plain. A pump house moves the water throughout the system keeping the water flowing through the roots and stems of the native plants.

The Franklin Park Cascades.

The Cascades provide a wetland environment, clean water and stormwater management. The area has been planted with native plants and blooms. This area is home to native Ohio wetland plants and native species like Great Blue Heron, American Bullfrogs, Midland Painted Turtles and more!

A blue heron in front of the pond in Franklin Park.

In 2019, the Franklin Park Cascades were repaired and restored. The picture directly below was taken in April, 2021.

The Franklin Park Cascades in the spring.

2. Franklin Park Playground

A play structure in the playground at Franklin Park.

The playground at Franklin Park is a fun one! It has a natural theme with play structures that resemble honeycomb, spiders and logs. There are swings, balance beams and a spider-shaped climbing structure that my kids loved!

The playground area at Franklin Park.

A boy playing on the playground at Franklin Park.

There are picnic tables in the area and decent shade in the periphery of the park. The playground area is a mix of soft rubber and mulch surfaces.

Picnic tables at Franklin Park.

3. Reach Out Sculpture

The Reach Out sculpture in the park.

Near the playground there is a memorial to those who are living with and have died of AIDS. The sculpture is called Reach Out and was created by Columbus Artist Alfred Tibor. The sculpture was completed for the Ameriflora exhibition and its location was moved in 2016 to make room for the Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Two boys playing in the park.

The sculpture is surrounded by tulips during the spring.

4. Peace Sign and Trees

The peace monument in Franklin Park.

Near the middle of the Cascades area, look for a monument that says “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in multiple languages. Surrounding this area there are a multitude of trees with country names on plaques under them. I haven’t been able to find any official information on this display, but I can only assume the plants are native to each of the countries listed.

Blooming trees with plaques from different countries.

In this same area is a First Link monument surrounded by beautiful, pink trees in the Spring. The month of April is a beautiful time to visit this area when the trees are beginning to blossom.

The First Link monument in Franklin Park.

5. Amphitheater

The amphitheater seating area in Franklin Park.

There is a great outdoor amphitheater within the park! Outdoor performances take place including annual festivals in Columbus! Even if nothing is going on at the time, it’s a fun place for kids to run around and a beautiful place to take a rest and enjoy the scenery!

the stage in Franklin Park.

6. Walking Paths within Franklin Park

A walking path and bridge in Franklin Park.

There is so much to see within the park and the views are gorgeous! Additionally, there are a lot of paths to walk in order to see everything! The roadway path around the outer edge of the park is 1.1 miles.

A bridge over the cascades area in Franklin Park.

7. Community Garden

The Community Garden in Franklin Park.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus is free for the public to visit! Community Garden plots are available for rent (though there is a long wait list). Keep an eye out for the Free Little Farmstead where members share what is grown in the gardens. Otherwise, picking or eating from the gardens is not allowed.

8. Farmer’s Market

The Franklin Park Conservatory’s farmer’s market takes place in the main Conservatory parking lot off of E. Broad St. on Wednesdays from 3:30 PM – 6:30 PM during the summer.

It is free to visit this market even though it is technically on the grounds of the Conservatory. There are vendors and food trucks that would be a fun addition to your visit to Franklin Park.

9. Franklin Park Adventure Center

The Franklin Park Adventure Center is home to the Therapeutic Recreation Program for individuals with disabilities. People of all ability levels are welcome to join into the programs that they offer!

The building is also available for rent for private parties! See more information here.

10. Franklin Park Conservatory

Last but not least, I will mention more information about Franklin Park Conservatory! There is not enough room in this post to cover all there is to see and do on the grounds of Franklin Park Conservatory! Rotating exhibits keep us visiting over and over again and the amazing Children’s Garden is a must-visit destination for families in Columbus!

A boy walking inside Franklin Park Conservatory.

Highlights of Franklin Park Conservatory include:

  • Blooms and Butterflies where you can walk amongst the butterflies and see them released at certain times during the day.
  • Seasonal events like Pumpkins Aglow in October and Gardens Aglow in December.
  • The outdoor Children’s Garden full of imaginative play opportunities, natural play areas, water features and special programs.
  • Indoor biospheres to visit featuring Desert, Mountains and Rainforest environments.

Tips for Visiting Franklin Park in Columbus, Ohio:

It may seem complicated, but it’s actually fairly easy to visit Franklin Park! Here are some tips to make you visit go more smoothly!

A bridge in Franklin Park.

Is there a cost to visit Franklin Park?

No! There IS a cost to visit Franklin Park Conservatory, but beyond the grounds of the conservatory, there is no cost to visit the public areas of the park! Don’t worry, thanks to clear fencing, you will not be confused and accidentally wander into the part of the park that requires admission!

A pink tree reflecting in the water.

Where do I park to visit the public part of Franklin Park?

When visiting the park, it’s easiest to park in the parking lot of Franklin Park Conservatory. There is no charge for parking here and it will be the most straightforward place to park.

There are also a parking lots off of Franklin Park West and off of E. Broad St. west of the entrance to the Conservatory. The parking lot off of Franklin Park West is close to the pond and the Cascades!

The Cascades in Franklin Park.

If you’d like to get closer to the Cascades, there are usually plenty of spaces (and free parking) along Franklin Park South if you are comfortable parking on the street. I’m including this pretty little highlighted map below of where the Cascades are in the park! 😉

A map of Franklin Park.

Franklin Park is definitely worth a visit! With a great playground for kids, beautiful cascades and other free community activities, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours!

A bridge over the water in Franklin Park.

Know Before You Go:

  • Address: 1755 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203
  • Hours: 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Explore more of Columbus with these posts:

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Jacob Noah

Tuesday 15th of June 2021

Thank you so much for sharing this information! An outdoor children’s garden is an excellent idea. The imaginative play opportunities with other children create situations in which not everyone gets what they want and this helps in developing their language and social skills. Such play areas also boost the development of problem-solving and self-regulation skills.

Arianne Tachel @ cheetahchairs

Tuesday 8th of June 2021

Great post! Very interesting to read. I would like to read some more updates from you. Thanks for sharing your post.