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5 Socially Distant Summer Adventures for Kids in Columbus

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These fun outings in Columbus will get your family safely out of the house and exploring this summer!

This summer has been a summer of major change for most of us and one of the biggest changes is how much time we have been spending at home! We managed to snag one of the coveted blow up pools for our backyard, we have taken a gazillion walks around the neighborhood, and I’ve even bought 3 (!) bird feeders for our yard! 

But while we are trying to make the most of a life lived mainly at home, we have also been on the search for new, outdoor activities this summer in order to keep our cabin fever at bay!

Please remember that masks are currently mandatory indoors in Franklin County and outdoors when you are not able to socially distance. 

5 Fun Outings for Kids for the Summer of 2020:

Here are 5 things we’ve done this summer that pass the test for being outdoors and also able to be socially (or physically) distant from other groups!

1. The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

  • 1777 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43203

model train at the Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

The Paul Busse Garden Railway will be on display at Franklin Park Conservatory through January 10, 2021. This is an outdoor display that takes up a large portion of the Grand Mallway.

The Garden Railway is made of all-natural plant materials and features 4 botanical themes: Fairytale Land, Wild West Town and an animal themed “Who Lives Here” and a European Travels section! Each theme has its own section of the display and there is a sign listing what each building is and what to look for! It was fun for the kids to find all of the different displays!

Masks are currently required at Franklin Park Conservatory.

boy looking at the model railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

Read more about the railway and see more photos here: The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory is Now on Display and it is Magical!

2. Suspension Sculptures in Schiller Park

  • 1069 Jaeger St, Columbus, OH 43206

suspended statues at Schiller Park in German Village, Columbus, Ohio

Polish artist Jerzy Kedziora’s floating sculptures will be on display through September in Schiller Park in German Village! This is part of an exhibit of around 30 some sculptures that are hanging all around Columbus including Thurber Park Livingston Park, Main Library and more!

Schiller Park is home to the bulk of these suspended sculptures and my kids had a lot of fun looking for them throughout the park! Our favorite was The Rower over Schiller Pond! 

Balance Statues in Schiller Park

Schiller Park has a great playground and lots of shaded picnic tables! We spent the late morning looking for all the sculptures and then had a picnic in the park!

3. Creeking at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

  • 1775 Darby Creek Dr, Galloway, OH 43119

two boys playing in the creek at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Battelle Darby Creek has become our go-to metro park since moving to the west side of Columbus! But we have always entered through the same entrance and done the same hike again and again. Now don’t get me wrong, seeing the bison in the park and visiting the Nature Center are two of the best things you can do in the park, but trying out a new entrance gave us an entirely different experience in the park!

In order to find this creeking spot you can enter through the Indian Ridge Picnic Area or the Canoe Access Area. If you walk the Terrace Trail, you will come across even more creeking opportunities! The Indian Ridge Picnic Area also has a playground and lots of picnic areas.

railroad bridge over Darby Creek

4. Whetstone Prairie

  • 3923 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43214

deer peeking his head out of the grass at Whetstone Prairie in Whetstone Park, Columbus

My husband and I stumbled upon the Whetstone Prairie while visiting the Columbus Park of Roses in June! We were shocked to find that this area existed after years of visiting the park and having no idea! The prairie is in the western part of the park along the Olentangy Trail. (Park in or near the Park of Roses parking lot.)

The prairie area is a peaceful place to walk, look for butterflies and other wildlife! I did not expect to come upon a deer in the middle of Whetstone Park! There are large clear paths for walking and enjoying solace in the middle of the city!

path at Whetstone Prairie in Columbus, Ohio

In addition to The Park of Roses and the Prairie, Whetstone Park is home to a library, rec center, pond and playground!

5. Rope Bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park

  • 5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City, OH 43123

two boys walking the rope bridge in Scioto Grove Metro Park

Let this be another lesson to us all about the value of exploring new parts of the Metro Parks! Again at Scioto Grove Metro Park, I have been guilty of only driving to one area within the park: the playground (which is more of a large climbing structure)!

There are a lot of good hiking areas around the playground, so don’t discount that if you haven’t done it, but this summer we were on a mission to find the Rope Bridge! We kept driving on past the playground to the Grove Lodge (where we parked) and then headed south on the REI River Trail. The Rope Bridge can be found where the REI River Trail meets the Mingo Trail (and it’s marked on the official Metro Parks map.)

view of the creek from the rope bridge in Scioto Grove Metro Park

The path to the Rope Bridge is very shady which is great, but I will caution you that it can be muddy and there were a lot of mosquitos. 

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory is Now on Display and it is Magical

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The Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory is an outdoor model railroad that will delight children AND adults through January 2021!

On July 1, 2020, the newest exhibition at Franklin Park Conservatory opened to the public and it is MAGICAL! This exhibit makes its temporary home in the Grand Mallway outside Franklin Park Conservatory and is made up of 1,122 feet of track!

A train runs a long a track in the Paul Busse Garden Railway.

Paul Busse graduated from Ohio State University in 1972 and he first created a public garden railroad in 1982 for the Ohio State Fair! He started a business called Applied Imagination which creates garden railway displays all over the United States! He has since retired, but the company is run by his daughter and he remains involved in the work! 

The Garden Railway is made of all- natural plant materials and features 4 botanical themes: Fairytale Land, Wild West Town and an animal themed “Who Lives Here” and a European Travels section!

A whimsical hanging house made to look like an acorn.

 My kids especially enjoyed the animal houses. Each house was made with the theme of a different animal such as a zebra, turtle, giraffe and snake as pictured below! They are adorable!

houses on the model railway made with animal themes

Don’t miss the waterfalls, the magical lights inside the tree cove or the Thomas Trains scooting around the tracks! There is so much to see and so many details that are easy to miss!

A boy looking up in a Tree Cove

Each theme has its own section of the display and there is a sign listing what each building is and what to look for! It was fun to try to find all of the different displays!

A sign listing things for people to look for in the railway scenes

Enjoy some photos from our visit on July 1, but make sure to get your timed ticket to visit yourself this summer!

train on the track of the garden railway

Bridges from the Paul Busse Railway Garden crossing over the path overhead.

Two boys watching the train at the Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory

boy watching the model train at the Garden Railway in Columbus, Ohio 

Some things to know before visiting Franklin Park Conservatory:

  • You need to reserved a timed ticket before visiting. The ticket designates your arrival time but you are free to stay as long as you want to.
  • Members are still asked to reserve their tickets online.
  • You must maintain a social distance of 6 feet between groups.
  • Face coverings are strongly requested unless you have a health issue or your child is under 2 years old.
  • The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden will be limited in capacity.
  • Restrooms are open.
  • Hours are available specifically for vulnerable populations on Thursdays at 9:00 AM.
  • No cash will be accepted within the Conservatory.

model train made of plant based materials

–>> Need more to do this summer? Try 5 Cool Outdoor Activities for Kids in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks or one of these 25 Fun Outdoor Activities in Columbus for the Whole Family <<–

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Paul Busse Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory


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93 Things to Do Thanksgiving Week in Columbus

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Looking for things to do in Columbus around Thanksgiving? If you have family in town and/or a few days off of work and are looking for something to do, check out this list of 93 events and things to do Thanksgiving week in Columbus!

93 Things to do Thanksgiving Week in Columbus:

If there’s a chance you’ll need to walk (or skate) off an extra piece of pie (or two) or get bickering family members out of the house….tuck this list away! And have a happy week of thankfulness! (As always, please double check the link for exact details, dates and times!) There will not be an additional What Should We Do This Weekend? post this week. This is the list! 🙂

Things to Do Any Time Thanksgiving Week:

Light Tunnel at Conservatory Aglow

Tunnel of Light at Franklin Park Conservatory.

1. Conservatory Aglow is happening at Franklin Park Conservatory! While you’re there, check out the Gingerbread Competition.

2. Wildlights is in full swing all weekend at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium!

3. Visit LEGOLAND Columbus Discovery Center at Easton Town Center. LEGOLAND is open 365 days a year. Thanksgiving Hours are 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and the last admission is at 3:00 PM.

Light Tunnel at WonderLight's Christmas in Ohio in Hebron, Ohio

Drive Through Tunnel at WonderLight’s Christmas in Ohio!

4. Drive through WonderLight’s Christmas in Ohio in Hebron, Ohio to see over 1 million synchronized LED lights! Open every night from 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM.

5. Christmas at the Castle, a Kingdom of Lights! at Landoll’s Mohican Castle features over 100,000 lights, a Christmas tree, holiday music and visits from Santa! This event will be $8.00 per car on Friday & Saturday nights, free Sunday-Thursday nights.

Butch Bando's Fantasy of Lights, Alum Creek Campground

Drive Through Lights at Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights!

6. Drive through Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights, a holiday light display at Alum Creek Park Campground any night through January 1st, 5:30 PM – 9:30, until 10:30 on Friday and Saturday.

7. Take a road trip to visit the PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

8. Drop a letter in Santa’s Mailbox in Pickerington beginning Wednesday.

9. Check out the Thanksgiving Weekend special at Ten Pin Alley. Each day beginning Wednesday and running through Sunday there are different deals including $3 laser tag, half off arcade games, kids eat free and more! (Check the link for each day’s deals.)

10. For many people this is the week to get their Christmas Tree! Pick a farm or tree lot from this list of Christmas Tree Farms in Columbus and Beyond!

11. Friday through Sunday you can take a Holiday Carriage Ride at Easton Town Center!

12. Sign up for a Family Gingerbread House Decorating class at Young Chefs Academy of Gahanna.

13. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is playing this Friday, Saturday and Sunday only at Ohio Theatre!

Holiday Train at Columbus Metropolitan Library

Holiday Train at Main Library, Columbus.

14. Visit the Holiday Train at Columbus Metropolitan Library – Main Library downtown! Or check out one of these 5 Holiday Trains Around Columbus!

15. Clifton Mill Lights opens the day after Thanksgiving! Gates open at 5:00 every night and the display runs through New Year’s Eve!

Think Outside the Brick LEGO Exhibit at Columbus Museum of Art.

Think Outside the Brick LEGO Exhibit at Columbus Museum of Art.

16. Think Outside the Brick is now on display at Columbus Museum of Art! This LEGO set up shouldn’t be missed and would make a great weekend outing! Don’t forget the museum is free on Sundays!

17. Drive through the Fairfield County Festival of Lights at the Fairfield County Fairgrounds. This light display goes on opens Thanksgiving Day and runs through Christmas Day!

18. Winterfest opens at Kings Island on November 22 and operates select nights through December 31. . It includes ice skating, holiday characters, millions of lights, holiday shows, carolers, and the park will included 10 winter wonderlands to visit.

boy standing in Mall at Tuttle Crossing looking down on Santa.

Santa at his post at The Mall at Tuttle Crossing.

19. Take photos with Santa at The Mall at Tuttle Crossing. Check the link for times.

20. Take photos with Santa at Easton Town Center. Check the link for times.

21. Take photos with Santa at Polaris Fashion Place. Check the link for times.

22. Drop a letter to Santa in Grandview Heights and get a letter back!

23. Visit Bubbles the Elf at Grandview Heights Public Library for a free activity each day!

24. Play with Purpose at Tree of Life Play + Cafe: bring in a donation of new hats, gloves or scarves for the Good Tidings Winter Wear store at SON Ministries through December 6 and get 50% off regular priced admission to Tree of Life Play + Cafe.


A BIG thank you to WonderLight’s Christmas in Ohio for sponsoring this post!

Santa’s not the only one coming to town!! “WonderLight’s Christmas in Ohio”, a drive-through Christmas light show, will be coming to National Trail Raceway in Hebron this holiday season!

This family-friendly event will feature a 2-mile car ride through more than a million LED lights, all synchronized to music! Giant Christmas trees, floating snowflakes, shooting stars, dancing candy canes, and (a favorite of children of all ages) three enchanting tunnels of light will illuminate the night! Guests will be able to watch the lights dance around them to traditional and newer, rocking Christmas music from the warmth of their own vehicle.

This dazzling Christmas display will be offered rain or shine every evening, including holidays, from November 15 to January 5! The cost of admission is affordable at $7 per person and children 3 years old and under are FREE! You can also purchase a “Carload Pass” for vehicles with up to seven passengers for just $30!

Learn more at www.christmasinohio.com!


Holiday Lights in Bicentennial Park, Columbus, Ohio

Holiday Lights in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

Monday, November 25, 2019:

25. Play with Purpose at Tree of Life Play + Cafe!

26. Attend a Turkey Handprint Play Date at The Shops at Worthington Place.

27. Spend a Messy Monday Afternoon at We Rock the Spectrum – Columbus.

28. Do Thanksgiving Crafts at Highbanks Metro Park.

29. Attend a second Turkey Handprint Play Date at The Shops at Worthington Place.

Christmas tree made of lights at WonderLight's Christmas in Ohio

Lights at WonderLight’s Christmas in Ohio!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019:

30. Go to Farm & Forest School at Sunbury Urban Farm.

31. Celebrate Taco Tuesday at The Kitchen!

32. Watch Elf (Free Screening) at Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts.

33. Play Family Fun and Games at Homestead Metro Park.

hanging holiday decor at Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

Holiday Decor at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019: 

34. Go to Farm & Forest School at Sunbury Urban Farm.

35. Skate and Bounce at Skate Zone 71.

36. Play Family Fun and Games at Homestead Metro Park.

37. Take advantage of Cheap Skate Wednesdays at United Skates of America – Refugee Rd.

38. Make Cedar Wood Creations at Creative Art Bar Hilliard.

39. Thanksgiving Eve Glow Skate at Skate Zone 71.

40. Leave the kids at home for Thanksgiving Adult Skates at Skate Zone 71.

Blendon Woods Metro Park, Columbus, Ohio

Blendon Woods Metro Park

Thursday, November 28, 2019, THANKSGIVING DAY:

Happy Thanksgiving! Lots of chances to burn off that extra piece of pie (not that you need to …..)

41. Run the Chase Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Upper Arlington – use the code “esff” for $6 off your registration!

42. Turkey Trot! in Blendon Woods Metro Park.

43. Another chance for Thanksgiving Adult Skates at Skate Zone 71.

44. Family Thanksgiving Skate at United Skates of America – Refugee Rd.

Trees at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Friday, November 29, 2019:

Black Friday doesn’t have to mean shopping! Check out these fun things to do!

45. Visit Christmas at the Market at Lynd Fruit Farm.

46. Take a Black Friday Hike at Clear Creek Metro Park (this one is a bit intense).

47. Run around at Toddler Open Gym at Thompson Recreation Center.

48. Go Black Friday Rollerskating at Skate Zone 71. (3 different times today!)

49. Learn about Ohioans in sports at Thanksgiving Family Friday at Ohio History Center.

50. Drop off the kids for Kids Sew, Parents Go! at The Sewing Hive!

51. Opt Outside: Hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

52. Attend Toddler Time with Fine Motor Friday at We Rock the Spectrum – Columbus.

53. Enjoy Indoor Amusements at Slate Run Metro Park and Living Historical Farm!

54. Find your tree at the Annual Christmas Tree Sale at Saint Mary School German Village.

55. Black Friday Rollerskating again at Skate Zone 71.

56. Check out the Dazzling Christmas Lights First Night in Westerville.

57. See the 71st Annual Lighting of The Licking County Courthouse.

58. Pizza Skate with the Trolls at Skate Zone 71.

59. Watch the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena.

60. See the 2nd Annual LDP Lighting Event! at Lucy Depp Park, a drive through light experience!

61. Tired of turkey? How about Friday Nights Unlimited Pizza Skate at Skate Zone 71?

62. Have Hot Cocoa with Queen Elsa! at Susie’s Bistro & Bakery.

Christmas Trees at HTH Farm Market, Columbus, Ohio

HTH Farm Market

Saturday, November 30, 2019:

63. Take a Fall Bird Walk at Deer Haven Park.

62. Shop Small Business Saturday in Grove City

63. Santa is Coming to Sunny Street Cafe!

64. Run the Columbus Hungry Turkey 5k/10k in Genoa Park.

65. Shop Small Business Saturday at Gramercy Books!

66. Take part in Moonlight Madness at Tanger Outlets.

67. Attend a Sensory Friendly Storytime at Barnes & Noble – Easton.

68. Check out the Annual Christmas Tree Sale at Saint Mary School German Village.

69. Attend Christmas at the Market at Lynd Fruit Farm.

70. Shop Small Business Saturday with Natterdoodle!

71. Attend a Saturday Storytime at Barnes & Noble – Dublin.

72. Get Free MEALS for KIDS! at Hilltop YMCA.

73. Shop the Holiday Bazaar at Vertical Adventures.

74. Do Gingerbread House Decorating with Mrs. Turbo’s Cookies.

75. Enjoy Indoor Amusements at Slate Run Metro Park and Living Historical Farm

76. Take part in Family Turkey Talk at Blendon Woods Metro Park

77. Watch Ohio Roller Derby’s Halloween vs. Christmas game: The Skatemare Before Christmas in the Lausche Building!

78. Head south for the Ashville Christmas Parade!

The word "Rejoice" in lights at Butch Bando's Fantasy of Lights in Columbus, Ohio

Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights

Sunday, December 1, 2019:

79. Take the kids to Toddler Time! at Get Air Pickerington.

80. Relax with Kids Yoga & Storytime – GoYoga + Cover to Cover at Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers

81. Another chance for the Annual Christmas Tree Sale at Saint Mary School German Village.

82. Celebrate Christmas in the Gardens at Hoover Gardens & Gift Center.

83. Shop Christmas at the Market at Lynd Fruit Farm.

84. Shop Moonlight Madness at Tanger Outlets.

85. Attend the Holiday Bazaar & Tree Lighting in the Short North Arts District.

86. Create Holiday Stack-ables at Creative Art Bar Hilliard.

87. Visit the 10th-Annual HolidayVille in Clintonville.

88. Shop the Holiday Artisan Market at 3060 ARTWORKS.

89. Attend the Holiday Open House in Old Worthington!

90. Send Letters to Santa in Hilliard!

91. Visit Seldom Seen Glaciers in Battelle Darby Metro Park (ages 13 and up!).

92. Attend a Disney Junior Holiday Party! at the Palace Theatre.

93. Watch the Hilliard Tree Lighting in Hilliard’s Station Park.

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


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*Please be aware,  information is gathered from multiple community sources.  Times, dates and locations are subject to change. There may be a fee to participate in a featured activity.  Please call ahead or check links to confirm activities.  Enjoy what you do today!*

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93 Things to do Thanksgiving Week in Columbus, Ohio


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