Planning a trip to Columbus, Ohio? Or maybe you live here and you just need a push to try something new! Browse this list of over 100 things to do in Columbus, Ohio for a little inspiration!
Columbus, Ohio is home to over 800,000 people and the greater metropolitan area is over 2 million people! With a vibrant arts scene, sports teams, theatre, a huge foodie scene and The Ohio State University, you can always find SOMETHING fun to do in Columbus! Tuck this list in your back pocket for the ultimate Columbus Bucket List!
Museums and Educational Centers in Columbus:
Columbus has its fair share of museums and educational centers! If you’re visiting for the first time, and/or with kids, these well known attractions in Columbus are going to be some of your can’t miss stops!
The Center Of Science and Industry offers tons of hands on science activities for kids (and adults)! In addition to the permanent displays, there are a number of rotating exhibits and IMAX movies each year. Don’t miss the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery inside COSI!
Learn about the history of Ohio with educational and hands on exhibits. The special events they hold throughout the year (like Night at the Museum) and are super fun for families!
Read more: Ohio History Center with Kids
3. Ohio Village
Adjacent to Ohio History Center is Ohio Village, open during the summer and featuring what every day life was like in the 1880’s! Special events are held here throughout the year such as Dickens of a Christmas, All Hallow’s Eve and more!
The Columbus Museum of Art includes permanent and rotating exhibitions, classes, special events and The Wonder Room, an area for children to explore! Visit for free on Sundays!
Consistently rated as one of the best Zoos in the country and one of the best family-friendly attractions in Columbus, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offers the chance to see animals up close and personal! Highlights include The Heart of Africa, the polar bear exhibit, and special seasonal events throughout the year!
Franklin Park Conservatory is home to indoor and outdoor gardens, seasonal displays and events and an amazing outdoor Children’s Garden! Franklin County residents can visit for free on the first Sunday of each month!
Museum featuring hand made items, classes, a cool gift shop and more!
Enjoy art, events, films, special exhibitions, a cafe, gift shop and more! Visit for free after 4:00 PM on Thursdays and the first Sunday of each month.
Visit a smaller art collection (part of Columbus Museum of Art) located in the Short North for contemporary art, special programs and rotating exhibits. Free on Sundays and with a CMA membership.
Related: Our Visit to the Pizzuti Collection
Get a historical view of 19th Century Worthington at one of the oldest properties still standing in the town. Open on Sundays and by appointment for tours.
Learn about the history of fire fighting and visit a collection of fire fighting equipment used throughout the years. There is also a play area for children.
Explore everything LEGO with 4D movies, rides, building areas, a play area, cafe, gift shop and more!
13. Main Library
The main branch of The Columbus Metropolitan Library is a sight to behold with it’s beautiful old and modern aspects, a cafe, a gift shop and of course thousands of books and audio visual materials for checking out.
Visit this museum to honor to our nation’s Veterans throughout all eras. Hear their stories, visit exhibitions, and participate in events held at the museum.
Home to Columbus’ own dinosaur, visit this museum to see the model Cryolophosaurus found by an Ohio scientist. See other rocks, minerals and fossils from Ohio and beyond! Admission is free!
This museum, on the campus of The Ohio State University, is home to the world’s largest collection of cartoon and comic related art, books, materials, newspaper clippings and more!
Trails to Help You Explore Columbus:
Columbus is home to several “trails” : from food to fairies. Grab a passport and make your way through one of these local themed trails!
Visit 4 coffee shops on the trail to receive a free t-shirt or visit all of them for a collector’s coffee mug! Pick up your passport at any participating coffee shop!
Pick up a Guidebook or print one online and visit each of the destinations listed. Turn in or mail in your completed Guidebook and receive a koozie or Celtic Cocktail Trail t-shirt!
Tour the unique ice cream spots located on the West Side of Columbus including several Mexican Ice Cream shops featuring handmade paletas and aguas frescas!
Visit each of the locations listed on the passport and find the name of each resident fairy. Turn in your passport for a free t-shirt!
During the holiday season (December), visit 12 participating businesses around Historic Dublin, to find a hidden elf at each stop. Pick up an Elf Card at any of the stops and kids can point out the Elf to the employee and they will receive a small prize and a stamp on their card.
Shop at any 4 of the locations on the Made in Cbus trail and earn a free Made in Cbus tote bag!
Columbus Parks and Playgrounds:
The green space in Columbus has improved very much over the past 10 years. This section is focused on Columbus’ downtown parks and green spaces. In a later section some of the parks and outdoor activities outside of the city will be listed.
Columbus is full of playgrounds where kids can run, play and explore! See more by click on one of these posts:
- 12 Columbus Parks to Try This Summer
- 6 Columbus Area Parks for Toddlers
- 9 Central Ohio Metro Park Playgrounds
- Easterseals Recommended Accessible Parks, Playgrounds and Trails in Central Ohio and Surrounding Area
23. Topiary Park
A can’t miss destination in downtown Columbus, this park is a recreation of Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte. With larger than life size plant sculptures, it’s a sight to behold! Though not the only way into the park, you can visit the park through the Main Library.
24. Columbus Commons
Columbus Commons is a great downtown park that offers live concerts, exercise classes, a carousel, two food vendors, festivals, Commons for Kids in the summer, and a beautiful green space in the middle of the city.
Home to fountains for kids to jump in during the summer, a stage for concerts, host of the Columbus Food Truck Festival and a beautiful view of downtown Columbus!
26. Genoa Park
This downtown park, part of the Scioto Mile, has an amphitheater, the Columbus Police Memorial, LED lighting, fountains and more! This park is just outside of COSI.
Walk a beautiful stretch of the Scioto Mile with views of the Columbus skyline, swinging benches, bridges and more!
28. Park of Roses
This garden is one of the largest public rose gardens in the United States and a very popular attraction in Columbus during the summer! The Columbus Park of Roses features paths for walking through, benches and over 12,000 specimens of roses! Roses are at peak bloom in early summer, but the park is open year round!
Shopping in Columbus:
Columbus is home to many major brands such as The Limited, Bath and Body Works, Abercrombie and Fitch, Big Lots, and the list goes on! If shopping is your jam, you will find nearly every store known to man within the Central Ohio area!
One of the largest shopping centers in the US, Easton is home to nearly 200 stores, 60 restaurants, a movie theater, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus, Dreamscape, a VR experience, The Funny Bone (featuring live comedy shows), outdoor fountains, a model train and many special events throughout the year!
A large mall with indoor and outdoor areas, events for kids, dining, an outdoor game area called The Yard and a fountain for splashing!
This mall is located in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus and features over 120 stores and a unique STEM-focused play area for kids!
32. Eastland Mall
This mall on the east side of Columbus no longer has any anchor stores but has become home to local entrepreneurs and is looking to revitalize with events and new businesses.
This outlet mall is 30 minutes north of downtown Columbus and is home to over 75 stores, restaurants and a playground area.
About 40 minutes south of Columbus, this outlet mall has over 60 stores and a food court!
This hidden gem on the west side of Columbus includes an outlet store, a warehouse portion (with greater discounts) and a salvage store where items sell at extremely low prices! The salvage store is only open on Fridays and Saturdays until 1:00 PM.
Columbus is home to several DFWH stores that serve as an outlet for brands like Victoria’s Secret, Limited, Express, Lane Bryant and more!
For local, small shops I would suggest checking out the recurring events listed below that take place in individual neighborhoods. There are so many unique, locally owned shops in Columbus – too many to list here!
Outdoor Fun in Columbus:
The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks offer Central Ohio residents many, many opportunities to get outside and explore nature. It’s possible to drive just 20 minutes from downtown and find yourself in the middle of the forest, canoeing on a lake or hiking off trail. Beyond the Metro Parks there are several other options for outdoor exploring and learning about the animals found in Ohio.
The local Metro Parks offer city dwellers the opportunity to step into woods, forests, prairies and swamps. You’ll be amazed at what you can find inside these parks!
Also there are a plethora of activities and events hosted within the Metro Parks that offer kids and adults alike the chance to get out into Nature. Below I will feature a few of the highlights (#’s 38-42):
38. Scioto Audubon
This is currently the only Metro Park within downtown Columbus. The Grange Insurance Audubon Center is home to events, an indoor play area and library, bird watching opportunities and more! There is a playground, climbing walls, an outdoor sandbox and much more!
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park has one of the best Nature Centers with a “living stream” inside where you can get up close to, touch and feed the animals and fish in the stream. Bison live within the park and finding them is a highlight of our visits!
Read more about the Nature Center at Battelle Darby.
This Metro Park has a unique feature in its new Ninja Course! One of the most unique Metro Park playground areas, it’s a highlight for kids of all ages!
Related: 9 Metro Park Playgrounds
This beautifully curated park has some of themes unique gardens, walking paths and play areas for kids!
This Metro Park is home to a living farm where families can visit, ask questions and participate in chores on the farm! On Saturdays kids can feed the animals and participate in chores!
Visitors can tour underground caverns used by the Wyandotte Indians. Guided and self guided tours are available. Also on the property you can visit a petting zoo, complete a maze, do gem mining, play yard games and more!
Read more: 10 Things to do at Olentangy Indian Caverns
Ohio Wildlife Center is home to animals who are being rehabilitated or not able to return to life in the wild. The Center is only open a few times a month so make sure to check the website for dates. Story times are held as well as regular open houses and guests can tour the grounds and meet some of the resident animals.
Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware, Ohio is home to animals, gardens, hiking trails, a pond and more! Workshops and classes are held on a regular basis as well as a story time for kids.
You didn’t think you could go to the beach in Central Ohio? Don’t overlook Alum Creek Beach for a day at the beach!
If you’re looking for more outdoor ideas, read 25 Fun Outdoor Activities in Columbus for the Whole Family!
Interesting Tours in Columbus:
We can explore so much on our own, but sometimes you really need a guided tour to give you the inside scoop. This portion of the list includes factories, restaurants and other cultural attractions where you you can take a tour.
Daily tours are available of the Ohio Statehouse and take place every hour on the hour.
Take a tour of this candy factory and watch candy being made. Tours are about an hour long and no reservation is required. Tours days change depending on the season so check the link for details. Tours are $1 for kids ages 3-8 and $2 for adults. Your admission fee is able to be used toward a purchase in the gift shop.
Tour the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the US! The tour takes about 45 minutes and everyone receives a whistle at the end of the tour! Call to make a reservation or book online!
Learn how a bat is made from start to finish at this factory in Plain City, just outside of Columbus. Tours are about 1 hour long and are available during open tour times or with a reservation. Open tours take place Monday and Friday at 1:30 PM.
Want to experience the amazing food scene in Columbus? Take a Columbus Food Tour. Options include: taco trucks, ethnic food, dessert, breweries, meat lovers, breakfast, coffee, brunch and tours focused on specific neighborhoods!
52. Ride the CBUS
Though not a formal tour, anyone can hop on the CBUS and ride up and down High Street for free! The bus stops only at specific stops and follows a short tour through the Short North, Downtown, German Village and the Brewery District!
Bowling Alleys in Columbus:
Bowling alleys have really upped their game in Central Ohio. If you associate bowling alleys with being dark and smoky, you really need to try one of these suped up versions! These bowling alleys are family friendly and include arcades, laser tag and other activities as well!
53. Ten Pin Alley
This newly remodeled bowling alley also offers later tag, an arcade and a full service restaurant!
Star Lanes is home to bowling, billiards, an arcade, ping pong tables and an 8-passenger XD theatre experience! Try out the new, interactive Hyper Bowling which is fun for all ages! A full menu is also available.
This entertainment center has bowling, laser tag, food and drinks, an arcade and (soon) escape rooms!
Theatre and Live Performances in Columbus:
Theatres and live performance venues attract many visitors to Columbus each year! If you’re looking for a Broadway show or your favorite band on tour, click the link to see what’s coming to town next!
CAPA is an organization that has rehabilitated several theatres in downtown Columbus and oversees performances in Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre and Southern Theatre (among others). From Broadway performances to The Nutcracker, family friendly productions to string quartets, you can find a performance to attend in downtown Columbus!
57. Express Live
Featuring indoor and outdoor concerts, check the link for upcoming musical acts!
Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center is home to live performances, sporting events, concerts and more! Check the link for the upcoming schedule.
59. Nationwide Arena
One of the largest performance venues in Columbus, Nationwide Arena is home to the Columbus Blue Jackets and draws big name concerts and shows. Check the link for upcoming events.
ComedySportz is a fun, interactive improv show that takes place on Fridays and Saturdays. All ages are welcome!
61. Hashtag Comedy
Featuring live shows, improv school for kids and adults and community performances! Click the link for upcoming shows and classes!
62. Shadowbox Live
Shadowbox Live is the largest resident ensemble theater company in the US. The downtown theatre is home to 52 weeks a year of productions including a performance that takes place on your lunch hour on select Fridays!
63. PBJ & Jazz
Throughout the year the Jazz Arts Group puts on kid-friendly jazz concerts designed to introduce kids to jazz music at an early age. During the winter, the concerts are held inside and kids get a packed lunch when they attend. Indoor concerts are $5/person or $20 max. During the warmer months, the concerts are held outside in Topiary Park and are free to attend.
CCT focuses on family-friendly theatre and introducing kids to the arts! With performances, classes and special performances around town, you can introduce your children to theatre at their level!
65. CATCO is Kids
Featuring kid-friendly performances, community involvement, summer camps and more, kids can be introduced to the world of theatre.
Live Sports in Columbus:
Columbus, Ohio is a sports town, that’s for sure. Perhaps best known as a college football town, Columbus is also home to other professional and semi-professional sports teams!
Columbus’ very own professional hockey team plays at Nationwide Arena.
A Triple A baseball team, the Clippers play downtown at Huntington Park. If you’re looking to save some money, standing room only tickets can be purchased and there are lots of benches and picnic tables from which you can enjoy the game.
68. Columbus Crew SC
Currently Columbus’ MLS team plays in a stadium near OSU campus but a new stadium is being built downtown.
Watching the Ohio Roller Derby is always a fun time. This is a women’s league featuring two 30 minute periods of full-contact racing on roller skates!
Games played at the Ohio State University are open to the public and while football tickets may be hard to come by, it’s easy to watch hockey, basketball, and much more. Some events are even free for the public to attend!
If you don’t have OSU football tickets but you want to get into the spirit of the day, attend a Skull Session which takes place 2 hours and 20 minutes before the start of the game at St. John Arena. It’s a pep rally of sorts where the OSU Marching Band (TBDBITL) plays, the coach speaks and the players attend.
Bookstores in Columbus:
Columbus is home to some pretty amazing book stores!
This amazing bookstore in German Village has 32 rooms on multiple floors full of new and used books! Give yourself time to get lost!
This is a magical bookstore in Upper Arlington specifically for kids!
74. Gramercy Books
A great bookstore with books for kids and adults located in Bexley that is also attached to Kittie’s Bakery!
This bookstore in the Short North features books, games, book clubs and events!
Indoor Fun for Kids in Columbus:
The kids have their own kind of fun in Columbus, Ohio! Because toddlers and preschoolers need a special kind of safe fun, I’m including some lists of indoor play areas that they will love! Many of these indoor play areas are free and some are cafes that include food for the whole family!
- Over 20 Free Indoor Play Areas in Columbus
- 6 Free or Cheap Indoor Places for Kids to Run Wild in Columbus
- The Complete List of Columbus Play Cafes
Columbus Neighborhood Events:
Like any major city, Columbus is made up of smaller neighborhoods and surrounded by vibrant suburbs. Many of these neighborhoods hold their own regular events such as First Fridays, etc. These events are a great way to get a feel for the neighborhood and explore the local businesses.
Taking place on the 2nd Friday of each month, the community offers art shows, theater, science exhibits and more!
77. Hilltop Art Hop
This event takes place on the first Saturday of each month and features art shows, live music, snacks, art projects and more!
On the fourth Friday of each month, the businesses of Uptown Westerville stay open late for shopping, snacks and more!
79. Grandview Hop
This event takes place several times throughout the summer and features vendors, food, live music and more on Grandview Avenue!
This event takes place several times during the summer months and features vendors, food and more!
This outdoor artisan market features vendors, food, home goods, personal accessories and more!
Gallery Hop in the Short North takes place on the first Saturday of each month on High Street. Galleries, shops and restaurants stay open late for shopping and art showings, often there are street performers and special events!
On the first Wednesday of each month, the businesses of Old Worthington stay open late for special events, live entertainment,and more!
84. Moonlight Market
This nighttime, outdoor market takes place downtown once a month during April through October and features shopping, dining and entertainment.
85. Sunlight Market
This daytime, outdoor market takes place downtown once a month during April through October and features shopping, dining and entertainment.
“Bar-cades” in Columbus:
“Barcades” (Bar + Arcade) are popping up all over Columbus and they offer a great alternative to just going to the bar. Several of them also offer kid-friendly hours so kids can enjoy the games, too! Some of them can even host birthday parties for kids!
16 Bit Bar + Arcade features craft beer, cocktails and classic arcade games. If you purchase a drink, you can play any of the arcade games for free! Kids are permitted every Sunday from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Locations include downtown Columbus and Bridge Park in Dublin.
Pins Mechanical Co. has three Columbus area locations, Bridge Park in Dublin, Easton Town Center and Downtown Columbus. Available activities include pinball, duckpin bowling, ping pong, foosball and more! Arcade games are $.50 each and kids are allowed until 8:00 PM.
This is another spot where if you buy a drink, playing arcade games is free! Level One has an 80’s theme and features some of your favorite arcade games from that era. Kids and people under age 21 are allowed into the bar from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.
Sideswipe brewing features craft beer, pinball games, darts, board games and more! There is a patio and you can bring your own food or order in. Kids are welcome.
90. Old North Arcade
Old North Arcade features a great selection of games that you can play for free when you purchase a drink. Activities include arcade games, pinball, air hockey, skee-ball and more! Children are allowed before 8:00 PM. There is a patio and Forty’s Chicken and Waffles is attached for food!
International Markets in Columbus:
Columbus is home to people of many cultures and ethnicities. One of the best ways to explore the food scene of another culture is to check out one of these large, local International Markets (#’s 91-93):
91. Saraga International Grocery (two locations)
Independent Movie Theatres in Columbus:
Gateway Film Center is a non-profit, independent theater that offers a variety of films, documentaries and special events including free and sensory friendly movie showings for families!
95. Drexel Theatre
The Drexel Theatre is a local theatre that provides unique cinematic experiences, family-friendly events and lots more!
Classic Columbus Restaurants:
The foodie scene is taking off in Columbus and new restaurants open every day! While there are too many restaurants to list, the ones listed here are some of the staples of the Columbus food scene!
Arguably Columbus’ most famous ice-cream maker with unique, homemade ice cream flavors!
Another ice cream favorite around Central Ohio, Graeter’s originated in Cincinnati, but we love them just the same!
98. North Market
You can’t visit Columbus without visiting the North Market! With over 30 vendors selling hot food, grocery items, flowers, coffee, pastries and more!
Famous for her pancake balls and breakfast tacos, Katalina’s now has two locations, in the neighborhoods of Harrison West and Clintonville.
100. Hot Chicken Takeover
Hot Chicken Takeover began in Columbus and now has several locations. HCT is offers jobs to people who have need a second chance at work!
101. Schmidt’s Restaurant
Open since 1886, Schmidt’s features traditional German faire. Don’t miss the cream puffs!
102. Fox in the Snow
Fox in the Snow offers ambiance, high quality food and coffee! Each of their locations is unique in their own way and is a great spot for a treat!
Hailing from Columbus, Cameron Mitchell has opened several highly acclaimed restaurants around Central Ohio. Many of his restaurants have multiple locations. Click the link to take your pick!
Stauf’s is well known for their freshly roasted coffee! With 6 Columbus locations, you can easily find your coffee fix!
Breweries in Columbus – the craft beer scene is exploding in Columbus and while it’s not my area of expertise, check out this post from Columbus Navigator featuring the Best Breweries in Columbus!
Seasonal Events in and around Columbus:
Seasonal events and festivals are some of the most fun things to do in Columbus! They only come around once a year so you must plan accordingly! These are some of the most popular festivals and events that take place in Columbus each year!
The Columbus Arts Festival is a 3 day festival featuring local artists, vendors, activities for kids, live performances and more!
106. Red White and Boom
Columbus’ 4th of July celebration includes live music, vendors and a large fireworks display!
107. Com Fest
Columbus’ Community Festival features local bands, food, performances and more with a focus on grassroots community partners!
108. Pride Festival
A celebration of Columbus’ LGBTQ community and allies. Takes place in June each year and features a parade, special events, live music and more.
109. Summer Jam West
This festival celebrates local artists, local bands and supports the curation of a mural on the west side of Columbus each summer.
110. Jazz and Ribs Fest
Featuring 3 days of live jazz performances and the best rib connoisseurs along the Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus.
111. Ohio State Fair
The Ohio State Fair is a highlight of summer in Columbus with live entertainment, competitions, special events, rides, concessions, games, Ohio foods and so much more!
112. Asian Festival
The Asian Festival showcases the cultural heritage of the Asian people and provides an educational experience for all ages!
This annual drive through holiday light show is a tradition for many in the Central Ohio area! The show has been taking place for over 20 years and it also supports local charities and organizations!
Each holiday season the Columbus Zoo comes alive with LED lights, special performances and shows.
115. Hilltop Bean Dinner
The Hilltop Bean Dinner is a family friendly festival that remembers the role of Westgate Park in the Civil War. The park was the site of a prison camp, Camp Chase, and the festival offers some traditional food (like beans) but much more: food vendors, craft vendors, music and more!
Every year many people in Ohio look forward to BalletMet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker in the beautiful Ohio Theatre!
Each summer the Scioto Mile is packed with the city’s best food trucks and you can walk around the riverfront area eating until you burst!
Pick Your Own and Farmers Markets in Central Ohio:
Fruit and vegetable picking might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of urban Columbus, but there are many pick-your-own farms within an hour’s drive of Columbus, Ohio. Plus farmers from all over bring their produce and homemade goods to nearly every suburb and neighborhood in Columbus!
118. Apple Picking
Explore 5 Farms Where You Can Pick Your Own Apples Near Columbus, Ohio for specific ideas for great places to pick apples around Central Ohio!
119. Peach Picking
Read Peach Picking Fun at Branstool Orchards for a unique peach picking option about 1 hour from Columbus!
120. Pumpkin Farms and Fall Festivals
Every October farms around Central Ohio offer Fall Festivals, pumpkin picking, hay rides and more! Find your nearest here: A Complete List of Pumpkin Patches and Fall Festivals in Central Ohio
121. Farmer’s Markets
Nearly every community in and around Columbus has a weekly or bi-weekly farmers market! Check the list here: Farmer’s Markets in Columbus and Central Ohio
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