Over 100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio

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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!

The Scioto Mile in Columbus, Ohio

The Scioto Mile in Columbus, Ohio

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!

Downtown Columbus, OH

Downtown Columbus, Ohio

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! 

Oceans exhibit at COSI

Center of Science and Industry


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!

2. Ohio History Center

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

boys at Ohio Village

Ohio Village

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 Wonder Room at Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Museum of Art

4. Columbus Museum of Art

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!

Read more: Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus Ohio

polar bears at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

5. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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!

The Palm House at Franklin Park Conservatory

Franklin Park Conservatory

6. Franklin Park Conservatory

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!

The Children's Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

Read more: Franklin Park Conservatory’s Children’s Garden is Unlike Anything Else in Columbus

7. Ohio Craft Museum

Museum featuring hand made items, classes, a cool gift shop and more!

8. Wexner Center for the Arts

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.

9. Pizzuti Collection

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

10. Orange Johnson House

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. 

11. Central Ohio Fire Museum

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.

boy playing at LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

12. LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

Explore everything LEGO with 4D movies, rides, building areas, a play area, cafe, gift shop and more!

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

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.

Read more: 10 Things to be Excited About at New Main Library!

14. National Veteran’s Memorial and Museum

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.

Dinosaur at Orton Geological Museum

Orton Geological Museum

15. Orton Geological 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!

Read more: Exploring The Ohio State University Campus with Your Kids

16. Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

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!

girl holding up coffee trail T-shirt at Experience Columbus

Columbus Coffee Experience T-Shirt

17. Columbus Coffee Experience

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!

coffee cup held up outside Third Way Cafe

Third Way Cafe

18. Dublin Cocktail Trail

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! 

Oreo Paleta from Dulce Vida West

Dulce Vida West

19. West Side Ice Cream Trail

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!

20. Irish Fairy Door Trail

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!

21. Twelve Elves of Dublin

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.

Read more: How to Rock the Twelve Elves of Dublin Scavenger Hunt

22. Made in Cbus Trail

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:

plant sculptures at Topiary Park

Topiary Park

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.

Related: 3 of the Most Unique Parks in Columbus Ohio

Columbus Commons

Columbus, Commons

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.

25. Bicentennial Park

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!

Genoa Park at Scioto Mile

Genoa Park

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.

27. The Promenade on Scioto Mile

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!

Related: The Columbus Park of Roses is a Must See Destination for Summer

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!

frog fountain and stores at Easton Town Center

Easton Town Center

29. Easton Town Center

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!

Read more: 5 Tasty Kid-Friendly Restaurants at Easton Town Center

games at The Yard at Polaris Fashion Place

The Yard, Polaris Fashion Place

30. Polaris Fashion Place

A large mall with indoor and outdoor areas, events for kids, dining, an outdoor game area called The Yard and a fountain for splashing!

31. The Mall at Tuttle Crossing

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.

33. Tanger Outlets Columbus

This outlet mall is 30 minutes north of downtown Columbus and is home to over 75 stores, restaurants and a playground area.

34. Tanger Outlets Jeffersonville

About 40 minutes south of Columbus, this outlet mall has over 60 stores and a food court!

35. Eddie Bauer Warehouse

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.

36. Discount Fashion Warehouse

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:

waterfall at Inniswood Metro Park

Inniswood Metro Park

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.

Related: 5 Cool Outdoor Activities for Kids in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

37. Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

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!

Read more: 9 Things to Do with Your Kids at Scioto Audubon

39. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

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.

40. Glacier Ridge Metro Park

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

41. Inniswood Metro Gardens

This beautifully curated park has some of themes unique gardens, walking paths and play areas for kids!

Related: 3 of the Most Unique Parks in Columbus Ohio

barn at Slate Run Farm, Slate Run Metro Park

Slate Run Farm

42. Slate Run Living Historical Farm

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!

43. Olentangy Indian Caverns

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

44. Ohio Wildlife Center

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.

Related: 4 Nature-Themed Story Times Around Columbus

45. Stratford Ecological Center

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.

Read more: A Day on the Farm: 5 Things to do at Stratford Ecological Center

Alum Creek State Park Beach

Alum Creek State Park Beach

46. Alum Creek State Park Beach

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!

Related: 5 Beaches in Ohio to Visit this Summer!

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.

47. Ohio Statehouse Tour

Daily tours are available of the Ohio Statehouse and take place every hour on the hour.  

boy taking candy at Anthony Thomas Candy Factory

Anthony Thomas Candy Factory

48. Anthony Thomas Candy Factory

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. 

Related: 24 Super Fun Things to do in Ohio with Kids

49. American Whistle Corporation

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!

50. Phoenix Bat Factory

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.

51. Columbus Food Adventures

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!

Bus stop for the CBUS

CBUS Stop in the Short North

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! 

Related: New and Improved Ten Pin Alley Provides Family Friendly Fun in Hilliard

Boy bowling at Star Lanes

Star Lanes

54. Star Lanes Polaris

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.

Boy bowling at RollHouse

RollHouse Entertainment

55. RollHouse Entertainment Columbus

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!

decorations outside Ohio Theatre

Ohio Theatre

56. CAPA (Columbus Association for the Performing Arts)

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!

58. Schottenstein Center

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.

60. ComedySportz

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! 

kids listening to PBJ & Jazz concert in Topiary Park

PBJ & Jazz Concert

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.

64. Columbus Children’s Theatre

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!

66. Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus’ very own professional hockey team plays at Nationwide Arena.

67. Columbus Clippers

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.

69. Ohio Roller Derby

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!

Ohio State University Hockey Game

Ohio State Hockey

Ohio State Football Game

Ohio State Football

70. Ohio State University Sports

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!

Skull Session at Ohio State University

Skull Session

71. Skull Session with OSU Marching Band

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! 

72. The Book Loft of German Village

This amazing bookstore in German Village has 32 rooms on multiple floors full of new and used books! Give yourself time to get lost!

boys reading at Cover to Cover Book Store in Upper Arlington

Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers

73. Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers

This is a magical bookstore in Upper Arlington specifically for kids!

Related: Story Times For Kids in Columbus Ohio 

74. Gramercy Books

A great bookstore with books for kids and adults located in Bexley that is also attached to Kittie’s Bakery! 

75. Prologue Bookshop

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!

Indoor play area at Graeter's Ice Cream

Indoor Play area at Graeter’s Ice Cream

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. 

76. Franklinton Fridays

Taking place on the 2nd Friday of each month, the community offers art shows, theater, science exhibits and more!

boy looking at art at The Design Refinery, Hilltop Art Hop

Hilltop Art Hop

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!

78. Fourth Fridays in Uptown Westerville

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!

80. Powell Street Market

This event takes place several times during the summer months and features vendors, food and more!

81. German Village Makers Market

This outdoor artisan market features vendors, food, home goods, personal accessories and more!

car with toys glued to it in the Short North

Short North

82. Short North Gallery Hop

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!

83. First Wednesdays in Worthington

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!

86. 16 Bit Bar + Arcade

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.

boy playing duck pin bowling at Pins Mechanical, Downtown Columbus location

Pins Mechanical

87. Pins Mechanical Co.

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.

boy playing arcade games at Level One Bar and Arcade in Worthington

Level One Bar and Arcade

88. Level One Bar + Arcade

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.

89. Sideswipe Brewing

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)

92. CAM International Market

93. Sunrise International Market

Independent Movie Theatres in Columbus:

94. Gateway Film Center

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! 

ice cream cone at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

96. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Arguably Columbus’ most famous ice-cream maker with unique, homemade ice cream flavors!

Related: How to Get Free Jeni’s Ice Cream on Your Birthday!

97. Graeter’s Ice Cream

Another ice cream favorite around Central Ohio, Graeter’s originated in Cincinnati, but we love them just the same!

flowers at North Market

North Market

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!

Related: 8 Reasons to Take Your Kids to North Market

pancake ball at Katalina's, Clintonville location


99. Katalina’s

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! 

Schmidt's Sausage House in German Village

Schmidt’s Sausage House

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!

103. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

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!

coffee cup outside of Stauf's Coffee, Neil Avenue location

Stauf’s Coffee

104. Stauf’s Coffee Roasters

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!

boys doing art projects at Columbus Arts Festival

Columbus Arts Festival

105. Columbus Arts Festival

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.

boys looking at a decorated car at Summer Jam West Festival in Westgate Park

Summer Jam West

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.

view of downtown Columbus from the ferris wheel at Ohio State Fair

Ohio State Fair

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!

113. Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights

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!

lit up trees at Wildlights at Columbus Zoo

Wildlights at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

114. Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Each holiday season the Columbus Zoo comes alive with LED lights, special performances and shows.

Related: 10 of Our Favorite Columbus Christmas Traditions

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!

116. The Nutcracker at Ohio Theatre

Every year many people in Ohio look forward to BalletMet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker in the beautiful Ohio Theatre!

Read: 7 of the Most Festive Things You Can Do in Columbus This Holiday Season

117. Columbus Food Truck Festival

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! 

bell at Westgate Farmer's Market

Westgate Farmers Market

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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100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio

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Exploring Ohio with Kids: Lakeside

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If you’re looking for a slow-paced and peaceful family vacation on the lake, make plans to visit Lakeside, Ohio, a perfectly picturesque town on Lake Erie where there is a little something for everyone in the family! 

Thanks to Lakeside Chautauqua for sponsoring this post.

How to Plan a Kid Friendly Trip to Lakeside, Ohio:

Boats lined up at Lakeside Ohio

When we were invited to visit Lakeside Chautauqua, I really had no idea what to expect. My family has vacationed several times on Lake Erie and we had driven by the entrance to Lakeside many times, but other than knowing that it cost money to get in, the rest of the details remained a mystery.

We met our Lakeside contact, Lizzie, at the entrance and she drove my family on a tour of the town on a golf cart. I have to admit I was shocked!! Lakeside was not at all what I had expected (for some reason I pictured a simple campground) and it blew away my expectations!

bikes parked in Lakeside, Ohio

As we drove through the quaint town filled with golf carts and kids on bicycles, I felt like we were at the seaside in New England. I felt like we were on the coast of California. I felt like we had stepped back in time to Mayberry. By the time our 48 hours in Lakeside ended, we were IN LOVE!

Where is Lakeside?

the shoreline in Lakeside, Ohio

You may hear Lakeside be referred to by a few names: Lakeside Chautauqua and Lakeside Marblehead being the two most frequent. Lakeside is located on the north side of the Marblehead Peninsula, not far from the Marblehead Lighthouse and the ferry to Put-In-Bay.

What is a Chautauqua?

A Chautauqua is a community that “provides spiritual, cultural, intellectual and recreational programs designed to nurture the mind, body and spirit.” Lakeside was originally formed by the Methodist Church in 1863, a pioneer of the Chautauqua Movement.

Lakeside continues to hold a robust schedule of speakers, services, performances and entertainment with spiritual and educational themes, though you do not need to be of a particular religion or denomination in order to visit and attendance at any of these events is 100% optional.

What is there to do at Lakeside?

Here’s where the fun begins! The fun at Lakeside doesn’t involve neon lights, beeping or flashing lights. It’s simple, classic. It’s the perfect place to take your kids to enjoy some “good old-fashioned fun” as they say. Here are some of the ways to play at Lakeside:

1. Miniature Golf

boy playing mini golf in lakeside ohio

Enjoy 18 holes of Mini Golf for just $3.50/person. Kids 5 and under are free. The course is shaded and the views from the green are stunning. 

2. Lakeside Beach

Lakeside beach in Ohio

The beach at Lakeside is small, but you can play (or lay) in the sand and swim in the lake and there are lifeguards on duty.

3. Kids Pool and Splash Pad

boys in kiddie pool at Lakeside Ohio

If the beach isn’t your kids’ thing – check out the kids pool and splash pad nearby! My kids loved this pool and could have floated around in it forever if we didn’t have dinner reservations!

boys playing in splash pad in Lakeside Ohio

4. Playgrounds

supervised playground at Lakeside Ohio

There are a couple of playground areas within Lakeside! There are 3 open playgrounds and the Grindley Playground which is a supervised playground. Yes, you read that right. You can check your kids (ages 4-7) in at this fenced in playground while you enjoy some kid-free time!

boys in sandbox at lakeside ohio

The large sandbox at Grindley Playground was a definite hit with my boys!

5. The Grindley Aquatic Wellness Campus Pool

pool at Lakeside, Ohio

This pool and wellness center is a recent addition to Lakeside. Exercise machines and classes are offered at the Wellness Center and the pool is amazing! With a zero entry and fountains at one end and twisty water slides at the other, this pool can be enjoyed by all. The pool does not get any deeper than 3.5 feet, which makes it pretty family-friendly.

boys standing next to pool at lakeside ohio

There are showers, changing rooms and lots of seating at this pool, but snacks are not sold. Make sure to bring your own if your kids are like mine and need a snack every 3.5 seconds.

6. Ohio’s Most Beautiful Mile 

boy walking ohio's most beautiful mile, Lakeside

This was probably my favorite thing we did at Lakeside. When walking this shoreline path I could not help but think that Ohio is just severely underrated. I felt like I was plucked up and dropped down into a vacation paradise. It’s hard to be anything but happy in this environment!

ohio's most beautiful mile, Lakeside

7. Sports Activities 

boys playing basketball in Lakeside, Ohio

Throughout Lakeside you will find sand volleyball courts, basketball courts (they even had a hoop at kid level!), tennis courts and shuffleboard, just to name a few. Shuffleboard is apparently huge at Lakeside! Who knew?!

shuffleboard courts at Lakeside, Ohio

8. Ottawa County’s Only Movie Theater

Ottawa County's only movie theater

Orchestra Hall is the only movie theater in the whole county! Movies are shown twice a day during the summer and do require an additional ticket fee. Check the link for movies and times.

9. Shopping

lakeside ohio business district

The Business District is home to several cute shops and restaurants (more on restaurants later). We didn’t have time for a lot of shopping but there are a handful of cute shops where you can pick up your latest souvenir or hand crafted gift. We did make stop in The Fine Print, an adorable book store on Walnut Ave.

the fine print bookstore at Lakeside Ohio

Downtown is also home to the Lakeside Farmer’s Market which takes place from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Tuesday and Friday.

10. Walk the Dock

boys on the dock at Lakeside, Ohio

The dock is home to several of the aforementioned activists: the beach and the kids pool and splash pad, but it’s also a great spot to watch the sunset or take a walk! We made it just in time for the sunset!

boy watching the sun set at lakeside Ohio

Are there restaurants at Lakeside?

Yes! There are 8 brick and mortar restaurants to satisfy your cravings! At least 3 of those serve ice cream, so my family was in heaven! 

1. Bluebird Cafe

lakeside ohio bluebird cafe

A whole-foods cafe with smoothies. Also a great option for taking food to-go!

2. Hotel Lakeside Dining Room and Cafe

food at Hotel Lakeside

Probably the most “fancy” option in Lakeside, though I still wore shorts and a tank top. Great views from the dining room and the porch is awesome!

3. Lago Coastal Cafe

Total California vibes going on at the newest dining location in Lakeside. The fries are amazing and make sure to try one of the Lago Fizz specialty drinks!

boy holding up french fry at Lago Coastal Cafe in Lakeside, Ohio

4. Coffee & Cream

Coffee and Cream restaurant at Lakeside, Ohio

Get your caffeine fix here – as well as hand dipped ice cream and soft serve!

ice cream cone from Coffee and Cream, Lakeside Ohio

5. Ooh La La! Fine Food – Fine Art

sandwich at ooh la la fine food and fine art in Lakeside Ohio

This is a great lunch spot – go for the box option (for adults and kids) which includes chips, a cookie and a drink!

6. Sloopy’s Sports Cafe

boy eating pizza at Sloopy's Cafe in Lakeside, Ohio

Fellow Buckeyes will appreciate this OSU themed restaurant with a huge menu. We loved the pizza!

7. The Patio Restaurant

powdered donut from The Patio in Lakeside, Ohio

I got lots of messages on Instagram telling me to get the donuts from The Patio! Done. And yum. They also serve ice cream and food!

8. Whistle Stop Ice Cream

Whistle Stop is another ice cream option that also serves gourmet popcorn!

What kind of entertainment is scheduled at Lakeside?

Lakeside Chautauqua hosts an impressive list of nationally renowned speakers and performers! The night we left, comedian Brian Regan was performing and we were super bummed to miss him! These performances, held at Hoover Auditorium, are included in your Day Pass cost – which is a steal for most of the performances! Other well-known 2019 performers included Amy Grant, Wynonna, Three Dog Night, OSU Alumni Band and many more! Check out the list of upcoming entertainers.

Each summer there is also a Lecture Series, running from mid June through the end of August. Each week there is a new theme. 2019 themes included: “Guns, Kids and the Media,” “The Legacy of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” “Seeking Peace in a Multi-Faith World” and more. Lectures can be attended every day at 10:30 AM  Check out the current Lecture Series.

gazebo at Lakeside, Ohio

In addition to larger known acts you can enjoy performances from the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra, classes for all ages in music, art, nature, history and science, story times, movies and so much more! There is so much to take advantage of – it’s nearly impossible to list here! Make sure to check the Lakeside Programs web page before planning your visit!

Where can I stay at Lakeside?

front porch at Hotel Lakeside

The porch at Hotel Lakeside

Lakeside is home to two hotels: Hotel Lakeside and The Fountain Inn. My family was hosted at The Fountain Inn. Beyond hotels, there are private cottages for rent, inns, bed and breakfasts, and a campground. Take a look at the various accommodation options at Lakeside here. It should also be mentioned that you don’t need to spend the night to visit Lakeside, but you will still need to purchase a Day Pass.

The Fountain Inn at Lakeside, Ohio

hotel room at The Fountain Inn, Lakeside, Ohio

The Fountain Inn

How much does it cost to enter Lakeside?

golf carts and flowers at lakeside, Ohio

A Chautauqua Pass is required to enter the Lakeside community. A daily pass, which is valid from the time of purchase until 7:00 PM the next day, will give you access to the town, the pool and all evening shows at the Hoover Auditorium. There is an additional pass needed to park your car in one of the parking lots or to take your car into Lakeside.

A Daily Chautauqua Pass costs:

  • $24.50 for adults.
  • $16.25 for youth ages 13-24
  • Free for kids 12 and under and adults 90 and over!

Passes can be purchased online but make sure to allow up to 14 days for your pass to arrive in the mail. Alternatively, you can choose to have your pass held at Will Call or you can buy your pass when you arrive. (Friday and Saturday passes cost $30 if purchased the day of. Save money by buying them ahead of time or as part of a weekly pass.)

Lake Erie shoreline in Lakeside, Ohio

I can’t recommend this family-friendly getaway enough! We had a blast and we can’t wait to go back! My oldest son has even decided he wants to live at Lakeside! 😉 

Looking for more family-friendly Lake Erie Vacation Ideas? Try these:


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Exploring Ohio with Kids: Lakeside

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

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

35 Free Things to do with Your Kids this Summer in Columbus:

train car in Hilliard, ohio columbus, ohio

1. Climb aboard the train at Homestead Metro Park.

westgate farmer's market in columbus, ohio

2. Check out a farmer’s market. See this list from Columbus Moms Blog, listed by day of the week!

3. Watch an outdoor movie. See this list from 614 Mom.

kids splashing in fountains at polaris fashion place, columbus, ohio

4. Have fun at KidX at Polaris Fashion Place.

Columbus Commons Park in Columbus, Ohio

5. Play at Commons for Kids every Friday.

tree house at Inniswood Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio

6. Climb into the tree house at Inniswood Metro Park.

7. Win prizes in a Summer Reading Club. Register at your local library or take advantage of one of these national programs listed by Mission to Save.

8. Try out one of Columbus’ many festivals. Check out this list of festivals around Columbus from Columbus Underground!

park in gahanna, ohio

9. Try out a new park. I have some ideas here and here!

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

kids at a splash pad in columbus, ohio

11. Get wet at a local splash pad! See my list of Free Columbus and Central Ohio Splash Pads and Fountains!

12.. Bowl for free with the Kids Bowl Free program! There are 3 locations in the Columbus area!

hilltop bean dinner meal in columbus, ohio

13. Attend the Hilltop Bean Dinner commemorating 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!

14. Shop 100 local vendors at the Powell Street Market.

kid getting a book from a little free library in columbus, ohio

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

16. Attend one of the Cap City Nights Festivals hosted by Columbus Recreation and Parks! (2019 info not yet released.)

kids participating in free metro park program in columbus, ohio

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

18. Enjoy some music at Polaris Live every Thursday night beginning June 13, 2019. Also see Summer Nights in Columbus: Concerts, Movies and More for Every Night of the Week!

kid at story time at chic fil a on sawmill, columbus, ohio

19. Hear a story or two at the Storytime at Chic Fil A on Sawmill.

celebration at the station in hilliard, ohio

20. Enjoy a free concert at Celebration at the Station at Hilliard’s Station Park – Thursdays at 6:00 PM beginning June 6, 2019.

kid at IKEA smaland

21. Explore IKEA and get free childcare and free coffee for IKEA Family Members (rewards card holders).

22. Get artistic at Arts in Uptown on the Second Friday of each month!

23. Watch a free movie at Gateway Film Center! Admission to their Book to Film series is free with your library card!

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

24. Explore the Blendon Woods Natural Play Area where kids can build forts, swing through the woods on a wooden swing, go creeking and more!

arches in the short north in columbus, Ohio

25. Attend Gallery Hop in the Short North on the first Saturday night of each month from 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM! Enjoy street performers, special deals and treats and the shops stay open late!

26. Watch a movie and have fun at Bexley Main Event.

27. Visit Franklin Park Conservatory on Community Day – the first Sunday of each month when Columbus and Franklin County residents (with valid ID) get in free! Make sure to play in the Children’s Garden!

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

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

29. Explore Columbus Museum of Art when admission is free on Sundays! Don’t miss The Wonder Room, an area just for kids!

30. Explore an ancient burial mound, Shrum Mound.

kids riding the CBUS in Columbus, Ohio

31. Take a ride on the CBUS. All rides are free and the buses go in a loop around the Short North, downtown, Brewery District and German Village.

32. Take a ride on the Smart Circuit – a self driving shuttle that will take you around the Scioto Mile!

free indoor play area in columbus ohio

33. Beat the heat with a free indoor play area.

hoot family film series free this summer in columbus ohio

34. Enjoy music, activities and movies at Hoot Family Film Series – free with a non-perishable donation to the Open Shelter.

35. Do a craft, hear a story and listen to jazz music at PBJ & Jazz.

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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