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25 Fun Outdoor Activities in Columbus for the Whole Family

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Explore Columbus with one of these fun outdoor activities guaranteed to provide your daily dose of Vitamin D!

We look forward to warmer weather when we can get outside and enjoy Central Ohio’s parks, playgrounds and other outdoor activities! This list of outdoor activities in Columbus includes the educational, the relaxing and even ideas for those who aren’t the “outdoorsy type”.

Some of our favorite places to explore are the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and you’ll see a few of those parks included on this list. Check out the other links within this post for more kid-friendly ideas within the Metro Parks! We also love to explore playgrounds around town and while I haven’t included many on this list, you can get more ideas in: 12 Columbus Parks to Try This Summer.

Leveque Tower in Downtown Columbus, Ohio

25 Fun Things to do Outside in Columbus, Ohio:

1. Slate Run Living Historical Farm

  • 1375 OH-674, Canal Winchester, OH 43110
barn at Slate Run Farm, Slate Run Metro Park

Slate Run Farm

This Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park in Canal Winchester 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! Spend a beautiful day outdoors on the farm!

2. Inniswood Metro Gardens

  • 940 S Hempstead Rd, Westerville, OH 43081 
waterfall in Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniwsood Metro Gardens are one of the most beautiful outdoor displays of plants, trees and flowers your can find in the Columbus area! The trails are also beautiful to walk in all seasons! This park is in bloom in the spring and summer and the foliage is spectacular in the fall as well! 

Don’t miss the tree house with its suspension bridges and wooden walking paths! Kids love this area to play in in the park! (Please note, no food or drink is allowed inside the park but there are picnic tables just outside if you’ve brought a packed lunch!)

3. Ninja Course at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

  • 9801 Hyland-Croy Rd, Plain City, OH 43064
outdoor ninja climbing area at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Glacier Ridge Metro Park

This fun outdoor activity in Glacier Ridge Metro Park is often called the Ninja Course by locals. It features ramps, ropes to climb and a small zip line. Lots of fun opportunities for climbing, swinging and jumping! This area is on the North side of the park.

On the South end of the park you can visit the Honda Wetland Education Area which features an outdoor viewing area and information about the wildlife in the park.

4. Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

  • 1777 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43203
boy walking down steps in the outdoor Children's Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

Scot’s Miracle Grow Foundation Children’s Garden

The Scots Miracle Grow Foundation Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory is an incredible place for kids to play outside! Access to the garden is available only through the Franklin Park Conservatory so you must pay admission or have a membership. However, Franklin County residents can visit for free on the first Sunday of each month!

With bridges, a human-sized birds nest, fairy gardens, musical instruments, water features and so much more, this is one of the coolest outdoor activities in Columbus!

5. Columbus Commons

  • 160 S High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Plants and flowers at Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons is the largest park in downtown Columbus. Throughout the spring, summer and fall the park is home to live concerts, outdoor exercise classes, a carousel, two food vendors, festivals and Commons for Kids in the summer! If you’re looking for a great outdoor green space downtown, this is it!

6. Hayden Falls Park

  • 4326 Hayden Run Rd., Dublin, OH 43017 
waterfall at Hayden Run Falls in Dublin, Ohio

Hayden Run Falls

One might not think of Columbus, Ohio as a place that has many (or any) water falls, which is what makes Haden Falls such a hidden gem! This park is definitely off the beaten path and involves a short hike down wooded steps and walk ways. Once you come upon the falls you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find!

7. Scioto Grove Metro Park 

  • 5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City, OH 43123
Scioto Grove Metro Park Playground Slide

Scioto Grove Metro Park

The climbing structure at Scioto Grove Metro Park is really unique – it’s made nearly entirely out of rope!  This outdoor play area is best for older kids who are confident in rope climbing!  This playground is in the Arrowhead Picnic Area. Parking and restrooms are close by.

8. Bison Watching at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

  • 1775 Darby Creek Dr, Galloway, OH 43119
bison in the field at Battelle Darby Metro Park

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Park at the Nature Center at Battelle Darby Metro Park and take a short walk to look for the bison that live in the park! There are a couple of different pasture areas so you may want to ask at the Nature Center where the bison are currently hanging out. There is a bison observation area about a 1/2 mile walk from the Nature Center.

9. Olentangy Indian Caverns

  • 1779 Home Rd, Delaware, OH 43015
kids going down steps at Olentangy Indian Caverns

Olentangy Indian Caverns

Take a day to tour underground caverns once used by the Wyandotte Indians. There are guided and self guided tours available. While you are at Olentangy Indian Caverns, other outdoor activities include visiting a petting zoo where you can feed and, of course, pet animals, completing an outdoor maze, gem mining, yard games and more! 

10. Park of Roses

  • 3901 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214 
Roses in the Park of Roses in Clintonville

Park of Roses

If you’re looking for a peaceful outdoor walk with beautiful scenery, make sure to check out the Park of Roses in the Clintonville neighborhood a short drive behind the Whetstone Recreation Center. There are several distinct rose gardens, plus additional gardens displaying perennials, trees and herbs. . The park is in peak bloom June through September and admission is free.

11. Ohio Wildlife Center

  • 6131 Cook Rd., Powell, Ohio 43065 
boy looking at a Wolf at an outdoor animal enclosure at Ohio Wildlife Center

Ohio Wildlife Center

Ohio Wildlife Center is home to animals who are being rehabilitated or not able to return to life in the wild. Plan this activity ahead of time because the Center is only open a few times a month. Make sure to check the website for dates. Story times are held as well as regular open houses and, during each event, guests can tour the outdoor grounds where the animals are housed.

12. Stratford Ecological Center

  • 3083 Liberty Rd, Delaware, OH 43015
boy walking down a gravel path at Stratford Ecological Center

Stratford Ecological Center

Stratford Ecological Center is in Delaware, Ohio, about an hour outside of downtown Columbus. This farm 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. Enjoy visiting the animals up close, digging up dirt in the gardens and lots of other outdoor activities at your leisure on the farm.

13. Ohio Village

  • 800 E 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43211
base ball players at Ohio Village

Ohio Village Muffins Base Ball Team

Ohio Village is the outdoor portion of Ohio History Center. This area is open during the summer and features what every day life was like in the 1880’s! Special events are held here throughout the year such as Dickens of a Christmas and All Hallow’s Eve but during the summer months, you can visit Ohio Village any day of the week!

During the summer, the Ohio Village Muffins play 1880’s style Base Ball and you can watch the games for free with your admission or membership to Ohio History Connection!

14. Rock Climbing at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

  • 400 W Whittier St., Columbus, OH 43215
outdoor climbing wall at Scioto Audubon Metro Park in downtown Columbus

Scioto Audubon Metro Park

There are three outdoor climbing towers that are free to climb in the playground area of Scioto Audubon Metro Park in downtown Columbus. These reach a height of 35 feet. Climbers have to bring their own harnesses and must be 13 or older. There are a few 10-foot boulders that kids are able to climb regardless of their age.

To access the rock climbing towers you can park at the playground area or walk down the path from the Nature Center! There is a great free, indoor play area inside the Nature Center, as well!

15. Alum Creek State Park Beach

  • 3400 Lewis Center Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035
Alum Creek State Park Beach

Alum Creek State Park Beach

If you’re wanting a beach vacation but don’t have the time or money, don’t overlook Alum Creek Beach for a  day at the beach! It might not be the ocean, but you might just be pleasantly surprised!

16. The Yard at Polaris Fashion Place 

  • 1500 Polaris Pkwy, Columbus, OH 43240
outdoor life-sized chess game at The Yard at Polaris Fashion Place

The Yard, Polaris Fashion Place

The Yard is an outdoor area at Polaris Fashion Place (near Cheesecake Factory) where there are larger than life sized games like chess, Connect Four, LEGO building blocks, ping pong and more! Nearby is also a fountain where kids can splash around on Summer days!

17. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

  • 4850 W Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065
polar bear standing on a rock at the Columbus Zoo

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Walking the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to see all of the animals is a great outdoor activity (and great exercise!) for all ages! Highlights include The Heart of Africa, the Polar Frontier, and special seasonal events throughout the year like Wildlights and Boo at the Zoo! 

18. Topiary Park

  • 480 E Town St, Columbus, OH 43215
sculptures made of trees at Topiary Park in Columbus Ohio

Topiary Park

The highlight of this park, just outside of Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Library, is a plant-based recreation of Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte. With larger than life size plant sculptures created from yew trees, it’s a sight to behold!

The garden consists of 54 people, boat sculptures and animal sculptures and you can walk the paths of the park enjoying the scenery and getting up close to the sculptures!

19. The Promenade on Scioto Mile

  • 233 S Civic Center Dr, Columbus, OH 43215
Promenade on the Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile

Take a walk outdoors on a beautiful stretch of the Scioto Mile with views of the Columbus skyline, swinging benches, bridges and more! Along the Scioto Mile are parks such as Bicentennial Park and Genoa Park where outdoor festivals and concerts are often held during the summer months.

20. Natural Play Area at Blendon Woods Metro Park

  • 4265 E. Dublin Granville Rd., Columbus, OH 43081 
Boys walking across a bridge at the Natural Play Area at Blendon Woods Metro Park

Blendon Woods Metro Park

Get up close with nature at the outdoor play area at Blendon Woods Metro Park. There is a wooden zip line, forts made of sticks, bridges and climbing areas, a tire swing and lots of area for creeking. (Bring a change of clothes if you know what’s good for you!) Blendon Woods also has a great Nature Center and birdwatching area.

21. Veteran’s Spray and Play (Dinosaur Park)

  • 1121 S Houk Rd, Delaware, OH 43015
dinosaur park with a dinosaur slide in Delaware Ohio

Veteran’s Spray and Play

What is affectionately known as the “Dinosaur Park” is the super fun Spray and Play at Veteran’s Park near the YMCA in Delaware, Ohio, about an hour outside of downtown Columbus. The splash pad and several play fixtures have a dinosaur theme. This is a really amazing playground and splash pad combo that’s worth the trip!

22. Canoeing and Kayaking at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

river at Scioto Grove Metro Park

Scioto Grove Metro Park

Canoeing and kayaking are available at 7 of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks! At last check those parks include: Battelle Darby Creek, Highbanks, Prairie Oaks, Scioto Audubon, Three Creeks, Scioto Grove and Walnut Woods.

23. Outdoor Shopping and More at Easton Town Center

  • 160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio 43219 
fountain at Easton Town Center

Easton Town Center

Not the “outdoorsy type” but still want to be outside? Spend the day shopping, dining and playing at Easton Town Center. The mall features an outdoor format with several distinct shopping areas. Outdoor activities for kids include splashing in the fountains at Town Square and watching the nearby model train display!

Grab an ice cream cone from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and sit out on the patio area. There’s also bocce ball, outdoor concerts during the summer and at least two other fountains to visit.

24. Dorrian Green at COSI

  • 50 South Belle St, Columbus, OH 43215
Dorrian Green outside COSI

Dorrian Green

Dorrian Green is a downtown greenspace just outside of COSI that includes a playground, splash pad, picnic area, metal “porch swings,” lawn chairs and more! You can use the public parking area or find a nearby meter. If you’re looking to expand your outing, include this park in your visit to COSI!

25. OSU Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens

  • 152 Howlett Hall 2021, Fyffe Rd, Columbus, OH 43210

 

The Chadwick Arboretum on the campus of OSU just off of 315 is filled with Learning Gardens including a Bamboo Garden, Rose Garden, Wildflower Garden and more! The Arboretum North area has a lake, prairie plants and butterfly way station.

The gardens are open year round and are free to visit. Visit their website for a walking tour app and parking information!

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25 Fun Outdoor Activities in Columbus, Ohio

 


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

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The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks offer kids (and adults alike) unique opportunities to get outdoors in Columbus and Central Ohio!

I will continue to repeat that our Metro Parks allow us so many cool opportunities to drive 30 minutes and find ourselves lost in nature. I hardly ever visit a Metro Park without saying “Wow, I did not know this was here!”.

waterfall at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Metro Gardens

We have some really great Nature Centers that are GREAT for kids and I’ve written about those on the blog:

There are also a lot of really great programs including programming for preschoolers:

The Metro Parks also have some really amazing playgrounds:

And though, admittedly, one of those playgrounds makes this list, this list is about some of the other outdoor things kids can do within the Columbus Franklin County Metro Parks! These are some of the most unique and fun outdoor activities in Columbus and Central Ohio!

While there are so many other things to do while you are at each of these parks, you can pick one of these activities as your main event and then spend the rest of the time exploring what each park has to offer!

5 Cool Things for Kids to do Outside at the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks:

1. Rock Climbing at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

climbing wall at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

Scioto Audubon Metro Park

There are three climbing towers that are free to climb in the playground area of Scioto Audubon Metro Park. These reach a height of 35 feet. Climbers have to bring their own harnesses and must be 13 or older. There are a few 10-foot boulders that all kids can climb regardless of their age.

To access the rock climbing towers you can park at the playground area or walk down the path from the Nature Center! There is a great free, indoor play area inside the Nature Center, as well!

water tower at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

Scioto Audubon Metro Park


2. Bird Watching at Blendon Woods Metro Park

bird in the water at Blendon Woods Metro Park

Blendon Woods Metro Park

If you are visiting the Nature Center within Blendon Woods Metro Park, take the Lake Trail to the northeast to reach Thoreau Lake. This lake is in the middle of Walden Waterfowl Refuge and you can enter the shelter to watch for birds and other wildlife in and around the lake!

While you’re at Blendon Woods, check out the great Nature Center that has hands-on activities for kids plus windows for bird watching and the great Natural Play area with a good-sized zip line and opportunities for creeking!

bird watching area at Blendon Woods Metro park

Blendon Woods Metro Park


3. Ninja Course at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

climbing area at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Glacier Ridge Metro Park

This area is often called the Ninja Course by locals. It features ramps, ropes to climb and a small zipline. Lots of fun opportunities for climbing, swinging and jumping! Nearby is a more traditional playground as well. This play area is on the North side of the park and on the other (south) end of the park you can visit the Honda Wetland Education Area.

ninja course at glacier ridge metro park, columbus, Ohio

Glacier Ridge Metro Park


4. Bison Watching at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

bison in the field at Battelle Darby metro Park, Columbus, Ohio

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

We love the Nature Center at Battelle Darby Metro Creek, but when you visit, don’t miss taking a walk to look for bison in the park! There are a couple of different pasture areas so you may want to ask at the Nature Center where the bison are currently hanging out. There is a bison observation area about a 1/2 mile walk from the Nature Center.

several bison in the field at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park


5. Exploring the Kid-Friendly Gardens at Inniswood Metro Gardens

boy on wooden suspension bridge in Inniswood Metro Gardens, Columbus, Ohio

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Gardens is full of beautiful, carefully curated gardens! There are several themed gardens including the Sisters Garden, a frog pond and a brick labyrinth to name a few. There is a great tree house surrounded by wooden suspension bridges that kids love off the Sister’s Garden Loop.

The park also includes a lot of other beautiful gardens to explore. Keep in mind no food or drink is allowed inside this park!

boy in the garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens, Columbus, Ohio

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Read more: 3 of the Most Unique Parks in Columbus Ohio


fun things to do in Columbus Ohio

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5 Outdoor Activities for Kids in the Columbus Metro Parks


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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!

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!

The Scioto Mile in Columbus, Ohio

The Scioto Mile in Columbus, Ohio

100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio:

Downtown Columbus, OH

Downtown Columbus, Ohio

Museums and Educational Centers:

Columbus has its fair share of museums and educational centers! If you’re visiting Columbus for the first time, and/or with kids, these locations are going to be some of your can’t miss stops! 

Oceans exhibit at COSI

Center of Science and Industry

1. COSI – 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, 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 – 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 Explore:

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.

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.

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 featuring a 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!

Columbus is full of playgrounds where kids can run, play and explore! See more by click on one of these posts:

Shopping:

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!

Exploring the Outdoors:

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):

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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:

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 tours 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. 

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:

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!

Theater and Live Performances:

Columbus is home to several theatres and live performance venues. 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.

Sports:

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 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 – 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:

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!

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:

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. 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”:

“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):

Independent Movie Theatres:

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!

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

Katalina’s

99. Katalina’s – famous for her pancake ball 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:

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 – 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. 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

119. Peach Picking – Read Peach Picking Fun at Branstool Orchards

120. Pumpkin Farms – find your nearest here: A Complete List of Pumpkin Patches and Fall Festivals in Central Ohio

121. Farmer’s Markets – nearly every community 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

fun things to do in Columbus Ohio

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