This list of fun things to do in downtown Columbus with your kids will give you some great ideas of ways to explore the city that will keep kids engaged and having a good time!
My kids love to explore downtown Columbus! As they’ve gotten older, we’ve spent more and more time walking around our capital city, trying new restaurants and seeing new sights!
There are tons of fun things to do in downtown Columbus including cool coffee shops, live music, educational activities, sporting events in the Arena District and live shows at one of the several theatres downtown.
If you’re willing to walk, it’s possible to walk to and from a lot of these kid-friendly destinations in downtown Columbus. The furthest walk may be from COSI to the Columbus Museum of Art and that is over 30 minutes with kids in tow! But certainly, other attractions are a quick walk from one to the other and make for convenient coupling!
For this list, I’ve tried to choose some of my family’s favorite things to do and stick specifically to downtown! Read through the initial list and then on to my sections for advice on parking and kid-friendly restaurants downtown to plan your fun outing with kids in downtown Columbus!
1. Learn About State Government at the Ohio Statehouse Museum Education Center
- Address: 1 Capitol Sq, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: Free
Start in the heart of downtown Columbus with a visit to the Museum Education Center inside the Ohio Statehouse!
Located on the ground floor, this museum offers displays featuring the Constitution of the State of Ohio, the branches of state government and voting rights. My kids enjoyed the election banners from the past and standing behind the governor’s podium, pretending to give a speech!
The museum has interactive exhibits and there’s a little something for everyone! Make sure to take a tour of the Ohio Statehouse, either with a guide or on your own. The rotunda is a sight to see and there is a unique gift shop with lots of Ohio-themed souvenirs!
2. Take a Ride on the Carousel at Columbus Commons
- Address: 160 S High St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: Free
Columbus Commons is a must-visit destination in downtown Columbus with kids! Summer is the season for fun at Columbus Commons! During the summer months, Columbus Commons hosts Commons for Kids on Friday mornings. Those mornings include crafts, inflatables, yard games, special visitors and more!
During the summer you can also take a ride on the carousel at Columbus Commons! The carousel runs pretty much every day unless there is bad weather or a special event. Check the website (listed above) before visiting just to confirm!
Even if it’s not a Commons for Kids day, I still recommend visiting Columbus Commons because there is a huge green space where kids can run around! It’s a great place for kids to get their energy out! We also enjoy attending free concerts in the park during the summer! They will often have out yard games for the kids and it’s a really laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere!
3. Get Hands-On with Science at COSI
- Address: 333 W Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: $23-$30/person
COSI (Center of Science and Industry) has long been one of the most popular places to visit in Columbus with kids! COSI’s classic exhibits are favorites with my kids and we all love to see what’s ahead when COSI announces their upcoming limited-time exhibitions!
No matter what, there’s always something fun for kids to do at COSI! If you have young kids, check out little kidspace on Level 2 for the best indoor play area in the city! Kids of all ages will love the Ocean exhibit and exploring the Dinosaur Gallery! Older kids will enjoy the Gadgets area and the Progress exhibit!
Each exhibit at COSI allows kids to learn about science in fun and engaging ways. There are lots of opportunities for kids to see how science intersects with their daily lives with hands-on exhibits, science demonstrations and special shows.
There’s so much to do at COSI, you can easily spend an entire day here! Read my guide to visiting COSI for even more details!
4. Learn Fire Safety at Central Ohio Fire Museum
- Address: 260 N 4th St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: $6-$8/person
The Central Ohio Fire Museum is a great place to visit for kids who love fire trucks!
When you visit you will be offered a guided tour. You can explore antique fire engines, old fire equipment and real artifacts used by firefighters throughout history. The museum is housed in a restored 1908 engine house in downtown Columbus!
The goal of the museum is fire safety education so there are lots of learning opportunities throughout the museum. In the back, there are some fire safety displays featuring items that were burned in fires and safety demonstrations.
There is also a play area here for kids that includes a fire truck they can climb into with working lights, books and dress up opportunities! The museum has a small, free parking lot in the driveway of the museum. If that is full, look for street parking in the area!
5. Check out a Book (and Much More) at Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library
- Address: 96 S Grant Ave, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: Free
The Main Library in downtown Columbus is amazing! The Main Library has a great Children’s Area with reading nooks, a play area, story times and literacy activities. The library itself is gorgeous and is a sight to see!
In the lobby of the library, there is often a family-friendly display that is worth a visit. Past displays have included a large LEGO city, animatronic dinosaurs, and an incredible Holiday Train each December! They also have a coffee shop and cafe on the first floor. A convenient parking garage is attached to the library and your first hour is free! Your second hour is only $.50!
In addition to the indoor portion of the library, make sure to visit Kaufman Plaza outside! This kid-friendly plaza has ping-pong tables, rocking chairs and an overall super fun atmosphere! We like to bring our books outside and enjoy reading on the plaza!
When you’re in Kaufman Plaza, you’re just a few steps away from the next destination on my list! Read on to plan your visit to Topiary Park, a short walk from the Main Library in downtown Columbus!
6. Walk Around in a Work of Art at Topiary Park
- Address: 480 E Town St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: Free
Topiary Park is one of the most unique parks in Columbus. The park is a topiary-based recreation of the famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Topiary Park is located just outside of the Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Library!
Don’t miss “As He Saw It” which shows the view of the park from the scene as painted by Seurat. Kids will enjoy looking for the topiary sculptures that can be found in the painting!
During the summer months, families can enjoy PB&J Jazz concerts in Topiary Park! These concerts offer jazz music tailored to kids! The park is also home to outdoor movies and other special events throughout the summer!
7. See the World’s Largest Gavel
- Address: 65 S Front St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: Free
Did you know the world’s largest gavel is right here in downtown Columbus?! Well, now you do!
Located outside the Ohio Judicial Center, home of the Ohio Supreme Court, in downtown Columbus is a large reflecting pool with a gavel sculpture in the middle!
This stainless steel sculpture was created by Andrew F. Scott and was installed in 2008. The gavel is 31 feet long and weighs around 17,000 pounds!
8. Go Duck Pin Bowling at Pins Mechanical Company
- Address: 141 N 4th St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: $7-$8/person
Kids are welcome at the downtown Columbus location of PINS anytime before 9:00 PM. (After 9:00 PM and it’s 21+ only!)
Pins Mechanical is a lot of fun because the arcade games are free (quarters put in the slots will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House) and Duck Pin bowling is an activity the whole family can enjoy together! On Sundays, kids bowl for free with an adult until 9:00 PM!
Pins only serves drinks, but they often have a food truck on the patio for dining options!
9. Overlook Downtown Columbus from the Observation Deck at Rhodes Tower
- Address: 30 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: Free
Taking a ride on the elevator to the 40th floor of the tallest building in Columbus was a real “wow” moment for my oldest son and me! The observation deck at Rhodes Tower gives you a great view of the city of Columbus and beyond!
Rhodes Tower is a state office building so you must show your ID and go through security to gain access to the observation deck! A security guard will escort you to the top! Just ask at the front desk during normal business hours (typically 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM on weekdays).
Once you get to the 40th floor, you will be greeted with stunning views of downtown Columbus! We definitely want to come back and do this during the spring when the trees are blooming!
10. Explore the Wonder Room at Columbus Museum of Art
- Address: 480 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215
- Cost: $9-$26/person
The Wonder Room is one of the top places for kids to visit in downtown Columbus! It’s always a magical place to visit! Filled with hands-on art activities, the Wonder Room inside Columbus Museum of Art is a destination where kids can explore artistic concepts and have fun at the same time!
Located on the first floor of the Columbus Museum of Art, the Wonder Room and the encompassing JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity offer lots of opportunities for kids to explore art at their level. There are always hands-on activities with a theme in the hallways where kids can create and display their own works of art!
The Museum has its own parking lot and members park for free! (See my list of the best memberships to have in Columbus!)
Where to Eat with Kids in Downtown Columbus
You’ll want to make sure to check out my list of kid-friendly restaurants in downtown Columbus for more ideas when you plan your trip, but I’ll give you some quick tips here, too! You can also read my list of 20 restaurants in downtown Columbus for all ages!
Tortilla Street Food
Tortilla has a permanent food stand in Columbus Commons so it’s an easy go-to restaurant if your kids like tacos, nachos and churros! They have specific kids’ meal options!
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Also in Columbus Commons is a Jeni’s Ice Cream stand! It’s the perfect spot for a treat on hot summer days in downtown Columbus! (This Jeni’s stand is closed during the winter months.) Also, did you know you can get free Jeni’s ice cream on your birthday?
This is a fun stop for a meal with kids in downtown Columbus! During the lunchtime hours you can get pizza by the slice or order from their menu of Italian favorites.
House Taco is another kid-friendly restaurant in Columbus! Adults will appreciate their creative approach to tacos and the house margarita! My kids chose plain chicken tacos, cause that’s how they roll! House Taco is also conveniently within walking distance of Ohio Theatre and Columbus Commons.
Tips for parking in downtown Columbus:
- My go-to parking spot in downtown Columbus is the Columbus Commons Garage located at 55 E. Rich St. You can enter from E. Rich St. or E. Main St. Unless there is a special event (which will involve a flat rate) you can pay by the hour.
- If you’re planning to visit Topiary Park and the Main Library, plan to park in the convenient library parking garage for easy access!
- It’s not impossible to find street parking in downtown Columbus, and for that, you will need the Park CBUS app. The nice thing about the app is that you can add to your parking time from wherever you are! (No more running back to the meter with your quarters before it expires!)
- Don’t hesitate to use a parking garage. It will make your life easier. Be prepared to pay around $10 to park for the day. Check out this link for more off-street parking options around downtown!
- Street parking is free on Sundays so take advantage of that if you can! Since there are fewer people downtown on Sundays, it’s not too difficult to find street parking.
More Things to do in Columbus, Ohio:
If you’re looking for more things to do in Columbus, Ohio and want to expand your reach beyond downtown, check out these blog posts for even more ideas!
- Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio
- 100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio
- The Ultimate Staycation for Columbus Families
- 15 Unique Things to do in Columbus, Ohio
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