Just 45 minutes from Downtown Columbus, there are lots of family-friendly things to do in Lancaster, Ohio! Perfect for a fun day trip or overnight getaway for families!
Thanks to Visit Fairfield County for partnering with us on this post.
Even though Columbus has so much to offer, I often find myself craving a getaway. I love that there are so many places within driving distance of Columbus where we can get away, either overnight or just for a day trip, and feel like we’ve gone somewhere totally new!
Lancaster, Ohio has a population of around 40,000, has a cute, walkable downtown area, nice parks, its own collection of local restaurants and a decent sized mall. So, something for everyone!
Fun Things to do with Kids in Lancaster, Ohio:
1. Art and Clay on Main
- Address: 150 W Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
We LOVE Art and Clay on Main! This is a must-do stop in Lancaster, whether you have time to stay and paint, or you just need to stop in for a smoothie or a cup of coffee at the Square 7 Coffee Shop inside.
The great thing about this spot is that both the art studio and the coffee shop are social enterprises of the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities. That means that the shops serve as places where people with developmental disabilities can receive training and employment.
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We had a great time painting our own pottery at Art and Clay on Main in downtown Lancaster! . @150westmain includes Art and Clay on Main plus Square 7 coffee shop and is an inclusive art studio with so many opportunities for people of all abilities to get creative! . I love that there’s an option for food within the studio – the fewer times I need to get my kids in and out of the car, the better! 😉. . We had a tons of fun and can’t wait to see how our pieces turned out! 😍. . Thanks so much to @150westmain for hosting us today!
Allow for an hour or two to paint a piece of pottery here and also 6-12 days before it is ready to be picked up. They will actually hold your pottery for up to 45 days so you don’t have to feel rushed to make the trip back to Lancaster within the week! They have pottery pieces in all sizes and skill levels! There are small items just for kids. Another bonus is that all fees are included in the price, so there is no additional studio fee.
2. AHA! A Hands-on Adventure, A Children’s Museum
- Address: 1708 River Valley Cir S, Lancaster, OH 43130
This museum alone could compromise a whole day trip! My kids and I spent a couple of hours here one afternoon and probably could have stayed longer! The museum moved into this new location, just on the periphery of the River Valley Mall in April of 2018.
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Our trip to @visitfairfieldcounty this week included a stop @ahachildrens ! . This hands on kids’ museum about 45 minutes from Columbus hosted us for an afternoon of fun for my kids! I had to tear them away at closing time! . The space is geared for kids 8 and under and includes a stage for acting, life-sized construction vehicles that actually work, a make believe store and restaurant, an art space, water tables and more! . They’re currently building an outside play area that looks like it will be awesome!
The museum contains a water play area, building blocks, a construction vehicle and fire truck to climb in, pretend fishing, dinosaur digging, and a “real life” play area that contains a house, grocery store, pizza shop and more! There is also a separate space for art projects and classes and a new outdoor nature playscape that we have yet to visit but looks super fun!
The museum is perfect for kids ages 6 months to age 8. is $8 per person. (12 months and under are free!) If you have an EBT or WIC card, admission is $3. There is a designated lunch area and you can bring your own food. Same day re-entry is allowed!
3. The Well
- Address: 203 S Broad St, Lancaster, OH 43130
This could easily have been put under the “where to eat” section, but it could also very well be a destination. I’d heard about The Well for quite some time before actually making a visit there!
The Well calls itself a “modern gathering place for the whole family to eat, drink, play and live” and offers healthy options for breakfast and lunch as well as an extensive smoothie menu! The vegetarian menu offers ingredients are non-GMO and local and organic when possible. You will find many gluten free options as well.
What makes The Well a destination on your kid-friendly trip to Lancaster is the play area towards the back of the restaurant! With a good number of seating options around the play area, you can eat and still keep an eye on your kids as they play!
One thing to keep in mind: The hours of the restaurant are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM and they are closed on Saturdays and Sundays!!
4. Wahkeena State Nature Preserve
- Address: 2200 Pump Station Rd SE, Sugar Grove, OH 43155
Wahkeena State Nature Preserve is a beautiful park for hiking! There is a Nature Center that is fun for kids to visit! They have some animals in aquariums and lots of exhibits for kids to see and experience!
There are a couple of hiking trails to choose from. Make sure you don’t miss the floating boardwalk trail and the two raptors that are being rehabilitated and housed behind the Nature Center!
You can also check out this list of things to do in Hocking Hills for more hiking trails!
5. Ohio Glass Museum
- 124 W Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
The Ohio Glass Museum in downtown Lancaster offers an in-depth look at the glass factories that made their home in Fairfield County. Through displays, a movie and glass blowing demonstrations, it is easy to get a good understanding of the role glass has had in this area! I definitely learned a lot!
This might not be the best spot for toddlers, but my kids, ages 4 and 7, were intrigued by the glass blowing demonstration. (Check their website for updates on when the demonstrations are done.) They were also relatively held by the movie about the history of glass making in Lancaster!
Children under 6 are free to enter the museum.
6. Fairfield County District Library – Main Library
- Address: 219 N. Broad St, Lancaster, OH 43130
When we woke up on the Saturday morning of our trip, it was raining and we needed to kill a little bit of time before the next item on our itinerary so what did I do? Google the closest library, of course! This one turned out to be a winner! The children’s department is on the third floor and on that rainy, Saturday morning, a few of the workers brought out a bunch of educational toys to fill this space above.
There was also a train table, other toys and games available and a lot of children’s books! The space was great and if you need a place to pass some time, I highly recommend it!
- Related: Two Fun Libraries for Columbus Kids
7. Rising Park
- Address: 1120 N High St, Lancaster, OH 43130
Ahh, Rising Park. This place is a gem, as well. A great playground. A pond. Lots of green space. And a huge mountain. Say what?
When she found out I was taking my kids to Lancaster last summer, a friend of mine told me we had to hike to the top of Mt. Pleasant in Rising park because the views were spectacular! She was right, of course, but I nearly had a heart attack getting there with my two young boys!
Seriously though, the view is worth the hike. The trail is about a quarter of a mile long, rising up 250 feet! Be forewarned that it is NOT an “easy” hike – but I did it with my kids who were just 4 and 6 at the time. There are no real guardrails at the edge, so make sure to keep kids close!
- Related: 12 Columbus Parks to Try This Summer
8. Lancaster Festival
This annual festival “celebrating art, music and community” is lots of fun for all ages! The festival lasts for 11 days and features live music acts, food trucks, theatre performances and activities for children. The festival activities are spread out all over the city, taking place at various venues, parks, restaurants and community organizations.
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The @lancasterfestival is in full swing and today we heard @thefloorwalkers and took in a magic show for kids! . We spent the whole day exploring Lancaster courtesy of @visitfairfieldcounty and had a blast! More on that to come! . In the meantime, check out @lancasterfestival for a daily schedule of all the events (many of them kid-focused) still going on through July 28th! . Many of the events are free or cheap including bike races for kids, a Disney Live concert, the band Endless Recess, a drum circle and more! . #hosted #visitfairfieldcounty
Last year we attended and were able to see The Floorwalkers (one of my favorite Columbus bands) and a magic show for kids! In 2018 Martina McBride was the headliner and Kansas will be performing in 2019!
In 2023, we attended the Lancaster Festival during the Art Walk, which was a really fun experience. You can explore participating businesses to discover local art on display, enjoy live music and check out the chalk-the-block event on Zane Square!
9. Covered Bridge Trail
Fairfield County is home to 15 of the 125 wooden covered bridges remaining in Ohio. That makes them the county with the most original covered bridges in the state! If you’re looking for another “trail” to conquer, click this link for a map of all of the covered bridges in Fairfield County and head off on your quest! I’ve seen a few and they’re beautiful!
10. Epilogue Bookery (formerly the Paperback Exchange)
**Currently closed and hoping to reopen in a new location!**
- Address: 201 W. Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
If you’re exploring downtown Lancaster, make sure to stop in to Epilogue Bookery (formerly the Paperback Exchange)! My kids asked to go back again and my husband took them back a second time. Without me, though, because I am allergic to cats. And the cats were the very things my kids want to see the most! Besides cats, the store boats an impressive collection of books for sale, including books for kids and young adults! There is also a small section of handmade gifts!
11. River Valley Mall
- Address: 1635 River Valley Cir S, Lancaster, OH 43130
I’m putting the mall on this list because sometimes, with kids, you just need a place to let them let out some steam and take a little break. We attended one of the magic shows here as part of the Lancaster Festival and my kids enjoyed this play area. They went through a season of being really interested in who was on each bill and coin and this play area was right up their alley. It has a money theme!
It’s not a huge play area, but it does the trick. The mall is a decent sized mall but the food court does not offer too many options for eating so make sure you check out the following list of places to eat in Lancaster, Ohio!
12. Sherman House Museum
- Address: 137 E Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
Visit the home of some famous Ohioans! The Sherman family lived here in the 1800’s. William Tecumseh Sherman was a well-known Union general in the Civil War and his brother, John Sherman, is known for the Sherman Antitrust Act.
You can take a guided tour of the house and then visit the museum area on the top floor. Make sure to see the civil war tent!
13. Lucky Shots Putt Putt
- Address: 1193 E Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
Lucky Shots Putt Putt is an indoor, glow-in-the-dark mini golf course! Your kids will love the fun space theme inside! The decor of Lucky Shots is inspired by the 25 astronauts that have been Ohio natives!
This is a great indoor activity for kids and teens in Lancaster! If you’re looking for a fun place to have a kid’s birthday party in Lancaster, they also have a party room for rent!
14. Sensory Trail Park
- Address: 831 College Ave, Lancaster, OH 43130
Sensory Trail Park is a great park your kids will in enjoy in Lancaster! And it’s not too far from Pizza Crossing (see below)! This trail begins with musical instruments that kids can play and experiment with.
Take the trail to a Tree House! Inside the tree house, kids can climb to the top and take the fire pole down! There is a small suspension bridge and a deck. Kids will love running through the treehouse and exploring the various doors and windows to see where they lead!
15. The Smoke Stack Hobby Shop
- Address: 342 Lincoln Ave, Lancaster, OH 43130
My boys were totally enthralled at the Smoke Stack Hobby Shop in downtown Lancaster! Oh my goodness! They have model train displays, RC cars, models and so much more!
It’s worth stopping here just to look at the model train displays! They have some interactive elements where kids can push buttons and make lights go on and off, etc. There is a lot to look at here and I had to tear my boys away!
Make sure to head all the way to the back where they have a small area for kids with a kids train table, books and a few other toys! There is something for every age here!
Just a note, they do have a location at the River Valley Mall, but this one is in the downtown area.
16. STUMP: Lancaster
- Address: 117 N Columbus St, Lancaster, OH 43130
STUMP is a houseplant shop that began in Columbus, Ohio and has grown to multiple locations in the United States, including one in downtown Lancaster! This shop is adorable!
I took my boys here because I wanted to go in, but they ended up really being drawn to the plants! We were able to buy small succulents for only $5 each which seemed like a low risk opportunity to get the boys to learn to care for their own houseplant! Check back in a few months! LOL
The employee in the store was very helpful and patient in explaining to the boys how to tell if the plants need water and giving them a card with some hand written directions for taking care of their plants! Definitely a fun shop in downtown Lancaster that’s worth a visit!
17. Follow Pip’s Path Through Lancaster
Pip’s Path Through Lancaster, Ohio is a book written and illustrated by local author Erin M. Burchwell. Proceeds from the book benefit Fairfield County non-profits.
Visit Fairfield County has created an experience trail following the book! You can follow Pip’s Path through Lancaster, Ohio to learn more about the city and uncover all of the history, art and beauty that makes this city great!
Kid-Friendly Places to Eat in Lancaster, Ohio
While you’re in Lancaster, you’re going to want to check out some of these local spots for lunch or dinner! I have taken my kids to each one of them, but I will tell you individually how “kid-friendly” I feel they are and what to expect.
1. Ale House 1890
- Address: 149 W. Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
Ale House 1890 was a little bit intimidating for me when we first arrived. On this visit, it was just me and the kids and I wondered how kid-friendly it was going to be. But we were able to sit on the patio which was totally relaxing! My oldest really liked the pizza – and he’s a very picky eater! I loved my salad!
2. Cherry Street Pub
- Address: 202 N. Cherry St, Lancaster, OH 43130
Cherry Street Pub is a great option for families because there is a lot to look at inside and there is a big menu! It’s loud (in the normal, restaurant kind of way) so the happy hubbub covers up most of unexpected noises your kid might make! 😉 My kids shared food from the appetizer menu – wings and pizza. The wings were a definite hit! You might expect a little bit of a wait here, the restaurant is popular!
3. Bob’s Backyard BBQ
- Address: 157 W. Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
This place is definitely low key and kid-friendly! The meat was good and the sides were tasty! My only complaint was that they were out of hot dogs when we visited – which is a guaranteed menu item for my kids. (My kids are super picky, I’m not even going to try to pretend that they’re not.) They were also out of wine. I’m not sure how often food items run low here, but if you’re flexible, give it a go. It tasted good and the atmosphere was relaxed and kid-friendly!
4. JB’s Downtown Grill
- Address: 111 N. Columbus St, Lancaster, OH 43130
JB’s Downtown Grill is another spot to check out if you’re out and about in the downtown area! There is a kid’s menu with the traditional items: chicken tenders, grilled cheese, quesadilla, etc. And the menu for adults features sandwiches, burgers, wraps and salads. The burgers contain “Chef Jamie’s secret seasoning” so my husband and I both got a burger! The meat was super flavorful, so I’m a fan of that seasoning, whatever it may be!
5. Nancy’s Scoops
- Address: 1804 W Fair Ave, Lancaster, OH 43130
Don’t forget dessert! Nancy’s Scoops has a huge menu of options, including food, milkshakes, sundaes, hand dipped ice cream and much more!
6. Gypsy Joe’s Ice Cream
- Address: 2237 W. Fair Ave, Lancaster, OH 43130
Gypsy Joe’s is another cute option for dessert! The decor inside is very fun!
- Related: 5 on Friday: Unique Ice Cream Spots
7. Donut World
- Address: 601 N. Broad St., Lancaster, OH 43130
If it’s donuts you’re craving, Donut World is open 24 hours a day to satisfy that hunger! The donuts are so good! This destination is take out only. They do have a drive through or you can walk in to the counter!
8. Pizza Crossing
- Address: 1407 Tiki Ln, Lancaster, OH 43130
After eating at Pizza Crossing in Hocking Hills, we knew we wanted to have their pizza again on our most recent trip to Lancaster! Everyone in the family loves the pizza here! It’s a great local pizza shop with delicious pizza, salads, subs and more! If you love “Columbus style” pizza, I think it will be a hit!
9. Downtown Fruit Passion
- Address: 207 W Main St, Lancaster, OH 43130
We’ve eaten at Downtown Fruit Passion a couple of times and there are a lot of kid-friendly options there! The smoothies have been a hit with my kids and the most recent time we ate there, my son discovered my playa bowl and proceeded to eat half of it!
They also have power bowls, bubble tea and crepes. The decor inside is fun and tropical and it’s an easy place to take kids to eat in downtown Lancaster!
10. L-City Coffee +
- Address: 123 N Broad St, Lancaster, OH 43130
L-City Coffee started out as a coffee cart and now has a coffee shop in the heart of downtown Lancaster just off of Zane Square. They have a cute shop with baked good like bagels, muffins and cupcakes. They have a lot of specialty coffee drinks on the menu (I got an iced mocha)!
They also have non-coffee drinks like tea, steamers, and Italian sodas. Kids may opt for a hot chocolate or one of the juice boxes in the refrigerated section!
L-City Coffee also has a small area with handmade goods for sale and they have a shelf full of games to keep the kids entertained!
11. Schaffner’s Drive In
- Address: 601 W Market St, Baltimore, OH 43105
- Facebook Page
This option is a little bit outside of Lancaster. This drive-in is in Baltimore, Ohio, but it’s less than 20 minutes from downtown Lancaster, and, if you’re coming to or from Columbus like we are, it’s on the way!
I know, I know, 3 out of 9 spots on this list are about ice cream, but now you know where my priorities lie! Schaffner’s also has a food menu with burgers, foot long hot dogs and more!
The Schaffner family has owned the drive-in since 1959 but it was recently remodeled in 2021 and the new look is modern and fun! My kids loved the gumball arcade machines!
Where to Stay in Lancaster, Ohio
My family was hosted at Holiday Inn Express and Suites. We had a great experience here! The room we had was large with a kitchen and living room area, which was really nice! It was an easy distance from all of the things listed here!
What are your favorite things to do in Lancaster, Ohio? What should we do next?
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