Where can you find a cartoon museum, German cuisine, and miles of majestic river scenery? Why, Columbus, Ohio, of course! The capital city of Ohio and home to Ohio State University, this vibrant city is the gem in Ohio’s crown.
The city’s namesake, Christopher Columbus, explored the world, and Columbus’ origins have led Ohioans to fondly refer to this riverside metropolis as “The Discovery City.” It’s an excellent name, considering all the city has to offer – you’ll never run out of things to do in Columbus Ohio.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Within the Franklin Park Conservatory walls, a wild world awaits you. Located inside Columbus’s Franklin Park, this conservatory is far more than a collection of gardens. Franklin Park is an escape from the hustle of city life, where tropical oases collide with the blooms of Ohio’s meadows.
Franklin Park is a staple of Columbus culture. The tailored botanical gardens provide enrichment classes and exhibits for visitors. For example, in Spring, the conservatory hosts a live butterfly exhibit in the Pacific Island Water Garden. In the Conservatory’s Hot Shop, visitors can watch daily glass blowing demonstrations. Bonus: you can purchase hand blown glass in the gift shop, too!
Families love visiting the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens because of the inclusive nature of the establishment. For example, the Children’s Garden has a canopy walk, playground, and learning features for children to explore. Come summer, the Children’s Garden also has splash pads and other water activities to keep kids cool on hotter days.
After exploring all the gardens have to offer, swing by the Garden Cafe for a bite to eat or picnic on the lawns of Franklin Park. You’ll deserve a healthy meal after all the walking in the gardens!
Easton Town Center
Welcome to Columbus’s premier shopping and dining scene! Easton Town Center is a vibrant, busy social center with over 200 establishments for visitors to shop, dine, and play at. Over 30 million visitors come to Easton Town Center a year to enjoy America’s top-of-the-line retailers that dot the walking paths of this shopping complex.
However, this shopping center is no run-of-the-mill mall. Easton Town Center holds four hotels, local restaurants like Dragon Donuts and Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Bistro, Central Ohio’s only Nordstrom, a LEGOLand Discovery Center, and a slew of other shops, all in a luxurious outdoor mall setting.
It’s the perfect place to get some shopping and dining in before getting some much-deserved sleep in your hotel room!
Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
The city of Columbus has always strived to remain innovative and at the forefront of science and discovery. Nowhere is this clearer than at the Center of Science and Industry. The fantastic world of all things science comes to life at this interactive museum.
So what does a visitor find at the Center of Science and Industry? A better question is, what don’t they find? Exhibits range from the science of farming to space. You’ll learn to fly space shuttles, explore construction tools and engineering equipment, and even lift a car at the Big Science Park.
This family-friendly museum has activities for visitors of all ages. The Little Kidspace has a treehouse and other toddler-friendly exhibits for younger guests, while COSI After Dark opens the museum to adults for a night of craft beer, science, and games. There’s something for everyone at COSI!
North Market Farmers Market
For 145 years, Columbus’s North Market has hosted Ohio’s independent farmers, crafters, and merchants for its residents to enjoy. The downtown market is a unique experience all its own, with over thirty vendors providing an array of fresh foods, flowers, and craft items for you to explore.
A visit to the North Market is not like your usual grocery store run. Instead, you’ll find mouth-watering BBQ at Barrell & Boar, fancy olive oils at Green Olive Company, fresh bread at Omega Artisan Bakery, and more. Come hungry and plan on at least an hour to explore this unique location!
Downtown Columbus borders the deep blue waters of the Scioto River. The Scioto Mile refers to a lush riverfront oasis located in the city’s downtown area. Over 175 acres of green parkways, recreational trails, and waterfront views make this mile famous throughout the state.
Along the biking and walking paths of the Scioto Mile, several parks provide peaceful places for visitors to relax and play. At Genoa Park, dynamic LED lights display on the river in the evenings for a scenic stroll. Not far away, the Scioto Audubon Park has a free outdoor climbing wall, fishing access, and prime bird-watching spots.
You also won’t want to miss the fountains during your time on the Scioto Mile. In warmer weather, the Scioto Mile Fountain opens as a massive public splash park to keep Columbus citizens cool in the summer.
Hayden Falls Park
Discover one of Columbus’s best nature scenes with a visit to Grigg’s Nature Preserve. The preserve, located on the west side of the Scioto River, shelters a unique ecosystem. Additionally, it is home to the rushing waters of Hayden Falls.
Hayden Falls is a 35-ft tall waterfall that rushes down a craggy rock front. Around it, rare plants and animals live sheltered under the protection of the Preserve. It’s a quiet place, perfect for a relaxing picnic on the boardwalk.
Note that access to the falls is available via a walking path. However, climbing in or on the falls is not allowed.
In the mid-1800s, thousands of German settlers made their way to Ohio from the East Coast. Many chose to stop in Columbus, and as they settled, the German Village of the city was born.
Locals consider the German Village a walking-tour destination. The quaint brick buildings and historic streets collide with modern amenities and industrial-styled buildings, making the area a treat for the eyes.
While you explore the German Village, make sure you stop for a bite to eat. There’s plenty of ethnic cuisine in the village, with popular stops including Valters at the Maennerchor and Schmidt’s Sausage Haus (which has live oompah music)!
The historic Ohio Theatre has wowed audiences since 1928. The Spanish-Baroque style building is a living museum with dazzling gold walls, red velvet seats, and a gorgeous chandelier that oozes Phantom of the Opera vibes.
What’s more, the Ohio Theatre is one of the liveliest entertainment venues in the city. The venue hosts over 100 performances and shows annually, ranging from theatrical performances to orchestras.
Famous faces have performed on this stage, including Julie Andrews, Kenny G, and John Denver! So make sure to check out the performances going on during your visit – you won’t be disappointed!
Columbus Park of Roses
In 1876, the first roses began to grow in the Columbus Park of Roses. Today, over 12,000 rose specimens bloom in the public garden. So it should come as no surprise that a walk through this park is not to be missed during your visit to Columbus.
The Park of Roses features five themed gardens. The Formal Rose Garden evokes classical symmetrical patterns designed for eye-popping impact. In the Heritage Rose Garden, specimens date from 1867 and earlier, with some predecessors of today’s rose specimens still blooming.
The park also features a Perinnial Garden with shrubs and other flowers, Herb Garden, Backyard Garden, and certified arboretum for visitors to explore.
Wexner Center for the Arts
Get your artsy side on at the Wexner Center for the Arts! Known to locals as “The Wex,” the center boasts exhibitions spanning film, performing arts, painting, and more.
Visitors to the Wex get to experience more than just museum-styled art pieces. New artists frequently do shows at the Wex, with thematic exhibitions and artist surveys regularly cropping up among the exhibits. You’ll want to check the displays occurring during your visit; they change often.
Also, keep in mind that the center isn’t tailored towards children and better suits teen and young adult art enthusiasts.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
In 1927, Columbus’s Wolfe Family donated a small collection of animals to the city. Ever since then, the Columbus Zoo has provided wild fun to Columbus residents.
The zoo campus is extraordinary, spanning over 580 acres. Favorite animals like gorillas, giraffes, and lions live here, alongside animals indigenous to the Americas like Bald Eagles and Sea Lions.
Alongside animal viewing, visitors can book an animal experience to get up close to some of nature’s biggest celebrities. Guests can help give an elephant a bath, get close enough to hear a cheetah purr, and even feed the giraffes!
Another popular spot to visit on the zoo campus is the aquarium. The aquarium houses tiny eels, enormous manatees, and a sensory tide pool where kids can touch sea stars and other ocean critters. The whole trip to the zoo and aquarium takes a day, so plan on lots of walking!
In the world of college football, Ohio Stadium is legendary. It seats over 100,000 people, most of whom are decked out in Ohio State’s red and white colors. The stadium is more than a football fan’s icon; it’s also a historical landmark!
The Ohio Stadium first opened in 1927. Since then, 36 million fans have watched the Buckeyes conquer the football field there. So, if you’re in town and want to feel like a true native, snag a few tickets to a game!
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
Ohio State University houses a unique museum that students and visitors alike enjoy. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum keeps the largest collection of cartoon and comic materials in the world!
The museum has an impressive scope of the content. You’ll find everything from Sunday newspaper comics to superhero comic books on display here. The museum is free and open to the public Tuesday-Sunday, with the occasional special symposium or talks on comics available for purchase, too.
It took nearly two decades for the Ohio Statehouse to open in Columbus. The majestic building rises like a Greek temple, framed by graceful green lawns and trees. Inside its limestone walls, the legislators of Ohio keep the state running.
The Ohio Statehouse is open to the public for guided tours every day of the week. Tour guides take visitors through the history of Ohio and its statehouse, pointing out unique details in the architecture, art pieces, and other facts about the building.
Columbus Museum of Art
Art fans definitely want to explore the ever-evolving art galleries of the Columbus Museum of Art during their visit to the city. The museum houses unique collections of local and global artists, with pieces ranging from contemporary to historical.
Alongside art exhibits, the museum also puts on a variety of events and programs throughout the year. Check out the museum calendar before your visit; you never know what you’ll find. For example, at “the Studio,” kids and their families can enjoy making crafts and keepsakes.
Older visitors may enjoy one of the museum’s book releases and author talks or one of the many pop-up experiences that appear on the museum’s schedule.
Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum
Got a car lover in the family? Then the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum is the stop for you! The museum is a one-stop shop for all things automobile, with classic cars dating from the early 20th century on display.
A visit to the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum is an exclusive experience. The museum offers tours by appointment only, allowing visitors to totally immerse themselves in the history and beauty of the exceptional automotive exhibits.
Short North Arts District
Trendy and urban, the Short North Arts District of Columbus prides itself on being the city’s artistic soul. Its streets are lined with galleries, unique restaurants, fashionable boutiques, and cute bed and breakfasts for you to enjoy.
If you plan to stop by Short North, consider visiting during the “Gallery Hop.” The event occurs on the first Saturday of every month and is Columbus’s favorite day of the month to celebrate art. During the Hop, restaurants, bars, galleries, and shops display art and put on specials to thrill visitors. It’s a great way to experience all Short North offers if you don’t have much time in Columbus.
Topiary Garden Park
Before it was the Topiary Garden Park, the scenic lawns were home to the Old Deaf School Park of Columbus. The location’s history alone makes Topiary Park exceptional, but its living art displays make it one-of-a-kind.
At Topiary Garden Park, the post-Impressionist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte of Georges Seurat’s comes to life. The park’s pond represents the French river Seine. Around its glistening water, neatly trimmed topiaries rise, creating a whimsical environment for the nature enthusiast to enjoy.
In the spring, the park is all the more vibrant, with blooming flowers, honey bees, and birdsong adding to the fantastical environment.
Take the whole family out for a baseball game at Huntington Park! This stadium is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks in downtown Columbus. Located in Columbus’s Arena District, Huntington Park is home to the minor league team, the Columbus Clippers.
Huntington is a hot spot for sporting activity and local pride during the baseball season. If you plan on visiting Columbus during the baseball season, snag some tickets to one of the games. Nothing screams “American Vacation” more than a hot dog, ball cap, and a game of baseball!
The chances are that when you hear “Nationwide,” you think of a catchy commercial tune. But in Columbus, the word brings to mind a massive entertainment venue known as the Nationwide Arena.
You may ask yourself, why should we visit an arena? The answer is simple: Nationwide Arena hosts some of the best tours and events in the United States. You can find everything from a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game to rock concerts happening at Nationwide Arena.
So, why not add some explosive fun to your trip and grab tickets for one of the arena’s many events during your trip?
Columbus Ohio FAQ
Is Columbus Ohio worth visiting?
Columbus, Ohio, is definitely worth a visit! You’ll find diverse neighborhoods, a fun downtown, plenty of family-friendly activities, great shops and restaurants, and so much more.
Why is Columbus Ohio important?
Columbus is important because it’s the capital of the state of Ohio. It was chosen as the capital because of its central location and its accessibility to transportation routes.
What food is Columbus Ohio famous for?
Columbus, Ohio, is famous for quite a few different foods. Popular foods include buckeyes (chocolate peanut butter candies), goetta (a German-American pork dish), and sausages (you can find some great ones in the German Village).
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO OHIO
- YOUR OHIO VACATION
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- CINCINNATI: 27 Phenomenal Things To Do In Cincinnati, Ohio
- DAYTON: 16 Things To Do In Dayton Ohio For Year-Round Fun
- CLEVELAND: 22 Outstanding Things To Do In Cleveland, Ohio
Where To Stay In Columbus Ohio
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