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15 Best Things To Do In Columbus, Ohio

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Things To Do In Columbus, Ohio

The capital of Ohio, Columbus is a wonderful city to live in and to visit. As one of the fastest growing cities in America, there’s a lively and youthful energy to Columbus.

And not surprisingly, there’s a whole lot to see and do in Arch City.

Here are our recommendations for the 15 best things to do in Columbus.

1. Scioto Mile

Things to do in Columbus
Photo Credit – Aryeh Alex

A lush parkland that runs through downtown, enjoying the outdoors along Scioto Mile is one of the best things to do in Columbus.

Spanning 175 acres, it’s a connected network of parks, paths, boulevards and trails that run along the Scioto River. Walk, jog or bike along the many trails. Guided bike tours are available and a great way to see the area.

The interactive 15,000-square-foot fountain at Bicentennial Park is an incredible sight, especially at night. Other highlights include a free climbing wall and the Scioto Audubon Center, which attracts a large variety of birds.

Don’t miss the skyline views at Milestone 229. Free concerts over the summer are a popular attraction. Several festivals are also held here throughout the year.

2. Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Things to do in Columbus ohio
Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus , Ohio | Photo Credit – GPA Photo Archive

Enjoy nature, art and more at the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

Exploring its 88 acres of landscaped grounds is one of the best things to do in Columbus. The indoor gardens are filled with exotic plants, flowers and artwork. There’s a lovely 1-mile walking trail through the outdoor gardens.

Admire sculptures as well as a large collection of glass artworks by famous glass artist Dale Chihuly. There’s a fish pond and lots of butterflies that kids will love.

Take classes on cooking, gardening or wellness. The garden also hosts many special events and activities throughout the year. 

3. North Market

North Market, Columbus, Oh | Photo Credit – MeRyan

This is one of the oldest and largest farmers market in Ohio, and dates back to 1876. It’s open six days a week.

Find the freshest produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, flowers and prepared food here. Many visitors are astonished by the large variety of cuisines and items available, which reflects the cultural diversity of Columbus.

The prices here are also quite affordable. In addition, on select days, additional items, such as handmade jewelry, furniture and art, are also available.

Special events, such as live music, cooking classes and demonstrations, are often held at the market as well.

4. Center for Science and Industry

Center for Science and Industry, Columbus, Ohio | Photo Credit – Richie Diesterheft

Enjoy a day of learning and fun at the Center for Science and Industry (COSI), one of the best things to do in Columbus for families with kids.

This world-class children’s museum features more than 300 hands-on and interactive exhibits on different areas of science. Learn about energy with a plasma ball. Ride inside a space capsule. Stand inside a wind tunnel. Build all sorts of things. Watch a live science show.

Don’t miss the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery, with a full size T.Rex and more. COSI also features the largest planetarium in Ohio, a National Geographic Giant Screen Theater and a motion simulator.

5. Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium | Photo Credit – Kārlis Dambrāns

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is one of the top zoos in the country, and one of the best things to do in Columbus.

The zoo is home to more than 9,000 animals from 650 species. Spanning 130 acres, there are six sections to the zoo: Asia Quest, Australia and the Islands, Congo Expedition, Heart of Africa, North America and Shores and Aquarium.

In addition to the animal exhibits, the zoo offers special shows, demonstrations and activities. Feed a giraffe. Touch a stingray. Or watch a 4-D movie.

The zoo also includes two adventure parks, the Zoombezi Bay water park and Jungle Jack’s Landing, and a golf course, which require a separate ticket.

6. Columbus Museum of Art

Exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art.
Photo Credit – Larry Wentzel

Located downtown, the Columbus Museum of Art is one of the top cultural institutions in the city. Housed in a striking, modern building, the museum has a large collection of 19th and 20th century American and European works of art.

There is a particular emphasis on contemporary art, folk art and photography. Artworks from local artists can also be found here. There are frequent rotating exhibitions, which means there’s new artwork every few months.

Don’t miss the Creative Space, which encourages interactive and art-making activities, especially for kids. There’s also a sculpture garden and an excellent gift shop.

7. Easton Town Center

Easton town Center, Columbus, Oh | Photo Credit –
Dr Bob Hall

Shop, dine, play and so much more at Easton Town Center. The popular indoor and outdoor shopping complex is one of the top retail destinations in Ohio.

There are nearly 300 retail shops, restaurants and other businesses here. Find shops such as Nordstroms, Crate and Barrel, American Girl Store and Tiffany’s. There’s a movie theater onsite. And the LEGOLAND Discovery Center is a great venue to bring kids. Adults will enjoy comedy at the Funny Bone Comedy Club.

There are also many special events throughout the year, especially over the summer. Enjoy live music, yoga, wine tasting, game nights and more.

8. National Veterans Memorial and Museum

National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Columbus, Oh | Photo Credit – Warren LeMay

Located along the Scioto River, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to all the veterans from all branches of the military.

Housed in an architecturally stunning building, the museum not only honors these brave men and women, but it also serves to tell their individual stories. See a range of exhibits, such as letters, photos, memorabilia and more from different veterans.

Hear stories from the Revolutionary War to more recent conflicts. Pay your respects at the rooftop sanctuary and Memorial Grove outside, which features a reflecting pool and stone memorial wall.

9. German Village

St. Mary Catholic School, German Village, Columbus, OH
Photo Credit – Warren LeMay

Explore German culture, cuisine and history at historic German Village. Located south of downtown, German Village dates from the mid-1800s, when many German immigrants settled in the area.

Walk around the charming cobblestone streets, lined with many buildings that have not changed since that time or brick houses that have been authentically restored. Enjoy some hearty German food at Schmidt’s or Valter’s. Admire German art at one of the many galleries in the district.

A must-see while you are here is The Book Loft. It’s one of the largest independent retailers in the country and features a whopping 32 rooms of books.

10. Columbus Coffee Trail or Columbus Ale Trail

Columbus has a wonderful coffee and craft beer scene, and two trails to help you discover what’s available around the city.

There are nearly 50 participating breweries on the Columbus Ale Trail. Grab a passport. Then order a beer at each brewery, and  you will get your passport stamped. The more stamps you collect, the more prizes you earn, including custom glasses and even special artwork.

If coffee is more your thing, follow the Columbus Coffee Trail instead. There are more than 15 participating venues. Collect a free t-shirt or mug and discover some great brews along the way.

11. Short North Arts District

Spending some time in the Short North Arts District is one of the best things to do in Columbus. Located north of downtown, this vibrant district is full of life and culture.

Converted warehouses are now filled with galleries, boutiques, and trendy cafes, restaurants and bars. The area is home to more than 300 businesses, many of them locally or independently owned. Join the popular Gallery Hop on the first Saturday of the month, when galleries and businesses open late and the streets fill with food, art, and performances.

There is also lots of street art around, including murals and the 17 lit steel arches. Or catch a live show at the Garden Theater.

12. Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is one of the most unique attractions in Columbus. It’s home to the largest collection of materials related to cartoons and comics in the world.

The vast collection includes more than 2.5 million comic strip clippings, and more than 300,000 original comics and more. Find everything here from daily strips and magazine cartoons to comic books and graphic novels. The museum also includes merchandise and cosplay costumes.

There is a permanent exhibit plus two rotating exhibits. Located in Sullivan Hall on the Ohio University campus, the library and museum are free to visit.

13. Arena District

Columbus Arena District | Photo Credit –
Matt Evans

For sports, live music and great nightlife, the Arena District is the place to be in Columbus.

Watch a Blue Jackets NHL game at Nationwide Arena. Or the popular Clippers minor league baseball game at Huntington Park. There are multiple venues for live music, which ranges from small local acts to some of the biggest names in music.

There are plenty of lovely restaurants with outdoor patios to enjoy some food before or after the event. And afterwards, grab a few drinks at one of the many bars and clubs in the area, especially along Park Street.

14. Topiary Garden

Things to do in Columbus
Topiary Garden, Columbus, Ohio | Photo Credit – Dr Bob Hall

See art and nature come to life at the Topiary Garden. Located in the Discovery District, this 9-acre public park is the only topiary representation of a painting in the world.

It was designed to represent George Suerat’s famous post-Impressionist painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Altogether, there are more than 50 people, animals and boats sculpted from yew trees. A pond and artificial hills were installed to help recreate the scene.

A bronze plaque marks Seurat’s point of view as he created his painting. Admission is free. If you can, visit from April to November to see the garden at its most lush.

15. Columbus Commons

Located just east of Scioto Mile, Columbus Commons is a popular six acre park. A lovely green space downtown, the commons also offer a number of amenities for visitors.

There are 12 pretty gardens with a variety of seasonal flowers and plants. Kids will enjoy the carousel and NEOS electric playground. There are several cafes and food trucks available. Be sure to grab a scoop of local favorite Jeni’s Ice Cream.

Don’t forget to check the schedule for the commons before you visit – the park hosts more than 240 programs and events a year, including yoga, movies and live music.

And if you’re ready to explore outside the city, check out our guide to the 15 best day trips from Columbus.

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