What to do when visiting Columbus, Ohio

As a resident of Columbus, Ohio for 11 years, I entertained numerous visitors by taking advantage of the many attractions the city has to offer. Columbus is a lovely Midwestern city that isn’t often thought of a a tourist destination, but there is a lot going on in this sizable city. There are rivers for water sports, professional and nationally-recognized collegiate sports teams, a bustling arts scene, and seemingly limitless restaurants and breweries. Below are my suggestions of things to do when visiting Columbus:

The Columbus, Ohio skyline
The Columbus, Ohio skyline

*Please note that all prices listed below are subject to change. Be sure to check the website of each attraction before planning your trip to confirm hours and pricing.

  1. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – The Columbus Zoo is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country. The zoo is quite large and has an impressive collection of animals. During the winter they hang millions of lights for the holidays and have light shows timed to music around the lake. Admission for visitors from outside of Franklin County is $22 for adults and $17 for children ages 3-9. In the summer – and especially if you have kids – I highly recommend Zoombezi Bay, a water park connected to the zoo. In fact, admission to Zoombezi Bay includes zoo admission. The Baboon Lagoon, an area for younger children, is a favorite of my niece’s. You can easily spend an entire day here. If you visit on the weekend, I recommend getting there when the park opens so that you can successfully find chaise loungers in shaded areas. Online admission is $30 for adults and $25 for children ages 3-9.
  2. COSI – The Center of Science and Industry is Columbus’s Science Center. There are several really impressive exhibits and shows that both children and adults can enjoy. My niece loves the Oceans exhibit and the Electrostatic Generator Show. For an additional fee, there are also shows in the Planetarium and on the National Geographic Giant Screen Theater. Admission is $25 for adults and $20 for children under 12.
  3. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens – The Franklin Park Conservatory is a beautiful collection of plants and gardens. There is also an interesting butterfly exhibit available during certain times of the year. Great place for beautiful photos. Admission is $19 for adults and $12 for children under 12.
  4. Easton Town Center – Easton Town Center is the premium shopping location in Columbus with both indoor and outdoor areas. It includes many high-end stores such as Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton, but it also includes typical mall stores such as Macy’s and Banana Republic. There are over 50 different places to grab a bite to eat. Highlights include a dine-in AMC movie theater, the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, and a Funny bone Comedy Club.
  5. If you are visiting with adults and enjoy adult beverages, Columbus has a thriving craft beer industry. Central Ohio and surrounding areas are home to approximately 40 different breweries. There is even an Ale Trail with a passport-like book where you can track your visits to various breweries and get rewards after visiting a certain number. My favorites (mostly because of the food) are Brewdog and Hoof Hearted Brewery and Kitchen.
  6. The North Market – The North Market is a vibrant public market with various grocers, butchers, bakers, restaurants, and more all under one roof. On the weekends it can get really packed and parking is limited, but every member of your party can potentially eat a different genre of food all in one stop. It is also home to one of several Jeni’s Ice Cream locations, an iconic local business. One of my favorites are the thick, sweet waffles from Taste of Belgium. I like to eat them as a snack even without syrup.
  7. Short North Arts District – The Short North is a 15-Block stretch on N. High Street. Not only are there numerous art galleries, there are interesting shops, boutiques, antique stores, and eateries. On a nice day it is lovely to stroll down one side of the street and back up the other exploring all of the unique sights this part of town has to offer. Parking can be difficult. I recommend using one of the parking garages.
  8. Columbus also has several sports teams and festivals and hosts numerous plays, ballets, and concerts. I recommend checking the Experience Columbus site for a list of events on the date of your visit to see if anything exciting is going on.

If you are looking for more travel inspiration, check out my other posts on visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and New York City.

Have you visited Columbus? What are your favorite things to do when in Columbus?

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