Columbus is one of those cities that seems to catch visitors by surprise. For the past few years, we’ve seen article after article declaring Columbus as some sort of “best-kept secret” in America’s heartland. But to the Buckeyes who call this town home, we’ve always known that it was special. The art, the music, the food; it all comes together perfectly here in the capital city. With millions of people visiting Columbus each year, we decided to put all of the best things to do in our city all in one place.
This post isn’t just for tourists. There are several places that I hadn’t heard of or been to, and I’ve lived in this city most of my life. So check out our comprehensive list below. It will continue to be updated all of the new and exciting things Columbus has to offer.
Nature and Parks
Franklin Park Conservatory
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are the perfect way to combine the beauty of nature with the beauty of art. A visit to the conservatory is a guaranteed way to immerse yourself in both.
The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile is a green haven made up of over 175 acres and spans from the Arena District to the Whittier Peninsula. The Mile has different parks, bikeways, and walking paths. Plan a visit in the evening to see the breathtaking view of the city lights reflecting off of the Scioto River.
Whetstone Park and the Park of Roses
After exploring the bike paths, sitting by the pond, or enjoying a picnic at Whetstone Park, take a stroll through the Park of Roses. This garden is one of the largest public rose gardens in America. Make sure to plan a visit between June and September to catch the roses while they are in full bloom.
This park is a central hub in German Village and is the second oldest park in Columbus. Schiller Park has all the perks of a modern-day park with a rich history. Plan a visit during the warmer months to catch some awesome plays in the park.
The Topiary Garden located in the heart of Downtown Columbus is a must see for visitors and residents alike. This unique park offers paved walking paths through the peaceful and serene park. It’s fun for the whole family, but especially for the kids, as it’s a great spot in Columbus to catch Pokemon on the popular app, PokemonGo!
Gardens, a carousel, and a large stage for live performances, the Columbus Commons is a park located downtown. Chock-full of events, the Commons has plenty of things to do and to look forward to.
The oldest park in Columbus is tucked within Victorian Village. Goodale park has it all. From a pond, a gazebo, picnic areas, ball diamonds, basketball courts, and more, visitors of Goodale get a little bit of everything.
Sharon Woods Metro Park
Sharon Woods has over 760 acres and is full of hiking, fishing, biking, and picnicking opportunities. The nature preserve provides a safe habitat for all sorts of wildlife.
A stop along the Olentangy Trail, Antrim Park has a quarried lake, sporting fields, and a playground. This park is a popular spot for dog owners to take their four-legged friends for a swim.
Hayden Falls Park
While small in size, Hayden Falls Park has a big, beautiful view of the 35 foot tall falls on a boardwalk. This park is a scenic hidden gem worth the visit.
The Olentangy Trail runs along the river where it got its name. The trail connects downtown to Worthington and has stops in Antrim Park, Whetstone Park, and many others along the way. It is the perfect place to go for a bike ride or a long walk.
The Shrum Mound is one of the last burial mounds in Columbus. Visit the mound in Campbell Park to see a 2,000-year-old piece of history from the Adena culture, an ancient Native American civilization.
McFerson Commons Park
The arch of McFerson Commons used to be the entryway to Columbus’s Union Station. Union Station was closed in 1977 and demolition of the building began soon afterward. The arch of “Arch Park” is all that remains of this piece of Columbus history.
Scioto Audubon Metro Park
The Scioto Audubon Metro Park is a stop along the Scioto Mile and includes wetlands, one of the nation’s largest outdoor climbing wall, and has a boat launch for those who want to take a boat ride on the Scioto River.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
A visit to the Columbus Zoo goes without saying. Run by America’s most well-known zookeeper Jack Hanna, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of the top zoos in America and it is in our very own backyard. Plan a day at the zoo to see over 800 different types of animals up close.
Arts and Museums
Named the #1 science center in America by Parents Magazine, spending a day at COSI is an absolute must for anyone coming to town. The science center isn’t just for kids. With exhibits ranging from electricity to the deep ocean, there is something for everyone! COSI
Columbus Museum of Art
The collection at the Columbus Museum of Art includes late nineteenth and early twentieth century American and European works of art. Explore the new wing of the museum on your own or through a guided tour. Columbus Museum of Art
Ohio History Connection
Formerly the Ohio Historical Society, Ohio History Connection’s offers fun and learning for guests of all ages. From their historical village to special events, OHC provides a historical viewpoint that is unmatched in Central Ohio. Ohio History Connection
Jubilee Museum & Catholic Cultural Center
If you’re interested in learning more about the art, music, and heritage of the Catholic Church and it impacts, be sure to stop by the Jubilee Museum and Catholic Cultural Center. Jubilee Museum
Central Ohio Fire Museum
For fire truck enthusiasts, there is no better place in Columbus! Offering tours of the historic station, different trucks and insights into the challenging job of being a firefighter, it’s the perfect way to spend a few hours downtown. Central Ohio Fire Museum
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
It may surprise some to know that the world’s largest collection of cartoons and comics has a home right here at The Ohio State University. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum was opened in 1977 and its mission is to not only research and collect cartoons but make them available to the public as well. Admission is free, but the hours are limited, so be sure to check their hours of operation. Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum
Jack Nicklaus Museum
Also located at The Ohio State University, the Jack Nicklaus Museum will take you through this hometown hero’s amazing golf career. Learn about golf, it’s players and the impact Nicklaus has made both here in Columbus and around the world. Jack Nicklaus Museum
Ohio Craft Museum
Through amazing exhibitions and educational experiences, the Ohio Craft Museum strives to show just how thriving the fine art craft community is. Located on W 5th Avenue, the Museum offers 5 exhibits per year, and admission is always free! Ohio Craft Museum
Offering free admission, the Riffe Gallery is one of the most well-known galleries in the city. Located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government & the Arts, the gallery features a variety of exhibitions featuring all kinds of art. Riffe Gallery
Located in the Short North, the Pizzuti collection is a one-of-a-kind gallery here in Columbus. This contemporary art collection has been carefully curated by Ron and Ann Pizzuti and graciously shared with the public, including several galleries, a sculpture garden, and a public resource library. Pizzuti Collection
Cultural Arts Center
The Cultural Arts Center not only offers exhibitions presented throughout the galleries, but also art classes for adults. The classes range in difficulty and style, guaranteeing the perfect place for every art-lover. Cultural Arts Center
With many floating locations here in Columbus, Muse Gallery speaks to all types of art collectors. Owner and art dealer Caren Petersen has over 25 years of experience, and helping clients on their own personal art journey remains an important goal for the gallery. Muse Gallery
One of the newer galleries in Columbus, 934 Gallery, located in the Milo-Grogan community is a must-see for any art lovers passing through the capital city. Staffed entirely by volunteers, 934 features exhibits from local, national and international artists. 934 Gallery
Although the North Market has been around in Columbus in one variety or another since the 1870’s, the current market has been open and thriving since 1995. Located in the heart of the Short North district, the market provides food and fun to over 1 million customers every year. North Market
Being one of the most renowned neighborhoods in Columbus, German Village has a lot to offer visitors and residents. Through the “Shop. Dine. Stroll” program, you can visit several shops around this historic neighborhood. From pet lovers to art enthusiasts to green thumbs, there is truly something for everyone. German Village Society
Polaris Fashion Place
Since opening in 2001, Polaris Fashion Place has become one of the top shopping centers in Central Ohio. With over 200 retailers in one place, customers can spend an entire day visiting their favorite shops and eating great food. Polaris Fashion Place
Easton Town Center
Designed to emulate a small town feel, Easton Town Center is a unique indoor/outdoor shopping center. Built in part by local mogul Les Wexner, the mall is currently one of the most successful in the state, attracting 25 million guests per year. Easton is more than just shopping to most guests. It is also an experience. In good weather, kids can play in the fountains near the town center and in winter guests can take a ride by horse-drawn carriage. Easton Town Center
Open only for the summer season, Pearl Market is quickly becoming one of the best-known spots in Columbus. Offering local wares ranging from food to clothing to home goods, Pearl Market is one-stop shopping in one of the best parts of the city. Pearl Market
If you’re looking for great deals in the capital city, you must check out Tanger Outlets. After opening in 2016, Tanger Outlets was an instant success. With a wide variety of outlet stores and amazing prices, the mall is a great way to spend an afternoon in Columbus. Tanger Outlets
Sports & Entertainment
Home of the Minor League team, the Columbus Clippers, Huntington Park in the Arena District is an awesome way to spend a Saturday night. The park often has themed nights, the most famous of all being “Dime a Dog” night when you can get hot dogs for only $0.10! If the home team gets a victory, don’t forget to stay for the fireworks show that will follow.
Located on the campus of The Ohio State University, the Schottenstein Center has hosted all kinds of events in Columbus from the OSU Basketball team to national recording artists like Bruce Springsteen and Carrie Underwood.
Home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena is a premiere venue in the heart of the Arena District. Surrounded by great food, parks, and bars, Nationwide Arena is a great destination for both music and sports fans.
Ohio Stadium, or as it’s known in Columbus, ‘The Shoe’, is the heartbeat of Buckeye Nation. Built in 1922, the Shoe has housed the Buckeyes for nearly 100 years.
Although Mapfre Stadium is primarily the home of the Columbus Crew SC, it is also a top venue for concerts and festivals. Mapfre frequently hosts international soccer teams as well as award-winning recording artists, including the mega-sized rock festival, Rock on the Range.
Rain or shine, Express Live will put on a great show. This indoor/outdoor venue can hold up to 2200 guests inside and up to 5700 outside, so there’s plenty of room for you and your friends.
Newport Music Hall
Located on N High Street, the Newport Music Hall is extremely convenient to those staying on or around OSU Campus. The Hall seats 2000 people and is the longest continually running rock club in America.
A&R Music Bar
A&R Music Bar might be a small venue, but it gets big names, usually before they become big. Named for the “Artist and Repertoire” department responsible for seeking out up-and-comers, the A&R bar gives guests an opportunity to see bands up close and personal before they start selling out next door at Express Live.
CD 102.5’s Big Room Bar
CD 102.5’s Big Room Bar is the perfect venue to check out your national and regional favorites in the indie music world. This intimate venue allows performers to connect with their audience in ways some larger venues just can’t sustain. The Big Room Bar is also an official Crew SC Bar, making it the perfect place to catch the game if you can’t get down to Mapfre Stadium.
Kelton House Museum & Garden
Built in 1852 by Fernando and Sophia Kelton, the house served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Kelton House is open for tours M-F 10-4pm and Saturday 1-4.
Since opening to the public in 1984, The Thurber House is a must-see for any literary fans. Renowned author James Thurber lived in the house with his family during his time at the Ohio State University, and the house is even rumored to be haunted, as told in his essay, “The Night the Ghost Got In”.
The King Art Complex
The King Art Complex is a unique and important facility in Columbus Ohio. Cultural, educational and performance-based programs offer visitors the chance to learn about the many contributions from African Americans to art, culture and the history of America.
The Governor’s Residence has been the official home of Ohio’s Governors since the 1950’s. Although currently, Governor Kasich does not reside there, the home is open to public viewing and tours.
The Buxton Inn
Originally operating as a post office and stagecoach stop, The Buxton Inn has a long history. President William Henry Harrison was a guest at the Inn, even riding on horseback into the ballroom during a party. The inn also has been long rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Ohio haunted by ‘The Lady in Blue’, among other spirits.
Fun and Games
Trapped Columbus is one of the best escape rooms in Central Ohio. With a variety of themed rooms, from zombies to outer space, teams can be made up of friends or strangers. Trapped Columbus
With over 2,200 slots, 70 big game tables, and 36 live poker tables, Hollywood Casino has something for every visitor. While a variety of dining options are available, the steak and seafood restaurant at the casino, Final Cut, is the only Forbes 4 Star dining experience in Columbus. Hollywood Columbus
Eldorado Scioto Downs
Eldorado Scioto Downs is both a racetrack and casino. Although they only offer horse races May-September, the floor of the casino is open 24/7 for the convenience of guests. You must be 18+ to bet on horses and 21+ to enter the casino floor. Scioto Downs
Funny Bone Comedy Club
If you’re looking for a laugh, you’re in luck. The Funny Bone Comedy Club at Easton gets amazing comedic talent and has a great dining experience that you can book along with your tickets. Funny Bone
Kingmakers Board Game Parlour
Since opening in 2014, Kingmakers has become a popular destination for game-lovers. Offering a variety of board games, Kingmakers even provides a “sommelier” to help guests understand how different games are played and to answer any questions that may arise throughout your time there. Kingmakers
Grand Prix Karting
The ultimate go-karting experience in Columbus is Grand Prix Karting. Zoom around the indoor track for a one-time event or become a member, either way, you’ll have a great time. GPK also offers laser tag and an escape room. Grand Prix Karting
Vertical Adventures is an expansive, indoor rock climbing facility. With opportunities for professional climbers and first timers alike, Vertical Adventures can accommodate any skill level. First-time climbers can take an introductory course while experienced climbers must pass belay test and lead checks before hitting the course. Vertical Adventures
The Dinner Detective Murder Mystery Dinner
The Dinner Detective is a truly unique murder mystery dinner. Actors are hidden throughout the guests, giving the diners a truly unique experience. Each story is based on actual cold cases and written in-house for the dinner. The Dinner Detective
Buckeye Raceway is one of the only go-karting facilities in central Ohio to offer “clean green” electric go-karts. No memberships are required at Buckeye Raceway, meaning anyone is free to have fun! Don’t forget, there are height requirements for the go-karts, Buckeye Raceway
Wine & Canvas Studio
Show off your artistic sid and Wine & Canvas Studio. Along with your friends and maybe some strangers, you can enjoy wine and paint a beautiful canvas. No previous painting experience is required to participate, the staff at W&C will happily help you through the process of creating your masterpiece! Wine and Canvas
Attached to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Zoombezi Bay is central Ohio’s premier waterpark. Open from May-September, 2017 will bring some new attractions to Zoombezi Bay, including the “Sound Surfer, King of Beats”, a new 512-foot, high-tech water slide. Zoombezi Bay
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