Plan a weekend getaway to Columbus, the capital of Ohio, to visit unique museums (some completely free), dine at Italian, breakfast and other great restaurants. Stroll through Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, explore Downtown Columbus, or see a planetarium show at the Center of Science and Industry with kids. Here are the best things to do in Columbus.
1. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
© Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is an 88-acre botanical landmark two miles east of downtown Columbus. Visitors are invited to partake in the conservatory’s education, cultural, and social events or to simply walk around and appreciate the exceptional plant collection, garden, seasonal art, and nature-based exhibitions that the conservatory hosts.
A premier botanical landmark and one of the top Columbus OH attractions, the indoor gardens are filled with exotic plant life and artwork by national and international artists, while the outdoors take visitors on a one-mile walking loop through the botanical gardens, the open green space, and art sculptures. There are many special events and activities throughout the year at the conservatory, and visitors can partake in one of the many classes or workshops on cooking, gardening, wellness, or the fine arts.
1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203, 614-715-8000
2. Downtown Columbus
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Downtown Columbus is an open, vibrant and friendly town where living, working, and playing are only a walking distance away. The downtown core has urban alleyways filled with markets such as the Pearl Market, and it boasts the Columbus Commons, a great place to relax during summer concerts. If you are wondering what to do in Columbus, Ohio today, this is a great place to start exploring.
If you are a nature lover, then travel down the Scioto Mile where you can bird watch along the shoreline, dine at world-class restaurants, and even play in the fountains. The downtown core is home to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Columbus Clippers, so whether you like hockey or baseball, there is always a game going on. In addition to this, there are always live concerts, theatre shows during the summer, sand volleyball, and even downtown kickball. Getting to know the community and finding something to do is never hard in downtown Columbus.
23 North Fourth Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-228-5718
3. Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
© Center of Science and Industry
Since 1964 the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), has been inspiring people through science and innovation. The 320,000 square foot science center is a great place for visitors of all ages to explore the odd, the crazy, and the unique. If you are looking for fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids, this is a great place to visit.
Hundreds of events are held throughout the year, and visitors can partake in special activities such as breakfast with superheroes, a planetarium experience like no other, and even an adult slumber party with a bar and access to the center’s many exhibits, including the Nerf Blaster Battle Arena. An educational and fun experience, a visit to COSI will be memorable for everyone no matter how old they are.
333 W. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215, 614-228-2674
4. Short North Arts District, Columbus, Ohio
© Short North Arts District
Visitors to the Short North Arts District will get a look at Ohio’s most vibrant neighborhood filled with amazing art, fashion, unique gifts, home décor, dining, and nightlife. It is known as the “art and soul of Columbus” and is home to over 300 businesses, many of which are locally owned or headquartered. A pioneer in the urban revitalization of Central Ohio, the Short North Arts District was a deserted area filled with mostly derelict buildings and boarded up windows until 1984.
Gallery owners then began exhibiting art once a month – an event referred to as the Gallery Hop – which led to what is visible today. Visitors will enjoy the many unique galleries, shops, and restaurants that can now be found in the national accolade-winning neighborhood. A visit to Short North also allows visitors to experience the 17 lighted steel arches, an identifying feature of the district.
21 E. 5th Avenue, Suite 103, Columbus, OH 43201, 614-299-8050
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5. German Village
© German Village
In the mid-1800s, a third of Columbus’ population was largely German immigrants who settled just south of downtown Columbus in an area that is now German Village. The simple neighborhood soon became distinctive to German culture – people spoke German in shops and schools, the buildings, churches, and houses built all reflected German culture, and slowly German Village grew into an amazing space whose history is now preserved for visitors to enjoy.
From amazing architecture to delicious dining, the area allows visitors to learn about the traditions and culture of German Village, ensuring an experience like no other in a neighborhood like no other.
588 S. Third Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-221-8888
6. North Market, Columbus, Ohio
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Every year, over a million visitors go to the North Market – a farmer’s market frequented by foodies, entrepreneurs, artisans, and everyone else under the sun. North Market offers visitors a chance to buy something special, whether it be handmade jewelry, homemade preserves, or a breathtaking painting.
Since 1876, Ohio merchants and farmers have served the community and the visitors who come to the market from all over. They can get an authentic look into Ohio’s diversity and vibrancy while taking a little bit of Ohio with them. Many times throughout the year, North Market will have live music, entertainment, festivals, open houses, and activities like cooking classes and demonstrations for visitors to partake in.
59 Spruce Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-463-9664
7. Columbus Museum of Art
© Columbus Museum of Art
This museum encourages curiosity about art and its connection to culture. The mission of the Columbus Museum of Art is to create amazing experiences for those who have an interest in art, whether it is through visiting the exhibitions on display, or through art-making activities. The idea is to connect people to art and nurture the connection the meeting creates. The museum has a large community hub where individuals can come together to discuss creative conversation about their experiences with the art.
The museum sports a late nineteenth and early twentieth century collection of modern American and European works, including beloved works of local artists. What makes the museum an amazing place to visit is the fact that many of the works within the gallery are traceable to members of the community, as the art museum was built for the community by the community.
480 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-221-4848
8. Topiary Park
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The Topiary Park was dedicated to the city in 1992, but was first envisioned by James and Elaine Mason who dreamed of having a topiary garden for the Ohio School for the Deaf. The Topiary Park is known historically as the Old Deaf School Park, a name coined early in the 19th century. The Topiary Park is popular among tourists who are attracted to many of the topiaries scattered throughout the garden.
The garden is non-profit and has many volunteers who take care of it to ensure that the stories thrive among the beautiful living sculptures. The garden also has educational resources that are used to enhance the experience of those who may not know the history behind the park or for those who are interested in learning more about the significance of the history.
480 East Town St, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-645-0197
9. Ohio Theater
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Built in 1928, the Ohio Theater was originally a movie house. Now, the theater hosts over a hundred performances annually, including examples such as CAPA performances and performances by Broadway Across America, the BalletMet, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and many other national and international touring artists. If you are looking for romantic date ideas in Columbus, watch a performance at the Ohio Theater.
From lively concerts to classical music, visitors can enjoy the show in one of the Ohio Theater’s 2,791 seats and appreciate not only the performance but also the surrounding Spanish-Baroque architecture, lush interior, excellent acoustics, state-of-the-art stage facilities, and a breathtaking 21-foot high chandelier. Visitors can view the original furnishings that were brought in from all over the world and cost more than it took to construct the building.
55 East State Street, Columbus, OH 43215-4264, 614-469-1045
10. Ohio Stadium
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Built in 1922 at a cost of $1.3 million and refurbished to meet quality and safety standards in 2001 for $194 million, the Ohio Stadium is one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of sports history.
Visitors may find themselves intimidated by the double-decker horseshoe design, which is a monument to college football, and people flock from far and wide to enjoy the gala atmosphere and pageantry that surrounds each and every game. The stadium seats 104,944 people, and it is the fourth largest on-campus facility in the nation. More than 36 million fans have visited the stadium.
411 Woody Hayes Drive, Columbus, OH 43210, 614-292-6330
11. Easton Town Center
© Easton Town Center
Since 1999, the Easton Town Center has bought families together with distinctive shopping, dining, entertainment, and recreational activities in its 1.7 million square feet. Over 180 retailers such as Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Apple, and Barnes & Noble can be found, offering year-round sales.
The diverse collection of restaurants has something for every palette, from the exotic Café Istanbul to the family favorite The Cheesecake Factory. The Easton Town Center hosts events such as live comedy shows and art fairs throughout the year. Visitors will enjoy a day of shopping and fun with everything this lovely open-air market has to offer.
160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, OH 43219, 614-337-2200
12. Schiller Park
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Schiller Park was originally known as Stewart’s Grove when early settlers arrived in Columbus, Ohio. In 1867, the city of Columbus obtained Schiller Park through a transaction that saw all twenty-three acres transferred over to what was then called City Park. It was renamed Schiller Park after famous German poet Friedrick von Schiller who has a statue at the center of the park. During World War II the park name and street names within the area were changed due to anti-German sentiment.
However the names were changed back after the war ended. The park represents German village life and has a recreation center, picnic areas, a fishing pond, and a stage. Actor’s Summer Theatre makes use of the stage, and there are softball diamonds that the public can use. In addition, the park has a lot of floral displays, a gazebo, a playground, and a basketball court.
1069 Jaeger St, Columbus, OH 43206, 614-443-3699
13. Nationwide Arena
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Since 2000, the multipurpose Nationwide Arena has been home to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ohio’s professional ice hockey team and a member of the National Hockey League. The arena hosts many events throughout the year, including the annual Arnold Classis, a fitness event by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Visitors come to the arena for an array of events and hang around in the surrounding Arena District to take advantage of the many bars, clubs, and theaters. The arena is famed for having an ice rink – one that is used as a practice arena for the Blue Jackets, for youth hockey games, and for public skating – and was the first NHL arena to have an on-site practice facility.
200 W Nationwide Blvd, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-246-2000
14. Ohio Statehouse
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The Ohio Statehouse is a majestic building located on over ten acres of land that runs 18 feet deep. Architecture aficionados will revel in the beautiful interior and exterior features such as the recessed porch and the cupola, an example of Greek Revival style.
Art lovers will appreciate the artworks found at the statehouse, including portraits of governors and lieutenant governors. Many of the pieces memorialize events or individuals that are significant in Ohio’s history. The nearby Senate Building and Atrium, together with the Statehouse, comprise Ohio’s Capitol Square – a place to create a trip memorable for the entire family.
1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-752-9777
15. Ohio State University
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The Ohio State University was founded in 1870. Originally it was an agricultural and mechanical college, but has since grown to become the third largest university campus in the United States. It has over two hundred undergraduate majors and boasts two hundred and fifty professional degree programs for those who want to pursue a doctorate or master’s degree.
It has an extensive student life program with intercollegiate, club, and recreational sport programs, as well as media organizations, fraternities and sororities, and three active student governments. The campus is known for its world-class status in areas of cancer and infectious disease research and is home to many museums and exhibits, including the Jack Nicklaus Museum, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, Hopkins Hall Gallery, and Historic Costume and Textiles Collection as well as the Museum of Classical Archaeology.
281 W. Lane Ave., Columbus, OH 43210, 614-292-6446
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16. Columbus Architectural Salvage
© Columbus Architectural Salvage
Columbus Architectural Salvage is a unique resource for home parts and architectural elements, located on 10,000 square feet near Columbus' Ohio State Fairgrounds. The store, which was opened in 2011 by Chris Sauer, is an expansion of a former Grandview business and is known for its eclectic collection of antique and vintage artifacts, many of which have been salvaged from area landfills. Shoppers can peruse the store's expansive collection of home renovation items, ranging from small parts such as doorknobs, keys, and hinges to massive room design elements such as vintage claw-foot bathtubs and antique iron-wrought garden furniture. Many hard-to-find and rare vintage items are on display, making the store a great choice for home decor enthusiasts and antique lovers alike.
1580 Clara St, Columbus, OH 43211, Phone: 614-299-6627
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17. Huntington Park
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Huntington Park is located in the Arena District in downtown Columbus and is home to the Columbus Clippers baseball team. The state-of-the-art facility has two Triple-A National Champion wins behind it and is affiliated with the Cleveland Indians. The park has three levels with 200,000 square feet and can accommodate over 10,000 spectators at a time.
The facility has a Hall of Fame, a club bar, a roof top bar, homerun terraces, and a club level patio. What makes this stadium park unique is that it has 1,200 specialty seating positions, including a family lawn area with a fountain, lawn seating, and a tree canopied main concourse.
330 Huntington Park Lane, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-462-5250
18. Park of Roses
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The Park of Roses is a public park that consists of thirteen acres of paved pathways, teak benches, and 12,000 roses. In addition to the three gardens of roses, the park also has herb and perennial gardens that are scattered amongst the rose shrubs. Each garden has something unique about it. For instance, the Formal Rose Garden utilizes an Italianate formal design where roses are grouped into symmetrical beds with a viewing tower and large fountain.
They are considered modern roses, and are made up of hybrid teas, floribundas, shrub roses, and grandifloras. The Heritage Rose Garden sits at the eastern end of the park and showcases what is known as old species of roses. The Park of Roses is free to all visitors and is accessible by wheelchair and stroller.
3901 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214, 614-645-3337
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19. Scioto Mile
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The Scioto Mile is comprised of 145 acres of lush parkland that runs through the heart of downtown, connecting the downtown areas of the riverfront arena district, and goes all the way down to the Whittier Peninsula. The Scioto Mile allows pedestrians, tourists, and locals the opportunity to enjoy the riverfront area by using its integrated system of bikeways, pathways, boulevards, and parks.
For those who enjoy travelling through the Scioto Mile, there are many attractions that you can enjoy, including a 15,000-foot interactive fountain, a free outdoor climbing wall, an amphitheater, and a 120-acre Scioto Audubon that attracts shore birds as well as birds of prey to the shoreline. Throughout the year, there are several events that take place, including a jazz and rib festival.
1111 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43205, 614-645-3300
20. Ohio Expo Center and State Fair
© Ohio Expo Center and State Fair
The Ohio Expo Center became the permanent home for the Ohio State Fair in 1886 when over 100 acres of land were acquisitioned for the site. Since 1886, the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair grounds have added over one million square feet of event space, making it the most dynamic venue in the Midwest. It is home to over twenty unique historic buildings, pavilions, modern livestock facilities, and multi-purpose buildings.
It also has basketball courts, an ice rink, and a 10,000-seat arena. For tourists who want to see the grounds in action, it holds five well-known Columbus events, including The Goodguys Rod and Custom Car Show, the Equine Affaire, and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress as well as the Beef, Turkey, and Deer Expo.
717 East 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43211, 888-646-3976
21. Arena District
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The Arena District of Columbus, Ohio is one of the most popular neighborhoods among tourists and locals as it offers a large variety of features and activities. It sits at the heart of the downtown core, which is great for those who enjoy hockey and baseball as both the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Columbus Clippers are based out of the neighborhood.
The district always has public events going on, including live concerts at the LC Pavilion as well as live music any day of the night that can be heard as you stroll through the area near the six different venues. There are friendly bars, an athletic club, a major movie theatre, and incredible restaurants scattered throughout the neighborhood. Event-wise you can see Disney on Ice, see the World’s Toughest Rodeo, or check out many of the indie bands playing.
375 Front St, Suite 200, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-857-2330
22. Ohio History Connection
© Ohio History Connection
The Ohio History Connection protects and values the history of Ohio’s diverse people through multiple collections of both artifacts and stories. The Ohio History Connection is a non-profit organization that looks to address and communicate the significance of the history of Ohio’s people to those who want to discover how the state was built through industry, social organizations, governments, and communities.
The collections document and preserve stories about everything from automobiles to wedding gowns to artifacts associated with state farms and businesses. Additionally, the connection also serves as the State Archives and has a Historical Markers program that allows sponsors to erect new markers to describe Ohio’s people, places, and events.
800 East 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43211, 614-297-2300
23. Mapfre Stadium
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The Mapfre Stadium was established on June 15th 1994 when Ohio was presented with the first Major League Soccer (MLS) club. This made it one of the original ten clubs within the Major League Soccer association in the United States. In addition, the Mapfre Stadium was the first soccer-specific stadium erected in the United States and was chosen due to its 11,500 plus season ticket deposits.
The Major League Soccer club currently has twenty-two teams and sixteen soccer-specific stadiums, with the new Columbus Crew SC playing at the Mapfre Stadium. In addition to hosting games, the stadium also puts on both adult and youth camps, including a residential camp, which is the highest rated camp among players in Columbus, Ohio.
1 Black & Gold Blvd. Columbus, OH 43211, 614-447-2739
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24. Polaris Fashion Place
© Polaris Fashion Place
The Polaris Fashion Place is a major shopping destination in Central Ohio that has a large variety of premier stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Express, Pandora, and Von Maur. Polaris Fashion Place is a two level mall that has an outdoor lifestyle center and an expanded Forever XXI store, as well as a Barnes and Noble for book lovers.
The newly added lifestyle addition to the mall gives shoppers a place to dine at over twenty different cafes and restaurants as well as enjoy entertainment. Restaurant and dining options include patio dining at The Pub, Cantina Laredo, and the ever-famous Cheesecake Factory. In addition to the great shopping, Polaris also has featured events going on including ones that raise awareness for epilepsy, fitness, and travel and even has tours for fans of Columbus sports.
1500 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, OH 43240, 614-846-1500
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SegAway Tours of Columbus
The SegAway Tours of Columbus offers two different tours for tourists who are interested in learning about downtown Columbus. The first tour is the original city tour, which stops by thirty different landmarks, including areas like the Palace Theatre, Columbus Commons, and the United States Courthouse.
The second tour option is the river and bridges tour, which visits twenty-eight landmarks, including the North Market, Bicentennial Park, and the Elevator Brewery. There is training provided prior to the two-hour tour, where you will learn how to ride a SegAway i2. Each tour will take you through parkland along the Scioto River and through the arts district as well as the historic downtown area.
400 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-222-3005
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