Places to go in Columbus OH

April 4, 2023

Arguably an underrated travel destination and a developing Midwest metropolis, the capital city of Ohio has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment. Whether you’ve always wanted to experience an Ohio State University football game or want to walk along the city’s Scioto Mile, there are plenty of activities to do in Columbus, Ohio! Here’s our list of the top 10 Columbus, Ohio, attractions and events.

Skyline of Columbus Ohio from the Scioto River bank

About Columbus

Ohio’s capital city, Columbus, is located along the Scioto River and was initially settled by Native Americans. European settlers made their way to the area around the 1700s, where it was made the Ohio state capital in 1816. Its industrialization began out of the construction of railroads, streets, and the Ohio canal. This was enhanced by aircraft manufacturing during WWII.

Columbus is now a fast-growing American city with a population of approximately 906,528 people. It has a prosperous economy that isn’t reliant on any particular industry. Even so, some of the city’s most prominent employers include government agencies along with manufacturers of transportation.

The city’s climate and average weather conditions consist of very long summers with cold but shorter winters. Summer temperatures can get very hot and humid, while winter climates tend to be very frigid and windy. With these weather conditions in mind, it’s recommended to visit the city between the middle of June to the middle of September.

Columbus, Ohio, is characterized by a number of interesting attractions, food, and cultures. Sports fans will appreciate their plethora of entertainment options, from the Buckeye college football team to their minor league baseball team, the Columbus Clippers. The city is a hotspot for nightlife while including a number of interesting sights for outdoor enthusiasts and artists alike.

Traveling to the City

If you’re not a big fan of long, exhausting flights, Columbus is the perfect destination for a vacation! Nearly half of U.S. states consist of a short one-hour flight or one-day drive to the city. Frequent flyers will be pleased to know that John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) has been named one of the best airports for passenger experience and earned the 2020 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) award for the best airport by size and region.

The CMH airport includes the nation’s major airline carriers like Delta, Southwest, American, United, Frontier, Alaska, Spirit, Air Canada, and OneJet. The city consists of five highways along with two major interstates, 70 and 71. This makes it a very easy city to travel around in by car. Only a two-hour drive from Cleveland, and less than that from Cincinnati or Indianapolis. There are also plenty of public transportation options available for people without personal vehicles.

Things to do In Columbus, Ohio

1. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden

Located near downtown Columbus, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden is a calming and beautiful oasis. Founded in 1895, it’s considered a well-known city staple and offers plenty to explore in terms of natural wonders. After all, the attraction isn’t just filled with plants but a plethora of artwork to coincide with its natural elements.

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden includes flowers, greenery, and Dale Chihuly glasswork along its pathways. It also has workshops, interactive activities, and a children’s garden for busy families. Many consider this natural and exploratory attraction as one of Columbus’s best.

Some standout exhibits within this stunning attraction include “Blooms and Butterflies” and “Harvest Blooms.” Don’t forget to visit the Paul Busse Garden Railway while you’re there! This is a miniature train that frequently appears around some of its themed areas. The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2. North Market

A go-to Columbus attraction, this unique farmer’s market is extremely popular, high-quality, and large. The North Market has been a highly recommended tourist attraction for over 150 years and consists of a well-rounded selection of shopping interests. Whether you’re a foodie or are simply interested in a bit of people-watching, the North Market has got it all!

Explore scrumptious, fresh produce, or check out some of the vendors selling miscellaneous homemade products. Some specific items may include handcrafted jewelry, various arts and crafts, and desserts like kettle corn. Considering all of these choices, it’s no wonder why this market hosts some of the best artisanal food vendors in the country.

Another great element about the North Market is its convenient location. It’s walking distance from some of the city’s most popular spots, making it an easy visit if you’re finding something to do. Found on Spruce Street and open seven days a week, it’s a great attraction for food or mingling with other community members.

3. ZipZone Canopy Tours

If you’re an adrenaline junkie or are looking for a more active adventure, look no further than Columbus’s ZipZone Canopy Tours! Whether you’ve never gone ziplining in your life or live for the thrill of free falling, you’re bound to have a fantastic time at this attraction.

Another great element of ZipZone is its ability to put you at the heart of some of Ohio’s most beautiful natural wonders. This adventure attraction offers a wide range of activities, including zip lining, rappelling, and rope courses. More specifically, they provide up to 60 different challenges for thrill seekers, along with a kids park for families.

If safety is of any concern, you can rest assured that the staff is highly trained and experienced at what they do here. Plus, they’ll give you an experience that you’ll never forget! If you’re a person or family that loves these sorts of activities while also being in nature, check out their guided multi-zipline tour that takes you over a lush Ohio forest!

4. Ohio Stadium and Ohio State University

Otherwise known as “The House the Harley Built” or “The Horseshoe,” Columbus’s Ohio stadium is truly one of the most iconic landmarks of the city. What it lacks in an NFL team is more than made up with its university football experience. As one of the largest football stadiums in the entire country, this place holds a threshold of 100,000 people.

If you’re more into the academic side of Ohio State University, you should definitely check out its beautiful campus. Founded in 1870, It’s one of the largest in the nation and can be a great stop if you have any family members entering their young adult years. Some notable alumni include Jesse Owens, R.L. Stine, and senator Sherrod Brown.

Feel free to explore its multiple majors, educational opportunities, and prospective student/visitor activities. Try to schedule a tour before coming to the university to check out the campus in its entirety. Better yet, make a day out of it by touring the campus and attending a game at Ohio Stadium at the same time!

5. Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

Otherwise referred to as COSI, the Center of Science and Industry is a great place to visit if you’re traveling as a family. Entertainment and education have coincided at this attraction since 1964. It’s a very hands-on blend between a museum and a research center, making it great for people interested in an interactive activity.

Scaling at 30,000 feet, COSI includes a dinosaur gallery, a planetarium, and its trademark Big Science Park. People interested in science will literally feel like a kid in a candy shop when exploring its interesting exhibits. Some other fun activities include racing cars and laser shows!

It should also be mentioned that the COSI has twice claimed the renowned title of America’s #1 Science Museum by USA Today. Don’t wait to embrace your inner child by visiting the COSI! This attraction is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday. Just keep in mind that its visiting hours change to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

6. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Spending time at a local zoo and aquarium is a classic way to spend a vacation. If you’re an animal lover, visiting the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is an absolute must! This place is home to more than 100,000 animals from around the world and is only a 20-mile drive from downtown Columbus.

What makes this particular zoo unique is Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village, a hands-on habitat where visitors can get a closer glimpse into the lives of certain animals. The zoo has about 500 diverse species of animals living within its acreage and includes six themed areas, the largest of which is called the “Heart of Africa.”

Even so, animals aren’t the only appealing aspect of this attraction. There’s a 10,000-acre “wilds” conservation center and a water park called Zoombezi Bay. If you’re traveling with your family, the zoo also features an 18-hole safari golf course. With a wide range of activities to choose from, it’s no wonder that this zoo has become a Columbus staple!

7. Columbus Museum of Art

Art lovers will be pleased to learn that Columbus is also home to some of the finest art collections in the world, and many of these can be found at the Columbus Museum of Art. Plus, if the artwork alone doesn’t impress you, the facility’s architecture most certainly will! The museum’s design very much complements its artistic contents.

The museum’s history dates back to 1878, with a permanent collection that’s continually improving and expanding. Like many other art museums, the facility also features temporary traveling exhibitions that appeal to a variety of craft lovers. Some previously held exhibitions included the works of Van Gogh, queer art, and women’s photography. 

The museum also makes sure to include works from up-and-coming local artists and houses permanent artwork from Rodin and Evan Gruzis. Whether you’re an artist yourself or enjoy learning about other artists, the Columbus Museum of Art is a fantastic attraction! Its doors are open from Tuesdays to Sundays, and admission is free on Sundays.

8. Scioto Mile

The renowned Scioto Mile has become a tourist and local favorite Columbus attraction. Consisting of 175 acres worth of natural wonders within the heart of downtown, outdoor enthusiasts will greatly appreciate what the Scioto Mile has to offer! Better yet, as suggested by its name, it runs along the iconic Scioto river.

Being that it’s an entire outdoor portion of the city, there’s no single activity within the Scioto Mile. This makes it a great spot if you’re traveling with an indecisive family or can’t figure out what sort of outdoor activities you’re looking for. There are outdoor water fountains, sculptures, and climbing walls along the stretch, just to name a few.

If you come to the Scioto Mile at the right time, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of an outdoor music performance. Otherwise, you can simply walk along its well-paved trail and take in the urban beauty surrounding the Scioto Mile. If you’re also interested in visiting the COSI, you can do two activities in one day since the museum resides along this stretch.

9. Columbus Clippers at Huntington Park

If you’d like to visit the sports scene of Columbus but aren’t as interested in football, check out Huntington Park instead! This is home to the Columbus Clippers, the local and beloved minor league baseball team. Even if you’re simply there to spend time with family or get involved in all of Columbus’s activities, you’ll appreciate the park’s design.

Huntington Park has become renowned for its unique seating arrangements, including an area where families can gather on the lawn. Simply put, Huntington Park keeps up America’s traditional pastime while providing a family-friendly atmosphere. Plus, being that these aren’t the major leagues, this is one of Columbus, Ohio’s events that are particularly affordable.

10. Easton Town Center

If you’re looking for another shopping experience, the Easton Town Center will surely fulfill your purchasing needs! This local attraction has been a trendy place to visit since its inception in 1999. Charmingly nicknamed the “Rodeo Drive of the Midwest” by locals, this shopping center was purposely designed to look like an old-fashioned town.

The Easton Town Center houses around 300 shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. Some specific examples include Abercrombie and Fitch along with Barnes and Noble. Needless to say, if you love to shop, this Columbus location is a must-visit!

Ready to Plan Your Trip to Columbus, Ohio?

If you’re planning a trip to Columbus, you want to make sure the traveling process is as seamless as possible. Consider using off-site airport parking offered by The Parking Spot. Make a reservation before heading to the airport and travel worry-free!

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