Columbus is the most populous city in the Midwest state of Ohio. It’s also the most populous city in the United States. It’s home to more than 880,000 people and is obsessed with sports. The city slogan is ‘The Heart of it All,’ which reflects the fact that 50% of the entire population of the US lives within a 500 miles radius. This means there’s a ton of people coming in and out of the city, resulting in a huge amount of things to do in Columbus, Ohio and surrounding areas.
If you’re considering spending a few days in the city, or just looking for things to do in Ohio this weekend, let us take you on a quick tour of the top things to do in Columbus, Ohio on your visit.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
One of the best things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids is to take them out for the day to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In addition to the visiting a massive range of land and sea creatures, it also has also a 22-acre water park (Zoombezi) and an 18-hole Safari golf course. Visitors who like all things slimy and scaly will be in their element here as there’s a whole lot of spineless slithering afoot. We assume at some point there was a fire sale on really dangerous looking snakes and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium bought up a TON. They’ve got Madagascar Tree Boas, Macklot’s Python, Massasauga Rattlesnakes, Northern Copperheads, Black Rat Snakes, Blood Pythons (do NOT sound friendly) and the odd Burmese Python chucked in for good measure.
In better news, lovers of more gentle, fluffy and even cute creatures, there are also penguins, porcupines, turtles, koalas and the cuddliest looking polar bears. If you’re on the lookout for fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio, there’s also a great calendar of events throughout the year.
Tickets required, available online or at the box office, $11.99 to $60.99
Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
Franklin Park Conservatory is a horticultural and educational institution showcasing exotic plants. The Conservatory holds around 4,000 plants and flowers under the cover of an enormous greenhouse. The Botanical Gardens is set over 88 acres of Franklin Park and has a dizzying array of species. Aside from the gardens, Franklin Park has a plethora of art within its boundaries. Two of the main highlights are the Grand Hallway, which includes the beautiful NavStar, and the breathtaking collection of glass artwork by Dale Chihuly. The works, with more than 3,000 pieces of glass, and worth around $7 million, is exclusive to the site. Franklin Park Conservatory is the only botanical gardens in the world to own such a collection. If we’re talking about very cool things to do in Columbus, Ohio, it has to be high on the list.
Tickets required, online or at the entrance, $12-$19
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art is situated in the downtown area and focuses on European and American contemporary and modern art. It also houses photography, glass, and folk art. Although the museum was founded back in the day, it underwent a huge restoration and expansion project, which was only completed at the end of 2015. The permanent collections include Expressionist, Modernist, and Impressionist art, while it’s also the home of the largest collection of works by four prominent Columbus born artists. The home-grown art is not to be missed, but also check out the incredible work by Normal Rockwell, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $9-$18. Free on Sundays.
Settled in the 19th century by German immigrants, entering into this pretty neighborhood is like stepping back in time. German Village is just south of downtown and has been on the National Register of Historical Places since 1974. It’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for free things to do in Columbus, Ohio. The neighborhood has some fantastic German businesses, including Schmidt’s Fudge, Katzinger’s Deli and Schmidt’s Sausage Haus (yes, please). These businesses have been trading in German Town for more than 120 years. 120 years of fudge. It’s almost too good to be true.
There’s also a good range of high-quality restaurants and cafes, with many achievements obtained over the years. There’s been an award for best casual dining, best patio restaurant, best burgers, best wings, and best desserts. The only decision you have to make is which one to try first. German Town isn’t all foodie joints, though. There’s also the world’s largest producer of stained glass and some awesome breweries. You may never leave. Or at least when you do leave, you’ll be drunk and full of fudge.
COSI (Center of Science and Industry)
COSI (Center of Science and Industry, to give it its full title) is a science center that focuses very much on providing an uber-cool hands-on experience for visitors. This is one of the best things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids that they will really thank you for. Even teenagers. The exhibition areas are split into various themes with over 300 fully interactive exhibits. As well as all the fun science stuff, COSI operates the largest outreach education program of any science museum in the US. If there aren’t more rocket scientists from Columbus, Ohio in the next few years, something is very wrong. Anyway, some of the highlights for the little ones (and the bigger ones) are the Dinosaur Gallery because obviously, and the Gadgets Gallery, also because obviously. There’s no greater feeling in life than being able to pull random levers and push red buttons while completely safe in the knowledge you can’t inadvertently take out North Korea.
Tickets required, available online or at the ticket office, $12-$40
Welcome to the Gates of Hell. No, seriously, they are actually in Columbus, Ohio. We realize that sounds completely terrifying, but if we told you the Gates of Hell are located just behind a Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop; would it make it less creepy? We thought so. They’re in this location because everyone needs a caffeine fix and a Timbit before they enter Hell. The so-called Gates of Hell is actually the entrance to a dark and dingy drainage tunnel under North High Street that someone painted a huge set of jaws on. It’s not actually that scary IRL but it certainly does constitute offbeat. It’s also a great free thing to do in Columbus, Ohio.
And from the Gates of Hell, you can head straight to the Arms of Steel (not actually what it’s called) and visit the statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger. If that’s not a fun thing to do in Columbus, Ohio, we honestly don’t know what is. Arnie is much loved and had a long relationship with the city during his bodybuilding days. Columbus thinks he’s so cool, and they have an annual bodybuilding and fitness competition called the Arnold Classic. Betcha didn’t know that. Anyway, strike a pose next to the bronze muscle-bag and see how much it puts you off going for pie afterward. Visiting Arnie is also one of the many free things to do in Columbus, Ohio. Result!
Frequently Asked by Travelers About Columbus, Ohio
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about things to do in Columbus, Ohio. The questions cover a range of topics and will help you research and plan your next trip to the city.
What is there to do in Columbus, Ohio in the winter?
Winters can be pretty cold in the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a whole host of things to do in Columbus, Ohio in the freezy season. In fact, some would argue that winter is the best time to visit because of all the skating, sledding and skiing that goes on. Many of the public parks offer winter sports and activities and, anyone who knows about how seriously Americans take Christmas, will be bowled over with the twinkling lights and holiday festivals. Winter time is a great time to find extra special things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids.
What is Columbus, Ohio famous for?
Columbus, Ohio has quite a few claims to fame and a great deal to be proud of. The city has the best parks system in the United States, with 16 spread over an area of 24,000 acres. It’s also famous as the destination of the world’s first ever cargo flight. This took place in 1910 when a pilot employed by The Wright Brothers made the 72-mile trip from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio. In case you’re wondering, the cargo being transported was silk. You’ll sleep better now you know that.
What are things to do in Columbus, Ohio when it rains?
Rain isn’t uncommon in the Midwest, so there are plenty of fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio when the weather isn’t cooperating as it should be. If you’re a sports fan (and you’ll be in very good company in Columbus, Ohio if you are), grab tickets to see a Blue Jackets NHL game at the Nationwide Arena. Watching the high-speed action on the ice is an exciting thing to do in Columbus, Ohio and you’ll be dry and out of the rain. You might be cold because of the ice, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If men with huge sticks and no teeth don’t sound like your kind of thing, you could check out some of the city’s great museums.
Columbus, Ohio doesn’t always immediately stand out as a mecca for visitors, but this is part of its charm. As it flies a little under the radar in comparison to more famous cities, it tends to have a more laid-back and friendly approach to tourists. One of the great things about it is the range of free things to do in Columbus, Ohio, which is an excellent attribute for such a massive city. It quickly becomes a favorite destination of people who’ve visited before and, as the city is continually changing, there’s always something new to experience. The only problem with finding things to do in Columbus, Ohio is managing to fit them all in during your visit.