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There are so many exciting and fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio – I should know, I’m a native! I loved growing up in Columbus and I still enjoy visiting the city as an adult.
Best described as a big city with a small-town feel, Columbus truly appeals to a wide range of audiences. The city boasts top attractions, incredible arts and scrumptious eats. Columbus locals are friendly; they are passionate about sports (Go Bucks!) and are quick to strike up a conversation.
Columbus has come a long way from its Cowtown days, and it is no longer a flyover city. A fantastic destination for families, couples, friends and even solo travelers, we are highlighting the top things to do in Columbus!
Things To Do in Columbus, Ohio FAQs
Before we dive into what to do in Columbus, let’s cover a few of the most commonly asked questions.
Where is Columbus, Ohio?
Columbus, the capital of Ohio, is located smack in the middle of the midwestern state. Downtown Columbus is situated along the Scioto River and intercity neighborhoods and suburbs sprawl out in all directions. Our list features the top downtown Columbus things to do, as well as some of the best activities in Franklin County and the greater metropolitan area.
How To Get To Columbus?
Cbus is easy to reach by car or plane. Major highways intersect in Columbus, making it easy to travel to the capital city by car.
There are two airports in Columbus providing passenger flights: John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) and Columbus Rickenbacker Airport (LCK).
John Glenn Columbus Airport is the bigger of the two with nonstop flights from most major US cities, including Washington DC, Phoenix, Denver, Vegas, and NYC – plus it is only 7 miles from downtown. Before booking plane tickets, read our tips for getting the Best Deals on Flights.
Staying overnight? We share the best places to stay in Columbus at the end of the article!
Do I Need a Car to See Columbus Sights?
It depends. A car is not necessary for sightseeing in downtown Columbus and the districts that surround it. However, visitors who want to see more of the area – like the Columbus Zoo – will want a car.
Visitors who fly to Columbus but decide not to get a car can book transportation from the airport in advance.
What is Columbus Known For?
There are many cool things in Columbus, Ohio that the city is known for! The Ohio State Buckeyes, a world-famous zoo, the performing arts and an amazing culinary scene top the list.
Additionally, Columbus is known for its friendly people, beautiful parks and golf courses.
What is the Columbus History?
The city of Columbus was founded in the year 1812 at the confluence of the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers. Named for explorer Christopher Columbus, it is not clear why city planners chose the name, as there is no direct connection to him or his discoveries. In 1816, Columbus became the state capital of Ohio.
Are There Things To Do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio?
Absolutely! Columbus is a very family-friendly city. While our article is not specifically geared toward family fun, our list includes many things to do in Columbus with kids.
Are There Free Things To Do in Columbus?
Yep! It’s possible to have some fun in Columbus without spending a cent. On our list, we highlight both free (or cheap) things to do in Columbus as well as ticketed Cbus activities.
What Is There To Do in Columbus, Ohio for Fun?
As the 14th largest city in the United States, there is no shortage of entertainment in Columbus! Whether you are planning fun dates in Columbus or are seeking out Columbus attractions for families, we include the best ideas in our list!
67 Best Things To Do in Columbus, Ohio
We are detailing the best things to see in Columbus to help you plan your perfect outing. Because there are so many fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio, we have separated our list into several categories.
At the end of the list, you will find a helpful Columbus map and other pertinent information for travelers – like where to stay and what to pack.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Columbus blog post so that you can access it for your trip to Ohio!
Top Things To Do: Columbus, OH
We are kicking off our list with fun activities in Columbus, Ohio that are in the heart of downtown and the immediate vicinity. If you are staying in the Columbus city center, these sights can be reached on foot or with a short Uber ride.
#1 Walk the Scioto Mile
Walking the Scioto Mile is one of the best outdoor activities in Columbus, Ohio! The 175-acre urban green space is lined with pedestrian paths that are perfect for an afternoon stroll or morning jog.
The Scioto Mile plays host to some of the best city festivals and events (more about those in a minute!), but we like it for the dazzling Columbus skyline views. Spending time in the city center park is one of the best free things to do in Columbus, Ohio!
#2 Discover Science at COSI
Hands down, one of the best things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids is to spend a day at the Center of Science and Industry – or COSI.
The interactive science center provides hands-on experiences that are engaging, entertaining and educational. Top COSI exhibits are the dinosaur gallery, rat basketball (it’s a thing!) and the Electrostatic Generator Show (a favorite since I was young!)
By the way, COSI isn’t only for kids; it’s one of the fun things to do in downtown Columbus, Ohio for adults, too!
#3 Smell the Flowers at Franklin Park Conservatory
A top attraction in Columbus, Ohio, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are a must-see! The meticulously manicured garden and greenhouse host an exceptional variety of plants and art in an enchanting atmosphere.
In addition to the impressive horticulture, many events and special exhibits are hosted at the Franklin Park Botanical Gardens.
A favorite exhibition is the Paul Busse Garden Railway, which features scale model trains and more than 1,000 feet of tracks.
#4 Learn about Columbus on a Scavenger Hunt
Columbus is dotted with historic sites, landmarks and hidden gems – and you can learn about them on a Scavenger Hunt!
One of the fun things to do in Columbus for couples, families and groups of friends, this Scavenger Hunt utilizes an app so that participants can answer the questions and solve the challenges at a comfortable pace.
#5 Gallery Hop through the Short North Arts District
A celebration of the artistic side of the city, the Short North Gallery Hop is one of the most popular Columbus activities!
Taking place on the first Saturday of each month, the Gallery Hop is centered around the galleries and exhibition spaces located within the Short North Arts District along High Street. The festivities – an ongoing event since the 1980s – are highlighted by special events and food vendors.
If your Columbus trip does not coincide with the monthly event, there are still plenty of reasons to visit the Short North! Shop at boutique stores, dine at delicious restaurants, and visit the art galleries (sadly the popular Sherrie Gallerie has closed).
Visitors can also check out the weekly events for classes, workshops, tastings and tours.
#6 See THE Ohio State University Campus
Established in 1870 as an agricultural and mechanical college, The Ohio State University has evolved into one of the top public universities in the United States. Home to the Buckeyes, it ranks as the 3rd-largest university in the USA, and visiting the expansive OSU campus is one of the cool things to do in Columbus, Ohio.
Highlights of a campus visit are Ohio Stadium, Mirror Lake, Thompson Library, The Oval, Orton Hall and Ohio Union. Visitors can take this free Self-Guided OSU Tour for an introduction to the campus.
#7 Wander Around German Village
A historic neighborhood south of downtown, picturesque German Village welcomes visitors to wander down the brick streets and tree-lined lanes. In fact, wandering through German Village is one of the best things to do in Columbus, Ohio!
In the 1800s, the land was settled by German immigrants, who brought their style, crafts and names to the neighborhood. For many years, the area flourished, but after a period of decline, it was nearly destroyed. Thankfully, homes were saved and restored – and in 1974, the district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, German Village boasts a large collection of renovated historic homes and long-running restaurants.
German Village Things To Do
The surviving architecture and pretty streets are top things to see in German Village – so setting off on a stroll is highly recommended.
Other top things to do in German Village are going to The Book Loft (a 32-room bookshop), spending time in Schiller Park (you’ll learn more about the park at #31 on our list) and sampling the fare (we talk about some of the best restaurants in German Village in more detail later).
#8 Step Back in Time at The Kelton House and Gardens
One of the fun places to go in Columbus, Ohio, where it feels like you are stepping back in time, is the Kelton House Museum.
Designed in the Greek Revival and Italianate styles, the house was built in 1852 and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The house stands today as a treasured landmark in the city.
Visitors can tour the home, which is decorated in period pieces – many of which were owned by the Kelton family.
#9 Tour the Ohio Statehouse on Capitol Square
The ornate, columned Ohio Statehouse is the seat of government – including the House of Representatives, Senate and the Governor’s office. Built in the mid-1800s, it is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Visiting Capitol Square and touring the Ohio Statehouse is one of the top things to do in Downtown Columbus – and it’s free!
#10 Kayak the Scioto River
Kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are two Columbus, Ohio activities that visitors can do right in the city center.
Windrose Outdoor rents kayaks and SUPs on the Scioto River in downtown Cbus. Paddlers can enjoy the city skyline view from the unique vantage point on the water.
#11 Visit the National Veterans Memorial Museum
A thought-provoking and poignant tribute to the men and women who have served in the US military, visiting the United States’ National Veterans Memorial should be on every Columbus to-do list.
The museum’s exhibits detail personal veterans’ stories, promote remembrance and aim to “honor, inspire, connect and educate.”
The building itself is a modern architectural gem – and the grassy rooftop shouldn’t be missed!
#12 Seek Out Art and Sculptures
If you are looking for free entertainment in Columbus, Ohio, then look no further than the city’s awesome collection of public artworks.
Street art murals brighten building exteriors, statues stand in city parks and paintings are displayed inside public buildings. Some of our favorite sculptures are the Scioto Deer (there are three of them!), the Gavel and the Arnold Schwarzenegger Statue – which are all located downtown.
The Short North, however, is the best place to find street art in Columbus. See what you can discover on your own – or seek out specific displays using the helpful map from Columbus Makes Art.
#13 Lace Up Your Shoes for a Columbus Walking Tour
One of the best things to do for free in Columbus, Ohio is to put on your walking shoes and discover the city on a self-guided tour!
Columbus Art Walks provide the perfect introduction to the best neighborhoods. Featuring public art, architecture and historic sites, each walk comes with a downloadable map and sight information. Find out more about the Art Walks!
#14 Take Pictures at Topiary Park
Unique and even a little quirky, going to the Topiary Park is one of the more interesting outdoor activities in Columbus, Ohio.
The park’s shrubbery is sculpted into life-size figures from Georges Seurat’s famous 1884 painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
The Topiary Park is ideal for a picnic or a lazy afternoon in the shade from some 200 trees. Additionally, the park is also one of the top things to do in Columbus, Ohio for free!
#15 Ride Through Downtown Cbus on Two Wheels
Recent urban revitalization has made Columbus more bike-friendly than ever! Designated bicycle lanes on city streets and miles of riverside paths make Columbus ideal for exploring on two wheels.
Visitors can partake in one of the affordable scooter and bike sharing programs in central Cbus for an inexpensive rental – it’s one of the fun things to do in downtown Columbus!
#16 Play in the Fountains at Bicentennial Park
Splashing around in the summertime Scioto Mile Fountain at Bicentennial Park is one of the best things to do with kids in Columbus! (It’s pretty great for adults on hot and humid summer days, too!)
The spectacular splash park is comprised of more than 1,000 water jets and is centered around a beautiful fountain that sprays water 75 feet into the air. At night, the fountain is illuminated in lights and surrounded in fog, making for fun photo opportunities!
#17 Explore Greenlawn Cemetery
A cemetery might not be the first thing that comes to mind for Columbus, Ohio entertainment, but the Greenlawn Cemetery is an exceptional outdoor space and an integral part of the city history.
Established in the 1840s, the burial grounds at Greenlawn Cemetery were designed to be a lush park with winding paths and artistic monuments. Some of Columbus, Ohio’s most famous residents are buried at Greenlawn.
#18 Go on a Columbus Ghost Hunt
For fun stuff to do in Columbus, dive deep into the city’s spooky past on a ghost tour!
Columbus ghost tours take participants through cemeteries and to haunted alcoves. Let a guide lead the way or hunt for ghosts using a downloadable tour.
#19 Stop to Smell the Roses at the Columbus Park of Roses
Need some ideas for romantic things to do in Columbus, OH? Go on an afternoon date to smell the flowers at the gorgeous Park of Roses.
Hosting more than 12,000 rose species, the expansive and exquisitely planned garden consists of a Formal Rose Garden and a Heritage Rose Garden – as well as fountain, gazebo and several smaller gardens, too.
Best of all, it is one of the FREE fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio!
#20 Delve into the Past at the Ohio History Center and Ohio Village
Housing an incredible assortment of Ohio artifacts, the Ohio History Center is one of the best museums in Columbus.
From the giant mastodon (which has been delightfully greeting kids to the museum for decades) to the excellent exhibit of Ohio athletes, visitors will learn the history of Ohio while being thoroughly entertained.
Want to have some more fun in Columbus, Ohio? The adjoining Ohio Village is not to be missed; it’s one of the top Columbus kids’ activities! An 1890s replica town, visitors get to interact with ‘villagers’ as they go about their work and lives. A memorable and fun way to learn Ohio history, the Ohio Village is always a big hit!
#21 Discover Columbus Neighborhoods
Fun and funky neighborhoods surround downtown Columbus – like Clintonville, Bexley and Grandview. Discovering the diverse districts is one of the fun things to do in Columbus, OH.
In Clintonville, which is north of downtown, shop at the Farmer’s Market and vintage shops, walk the Walhalla Ravine, feast on authentic Mediterranean food at Lavash Café, and for dessert, eat Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie at Dough Mama’s.
Bexley, an upscale neighborhood, is east of the city center. Visitors can enjoy strolling the beautiful tree-lined streets, find the Reflections fountains at Capital University and spend a leisurely afternoon at the Jeffrey Mansion Park (one of the cool Columbus attractions).
Grandview Heights is full of flavor – and it’s just west of downtown. The neighborhood attracts young professionals and the top things to do in Grandview are shopping, eating and drinking (both coffee and craft beer!). Go to Agave and Rye for innovative tacos and then get cookies for dessert from local Lion Cub’s Cookies.
#22 Watch Birds at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center
A riverside park just south of downtown, the Audubon Center is a haven for nature lovers and bird nerds (like us!).
Visitors can explore the many trails, check out a pair of binoculars for bird viewing or partake in one of the kid-friendly activities.
#23 Pour Your Own Candle
Looking for things to do in Columbus, Ohio for couples? Pop into Penn and Beech and pour your own candle. Guests are invited to pick their own fragrance, create a custom scent and then use it to make your own exclusive jar candle.
Not only is pouring your own candle one of the fun Columbus activities for date night, but it’s also fun for girls’ weekend, mom-and-daughter days and birthdays.
#24 Geek Out on Rocks and Minerals at Orton Geological Museum
The Orton Geological Museum on the Ohio State University campus is one of the Columbus points of interest for fans of fossils, rocks and minerals.
Although rather small, the museum is packed with intriguing fossil displays and interesting rock exhibits. Plus, it does not cost to enter – making it another one of the fun free things to do in Columbus, OH.
Visitors can find the museum on the south side of The Oval – just look for the Orton Hall bell tower (or listen for the University Chimes!).
#25 Find Furnishings at Columbus Architectural Salvage
Fun for fans of antiques, Columbus Architectural Salvage features an array of recovered historical home furnishings. As they continually replenish the supply with vintage wares, there is always something new to find in the shop.
Whether you are seeking specific hardware for a renovation project or just love to admire artifacts saved from the landfill, it’s a fantastic place to visit!
#26 Get Fired Up at the Central Ohio Fire Museum
Housed in the brick No. 16 Engine House that was built in 1908, the small Central Ohio Fire Museum is fun place to go in Columbus, Ohio to spend a few hours.
Guests can join a guided tour led by a retired firefighter to learn about the history of firefighting, see fire fighting artifacts and kids can even slide down an old Columbus fire station pole.
#27 Swing by the Jack Nicklaus Museum
Famous golfer, Jack Nicklaus, is a Columbus native – and the Jack Nicklaus Museum is dedicated to his accomplishments and the sport of golf.
Located at The Ohio State University Sports Complex, the museum houses a massive collection of golf memorabilia. Exhibits trace the Golden Bear’s golf career from his childhood to his place in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Visiting the museum for a couple of hours is one of the fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio for golf fans.
Arts in Columbus, Ohio: What To Do
Both theaters and museums are fun places in Columbus, Ohio to enjoy the arts – and Cbus has plenty of them!
#28 See a Show at the Famous Ohio Theater
Seeing a show at the Ohio Theater should definitely be on your Things To Do Downtown Columbus list!
The stunningly beautiful theater was built in 1928 as a movie theater – and it survives today as the prominent place to watch performing arts.
Home to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Summer Movie Series and Broadway in Columbus, there is always something happening at the Ohio Theater.
And remember, if you are looking for things to do in Columbus during the day, check the matinee schedule!
#29 Catch Live Entertainment at the Shadowbox Theater
When it comes to fun things in Columbus, Ohio it doesn’t get much better than the live entertainment at Shadowbox Theater.
Providing a modern theater experience (complete with food and drinks), Shadowbox Live focuses on high-energy entertainment that is often edgy (and sometimes bawdy). The comedy sketches will leave you in stitches and the fabulous rock-and-roll performances will have you dancing in your seat.
If you happen to be in Columbus at Christmastime, attending a Shadowbox Live Holiday Show is one of the best things to do in Columbus in the winter!
#30 Attend a Performance at the Southern Theatre
Ranking as the oldest theater in Central Ohio, the Southern Theater opened in 1896 and some of the most celebrated actors have graced its stage.
Today, Southern Theatre is home to Opera Columbus, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Camber Music Columbus and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. Plus – it’s still a great place to watch a play!
#31 Watch a Shakespeare Play at Schiller Park
Schiller Park in German Village is so much more than just a park for picnicking and enjoying the outdoors. It is also an outdoor theater – and watching a play at the park is one of the unique things to do in Columbus, Ohio.
During the summer months, The Actors Theater of Columbus puts on amazing performances at Schiller Park. The troupe acts out 3-4 different plays every summer, with at least one being a Shakespearian play. The open-air venue is inviting and casual; guests bring their own blankets, snacks and drinks. It is one of my favorite free things to do in Columbus, OH (but donations are appreciated).
#32 View Art at the Columbus Museum of Art
Established in 1878 as the first art museum in Ohio, the Columbus Museum of Art has a long history of entertaining Columbus residents and visitors with artistic works. Visiting the museum today still ranks high on lists of the Top Things To Do: Columbus, OH.
The historic CMA Ross Building (which was built in 1931) houses a permanent collection and rotating exhibits that span all categories of art.
Tickets are required to enter the museum – except on Sundays when it is free of charge. If you are looking for fun, free things to do in Columbus, Ohio, visiting the Columbus Museum of Art on a Sunday should make your list!
#33 Experience Modern Art at Wexner Center for the Arts
A modern art complex that is part of The Ohio State University, the Wexner Center for the Arts is one of the cool places in Columbus, Ohio to spend an afternoon.
The building’s interesting design is what first captures visitors’ attention – but the exhibits are equally (if not more) enthralling. The center houses a theater, which screens classic films and recent documentaries – and everything in between. Additionally, the complex features a stage for performing arts and gallery space that hosts a variety of exhibitions.
#34 Watch an Independent Film at the Drexel Theatre
The art deco Drexel Theater opened in 1937 and watching a film at The Drexel today still ranks as one of the best things to do in Columbus, OH.
A destination for cinema lovers, the theater specializes in independent films and international movies – but also shows Hollywood flicks. An evening at The Drexel is both entertaining and iconic.
#35 Read the Funnies at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library
Housing the world’s largest collection of cartoons and comics, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at OSU is simply one of the fun places in Columbus to visit.
Dedicated to preserving American cartoon history, top features of the small museum are comic strips, comic books and editorial cartoons. Visitors learn about the evolution of cartoons and their significance in popular culture.
As a bonus, visiting the OSU cartoon library is one of the things to do in Columbus for free!
Sporting events are some of the top fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids, couples or a group of friends. A sports-loving city, Columbus teams have a strong following of fanatic fans – so join in and cheer on the hometown team!
#36 Attend a Buckeye Football Game at The Shoe
New York has the Yankees. Chicago has the Bulls. Louisville has the Kentucky Derby. And Columbus has the Buckeyes. The entire city bleeds scarlet and gray – and when you hear someone shout, “O-H!” – it is expected that you will respond with a resounding “I-O!”
Ohio State Football is the city’s most loved sport. Without a doubt, one of the cool things to do in Columbus is to watch The Ohio State Buckeyes in action at Ohio Stadium. The stadium, nicknamed The Horseshoe or just The Shoe, is the 5th largest stadium in the world, with seats for nearly 103,000 people. (Yet, scoring tickets to a game is no easy feat!)
Autumn Saturdays are dominated by the game; tailgates start early and fans celebrate (or commiserate) long after the game is over. Attending an OSU football game is truly a Columbus experience.
#37 Cheer on the Columbus Blue Jackets
In the wintertime, Columbus sports fans shift their focus to the NHL Blue Jackets hockey team. One of the favorite Columbus indoor activities is cheering on the fast-paced hockey action of the CBJ.
The Jackets play at Nationwide Arena in Downtown Columbus – which is part of the larger Arena District, an entertainment hub inclusive of parks, plazas, restaurants and bars.
#38 Root, Root, Root for the Columbus Clippers
One of the best things to do in Downtown Columbus, Ohio on summer evenings is to root for the Columbus Clippers. The Minor League Baseball AAA team (affiliated with the Cleveland Indians) plays at the modern Huntington Park.
Ohio has strong ties to baseball and Columbus has been home to a minor league baseball team since the early 1900s.
Clippers games are highlighted by fun promotions – like Dime A Dog Night and Thirsty Thursdays!
#39 Be a Part of the Columbus Crew
The MLS Columbus Crew has a very strong fan base…and being a part of it is one of the fun things in Columbus to do!
The soccer season extends from early spring into the autumn – so there are plenty of chances to see the Crew play.
In 2020, the Crew secured the championship MLS Cup, and in 2021 they moved into the brand-new Lower.com Field with a capacity for 20,000 fans.
#40 Become a Fan of Ohio Roller Derby
If you are looking for fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio at night, go to a fast-paced, full-contact roller derby game. The Ohio Roller Derby Team has been competing since 2005 and is part of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.
The exciting bouts – which are thrilling but can be a little confusing for first timers – are evening events that take place at the Ohio Expo Center.
#41 Participate in Fun Columbus, Ohio Events
Festivals and events are some of the best activities in Columbus – and the city hosts heaps of them! Columbus festivals take place in various locations and there are events running throughout the year.
Columbus Art Festival
A highly acclaimed art fair, the Columbus Arts Festival invites artists from across the country to display and sell their artwork in an outdoor setting during a summer weekend. The event is accompanied by fabulous food, musical concerts and on-stage performances.
Red White and Boom (and Doo Dah Parade)
A Columbus tradition, Red, White and Boom is a celebration of country, community and civic pride. The annual 4th of July event, which is typically held on July 3, is marked by a spectacular fireworks display, music and food.
The always entertaining Doo Dah Parade is another Independence Day event that ranks high on the list of Fun things To Do Columbus, Ohio. Unlike many Fourth of July parades that feature the school’s marching band, community floats and business leaders waving from convertibles, the Doh Dah Parade is comedic and pokes a little bit of fun at…everything.
The Community Festival – or Com Fest – is a volunteer-run event that takes place at Goodale Park on the last weekend in June. The street fair has a hippie vibe and community spirit.
Ranking as the 2nd-largest LGBTQ festival in the Midwest, Columbus Pride attracts 500,000 participants. The first Columbus Pride parade took place in 1981 – and today the parade features bands, floats and balloons.
Ohio State Fair
A classic Midwestern fair complete with cotton candy, games and rides, the Ohio State Fair also hosts concerts and livestock competitions. Traditions – like the Butter Cow and Potbelly Pig racing – shouldn’t be missed!
Columbus Food Truck Festival
A fabulous festival of food, drink, music and crafts, the Cbus Food Truck Fest is an annual August event that boasts more than 50 food trucks from the region for two days of feasting.
The Memorial PGA golf tournament is played at the prestigious Jack Nicklaus Muirfield Village Golf Club in the Columbus suburb of Dublin. Large crowds gather around the gorgeous grounds to cheer on their favorite player, typically starting in late May (the weekend after Memorial Day).
Originating in 1989 as a bodybuilding competition, the Arnold Classic has grown into an amazing sports festival. Founded and named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, the event now features a fitness expo and a full schedule of contests.
A six-acre park surrounded by skyscrapers, the Columbus Commons hosts more than 200 free community events throughout the year. Concerts, fitness classes, sports, family events and Picnic with the Pops are all fun Columbus activities that take place on the Commons.
Columbus Food and Drink
Columbus is a foodie city! This fact is evidenced by the ample restaurants dishing out classic Midwestern food, international fare and modern creative cuisine.
#42 Savor a Sausage a Schmidt’s
If you had to pick just one restaurant to include on your Things to Do Columbus, Ohio list, it should be Schmidt’s!
A Columbus landmark, Schmidt’s Sausage Haus is a family-run establishment located in German Village. The eatery was featured on the popular TV show, Man v. Food. Known for delectable dishes, like the original Bahama Mama smoked sausage and unbelievably good cream puffs, Schmidt’s is incredibly satisfying.
To top it all off, the spirited atmosphere at Schmidt’s restaurant is enhanced with live Oompah German music.
#43 Eat Jeni’s Ice Cream
One of the fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio for kids and adults is to get a scoop (or two!) of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. A pioneer in the artisan ice cream trend, Jeni’s uses whole ingredients to create unique flavor combinations.
Top Tip: Try the Skillet Cinnamon Roll or Goat Cheese with Red Cherries!
#44 Taste Your Way through the North Market
A public market with roots that extend back to 1876, the North Market is one of the cool places in Columbus to sample some amazing food.
The downtown Columbus market features more than 30 independently owned vendors selling produce, meats, specialty foods and prepared meals.
With a range of options – like Pho at Lan Viet, pierogies at Hubert’s Polish Kitchen and Nashville-style fried chicken at Hot Chicken Takeover – there is something for everyone.
On Saturday mornings in the summer and autumn, the North Market Farmers Market takes place outside of the market, featuring more vendors, live music and events.
In fact, it’s become so popular that a second North Market location is now open in the Bridge Park entertainment district in Dublin, OH.
#45 Embark on the Columbus Coffee Trail
Coffeehouses are fun places to go in Columbus to get your daily dose of caffeine – and there are several cool Cbus cafes to chose from!
Local favorite, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, has been in business since 1988 (and now has multiple locations). Fox in the Snow (where patrons go as much for the pastries as the coffee), The Roosevelt Coffeehouse (which strongly supports social justice) and Kafe Kerouac (a coffeehouse, bar and record/bookshop) are other top coffeeshops in Columbus.
Coffee lovers will love that there is a Coffee Trail in Columbus, where you can earn rewards just for drinking your cup o’ Joe!
#46 Drink Local at Columbus Craft Breweries
The Coffee Trail will get you going in the morning, but the Columbus Ale Trail is the perfect way to kick off the evening!
Columbus is home to more than 50 craft breweries – and drinking the locally-produced beers is one of the fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio for adults.
Columbus has a long history of brewing beer that traces back to the influx of Germans and the original development of the Brewery District in mid-1800s. While a only a few brewers currently have operation in the historic district, craft breweries dot the Columbus landscape – from downtown to the suburbs.
Choose one or two Columbus breweries to visit – or get a group of friends (and an Uber!) to brewery hop your way to them all! With the free Columbus Ale Trail passport (pick one up at your first brewery), it is easy to route your way to the best beer in Cbus!
#47 Sip and Savor Columbus Wine
Whether you are looking for cool places to go in Columbus, Ohio or romantic things to do in Columbus, add sipping local wine to your list!
Unlike the Columbus beer scene that is bursting at the seams, Columbus wineries are still a bit of a secret. However, just because they are not yet well- known, does not detract from the quality, taste and experience.
Wyandotte Winery has been producing wine in a residential neighborhood since 1977 – making it the first winemaker in Columbus – and it’s open for tastings and tours.
#48 Sample Spirits from the Best Columbus Distilleries
Sampling an array of fine local spirits is one of the top things to do in Columbus, Ohio for adults. High Bank Distillery Co and The Watershed are two downtown Columbus distilleries that are fun to visit.
At High Bank, visitors can join a tour with a tasting or learn to blend their own custom whiskey.
The Watershed Distillery, which has been creating award-winning spirits since 2010, take visitors on a journey of the process in a behind-the-scenes tour.
Columbus visitors can also head off on the Columbus Distillery Trail – a mobile guide to the top distilleries in Columbus, OH.
Metropolitan Columbus Attractions
Some attractions in Columbus are located in suburbs and neighboring towns. We are detailing some of the absolute best things to do in Central Ohio outside of the Columbus downtown core.
#49 Have a Wild Time at the Columbus Zoo
Going to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of the fun things to do with kids in Columbus, Ohio.
Hailed as one of the best zoos in the USA and known worldwide, the zoo in Columbus houses more than 10,000 animals. Featuring natural looking habitats and placing a strong emphasis on conservation, the zoo is an amazing environment to see and learn about wildlife.
If you’re visiting Columbus in the winter, the Zoo Lights are a major attraction to add to your vacation plans!
The Zoo is located in Powell, near the city of Dublin, which is about 20 miles north of downtown Cbus.
Looking for things to do around the Columbus Zoo? Nearby Hayden Falls Park and the Field of Corn are two fun spots – use our list of Fun Things To Do in Dublin, Ohio to plan your time!
#50 Plunge into a Pool at Zoombezi Bay
Spending a day at Zoombezi Bay waterpark is one of the best things to do near Columbus, Ohio on a hot summer day!
Part of the Cbus Zoo, Zoombezi Bay features tons of fun water features – like a wave pool, gigantic waterslides, water coasters and an adult-only lazy river and bar.
#51 Take a Columbus Hike
One of the fun activities in Columbus is hiking – and there are miles and miles of super hiking trails at the numerous Columbus Metro Parks.
That said, the parks are not just limited to hiking; there are all types of fun Columbus outdoor activities – like biking, fishing, picnicking and even looking for American Bison.
Top Tip: Read our advice for what to see and do in our article, Best Parks for Columbus Hikes.
#52 Ride the Rails at the Ohio Railway Museum
A bit of a hidden gem, the Ohio Railway Museum is a one of the fun places in Columbus, Ohio for train enthusiasts and families.
Located north of Columbus in the Worthington suburb, the museum features locomotives, streetcars, interurbans and heaps of historic train artifacts. With a mission of providing an up-close train experience, visitors are permitted to not only walk up to the trains – but to ride one, too!
Visitors truly get a real train experience at the Ohio Railway Museum.
#53 Look into the Past at Slate Run Historical Farm
The Slate Run Living Historical Farm is one of the top things to do in Columbus with kids.
Located at the Slate Run Metro Park south of the city, the Living Historical Farm is a place where visitors can experience Ohio farm life – as it was in the late 1800s. Guests can interact with traditional farm animals, talk to costumed staff and tour a restored 1856 farmhouse.
#54 Place a Bet at Scioto Downs
A horserace track and casino, betting at Scioto Downs is one of the entertaining things to do in Columbus at night (but it is open to guests 24/7/365).
In addition to horse racing, table games and slot machines, Scioto Downs features live musical performances and multiple eateries.
#55 Go Underground at the Olentangy Indian Caverns
One of the best things to do near Columbus is to go underground!
Millions of years ago, water eroded the limestone rock, leaving behind hollowed caverns. Today, the Olentangy Caverns can be toured and explored.
Walk through the Echo Chamber – once used by Native Americas – and see Stalactites hanging from the ceiling in the Crystal Room.
In addition to the underground tour, visitors can also mine for gems, go on a treasure hunt through a maze, visit the animals at the petting zoo or play a round of miniature golf.
#56 Step into the Otherworld
A surreal fantasyland, Otherworld is a state-of-the-art, interactive museum where guests are immersed in a fascinating experience.
Secret tunnels, a hallway of mirrors, unique lighting and scented rooms encourage visitors to experience art on a completely different level. Participants solve puzzles along the way – and there are plenty of spaces to just sit back and enjoy!
#57 Go Go-Karting at Buckeye Raceway
A hub of thrilling action, Buckeye Raceway is one of the best places to go in Columbus for go-karting. The electric, indoor go-kart track at Buckeye Raceway allows guests to experience the absolute thrill of racing go-karts.
In addition to karting, visitors can play laser tag, try axe throwing, or play a round of Footbowl (a mash up of football and bowling). Spending a day at Columbus Raceway is one of the fun and crazy things to do in Columbus.
#58 Try your Luck at the Hollywood Casino Columbus
The Vegas-style Hollywood Casino is a top attraction in Columbus, Ohio for entertainment and nightlife. The gaming action in the casino is inclusive of more than 2,000 slots and 70 table games and a poker room.
Players can take a break from betting to eat at one of the on-site restaurants (there is a steakhouse and a buffet) or listen to live music on one of the stages.
#59 Pick Apples in the Autumn
We love Columbus in the autumn! The temperatures drop, the leaves start to change color and the apples are ripe.
Picking apples at one of the area orchards is one of the best Columbus fall activities. The You-Pick-It farms are fun activities for families, couples and friends.
Many orchards enhance the experience with hayrides, homemade goodies and live music.
#60 Sunbathe at a Columbus Beach
Yes, you read that correctly! If you are wondering what to do in Columbus, Ohio on hot summer days, head north to the Alum Creek State Park beach.
The 3,000-foot-long sandy shoreline of the Alum Creek Reservoir is the perfect spot to cool down with a swim or soak in the sunshine. (Just don’t forget your sunscreen!)
In addition to swimming and sunbathing, visitors can also go hiking, fishing or boating.
#61 Behold the Collection at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum
Get an up close look at the massive collection of historic motorcycles at the fantastic Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. From rare finds to modern marvels, the collection of bikes is impressive.
The history and informative exhibits are interesting even for visitors who don’t own or ride motorcycles.
#62 Find Out How Buckeyes are Made
Another one of the kid-friendly things to do in Columbus, Ohio is to tour the Anthony Thomas Chocolate Factory.
A gourmet chocolatier, Anthony Thomas was founded in Columbus in 1952. The company specializes in Buckeye candies – a delicious peanut butter and chocolate treat.
Tour participants find out how the tasty morsels are made and watch production lines. With tours only costing $2 for adults and $1 for children, an Anthony Thomas factory tour ranks as one of the cheap things to do in Columbus, Ohio!
#63 Take a Factory Tour at the American Whistle Corp
One of the lesser-known things to do around Columbus, touring the American Whistle Corporation factory is actually very interesting.
The Columbus company has been in business since 1956 and is the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the USA.
Tour groups learn about the manufacturing process – from raw materials to packaged product.
#64 Zip through a Canopy of Trees
Zip lining is one of the adventurous things to do in Columbus, Ohio for kids, families and friends! ZipZone Tours operate at Camp Mary Orton, which is located about 15 miles north of downtown.
ZipZone Canopy Tours offer action-packed adventures – from zip line tours to challenge courses – for visitors of all ages.
#65 Piece it Together at Legoland Discovery Center
Yet another one of the fun things to do with kids in Columbus, Legoland Discover Center is a phenomenal indoor playground with heaps of attractions.
The Columbus Legoland features a 4D theater and fun rides – plus the opportunity to play, test and build.
Buy your tickets in advance so that when you arrive, you can get right to the fun!
#66 Shop, Dine and Be Entertained at Easton Town Center
Designed to resemble a small town with an aim to evoke a nostalgic experience, Easton Town Center is an open-air mall – and shopping there is one of the fun things to do near Columbus, Ohio.
The urban retail center features top brands, major retailers and unique shops. Sprinkled in are top restaurants and fun bars. Additionally, Easton hosts community events – like free concerts, summer movies and outdoor fitness classes.
#67 Go Shopping at Polaris Fashion Place
Another premier shopping destination, Polaris Fashion Place is one of the places to go near Columbus, Ohio for retail therapy, stellar dining experiences and entertaining events.
There are more than 170 retailers at the Polaris Mall. However, we like it best for the area dining and entertainment – like the free summer concert series.
Map of Columbus Things To Do
Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive map highlighted with the fun activities to do in Columbus, Ohio.
Planning a Trip to Columbus, Ohio
We have outlined the Best Things To Do Columbus, Ohio – but there is more to planning a Columbus trip! Below we share tips on where to stay and what to pack.
As you make plans and reservations, it’s important to stay on top of all the details! Use our Printable Travel Planner to keep track of your travel plans.
Where To Stay in Columbus
We think the best place to stay in Columbus, Ohio is in the heart of downtown Cbus. From the city center, it is easy to access the top attractions and sights.
Typically, we prefer to stay in Airbnb Apartments when we travel. However, for just a couple of days or a long weekend, we think a full-service hotel is the ideal accommodation.
Columbus, Ohio Hotels
There are several hotels in Columbus, OH located in downtown that fit a range of budgets and styles. Before you book, be sure to read our Top Tips for Booking Hotels!
A boutique hotel in the heart of the city, Hotel LeVeque provides luxury accommodations in an iconic 1927 skyscraper. Sophisticated and charming, Hotel LeVeque features well-appointed rooms and exemplary staff to ensure a magical stay. Check rates and availability for your stay!
Westin Great Southern Columbus
Housed in a historic brick building, Westin Great Southern is well-located to top sights and attractions in the city. The hotel offers modern conveniences and exceptional comfort. Check rates now!
A contemporary hotel in the hip Short North, Moxy is right in the middle of Columbus nightlife. Artistically decorated, the chic hotel might have small rooms, but the on-site bar is fabulous! See if a room is available for your trip!
DogHouse Hotel and Brewery (by BrewDog)
The beer-themed DogHouse Brewery Hotel is a unique place to stay (but, unfortunately, it is not close to the city center). Each room has beer taps and guests can visit the on-site, interactive craft beer museum.
What You Will Need for your Columbus Trip
We have just a few final tips for your trip to Columbus, specifically: What to bring! You can find all of our packing tips – like a world travel packing list and packing hacks – on our Packing blog page. Need a Packing Checklist? Get your FREE Packing Checklist here!
So many of the coolest things to do in Columbus, Ohio require walking. Even if you plan on spending long days at the Columbus art museum, you will want to wear comfy shoes.
Rather than using your phone, upgrade to a real travel camera to capture the fabulous sights of Columbus.
As a Midwestern city, Columbus has hot, humid summers and long, cold winters. You will want to make sure you are prepared for the weather during your trip.
In the summertime, be sure to pack sunscreen and maybe even a wide-brimmed travel hat. Don’t forget your swimsuit in case you decide to go to Zoombezi Bay, splash in the Scioto Mile Fountain or try Stand Up Paddleboarding on the river.
During the winter, you will want to bundle up with a coat, hat and gloves. It is also a good idea to layer your clothes – as some indoor places, like bars and restaurants, can be warm in the winter.
We Want To Know: What are your favorite things to do in Columbus, Ohio? Do you have any tips for things or kids to do in Columbus or any other ideas for Columbus, Ohio free things to do? Share your best tips and advice in the comments below!
More USA Travel Tips
More Ohio Activities
Columbus isn’t the only destination to visit in Ohio. In fact, there are an impressive number of Things to do in Ohio!
If you are heading south to Cincy, use our guide to the Best Things To Do in Cincinnati. While there, take a walk into Kentucky to visit Newport and Covington (and don’t miss out on the super Covington Foodie Scene!).
Trips to Eastern United States
West Coast Road Trips
We love taking road trips – especially in the US west.
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