The Ultimate Guide to the Best Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio for Families

Columbus is a vibrant city that’s perfect for families. There are so many amazing things to do here that will keep you and your loved ones entertained and engaged. From parks and zoos to museums and art galleries, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the best things to do in Columbus, Ohio, that will make your trip truly unforgettable.

What’s The Buzz About Columbus, OH?

Columbus is not just Ohio’s capital but also its largest city, offering a unique blend of urban vibrancy and family-friendly charm. It’s steeped in history and culture, with numerous historical sites, iconic landmarks, and diverse neighborhoods each lending their unique character to the city. Its culinary scene is a food lover’s delight, featuring everything from gourmet dining to food trucks, representing a variety of global cuisines.

When it comes to shopping, Columbus offers an eclectic mix, from high-end boutiques to local artisans. With its welcoming atmosphere, friendly people, and a plethora of activities, Columbus indeed provides a memorable experience for families.

Without further ado, here are some of the best things to do in Columbus, OH.

The Best Things to do in Columbus, OH For Families

1. Visit Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

When it comes to the top things to do in Columbus, Ohio, the Zoo and Aquarium are at the top of the list. The Columbus Zoo is one of the best in the country and provides fun for the entire family. With over 10,000 animals from all over the world, you’ll have an unforgettable experience here. You can also opt for an overnight stay at the zoo, which is a unique and exciting way to experience the animals up close.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is not just a place to see animals. It’s a place of conservation, education, and recreation. The zoo is divided into several regions, including the African Savanna, Asia Quest, and North America, to name a few. Each region is carefully crafted to mimic the natural habitats of the animals. Kids will love the Heart of Africa exhibit where they can feed giraffes. The zoo also houses the 100,000-square-foot Adventure Cove, where visitors can interact with sea lions and seals. Moreover, the zoo’s Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village offers the opportunity to meet some animals up close and personal. Remember to check out the zoo’s event calendar as they host a variety of seasonal events, making every visit a unique experience.

2. Explore the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Another gem in Columbus, Ohio, is the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. This oasis of nature in the heart of the city is home to more than 400 plant species, including a rare collection of Himalayan orchids. The conservatory also houses a beautiful butterfly garden where you can witness hundreds of exotic, free-flying butterflies. Not to be missed is the stunning outdoor light installation, which illuminates the garden in a multitude of colors after sunset. The conservatory provides educational programs and workshops for visitors of all ages, making it a perfect destination for those who love plants, nature, and art.

Do not overlook the Palm House in the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. This historic Victorian-style greenhouse, built in 1895, is an architectural masterpiece and a national treasure. The Palm House is home to more than 40 species of palms from around the world, which create a lush and tropical environment within the structure. In addition to the plant collection, the Palm House hosts a variety of art exhibitions throughout the year, fusing the beauty of nature and human creativity into a harmonious display. An integral part of the conservatory, the Palm House offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city, transporting visitors into a world of nature, culture, and history. The venue is also available for special events, providing a unique backdrop for weddings, corporate gatherings, and private parties.

3. Spend a day at Ohio History Center

Ohio History Center is a paradise for history buffs. This amazing museum features extensive exhibits and collections that bring Ohio’s rich history to life. The center has a vast array of artifacts, from small household items to military equipment. You and your family can enjoy interactive exhibits, documentaries, and educational programs. The Ohio Village, a preserved 19th-century village, is also a must-see attraction.

Another highlight of the Ohio History Center is the Archives/Library. Here, visitors can delve into the heart of Ohio’s past through an impressive collection of historical documents, manuscripts, and photographs. The museum also houses a research room where visitors can explore microfilm, maps, and other resources. Additionally, the Ohio History Center is home to a state-of-the-art theatre, where they frequently host lectures, films, and performances related to the state’s history. The museum goes beyond static exhibits, aiming to create a dynamic and engaging experience that sparks curiosity and fosters a deeper understanding of Ohio’s past.

4. Go Hiking in Highbanks Metro Park

If you’re looking to spend some time outdoors, Highbanks Metro Park is the perfect spot. This park, situated along the east bank of the Olentangy River, offers stunning views on its hiking trails. You’ll get a chance to experience the beauty of Columbus’s nature, forests, and wildlife. A day here will leave you and your family feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.

Highbanks Metro Park covers an impressive 1,200 acres, providing ample space to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. A notable feature of the park is its majestic 100-foot-high shale bluff, which towers over the river and lends the park its name. Along the park’s trails, you can discover a variety of plant and animal species, including deer, foxes, and over a hundred different types of birds. The park also hosts a variety of educational programs throughout the year, aimed at both children and adults, to increase awareness and appreciation of the natural environment. For the more adventurous, the park offers options for cross-country skiing during winter months, and canoeing opportunities on the river. This park is truly a versatile destination, offering year-round activities for all ages.

5. Have Fun at COSI

COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, is not just a museum but a dynamic hub of exploration and discovery. It spans across a 320,000 square-foot facility, promising a full day of fun and learning. The museum features several themed areas, including Gadgets Café where you can explore the world of technology, Energy Explorers that focuses on the different sources of energy, and Life which introduces the wonders of the human body. Additionally, the Planetarium and Giant Screen Theater offer immersive experiences, showcasing breathtaking films and astronomical presentations. For younger visitors, there’s a dedicated Little KidSpace, designed specifically for children under the age of six. Offering a wealth of experiences that stir up curiosity and foster a love for science, COSI truly proves to be an unforgettable destination for every age group.

6. Explore The Kelton House Museum and Garden

Stepping into the Kelton House is like stepping back in time. Furnished as it was in the 19th century, it provides a glimpse into Victorian life and the daily routines of the Kelton family. The house also displays a collection of precious antiques and artifacts, which further narrate the family’s history and their commitment to social justice. The surrounding gardens are meticulously maintained and bloom with seasonal flora, offering a tranquil oasis in the city. The Kelton House Museum and Garden is not just a landmark but a testament to the city’s rich history and the pivotal role one family played in shaping it.

7. Be in awe at The National Veterans Memorial and Museum

This museum is a must-visit when in Columbus, Ohio. The National Veterans Memorial and Museum has a range of exhibits that honor the sacrifices of veterans, including interactive exhibits that allow visitors to explore the stories of servicemen and women.

This museum is not only a tribute to the countless men and women who have served in the military but also a compelling storytelling platform. Visitors can explore personal artifacts, letters, and multimedia presentations, providing an intimate understanding of the experiences of veterans. The museum structure itself is an architectural marvel, featuring a spiraling processional that symbolically leads visitors on a shared journey of service and sacrifice. The 2.5-acre Memorial Grove outside the museum offers a quiet, serene space for reflection. With its awe-inspiring exhibits and stories of courage, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum is a truly enriching experience for all ages.

What Have We Learned?

Columbus, Ohio, has no limitation for family fun and is the perfect vacation spot to explore with kids. From zoos and aquariums, museums, to parks, and hiking trails, Columbus has it all, including an exciting history and a vibrant culture. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities or indoor learning experiences, Columbus has everything that you need to make your family vacation both fun and educational.

Terrain Trends is your go-to source for information on all things destinations. Be sure to check out our list of other top destinations in Ohio for when you plan your journey here!