fun things to do in Columbus

The beating heart of the Midwest and a wildly underrated travel destination, Columbus dishes up a concoction of culture, sport, art, and entertainment to suit every style of traveler.

Home to some of the nation’s most revered museums, wildlife-abundant parks that span acres and acres of lush greenery, and a food and drink scene that even coastal cities envy (there’s an entire ‘Brewery District’, need we say more?), there’s no shortage of exciting and fun things to do in Columbus.

Throw in spooky-themed waterparks, a handful of Mother Nature’s best work, and an eclectic cast of yearly festivals, and you’re left with one truly unforgettable state capital.

So, if you’re looking for the most unique experiences to plan out for your trip to Discovery City, look no further. What are you waiting for? Start planning!

1 – Kickstart your trip with a day at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Columbus Zoo

Home to more than 10,000 furry and friendly animals of all colors, shapes and sizes, the sprawling Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, about 20 miles drive north of downtown, has been delighting visitors of all ages for years.

Besides housing over 500 diverse species across six themed areas (don’t miss the lions in the largest region, Heart of Africa), the Zoo has recently shot to stardom thanks to Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village, a unique hands-on habitat where curious visitors can get up close and personal with the four-legged residents.

Throw in the 10,000-acre  “Wilds” conservation center, plus the thrilling Zoombezi Bay water park (ideal for sizzling summer days) and lush 18-hole Safari Golf Course sitting right next door and it’s no wonder why this place has become an Ohio tourism staple.

2 – Grab a snack at North Market Farmer’s Market

North Market Farmer’s Market, Columbus

A staple Columbus attraction that’s been serving up quirky and authentic foods, crafts, and energy for nearly 150 years; North Market is the go-to spot to get your daily dose of shopping, eating and good old-fashioned people-watching.

Open seven days a week up on Spruce St, just around the corner from Goodale Park and walking distance from the city’s main haunts, the Market is transformed into a bustling hub of activity that’s not only filled with some of central Ohio’s best artisanal food vendors but also scores of active shoppers circling around to get their hands on one-of-a-kind trinkets.

3 – Step into a fantasy sci-fi universe at Otherworld

Otherworld, Columbus

Part art exhibition, part virtual reality universe, and part interactive playground, Otherworld is the psychedelic, bizarre brainchild of over 40 artists. Their goal? To create a new, immersive reality where guests — both kids and adults alike — are free to roam around and get lost in the many worlds.

Spread across some 32,000 square feet, Otherworld features well over 40 different installations and rooms, each designed to transport you into new dimensions: Kids can get lost in magical coloring books, adventurers can crawl into a giant fuzzy monster’s mouth, and a whole lot more!

4 – Stroll around the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Columbus

Home to thousands of plant species in a relaxing, open-aired space, the massive Franklin Park Conservatory is an outdoor oasis that’s just as much about exploring as it is about relaxation.

With flowers, greenery and even Dale Chihuly glasswork lining the pathways, and plenty of interactive workshops and activities in store, this sprawling space is easily one of the best outdoor things to do in Columbus.

Don’t miss the children’s garden (fun for ALL ages) and The Paul Busse Garden Railway, a whimsical miniature train that whips through the areas themed around the Wild West, Europe and Fairytales!

5 – Learn a thing or two at COSI (Center of Science and Industry)

COSI, Columbus

A great family-friendly day out, COSI is a hands-on science museum cross research center that’s been entertaining and educating the masses since 1964.

Spread over 300,000 square feet in downtown Columbus — just south of The Scioto Mile — this unique venue features hundreds of interactive exhibits you can touch and play with. From racing cars to laser shows, there’s something for everyone here!

Still need convincing? COSI has TWICE claimed the coveted award of America’s #1 Science Museum as rated by USA Today’s 10Best column.

6 – Break out of an escape room before time runs out!

Escape rooms Columbus Ohio

Any budding detectives out there? Why not try escaping?

A new craze that’s swept the nation, escape rooms task groups with solving a series of clues and puzzles to get out of the room before time runs out! Whether you’re trying to bust your way into an impenetrable bank vault, break out of prison, or successfully solve a murder mystery, you’ll need wit, out-of-the-box thinking and teamwork to crack the code!

With games typically only lasting an hour, and multiple locations spread around the city, it’s an easy addition on any rainy day.

7 – Explore the famous Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile in Columbus

A truly beautiful urban oasis, hope to a popular riverwalk, plenty of parklands, and a string of activities, the Scioto Mile is a much-loved space that’s been transformed from a collection of outdated low-head dams into one of central Ohio’s most popular attractions.

Stretching all the way from the buzzing Arena District to the postcard-worthy Whittier Peninsula, the Mile is scattered with monuments and sculptures as well as beautiful fountains and waterways.

Not sure where to start? Bicentennial Park hosts free concerts on summer weekends; you’ll find both the COSI and artsy Franklinton museum, and there’s both the Scioto Trail and the 13-mile Olentangy Trail for those looking to stretch their legs and burn a few calories!

8 – Wet your whistle on a brewery tour (in the Brewery District, perhaps?)

beer tasting in Columbus

One for the thirsty travelers, Columbus certainly isn’t shy when it comes to beer! Although it might not be as well known as its East Coast or West Coast counterparts, Columbus’s microbrewery scene has been steadily growing over the years — with over a dozen operating within city limits.

So, if you’re a beer fan who knows their hops from their malts (or just someone looking to explore this burgeoning industry), take your taste buds on a tour, get behind the scenes and try some of the most ahh-worthy brews around the aptly-named Brewery District.

On dedicated tours, not only will you get your fill of local beers, but you’ll also get a sneak peek into the boiler room and learn how your favorite drinks get made too!

Looking to explore solo? Any of the Rockmill Tavern, Endeavor Brewing, North High Brewing, or Barley’s Brewing Company are a great spot to start.

9 – Immerse yourself in the colors and smells of the Columbus Park of Roses

Columbus Park of Roses

Sitting within the much larger Whetstone Park, with over 350 types of roses (over 11,000 in total!) and a host of wildlife, the Columbus Park of Roses is one of central Ohio’s most beautiful spots.

From around May to September every year, this picturesque park fills with thousands upon thousands of blooming, colorful flowers — making it an absolute must-see for any visitor! Not only can you stop to smell the roses (not literally), but you can also get involved with a whole host of activities.

In addition to regular tours, there’s the annual Spring Rose Show that takes place over Mother’s Day weekend which is one of Ohio’s most esteemed rose shows. If you’re feeling more active, why not try your hand at some local crafts?

10 – Admire the collection at the Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Museum of Art

Art lovers, listen up! While this may be news to many, Columbus has some of the finest collections around — and one stop you won’t want to miss is the Columbus Museum of Art.

Home to an impressive permanent collection that’s been expanding and improving since its remarkable inception way back in 1878, as well as traveling exhibitions from all over the world (past exhibits have focused on the likes of Van Gogh, women’s photography, queer art, and a whole lot more), it’s easy to spend hours exploring what this space has on offer!

Don’t forget to stop into the cafe a gift shop on the way out for a quirky souvenir or two — and visit on Sunday for free admission.

11 – Shop till you drop at the Easton Town Center

Easton Town Center, Columbus

Dubbed ‘Rodeo Drive of the Midwest’ and deliberately made to look like its own miniature early-to-mid 20th-century American town, the Easton Town Center is a shopping mecca that’s also home to a range of dining and entertainment options.

With close to 300 shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs — from Ikea to the Cheesecake Factory and everything in between — as well as the AMC movie theater complex — you’ll be maxing out the credit card in no time!

12 – Step into a painting at the Topiary Garden

Topiary Garden, Columbus

A small yet unique green space, the Topiary Garden isn’t your typical park (although it makes for a great picnic spot regardless); with a range of sculptures on display, the Columbus park depicts the scene from a famous post-Impressionist painting: ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ by artist Georges Seurat (a painting which itself took two years to create).

Spread throughout the grounds you’ll find expertly manicured hedges, showcasing 54 different people fishing and walking, as well as a host of boats and animals — a truly magical fusion of art and nature.

13 – Catch a football game at Ohio Stadium

Ohio Stadium, Columbus

Whether you’re a university student, alumni — or just an Ohio State or football fan in general — there’s no denying that this is one of the most iconic universities and college stadiums in America.

When packed to the rafters for a Buckeyes game, the roar is unlike anything else (with crowd sizes often regularly eclipsing that of NFL games) and the tradition and pageantry of the whole experience is truly something to behold!

Hot tip: arrive early and join in on the tailgate action!

14 – Watch the hockey at Nationwide Arena

Nationwide Arena, Columbus

Home to the coveted Columbus Blue Jackets, this hockey arena is a vibrant and dynamic space that’s been hosting NHL games since 2000.

With the capacity to hold 20,000 screaming fans for hockey games — as well as everything from Disney on Ice performances to concerts or traveling musicians like Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews Band, or Queen Bey herself (Beyoncé) — there really is something for everyone at Nationwide Arena!

Looking to get behind the scenes and check out the locker rooms? Consider a guided stadium tour!

15 – Transport yourself to Europe in the German Village

German Village, Columbus

A historic district with German origins and a 200-year backstory, the charming and romantic streets of this neighborhood will feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard!

With quaint coffee shops, European restaurants (like Schmidt’s Sausage Haus), as well as bars galore — including its very own Hofbrauhaus Columbus — there are plenty of wunderbar places to stop for a bite to eat or drink. And after you’ve stuffed yourself silly, consider kicking your feet up with a good piece of fiction from the uber-popular Book Loft.

16 – See who’s performing at the Ohio Theater

Ohio Theater, Columbus

Sitting over on State Street in Capitol Square, a stone’s throw from the old Ohio Statehouse, the National Historic Landmark that is the Ohio Theater is a 1920s-era performance palace, boasting some of the most extravagant and ornate architecture in all of Columbus.

What’s more impressive than this architectural wonderland? The fact that you can step inside to catch a film or take part in one of its regular hot-shot performances: choose from classical music orchestras to modern dance ensembles, annual festivities, and traveling pop stars — simply check the website to see who’s gracing the center stage during your trip!

17 – Soak in some nature at the Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Metro Gardens, Columbus

A hidden urban oasis just 15 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Columbus, the greenscaped Inniswood Metro Gardens is a 122-acre space dedicated to beautiful flora and fauna — part botanical garden, part nature preserve.

Whether you’re looking for some restorative meditation or just want an easy way to get out into nature during your stay (without battling too much city traffic), swing on by for some 2,000 species of plants and plenty of friendly woodland wildlife.

Best of all? It’s open seven days a week, free of charge!

18 – Get building at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus

A perfect family outing for young and old, this 30,000 square-foot center located in Easton Town Center is a must — although not to be confused with the outdoor LEGOLAND theme parks.

Boasting a replica of Columbus made from over 1.5 million LEGO bricks, plus a 4D theater as well as countless play areas where kids can use their imagination, there’s truly no better way to spend a rainy afternoon with your little ones!

While you’re there, don’t forget to hit the LEGO Cafe for a bite to eat — and be sure to check out the LEGO store for some one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

19 – Step back in time at the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum

Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum in Columbus

Any petrolheads out there? Then make sure to stop by this little slice of automotive heaven in the Schumacher Place neighborhood, right next to the German Village.

With dozens of immaculate vintage cars on display — focusing largely on 1920s and 1930s models like Packards Dual-Cowls and limos — as well as a uniques collection of license plates and memorabilia and an owner (Steve) who’s as passionate as any motor enthusiast out there, this affordable museum is considered one of the more underrated things to do in Columbus!

Speaking of affordable, if you’re budget-conscious and searching for a place to stay that won’t break the bank then Hotel LeVeque, the Best Western Premier Mariemont Inn, and The Grand Resort offer great value.

Directions in Google Maps

20 – Cool off at the Zoombezi Bay water park

Zoombezi Bay water park, Columbus
credit to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

A quirky mix of refreshing water park and zombie-tastic haunted theme park, Zoombez is the ideal spot for horror movie fans and thrillseekers (especially on sizzling summer days).

Right next to the revered Columbus Zoo, the spooktastic Zoombezi Bay Water Park offers four haunted houses, two dedicated scare zones, a hair-raising Sea Dragon roller coaster, and non-water rides that are sure to give you a good scare!

Arguably the best part, however, is that Zoombezi serves up Insta-worthy food and drink options sure to light up any social media feed — we’re talking things like jello shots in a 60cc syringe!

21 – Explore the incredible Ohio Caverns

Ohio Caverns, Columbus

Nature lovers, listen up: Ohio is home to over 400 crystal-filled caves and caverns, yet still, thanks to their sheer size and popularity, the tourist-focused Ohio Caverns in the Salem Township just may be the highlight of your trip.

Open year-round and privately run as a family business, the attraction offers educational tours that explore the dimly lit caverns, admire the dangling crystal formations, and typically last around an hour with photography more than welcome.

Recognized as “America’s most colorful caverns,” this wonder of nature takes the cake if you’re looking to put on your explorer hat for the day!

22 – Learn a thing or two at the Ohio History Center

Ohio History Center, Columbus

Calling all history buffs! Take a trip back in time at the Ohio History Center and experience whiffs of the past.

If you’re visiting with family, the center offers full interactive days with a range of exhibits. Want to dive deep into your family tree? You can head up to the archives and access a plethora of genealogy and print resources and learn about your roots!

23 – Join in the festivities at the Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons

A relaxing park space that doubles as a meeting point and event beacon, the Columbus Commons is dotted with gardens, dishes up a gorgeous Pavilion, and boasts a picturesque grand lawn ideal for an afternoon picnic.

Sitting smack-bang in the middle of the city, the Commons attracts flocks of tourists to its carousel and rotating event roster (over 250 events annually!) — so be sure to check the calendar to see what’s on during your trip.

On that note: speaking of prime location, if you’re hotel hunting, the Hyatt Regency and the downtown Hilton are located just a short walk away from a plethora of attractions and restaurants!

24 – Step inside the Kelton House Museum and Garden

The Kelton House Museum, Columbus
credit to The Kelton House Museum & Garden

Feel a sense of nostalgia towards the Victorian Era? Then make a beeline for the Kelton House, one of Ohio’s cornerstone landmarks. Regularly found on postcards, the Kelton House was part of the Underground Railroad and is distinguished by its impressive elements of Greek and Italianate styles.

Hot tip: to make the most out of your visit, book an educational tour to learn more about the intricacies and history behind the House!

25 – Wander around the Ohio Statehouse

Ohio Statehouse, Columbus

Towering above the streets with its foreboding facade, the Ohio Statehouse is a must-see for architecture lovers.

Built to echo ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, the Statehouse sports columns resembling the Parthenon in Athens, and an 1860s-era dome that sticks out like a sore thumb amid a relatively modern skyline.

Keen to learn more about politics, not just admire the building? Then why not take a walk-in guided tour? Escorted tours operate every day of the week, available either solo or as a group.

26 – Sit front row for a show at the Palace Theater

Palace Theater, Columbus

For a night on the town, nothing beats an evening at the Palace Theater.

Conveniently located downtown, tucked away on Broad Street at the bottom of the LeVeque-Lincoln Tower, this restored red and gold-lined theater boasts first-class entertainment, nearly 3000 seats, and events that range from touring rock bands to family shows to Broadway-style musicals and ballets.

27 – Cheer on the Clippers at Huntington Park

Huntington Park, Columbus

Sports fanatics, get your game face on!

Home to the beloved Columbus Clippers baseball team — the minor league’s representative of the Cleveland Indians — and situated in the gorgeous Arena District in downtown Columbus, sprawling Huntington Park offers an electric atmosphere, plenty of on-site food and ice-cold drinks (read: thirsty for beer?), and the chance to get up close with some of the next-generation baseball players!

Thanks to its minor league status, tickets are often cheaper and easier to come by compared to the MLB – so there are no excuses.

28 – Revitalize yourself at Hayden Falls Park

Hayden Falls Park, Columbus

The perfect place to get in touch with nature, Hayden Falls Park is situated on the edge of the Scioto River and offers an abundance of recreational activities.

After a long day of touring museums, you can unwind and re-energize by walking the boardwalk and admiring the whopping 35-foot waterfall, or you can bike, jog or rollerblade the seldom-crowded trails.

29 – Visit the Orton Geological Museum

Orton Geological Museum, Columbus

Geologists, listen up! With a wide range of intriguing gallery displays open on weekdays, the Orton Geological Museum is one of the key research, teaching, and outreach museums in Ohio — get ready to explore rocks, minerals, and fossils from near (Ohio) and far (not just international, but even outer space).

Found on The Oval academic campus, home to the notable bell tower, it makes for an easy back-to-back itinerary.

30 – Admire the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum

Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, Columbus

A motorcyclist’s dream when visiting Ohio, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame is home to two full floors of themed rooms, vintage motorcycles, raffle bikes, and plenty more.

In addition to the top-notch exhibits, visitors can also check out a historical archive that dives into the wonderful world of America’s motorcycle history.

The arguable highlight, however, is the full floor dedicated to honoring the lives of the Hall of Famers themselves — from Daytona 200 winners like Giacomo Agostini to iconic dirt-track racers like Leo Anthony, Sr., there’s no shortage of famous biographies on show.

31 – Lace on the runners for a jog at Highbanks Metro Park

Highbanks Metro Park, Columbus

Aptly named after its humongous 100-foot-high shale bluff which towers over the sparking Olentangy River, the locally-adored Highbanks Metro Park is one of the most underrated things to do in Columbus.

Whether you’re keen on a calorie-burning run or brisk walk in nature, this park offers 10 diverse trails to scratch any itch, ranging from easy to difficult depending on your level!

32 – Spend a day at the Short North Arts District

Short North Arts District, Columbus

Whimsically known as the ‘art and soul of Columbus’, the Short North Arts District offers a plethora of activities for art lovers and culture vultures of all ages.

With everything from the weekly Gallery Hop (held most Saturdays) to street festivals, dessert walking tours (yum), live music, and unique shopping experiences out the wazoo, there’s always some action happening at the district!

33 – Be a firefighter for a day at the Central Ohio Fire Museum

Central Ohio Fire Museum, Columbus

Founded to preserve, honor, and showcase local firefighter history, the Central Ohio Fire Museum pays tribute to Ohio firefighters’ past, present, and future.

Both educational and interactive, the museum offers a collection of motorized fire equipment so that visitors can put themselves in the shoes of firefighters and learn about their daily lives in the engine house!

34 – Roll out the picnic rug at Schiller Park

Schiller Park, Columbus

Overflowing with European-style charm, Schiller Park is a hidden gem in German Village and one of the most underrated things to do and places to visit in Columbus.

With gorgeous gardens, majestic trees for shade, and plenty of eateries in the area, it’s no wonder why locals rave about this park — especially during the summer months!

Plant-abundant with a beautiful pond and rich history, and named after the famous German poet Schiller, the park’s focal point is certainly its beautiful statue, so make sure to check it out.

35 – Pay your respects at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum

National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Columbus

Out of all American Museums, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum is the only one that honors all veterans across all branches of service and eras!

Through an eye-opening, educational, and all-out fascinating collection of stories, artifacts, and memorabilia, this memorial-museum takes you on a journey that not only explores American military history, but the daily experiences and personal recounts of people who’ve served in decades gone by — an hour or two here and you’ll quickly understand why they call it the “home of the brave!”

36 – Pamper yourself at a spa

spas in Columbus

After days of exploration and being on your feet all day (or a few too many brewskies in the Brewery District, perhaps?), relax those sore muscles and cure that headache — treat yourself to one of Ohio’s many highly-rated spas!

Spas in Ohio offer treatments to meet all of your self-care needs, including infrared sauna sessions, luxurious Swedish full-body massages, flotation therapy sessions, reflexology treatments, facials, and more!

For the best bang for your buck (up to 40% discounts) consider booking online in advance!

Speaking of luxury, if you’re after an opulent hotel experience and have a higher budget, the Ritz-Carlton and the Kimpton Schofield Hotel are classic options.

37 – Attend a concert at the Schottenstein Center

Schottenstein Center, Columbus

Whether you’re a fan of dance and music, or simply searching for an activity to do with your better half during your trip — consider attending one of the many concerts held at the Schottenstein Center.

With over 200+ events annually, there’s always something going on here! With artists such as Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and Tina Turner gracing its stage in the past (to name but a few), the Schottenstein Center is an iconic arena that has hosted notable bands for decades now, not to mention both Ohio State men’s and women’s basketball matches as well!

Simply check out the center’s event calendar before your visit to see what’s on and to lock in your seats.

38 – Go birdwatching at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center

Grange Insurance Audubon Center, Columbus

Home to acres of lush forest and shimmering lakes teeming with wildlife and birdlife of all shapes and sizes, the Grange Insurance Audubon Center is a peaceful paradise located along the Scioto River just a 15-minute walk from downtown Columbus.

With everything from walking trails to beginner birdwatching programs and scenic views of the Columbus skyline in the distance, it’s no wonder why this park has quickly become one of the most popular places to visit in Ohio!

If you’re in the mood for a nature-themed day, hit two birds with one stone (excuse the pun) by visiting the nearby Hayden Park!

39 – Drop by the Ohio Expo Center & State Fairgrounds

Ohio Expo Center & State Fairgrounds, Columbus

A focus point of the Columbus culture scene, hosting a whopping 185 events each year (or thereabouts), the Ohio Expo Center & State Fairgrounds is a hub of activity that attracts thousands each month.

Not only does this expansive complex include over 20 exhibition buildings. an outdoor amphitheater and a wide open-aired fairground that welcomes all-star events like the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, Equine Affaire, Goodguys Rod & Custom Car Show, Ohio Beef Expo and Deer & Turkey Expo, just to name a few!

40 – Explore the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park in Columbus

Spanning some 7,000 acres of lush forest, expansive prairies, and wildlife-abundant wetlands where you’ll find bison roaming around freely within enclosed pastures, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park sells itself as a wonderful place to spend a day or two out in nature!

Feel like biking around? Check. How about kayaking? Check. Hunting? Go ahead — as you’ll see, there’s no shortage of activities on offer.

41 – Experience railroading life at the Ohio Railway Museum!

Ohio Railway Museum, Columbus
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad steam locomotive

Wish you could go back in time and experience when rail travel was a part of everyday life? The Ohio Railway Museum offers a unique experience where you can get a taste of America back when rail travel was the dominant transportation system!

Besides its collection of antique and authentic rail cars, locomotives, and artifacts dating back to the 1800s; the friendly, knowledgable, and enthusiastic staff also offer a range of tours that dive into the fascinating history of how railroads shaped America into what it is today!

Oh, and don’t miss the gift shop if you’re after a unique memento.

42 – Book a table at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus

Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, Columbus

Hungry? One of the top ways to experience a new destination is through food, and if you’re after authentic Columbus fare, the family-run Schmidt’s Sausage Haus offers a mouth-watering menu that has landed the restaurant on TV time and time again.

Dishing up portions as big as your head, this revered eaterie serves a German menu full of sausage, cream puffs, alpine chicken spatzel; is known for being the go-to catering spot (did someone say schnitzel overload?), and tops it all off with rowdy live oompah music!

43 – Swing like Tarzan at ZipZone Outdoor Adventures

ZipZone Outdoor Adventures, Columbus

One of the essential things to do in Columbus for adrenaline junkies and located within easy driving access of the city’s main haunts, ZipZone provides an outdoor experience for the whole family, with a range of canopy-top zip lines and ropes courses to cater to different ages.

Throughout the parklands, you’ll find more than 60 different challenging elements for the thrillseekers to tackle, and a kids park for the youngsters too.

The main event, however, is the guided multi-zipline tour that skirts through and soars above the gorgeous Ohio treetops!

44 – Grab the popcorn for a film at the Wexner Center for the Arts

Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus

Take a seat in one of the world’s largest university art centers, Wexner Center for the Arts, and immerse yourself in an impressive range of film screenings, lectures by visiting scholars from around the country; cutting-edge dance performances, and exhibitions that have been shown far and wide!

Proudly fueled by creative expression, it’s considered one of the top things to do in Columbus for artsy people.

45 – Hear the engines roar at the National Trail Raceway

National Trail Raceway, Columbus

Attracting over 120,000 motorhead spectators at their annual signature event (the National Hot Rod Association’s drag racing Nationals) plus plenty more throughout the year, the National Trail Raceway is a one-quarter mile of motorsport Mecca.

Even if you’re not that into racing, it’s still well worth checking out the event calendar to see when vintage car meets are happening.

46 – Enjoy some fresh air at Goodale Park

Goodale Park, Columbus

Officially dubbed The Friends of Goodale Park, this delightful slice of greenery boasts the claim to fame of being Columbus’ oldest public park — in fact, at over 150 years old with historic ties to the Civil War and a collection of Victorian-era nearby homes, it’s one of the oldest in the country!

With luscious greenery and a sparkling duck-filled pond highlighted by a majestic fountain, this centrally-located park makes a great place for a morning stroll, afternoon picnic, or some wonderful family pictures.

47 – Satisfy your sweet tooth with an Anthony-Thomas chocolate tour

Anthony-Thomas chocolate tour, Columbus

There’s nothing quite like the intoxicating aroma of chocolate to get you in a holiday mood, and if it just so happens that your favorite festive treat is chock-full of pistachios and almonds, then this local tour could be one for you.

As well as getting your hands on a huge selection of chocolates and candies at the hidden gem that is the Anthony-Thomas factory, guided tours also explore the brand’s history (growing to 16 retail outlets) and explain the delicious process of how the Candy Shoppe makes over 50,000 pounds of chocolate every single day!

At just $2 per person (cheaper for kids, AND you can even use your admission fee to buy some samples at the store) it’s a no-brainer for any sweet tooth.

48 – Drift around corners in a go-kart

go-kart, Columbus

Looking to quench that need for speed? There’s a reason why the Buckeye Raceway is one of the best-known go-karting venues in Ohio – it really does offer an adrenaline rush like no other.

The challenging, indoor track means that you can race all year round, and as well as individual races they also run corporate events and team-building challenges for groups of friends looking to get competitive!

Still craving more speed? Both Scene75 and Championship Racing Performance dish up noteworthy tracks too!

49 – Turn a few pages at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum And Library

Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum And Library, Columbus
credit to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum @Facebook

Found right next to the Wexner Center on the Ohio State campus, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and Library is a wonderful place to go if you’re an aspiring cartoonist, or just want to learn more about the history of this whimsical artistic medium.

With literally millions of cartoon displays — we’re talking comic books, Sunday strips, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, and 12,000 original artworks by Milton Caniff alone — you could get lost for hours in these pages.

50 – Grab a cup or cone at Jeni’s Ice Cream

Jeni’s Ice Cream, Columbus
credit to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni’s ice cream is one of those quintessential Columbus experiences, and if you haven’t tried it yet, now’s your chance.

The locally-based company, founded by Columbus native, Jeni Britton Bauer, has expanded to numerous stores across town (and nationwide) and been delighting taste buds across the city with their delicious artisanal pints since 2002 – from classics like salted caramel to cult favorites such as Mexican Hot Chocolate, Sugar Plum, or Cognac with Gingerbread, their creative flavor combinations will have you hooked in no time.

51 – Support the Columbus Crew at Field

Columbus Crew soccer game

Looking to catch a game this summer? The locally beloved MLS’ Columbus Crew soccer team offers a wonderful day out  for any football fans, and thanks to its roar and atmosphere (if the home team’s winning, of course), it’ll be an experience you won’t forget.

The Field Stadium is one of the most iconic venues in Major League Soccer – moreover, during the offseason, it plays host to wild festivals and some of music’s biggest names (the likes of Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer, just to name a few).

52 – Kayak along the Scioto River

kayaking in Columbus

Looking for a calmer, more serene way to explore Columbus? Well, this is it.

Whether you opt to rent your own gear or join a guided tour (if you want to learn about all the attractions which float by, opt for the latter) kayaking down the Scioto river offers some incredible views without the crowds and without breaking the bank

If you’re a beginner, no need to worry! The banks are flat and gentle enough for anyone to kayak on (and there are even BBQ spots along the way should you get hungry).

53 – Zoom around the city with a segway tour

Segway tou in Columbus

Sick of walking around town? Well, thanks to the range of segway tour operators around Columbus, there’s no need — plus, you’ll get to try out the fun, futuristic machines that have become popular all over the world in recent years.

Friendly and knowledgeable tour guides will take you around downtown Columbus with ease on these innovative vehicles, and show off the best attractions that this unique city has to offer – including everything from the Ohio State University campus to the German Village and Scioto Mile, depending on your excursion of choice.

54 – Test your luck at the Scioto Downs horse racing track

Scioto Downs horse racing, Columbus

Part horse racing track, part casino chock full of slot machines and table games (from penny stakes to high-roller limits), Scioto Downs can be an exciting day out for anyone with a strong risk appetite.

If you’re feeling lucky, back your favorite horse during one of the dozens of harness races throughout the year. Or, simply rock up and soak in the atmosphere. With concessions and games galore, Scioto Downs has something for everyone.

55 – Max out the credit card at Polaris Fashion Place

Polaris Fashion Place, Columbus

Shopaholics, do yourself a favor and throw Polaris Fashion Place — the local go-to for all things high-end retail — onto your list of things to do in Columbus.

The double-story mall itself is home to over 200 stores and restaurants – including the likes of Luluemon, Disney, H&M, Apple Store, and countless others – but it also has a movie theater, an escape room, and TopGolf within striking distance!

56 – Snap a photo with the three deers along the Scioto River

three deers along the Scioto River, Columbus

A quirky art installation that’s become synonymous with the new, refreshed Scioto Mile, the Three Deers is a collection of, well, three deer statues scattered along the adored tourist route.

Welcoming thousands of photos and all imitating the daily life of locals, the first buck is sitting at the top of the Genoa Park, the second lounges on a grassy hill by the riverfront, and the third stands on its hind legs on the Rich Street Bridge, admiring the Columbus skyline.

57 – Catch a Broadway show at the Southern Theatre

Southern Theatre, Columbus

Dating back to the late 1800s, this iconic film and performance venue wields the coveted title of being the oldest surviving theatre in central Ohio (as well as one of the first commercial Columbus landmarks to use electricity!).

At various times throughout the year, you can sit back at Southern Theatre and enjoy independent films, performing celebrities, Broadway-style shows and backstage tours, all within the brilliantly designed gold and red-abundant theater.

Since the theatre falls under the guise of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, you can be sure that you’ll be swept off your feet, no matter the lineup.

58 – Roll the dice at the Hollywood Casino Columbus

Hollywood Casino Columbus

A slice of Tinseltown in a MidWest Vegas-style venue, you can soak in the electric atmosphere, enjoy a range of entertainment options (ladies, make sure to check out The Lalas – a celebratory show for women, by women) and feast on hearty meals, all while you roll the dice play to your heart’s content at the Hollywood Casino.

With over 2,200 slots, 100 live table games, a live poker room on site (the largest in Ohio, in fact), as well as numerous diverse eateries to choose from, you’ll run out of cash long before you run out of things to do.

59 – Check out some sketch comedy at Shadowbox Live

Shadowbox Live, Columbus

A local institution and one of the top tourist attractions in Columbus, Shadowbox Live is a dynamic theater that has been packing locals and tourists alike into seats since 1988.

Famous for its combination of side-splitting sketch comedy and toe-tapping live music, Shadowbox Live hosts a diverse range of live performances that, combined with the great food, free-flowing drinks, and respected service, deliver one great night of entertainment.

60 – Bust out the dance moves at a nightclub

nightclubs in Columbus

Time to get a little wild, don’t you think? In a city that truly knows how to party, there’s a whole host of places where you can club until the sun comes up.

Whether it be the dancing into the wee hours at Dahlia Nightclub (often considered Columbus’ premier nightlife venue, regularly welcoming well-known DJs), a drag show at Axis Nightclub, or a fancy drink at the Granero Lounge, there’s a place for you.

For something a little more unconventional, Skully’s Music-Diner blends old-school nostalgia with modern-day music and a full menu, while The Savoy Club is the undisputed go-to for all things jazz, R&B, and soul.

61 – Pair beer with breakfast at the DogHouse Columbus Hotel

DogHouse Columbus Hotel, Columbus

With the claim to fame of being the world’s first craft beer hotel, this novel accommodation doesn’t fail to deliver a unique, thirst-quenching experience.

Boasting a 6,000 square foot interactive craft beer museum on site, as well as a lobby bar with a range of ice-breaker games and activities, and 32 themed beer suites in total, it’s easy to see why the DogHouse has gained such a cult following.

The best part? Every single room boasts beer… on tap!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our selection of things to do in Columbus, Ohio — the Discover City! If you have any other must-see suggestions, feel free to let us know in the comments!

And, while you’re in the area, why not check out Cincinnati or Cleveland, both within 2 hours by car?

As always, happy travels.