Find yourself in Columbus with kids? I’m here to help; here are ten things about my city that the whole family loves…
1. COSI. (The Center of Science and Industry) is a great place to take all members of your family, no matter their age. Fun can be found in every corner of this 320,000 square foot center. Pair that fun with the learning that your child (and you, too) will do and you’ve got a day you’ll never forget. Permanent exhibits explore oceans, space, history and electronics, while newer exhibits have included Bob, The Builder, Lego Toys, Titanic, dinosaurs, the human body and much more. Have toddlers or pre-schoolers? COSI has got you covered. There is a great area for younger children to play that is safe and secure. With a tree house, a clinic, a giant helicopter and an area for splashing, your young kids won’t miss out on the fun.
2. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has thousands of animals from all over the world including manatees, kangaroos and was home to the first gorilla born in human care in 1956. I would also recommend feeding the Lorikeets while you are in the Australian exhibit; it’s a great experience for kids. World renown animal expert, Jack Hanna was the director for many years and is still partnered with the zoo. New to the zoo is Stingray Bay, a large salt-water pool home to dozens of stingray that can be touched and hand-fed.
3. Graeter’s Ice Cream has been made here since 1870 and is one of many great places to eat, especially when you’re in Columbus with kids. Their location on Bethel Road offers free self-guided tours of their production facility as well as a play area, “Scoops and Chutes.” This is a great place to stop for an afternoon treat and to give kids ages 10 and under a place to burn off some extra energy.
4. Two of my favorite parks in the Columbus area are Slate Run Historical Farm and Innis Woods. Experience life on a farm over 100 years ago at Slate Run Historical Farm. Explore gardens, barns, a farmhouse and meet costumed staff who share what life was like during the 19th century. Learn with authentic tools, machinery and household goods. Self-guided tours are free of charge and fun for all ages. Innis Woods offers over 120 acres of gardens which include streams, wetlands, a rock garden and the Sisters Garden, a garden especially made for children.
5. Just north of Columbus in Delaware, Ohio lies the Olentangy Indian Caverns. Formed millions of years ago by an underground river, these caverns were used by Indian tribes as shelter and tribal ceremonies. The caverns are full of educational geological opportunities as well as Ohio history and chances to explore for the inquisitive child. While in the area, head over to Highbanks Park for lunch and a hike along the Olentangy River.
6. Santa Maria. Columbus is named after explorer Christopher Columbus. We are very lucky to have, on the waters of the Scioto River a replica of the Santa Maria, one of three ships Columbus sailed with when he discovered “the new world.” On board tours explore the lives sailors lead while sailing aboard the real ships. Tours are limited and cease during the winter months so be sure to check out open times on their website.
7. Discover Downtown Columbus. The downtown area features a large number of restaurants, shopping and parks. The neighborhoods of German Village and The Short North offer unique opportunities for dining, shopping, historical and cultural events. While the Columbus Commons and Scioto Mile offer outdoor activities that include concerts, a splash pad, a carousel, walking and so much more. Both the Columbus Commons and Scioto Mile are within walking distance to COSI and the Santa Maria.
8. Columbus Museum of Art. On the first Saturday of each month from September to May you and your family can explore the Columbus Museum of Art. The Wonder Room is THE place to see with your children. It offers hands-on art activities like sculpting, fort building and creating with magnets. Don’t miss the Innovation Lab and the Family Gallery either. Each month celebrates an artist or a current exhibit or theme and includes hands-on projects, interactive games and other activities like musical performances, storytelling or theater. There are a number of other family oriented programs offer throughout the month so be sure to check the calendar when planning your visit. While you are in the area, take a walk through the Topiary Garden where you will find a topiary recreation of George Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.
9. The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens can’t be missed if you are in the area during the months of March to September. The best event they have to offer for kids is Blooms and Butterflies. See the life cycle of a butterfly in person and walk through the indoor atrium with hundreds of butterflies. Your children’s eyes will be full of delight when a butterfly (or 2 or 3) lands on their shoulder for a rest. There is an active family program as well and is usually free of charge if you can plan your trip around those dates.
10. The Ohio State University. A trip to Columbus with kids isn’t complete without understanding the love it has for The Ohio State University. One of the America’s largest universities, OSU is home to more than 55,000 students. It has a rich tradition in college football and if you are planning your trip to Columbus during the fall, you’ll want to consider the football schedule. Home games bring over 100,000 people to the campus area (just north of downtown). You’ll find attendance at area attractions like the zoo and COSI to be much less on these dates but traffic around the campus area a mess. Football fan? Definitely check out a game. Visit the campus during non-game Saturdays and take a walking tour or check out The Wexner Center for the Arts, The Oval, Mirror Lake, The Horseshoe and search for Brutus Buckeye around campus. Stand in the middle of a crowded area and shout “O-H,” you’ll get a rowdy “I-O” back from loyal Buckeyes.
Got any tips of your own for things to do in Columbus with kids? Leave them in the comments!