The capital and largest city of Ohio, Columbus has a collection of affordable entertainment and attractions that makes family travelers very happy.
While visiting Columbus, bring your Tiny Travelers to a great zoo, science center, waterpark and amusement park. Then stroll the quaint, uneven brick streets of Columbus’ German Village or bask in the splendor of downtown’s mix of riverfront skyscrapers, storefronts and walking and bike trails.
Home to Ohio State University’s Buckeyes, Columbus, Ohio boasts quality education, museums, art, and pedestrian friendly pockets. Park your car at the Short North and peruse unique shops, eateries, and galleries or join the Gallery Hop the first Friday of the month. When hungry, make your way to the historic German Village for authentic brawtwursts and sausage at Schmidt’s.
Fun for Toddlers
(Toddler to Age 8)
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
4850 West Powell Road
Powell, OH 43065
800/MONKEYS or 614/645-3550
Nestled in the northwest corner of the city, over 660 species from all regions of the planet frolic, nap and wander in their naturalistic habitats at the Columbus Zoo. Areas of exploration include Shores, African Forest, Voyage to Australia, Asia Quest and North America. Famous residents include three female Florida manatees at home onManatee Coast. Kids can ride ponies, take a train, and a spin on a 1914 carousel. There is also a great kid’s playground.
333 West Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
888/819-COSI or 614/228-COSI
COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, is a perfect place for your budding scientist to explore. Fully immerse your senses in the cutting-edge exhibits of seven interactive exhibit worlds including Ocean, Space (this is a NASA affiliate), Progress, Life, little kidspace, and Gadgets. The Gadget cafe lets kids “order” up their own inventions, take everyday things apart, and see how it all works. The Extreme Screen Theater features a seven-story screen and a tilted hemispherical dome. Next, you can challenge yourself by riding on the only high wire unicyle in the world. Suspended across and 84-foot cable, 17 feet above the ground, a counter balance weight makes it possible to accomplish this feat. There is also a schedule of Family workshops on a variety of topics.
Fun for Older Children
(Up to Age 18)
Magic Mountain Fun Centers
5890 Scarborough Road (Brice RD & I-70)
Columbus, OH 43232
8350 Lyra Drive (Polaris PKWY & I-71)
Columbus, OH 43240
These centers are like mini amusement parks, with arcades, KidsGym playgrounds, mini-golf, go-karts (including Rookie Karts for younger drivers), and other amusements at each location like laser tag, bumper cars, and bumper boats. Snack bars offer pizza, burgers and soft drinks.
The Short North
1126 1/2-A North High Street
Columbus, OH 43201
Adjacent to the Arena District, The Short North boasts a variety of shopping, galleries, kid-friendly restaurants and more. It’s easily walkable, making it convenient to park the car and let the kids go exploring or play at Goodale Park. For a special treat, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has a dazzling array of original creations from Buckeye State (peanut butter and chocolate chip) to sweet potato with torched marshmallow and goat cheese with red cherries for more adventurous eaters. Art loving families can check out the gallery hop the first Saturday of every month where galleries open their doors to the public and the streets bustle with excitement.
Columbus Clippers – Minor League Baseball
300 Huntington Park Lane
Columbus, OH 43215
Playing through early April until early September, the Columbus Clippers are a Triple A affiliate team of the Cleveland Indians, now in a new stadium dating from 2009. For $6 for adults and $3 for children, the family can enjoy hot dogs, cracker jacks and the ballgame. Heaven!
Fun for the Whole Family
Columbus Museum of Art
480 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
The Columbus Museum of Art is an inviting and cozy museum with special kids and families programs. Visit The Wonder Room, full of hands-on fun for families, and The Family Gallery with themed exhibitions for family enjoyment. Kids will love the free gallery hunt designed for visitors of all ages to explore the variety of exhibits.
Wexner Center for the Arts
Ohio State University
1871 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43210
The Wexner Center regularly hosts family programs and fun exhibits everyone will enjoy. Special tours, interactive hands-on projects, films, and workshops keep kids busy year round. There are also special teen programs just for kids ages 14-18 including opportunities to work with artists as well as participate in an annual VideoSlam event. Wexner’s close proximity to the Ohio State Buckeyes makes it a fun way to tap into kids’ creative side before taking in a college football game.
4850 West Powell Road
Powell, OH 43065
Opened in May 2008, Zoombezi Bay waterpark (formerly known as Wyandot Lake) has been acquired by the Columbus Zoo. Attractions include waterslides, a wave pool, small kids area and an action river. It’s a big hit and must-do in summer.
Visitor’s Center: 588 South Third Street
The internationally recognized German Village is a thriving historic area of Columbus. Families can take self-guided walking tours with a choice of three themes (including suggestions for dining along the way) or arrange for special tours — including a scavenger hunt for kids — with rates from $3-$10 (note a total booking of $100 is required for a tour). The world-famous Katzinger’s Delicatessen boasts an endless array of deli sandwiches while Schmidt’s Fudge Haus & Gifts and Pistacia Verde offer tantalizing treats.The very first Max and Erma’s is located in the heart of the village, as well as the oldest craft store in the country — Helen Winnemore’s Contemporary Craft Gallery which offers among the usual selection, kid’s clothing, animals and toys.
800East 17th Street
Columbus, OH 43211
The Ohio Village, open from Memorial Day to Labory Day and for special events and school programs during the rest of the year, recreates the daily life of a typical countryside town in Ohio during the mid 19th Century, about the time of the Civil War. Craftspeople fashion and sell a variety of period items such as baskets, leather goods, and woodblock prints. Other costumed interpreters pursue activities typical of 1860s townspeople, including farming, cooking and playing games. There is special entertainment on summer weekends and Christmas season. Numerous special events, workshops, and reenactments are held at the village throughout the year. Call ahead or check the web site for a schedule of events and historic venues throughout the state, all administered by The Ohio Historical Society.
Visit the Greater Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau for information on accommodations from luxury suites to affordable rustic lodges. For a taste of the city at your fingertips, The Lofts, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Cross Country Inn Continent, and Westin Great Southern are just a few of the hotels located in the heart of downtown and convenient to area attractions.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.