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Columbus with Kids: 16 Top Things to Do

Written by Anietra Hamper
May 8, 2019

Columbus is a fun city to explore with kids because it is a hub of creativity and innovation. That is why Columbus is the fastest growing city in Ohio and the 15th largest city in the United States. Even the simple pleasures of visiting, like strolling the streets of local neighborhoods or walking along the Scioto Mile on the downtown riverfront can bring discoveries that will be remembered long after your visit. From living history museums and factory tours that end with a sweet treat to hands-on science experiments and swimming in an ocean-like wave pool, kids have a lot of options to create the perfect kind of day during their time in Columbus.

Find the best family-friendly places to visit with our list of the top things to do with kids in Columbus, Ohio.

1. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Grizzly bears at the Columbus Zoo

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best zoos in the United States and one of the top attractions in Columbus for kids. The zoo grounds are divided into six regions with animals to see, from apes in the Congo Expedition to rhinoceroses in Asia Quest and sea turtles in the Aquarium. There are daily feedings and demonstrations, as well as stage shows, that highlight animal conservation efforts.

While the zoo is always exciting in the warmer months, a wintertime visit is special because of the Wildlights display, which showcases millions of LED lights in the trees and exhibits throughout the zoo. For an extra-special day at the Columbus Zoo, you can take your kids to one of the regular workshops or reserve a behind-the-scenes tour for an additional fee.

Address: 4850 Powell Road, Powell, Ohio
Official site: www.columbuszoo.org

2. COSI

The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) | tlarrow / photo modified

The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is one of the original kid-tastic attractions in Columbus. COSI is an especially great indoor activity if you need it as a backup when your outdoor plans get rained out. Everything in COSI is interactive for kids and it makes learning about health, science, energy, weather, and mathematics fun. There are several floors to explore and exhibits like the Big Science Park, where kids can test their strength by lifting a 2,437-pound car.

Be sure to visit the planetarium, where you can learn about the solar system beneath a 60-foot dome and try the High Wire Unicycle which suspends riders two stories in the air as they ride across an 84-foot cable.

If hunger strikes during your visit, the kids will enjoy the fun and healthy snacks available from COSI's Atomic Café like the "Do-Re-For-Me" peanut butter and jelly sandwich, shaped like a piano. Or, you might want to pack a lunch to enjoy outside on the riverfront and get a perfect view of the Columbus skyline.

Address: 333 W. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.cosi.org

3. Zoombezi Bay

Zoombezi Bay

The Zoombezi Bay outdoor water park is a fun family activity in the summer months. It is located adjacent to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, but it is best to plan a full day at the water park versus trying to do both in one day. Zoombezi Bay is a large park with water options, from the famous wave pool to 17 types of water slides, a lazy river, and raft rides that can hold the entire family in one tube. There are kiddie areas with water features specifically for younger kids, and amenities like strollers and cabana rentals available that make parents' lives a little easier.

Address: 4850 Powell Road, Powell, Ohio
Official site: www.zoombezibay.columbuszoo.org

4. Franklin Park Conservatory

The Franklin Park Conservatory illuminated at night

The Franklin Park Conservatory is an exciting place to visit with kids, as they learn about every biome in the world in one place. Walk from the glass-dome Palm House and see rare varieties of palm species. Then explore the tropical rain forest and the desert. Some of the best times to visit are during the Blooms & Butterflies exhibit in the spring or during one of the workshops that are offered for things like cooking classes that take place with the tropical setting as a backdrop.

A must-see for kids is the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children's Garden outside, which has two acres of hands-on and crawl-on activities for kids as they learn about the Ohio landscape.

Address: 1777 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.fpconservatory.org

5. Legoland Discovery Center

The Legoland Discovery Center | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Legoland Discovery Center is an indoor playground for everything Lego. It is located at Easton Town Center shopping and entertainment complex. Kids can explore LEGO building zones where they let their imaginations go wild with new creations and they can go on a behind-the-scenes tour and learn how the Lego blocks are made in so many shapes and colors.

Kids can strap on a pair of goggles and experience a 4D cinema that combines 3D LEGO films with wind, snow, and rain for an immersive experience. One of the most exciting things for kids is being able to interact and learn from a LEGO master builder and put their new skills into practice.

Address: 157 Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: https://columbus.legolanddiscoverycenter.com

6. Ohio History Center

The Ohio History Center |Sam Howzit / photo modified

The Ohio History Center is one of the best points of interest for kids visiting Columbus. The center has several floors of exhibits that explore Ohio's history, from prehistoric times to the present-day, showcasing important milestones in American culture along the way.

Located outside next to the center is the Ohio Village, a living history museum of what a village in the state looked like in the 1800s. Kids can interact with period actors at the blacksmith barn or dress up in vintage costumes for a black and white photo. They can even deliver a speech from the steps of the Town Hall using a script written in the language of the time period.

Address: 800 East 17thAvenue, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.ohiohistory.org

7. Tour the Anthony-Thomas Candy Factory

The Anthony-Thomas Candy Factory | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

If you are looking to sweeten things up during a visit to Columbus, a tour of the Anthony-Thomas Candy Factory is in order. The famous candy company is based in Columbus, and the doors are open to visitors who want to see how the company cranks out 30,000 pounds of chocolate on every shift. During the free tour, kids learn about the history of the candy company and they get to see the production in progress. You cannot head home without a sample of the famous Anthony-Thomas candy buckeye.

Address: 1777 Arlingate Lane, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.anthony-thomas.com

8. Slate Run Living Historical Farm

A piglet at the Slate Run Living Historical Farm | Aryeh Alex / photo modified

Just on the fringe of Columbus is the Slate Run Living Historical Farm, which is a fun day outside for kids. It is a working farm that still operates the way that it did in 1880. Kids get to take part in the daily chores while learning about Ohio's agricultural roots.

Chores change with the season, so that might mean gathering eggs in the henhouse, collecting maple syrup from the trees, planting herbs in the garden, or harvesting crops. Period actors demonstrate what life on the farm is like, including making homemade meals and tending to livestock.

Address: 1375 State Route 674 North, Canal Winchester, Ohio
Official site: http://friendsofslaterunfarm.org

9. Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Statehouse is both educational and fun, even if you are not from Ohio. There are free tours throughout the day that take you through the building and showcase the stunning architecture. If you visit during the fall, you can go on a family-friendly ghost tour of the Statehouse and learn about alleged sightings of Abraham Lincoln.

Spend some time walking the grounds of the statehouse square, where kids will see many sculptures that have significance to Ohio's history, and many hidden surprises, like a bee hive apiary tucked away in the landscaping.

Address: 1 East Capital Street, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.ohiostatehouse.org

10. Columbus Commons

A concert in the Columbus Commons | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Columbus Commons is a beautiful green space in the center of downtown. It is where many events and festivals take place, including outdoor family movie nights in the summer. During non-event days, the Columbus Commons is an exciting place to visit to enjoy a ride on the merry-go-round or grab lunch from a local food truck and picnic outdoors. There are regular free events, like exercise classes and kid-focused Family Fun Days, which are great times to visit.

Address: 160 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.columbuscommons.org

11. Columbus Museum of Art

A glass exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art | Mike Steele / photo modified

The Columbus Museum of Art has evolved over the years from a place to admire art into a place to engage with art. There are many galleries to explore and learn about art history through the ages, but kids will especially enjoy the Wonder Room, where they can tap into their inner Picasso.

Kids can select from various materials to create their own works of art and express their creativity, then see their work hanging on the wall next to known textile artists. Grab a snack at the museum's Schokko Café, which has artistic sandwiches and soups.

Address: 480 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.columbusmuseum.org

12. Topiary Park

Topiary Park

Pack a picnic lunch and take the kids to the Topiary Park behind the downtown Columbus Metropolitan Library. The park is a life-size topiary interpretation of the post-Impressionist painting by George Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.The 54 manicured topiary sculptures cover the grounds and pond on the site of the former Ohio School for the Deaf.

Observe the artistic details of each sculpture, then step back and take in the entire display. The topiaries are most detailed in the summer when they are in full bloom, but you can see them anytime of the year.

Address: 40 East Town Street, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.topiarypark.org

13. American Whistle Corporation

Did you know that the only whistle manufacturer in the United States is in Columbus, Ohio? The American Whistle Corporation makes the life-saving item and offers free tours that are fun for kids. The 45-minute tour reveals details behind the whistle, like the kinds of materials used to make it and how the tiny ball is placed inside.

The factory tour lets you see the antique machines that were used to make whistles before modern technology. You will also learn how whistles are used in community and police programs to save lives.

Address: 6540 Huntley Road, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.americanwhistle.com

14. Olentangy Indian Caverns

The Olentangy Indian Caverns | James St. John / photo modified

Just north of Columbus, the Olentangy Indian Caverns is a great excursion for kids if you have time to go beyond the metro area. The caverns in Delaware are a below ground exploration into the geology of the region. The 45-minute cavern tours weave you through an underground maze as kids learn about stalactites and stalagmites that have formed in the caves over thousands of years. Above ground there are more activities like gem mining, a petting zoo, and miniature golf.

Address: 1779 Home Road, Delaware, Ohio
Official site: www.olentangyindiancaverns.com

15. Farmers Markets

Fresh produce at the North Market | MeRyan / photo modified

Get a taste of Ohio's agricultural heritage by taking the kids to a farmers market to select a basket of fresh peaches, strawberries, and honey. Nearly every community around Columbus hosts regular farmers markets every week through the summer. The Pearl Market in downtown Columbus is a favorite for just-harvested corn and produce, and the North Market in downtown Columbus is one of the oldest and largest farmers markets. Most of the markets also have music, entertainment, and locally made products to buy.

16. The Ultimate Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Making a side-stop to the Greater Columbus Convention Center to experience a larger-than-life art installation is worth squeezing into your itinerary. Inside the north-end lobby, kids can experience a 14-foot-tall, 3D version of their head and face. After they step inside the small photo booth to get digitally screened, their image appears on the LED-covered sculpture in about 30 seconds.

The art piece was developed by a graphics design professor from the Columbus College of Art and Design and is part of the "As We Are" art exhibit in the center. It is a fun and quick experience to add to your day.

Address: 400 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio
Official site: www.columbusconventions.com

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Where to Stay in Columbus: Where you choose to stay in Columbus may depend on factors like your budget or even your traveling companions, particularly if they are of the four-legged variety. For ideas on places to stay, see our articles on the Best Pet-Friendly Hotels in Columbus or the Best Budget Hotels in Columbus. If neither of these are relevant to you, head straight to our piece on the Top Hotels in Columbus.

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