15 Top-Rated Parks in Columbus, OH

Written by Anietra Hamper
May 23, 2019

When it comes to Columbus parks, there are so many varieties to experience. From walking and jogging trails to green space for picnics and recreational opportunities, there are parks of all sizes around the city and in the suburbs. Parks around Columbus offer rock climbing and fishing, nature hikes to find salamanders and bald eagles, and you can try your hand doing chores on a working farm from the 1800s.

Many parks have water features like splash pads or waterslides to cool off on a hot day. If you have more time to explore, you may want to head to one of the Ohio State Parks located within an hour's drive of the city. For ideas on where to go, see our list of the best parks in Columbus.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Zoombezi Bay

Zoombezi Bay water park
Zoombezi Bay water park

One of the top park destinations in Columbus is the Zoombezi Bay water park next to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. It is part water park and part amusement park and is fun for all ages. Zoombezi Bay has water attractions that range from waterslides and a lazy river to a massive wave pool. Then there's the Cyclone water ride, which swirls a four-person raft in circles inside a 55-foot cone at a zooming 24-miles-per-hour.

The Tiny Tides section of the park is a water playground reserved for small children. The water depth graduates up to 14 inches deep, and play structures give the little kids plenty of entertainment. You can rent lockers and cabanas, which are nice for families who need breaks from the sun and activities. Your water park entry also includes entry to the Columbus Zoo if you have time to squeeze in both attractions.

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

2. Scioto Mile Green Space

The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile

The Scioto Mile green space along the downtown riverfront is one of the most spectacular parks in Columbus. It runs from the Arena District to the Whittier Peninsula, and it is the connector to several other parks and bike paths throughout the city.

Not only do you get the best view of the downtown skyline, but the multi-use path is great for running, walking, and biking. You can even rent a bike for a few hours from one of the CoGo Bike stations located throughout the downtown area and go for a ride. Seasonal kayak rentals are also available for use on the Scioto River.

The park benches along the Scioto Mile are nice for watching the sunset and for having a picnic lunch. The Scioto Mile green space is the centerpiece of the downtown area and where you might find yourself in the middle of a festival on any Saturday during the summer. There is regular live music at several of the venues along the Scioto Mile, including McFerson Commons, Battelle Riverfront Park, Genoa Park, and the Bicentennial Park stage.

Official site: www.sciotomile.com

3. Columbus Commons

View of downtown Columbus from Columbus Commons
View of downtown Columbus from Columbus Commons

The experience at the Columbus Commons park changes by the day. One day, you will find a festival or Picnic with the Pops concert by the Columbus Symphony, and the next, you will find free public yoga classes. The Columbus Commons is a favorite park in Columbus for both the locals and visitors to the city. When events are not underway at the park, it is a nice place to enjoy a cup of coffee or find a bench to sit on as you enjoy lunch from a food truck vendor.

The centerpiece of the Columbus Commons is the operating Merry-Go-Round, which is a delight for kids. There is a concession area on-site with food and small tables, which is handy during events. The green space is meant for walking, sitting, running, playing, and dancing as you enjoy the outdoors in the center of the city.

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

4. Goodale Park

Goodale Park
Goodale Park

Goodale Park in Victorian Village is one of the oldest parks in Columbus. The park is a popular place for locals to enjoy summer shade among the 650 trees, and walk their dogs. Goodale Park is named for Dr. Lincoln Goodale, who was a prominent physician in Columbus in the mid-1800s and sought to preserve green space as the city continued to grow. He donated the 40-acre park to the city, which has been preserved ever since.

In addition to the statue of Dr. Goodale in the park, there is a basketball court, shelter house, playground, tennis court, walking trail, gardens, and picnic tables. The most prominent feature of the park is the pond with an elaborate centerpiece. Look closely at the entrances to the park, and you will see detailed stone carvings featuring faces and animals that are unique features representing various pieces of Columbus' history.

Address: 120 West Goodale Street, Columbus, Ohio

5. Highbanks Metro Park

Fall leaves reflecting in the water at Highbanks Metro Park
Fall leaves reflecting in the water at Highbanks Metro Park | Aryeh Alex / photo modified

The Highbanks Metro Park is one of the most popular of the 19 Metro Parks throughout the city. The 1,200-acre park has extensive hiking trails, several open areas for family picnics, streams, shelters, and a pet trail. The park has regular programs to enjoy, like night hikes and children's activities. The park is also a popular place for its sledding hills and cross-country skiing in the winter, and fishing, canoeing, biking, and picnicking in the spring and summer.

Highbanks has some unique features because of its location. It is situated above the Olentangy State Scenic River and it is home to an abundance of wildlife including bald eagles. Some of the trails in the park lead you to scenic overlooks and preserved Indian mounds that were created during the settlement of Native American Indians in the area.

Address: 9466 Columbus Pike, Lewis Center, Ohio

6. Schiller Park

Schiller Park
Schiller Park

Schiller Park is a peaceful park just south of downtown in German Village. Walk among the beautifully landscaped grounds and take in the flowers, old trees, and neighborhood pride as evidenced by its upkeep. The park is 23-acres and is the backdrop for community festivals, gatherings, and summer evening plays in the open-air gazebo. There is a picnic area and many picnic tables throughout the park along with plush grass and large shade trees perfect for spreading out a blanket.

While most people enjoy Schiller Park by just strolling along the walking paths, you can enjoy the large fishing pond, basketball court, tennis courts, and playground for the kids. Schiller Park is one of the oldest parks in Columbus and a favorite among locals.

Address: 1069 Jaeger Street, Columbus, Ohio

7. Riverside Crossing Park

The newest park green space still being developed near Columbus is in the suburb of Dublin at the Riverside Crossing Park. The park connects a series of outdoor spaces, with activities like biking available and crossing points along the river. The park is designed to connect Old Dublin on one side and Bridge Park on the other, which is the area's newest and hip district. The main feature is a grand pedestrian bridge that provides a walkway to both sides of the river and the best view above Riverside Crossing Park.

Whether you want to catch a sunset on the Scioto River, bike, kayak, or just throw out a blanket for a picnic, the Riverside Crossing Park has many spaces to do all of that.

Address: Near the Bridge Street District, Dublin, Ohio

8. Whetstone Park of Roses

Whetstone Park
Whetstone Park | mcsquishee / photo modified

The Whetstone Park in the Clintonville neighborhood is a community park popular with runners, bikers, and outdoor recreation teams. There are several sections of the park, from playgrounds and open fields to tennis courts and bike trails that connect to others in the city. There is even a prairie within the woods, with viewing stations for wildlife and educational information about Ohio habitats.

The marquee section of Whetstone Park is the 13-acre Park of Roses that is best experienced from May through September. There are more than 300 varieties of roses among the thousands in the park. It is the largest rose garden in the world owned by a city. If you are lucky during your visit, you will catch a wedding in progress or a summer evening music concert.

Address: 3923 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio

9. Topiary Park

Topiary Park
Topiary Park

The Topiary Park in downtown Columbus is one of the most spectacular park experiences in the city. Tucked away behind the Columbus Metropolitan Library is a life-size topiary park that depicts the post-Impressionist painting by George Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The park is on the grounds of the Old Deaf School Park and is now one of the most hidden and treasured green spaces in Columbus.

The 54 life-size topiaries are landscaped for a picturesque scene. The topiaries are spread out on the grass and in the water. The park is free to visit, with the best times of the year being from April through November when the topiaries are in full bloom. The park is nice for a walk, and it is ideal for a quiet picnic lunch.

10. Antrim Park

Antrim Lake
Antrim Lake | Always Shooting / photo modified

Antrim Park is a multi-purpose park that is one of the most popular of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department's 353 parks in the city. There are always soccer and rugby games happening in the open fields during the summer, and pick-up games on the basketball courts. Tennis courts are also available near the entrance of the park.

Visitors like Antrim Park for the one-mile loop around the lake, which is nice for walkers and joggers. The lake is stocked once a year with fish, so anglers frequent it, too. The Olentangy Greenway Trail passes through Antrim Lake, so you can take a bike ride north into Worthington or south into downtown from this trail.

Address: 5800 Olentangy River Road, Columbus, Ohio

11. Bicentennial Park

Bicentennial Park
Bicentennial Park

One of the most famous parks in downtown Columbus is Bicentennial Park, which sees the most activity during riverfront festivals in the summer. The park has undergone renovations to become a destination for locals looking to take in a concert at the pavilion or grab a bite at the Milestone 229 restaurant with some of the best views of the Scioto River. A popular park feature for the kids is the fountain and dancing splashpad, operating in the warmer months, with 1,000 streams of water that form designs.

Connected to Bicentennial park is a promenade that runs along Civic Center Drive and can be accessed from Bicentennial Park. Take a stroll along the walkway to enjoy swinging benches, artistic fountains, water canals, and table seating if you feel like a game of chess. Bicentennial park is conveniently located near the Scioto Mile and many hotels in downtown Columbus.

Address: 233 Civic Center Drive, Columbus, Ohio

12. Franklin Park

Plants inside the Franklin Park Conservatory
Plants inside the Franklin Park Conservatory

The tranquil oasis of Franklin Park sits on 100 acres of some of the most stunningly landscaped grounds in Columbus. This is also where you can visit the Franklin Park Conservatory. Many community events and festivals take place on the grounds of Franklin Park throughout the year. There are several gardens and walkways from which to observe the trees and flowers. There is also a playground and many spots for picnics.

The best way to enjoy Franklin Park is to combine it with a day at the Franklin Park Conservatory, which is one of the top attractions in Columbus. Learn about more than 400 species of plants as you stroll from the Palm House to the courtyards.

Address: 1755 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio

State Parks near Columbus

If you have more time in your schedule, you might consider making a day trip to one of the Ohio State Parks near Columbus to get in more rugged hiking and enjoy nature just beyond the capital city limits. The parks listed here are about an hour from Columbus.

1. John Bryan State Park and Nature Preserve

John Bryan State Park
John Bryan State Park

Just west of Columbus is John Bryan State Park and Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. The park is phenomenal for its diversity of things to do. Casual visitors can go for the scenic views of the forest and observe the limestone gorge with its rushing water, especially after a hard rain. There are many hiking trails, a campground, fishing in the Little Miami River, biking, disc golf, rock climbing, and rappelling.

For an extra excursion, you can hike to the town of Clifton and enjoy a homemade lunch at the historic and operational Clifton Mill.

Address: 3790 State Route 370, Yellow Springs, Ohio

2. Hocking Hills State Park

A waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park
A waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park

Hocking Hills State Park, located southeast of Columbus, is one of the most popular state parks in Ohio. It is one of the most picturesque regions, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing during the peak color season. The park has many areas to hike. Old Man's Cave is the best place to start.

The state park has massive limestone cliffs, waterfalls, gorges, towering hemlocks, and various trails to accommodate your skill and energy level. There are also places in the region for fishing, disc golf, archery, and horseback riding.

Address: 19852 State Route 664 South, Logan, Ohio

3. Malabar Farm

Fall colors on Malabar Farm
Fall colors on Malabar Farm

For a little bit of history and Hollywood in your park experience, you should visit Malabar Farm, located north of Columbus. The farm, now maintained by the state of Ohio, is the former homestead of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield. The home is also famous for the Hollywood wedding that happened here in 1945 with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

The farm still has cattle, chickens, and other livestock for educational purposes. You can tour the 32-room home or take a seasonal wagon tour through the farm. You can enjoy one of the programs or festivals, like the Maple Syrup Festival, or hit one of the hiking trails on your own.

Address: 4050 Bromfield Road, Lucas, Ohio

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imageThings to Do in Columbus: There is far more to Columbus than parks. If you are traveling with children, check out our ideas for things to do with Kids in Columbus. Explore the heart of downtown Columbus to find shopping, dining, and cultural highlights.

imageWhere to Stay in Columbus: Columbus is one of those destinations where it's easy to linger and finding the right accommodation can enhance your experience. See of list of the Best Hotels in Columbus, or if you are traveling with pets, read through our list of the Best Pet-Friendly Hotels in Columbus.

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