Columbus is an easy one-tank trip from Dayton, and it’s full of surprises. If you are looking for a fun weekend getaway with your family, I can’t recommend our state capitol enough. With world-class attractions, family-friendly amenities and distinct Ohio charm, Columbus is an exciting – and affordable – little getaway that offers something for everyone.
Our list of Top 10 Reasons to Experience Columbus will get you excited to explore this delightful Ohio city:
1. There are so many great places to stay
Sure, Columbus is a great day trip, but it’s also fun to stay awhile and really explore the city! Experience Columbus offers several family-friendly packages that include top Columbus attractions, dining and lodging at one of the area’s fabulous hotels. (You’ll bundle several experiences in a package and save a lot of money!)
For my family of 6, an Airbnb is our best bet. Columbus is a really fun city with several eclectic neighborhoods; we elected to stay at a house in Short North, which is within walking distance to lots of coffee shops. bakeries, restaurants and fun retailers. Columbus is a bustling place and Short North has a vibrant, big-city vibe, which was unexpected but really fun! (I highly recommend the Airbnb where we stayed; it had everything we needed to be comfortable at at home, plus an amazing back patio area my kids loved.)
2. Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus loves the arts, and the eponymous Columbus Museum of Art is a big love letter to all things creative. From the moment you drive up to the building, you’ll feel inspired. The outdoor sculpture garden is so much fun to walk through with kids (Paul Freeley’s painted aluminum sculpture Karnak is particularly striking); inside, kids will love the hands-on Wonder Room and Big Idea Gallery, both part of the family-friendly JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity.
Tip: Go on a Sunday — admission is FREE!
3. Jeni’s Ice Cream
We have some pretty fab ice cream in Cincy, but in Columbus, Jeni’s reigns supreme! There are locations all throughout Columbus, and we were able to walk to a charming Jeni’s from our Airbnb. Our family is vegan and we were thrilled to find a vegan chocolate on the menu. The Dairy Free Chocolate Truffle is literally the best non-dairy ice cream I’ve ever had, and we ended up grabbing several pints from North Market to bring home.
4. ZipZone Outdoor Adventures
TripAdvisor has rated ZipZone as the number one outdoor activity in all of Columbus — and this outdoor adventure park certainly lives up to the hype. ZipZone is absolutely beautiful, tucked away in the woods just outside of Columbus. The Kids Park is geared toward kids 4-7, making it perfect for my older three. The ropes and zip lines are all kid height, and everyone wears a harness that gets attached to each part of the course. I was surprised at how quickly my kids got the hang of getting themselves hooked on and off each section, and how independently they tackled the course. ZipZone is a ton of fun and we will most definitely be back — there’s a course for kids 7+that will be really great to do with them next time! (I was definitely jealous of all the fun they were having…)
5. Franklin Conservatory is a botanical garden, conservatory and discovery garden — all in one
Speaking of the Great Outdoors — Franklin Park Conservatory is a must. It’s magical — like walking into Oz from Kansas — everything is so bright and colorful. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden is a discovery garden and nature playscape rolled into one: the Canopy Walk is a big treehouse complete with a large, trampoline-style net (a big hit with my kids), the Nature Play Zonefeatures large, Lincoln-Log style building sticks and the Sunrise Lawn is an open space for rolling, running and blowing off steam. I literally had to bribe my kids to leave.
The Conservatory itself is breathtaking; it’s a huge greenhouse divided into wings with different biomes; it’s bright and sparkling and just stunning. If you visit Columbus, definitely make time to visit this one-of-a-kind place.
6. North Market
North Market is a public market open year-round, with over a million visitors each year. (It’s basically Ohio’s own Pike Place Market). We got lunch-to-go from a few different vendors (fresh produce from Mini-Super, healthy veg dishes from Little Eater, the best pumpkin spice latte of my life from Strauf’s Coffee Roasters), but the big highlight for us was Destination Donuts.
Oh. my. goodness. These sticky-sweet, cloud-light confections are like nothing I’ve ever had before, and there were four vegan options! (This is huge.) The buckeye donut (vegan!) is everything you’d hope for from Ohio’s favorite treat, and my oldest — an adamant pineapple hater — devoured the piña colada donut with a vengeance. We may return to Columbus for these donuts alone.
7. Easton Towne Center
Easton Towne Center is a mall for everyone. If you like going to the mall, you’ll love Easton Towne Center. It’s 1.7-million square feet with over 190 shops. There are endless dining options, a fitness center and entertainment, so you can easily spend an entire day wandering around!
And if you don’t like going to the mall (because… kids), you’ll still love Easton Towne Center. It’s an indoor/outdoor mall, which is great for unruly kids. You can wander the outdoor “streets” without worrying about traffic. There are over 8,000 parking spaces, too, so you don’t need to worry about finding a parking spot! Easton isn’t just a mall; it’s an experience — and with LEGOLAND as its newest tenant, you definitely need to visit this Columbus attraction.
8. Columbus Zoo
If you think a zoo is a zoo, think again. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offers a one-of-a-kind experience that’s truly aimed to get families thinking about animals, the environment and conservation. The Columbus Zoo is huge; in each direction, you’ll experience different habitats and species, all designed to be interactive and accessible. The polar bears, for example, could be seen both above ground and below; to access the below-ground viewing area, you’ll follow a mining-style path with signage about the bears’ habitat and how to protect this species from environmental and human threats. And of course, once you’re down there, you’re treated to a front-row view of the bears happily diving and swimming in the water.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center just opened in Columbus and is the 12th in North America and the only location that’s a true day trip from Cincinnati. It’s 36,000 square feet of fun in Columbus’s Easton Town Center, and it’s everything your LEGO-loving kids could dream of — and more! With indoor playgrounds, two rides, MINILAND Ohio, a 4D cinema, virtual “factory tour” and 10 themed play zones, LEGOLAND Discovery Center is absolutely worth the drive.
COSI is a world-class children’s museum that truly makes learning fun. Want to learn about gravity? Check out the Space exhibit. Got dinosaur-obsessed kids? The Dinosaur Gallery is a must. Do you have daring little engineers? Get a hands-on lesson on counterweights on the High Wire Unicycle. (And for youngsters 6 and under, the little KidSpace is the perfect space for exploration and learning.)
Right now, you can check out Hot Wheels Race to Win in the rotating exhibit gallery. Kids will get a hands-on STEM lesson in different activities at this flashy-fun exhibit. There are Hot Wheels tracks set up throughout the room for racing and a really fun “pit stop” activity that puts kids in control! If your kids are into cars, this exhibit is a must. Hot Wheels Race to Win is on display through Jan. 6, 2019 and is free with admission.
11. COSI’s Science Festival
This May, COSI is hosting one of the largest science fairs ever in Ohio! The COSI Science Festival is scheduled for May 1-4, 2019, and will be four days of STEM-powered events concluding with a hands-on, day-long, FREE carnival on the Scioto Peninsula outside COSI. This is an exciting time to be in Ohio, and our state capitol is charging full steam ahead into the future!
Columbus is a very doable day trip — but there is so much there, you’ll want to go for a whole weekend! For more information on the above attractions or to plan your trip, visit Experience Columbus.