Family Activities Out And About In Central Ohio

From ice cream taste treats in flavors like salty caramel or brambleberry crisp to Mediterranean favorites such as chicken shawarma with the signature hummus, there are destination places to eat. With a world class zoo, a children’s science museum, and a beautiful botanical conservatory, there are lots of things to see and do.

Here is the quick tour over some of the highlights that make Columbus Ohio a fun place for families to visit and explore.

German Village Draws Tourists

German Village Bookshop, tucked among delicious restaurants, intriguing gift shops.

German Village Bookshop, tucked among delicious restaurants, intriguing gift shops.

Find The Fun In Columbus Ohio Parks

For those who love low-cost adventures, there are lots of parks to hike around in and many reasonably priced places to eat. Let’s explore some of those parks first, and then we will probably work up an appetite for what Columbus restaurants have on the menu.

Parks With Gardens

Strolling through a wisteria arbor into a garden of herbs, entering a rock garden with a tinkling stream, or sitting on a park bench listening to a summer concert while the scent of roses lingers on the air, these are some of the experiences in the Metro Parks of Columbus, Ohio.

My family’s favorite parks have beautiful gardens attached. The two best parks to visit inside the city of Columbus are Whetstone Park of Roses and Inniswood Metro Park. Both of these places have manicured gardens with things in bloom for the entire season, although for the Park of Roses the peak bloom is in June.

Inniswood Metro Park has a children’s garden that is worth seeing, and lots of fun for little ones. It combines a nature preserve with several developed perennial gardens that were created by the Innis sisters before being given to the city.

The Metro Parks System

Columbus has a large park system, all are still free to visit. Families with young children are going to love Slate Run Farm. It is a living historical farm and always has events and animals to fascinate visitors. Costumed staff go about their chores and share the stories and welcome the participation of visitors. Heirloom animals, old time skills, and an experience of another time await.

The parks have shelter houses, well-maintained trails, and are a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Each park has its own flavor and features. When visiting a certain area of Columbus, be sure to give the park located in its vicinity as visit.

See all the parks within the Central Ohio Parks System to find the one near you.

Inniswood Metro Park

940 South Hempstead Road, Westerville, OH 43081, USA
[get directions]Two Sisters made a beautiful garden and nature preserve and gave it to the City of Columbus.

Whetstone Park Of Roses

3923 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214, USA
[get directions]Whetstone Park and The Park of Roses

Slate Run Farm

Winchester Southern Road, Canal Winchester, OH 43110, USA
[get directions]Living historical farm

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

1777 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43205, USA
[get directions]Indoor and outdoor garden displays and botanical collection.

Battelle Darby Metro Park

1775 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway, OH 43119, USA
[get directions]One of the largest parks, now a visitor center has opened with informative exhibits and a viewing area of real Bison!

The Canal Ride at The Zoo

This ride was so much fun
This ride was so much fun

Columbus Zoo Is Famous

Colo's Story: The Life of One Grand Gorilla (Columbus Zoo Books for Young Readers Collection)
Colo’s Story: The Life of One Grand Gorilla (Columbus Zoo Books for Young Readers Collection)

The most famous gorilla’s story for children.

Entertaining The Family

The Columbus Zoo

This is one of the premier zoos in the WORLD. That’s right, it is world class in stature. With wonderful animal exhibits and gardens.

The Zoo: Christmas, Summer, Anytime

Animals, all seasons in a natural habitat.
Animals, all seasons in a natural habitat.

No list of fun in Columbus is complete without the Zoo. The zoo has different portions that add up to fun all by themselves, like “Zoombezi Bay”, which is a waterpark. But I must say, the part I always like is the main zoo with the animals and beautiful botanical plantings!

Jack Hanna spearheaded the development of this zoo to make it one of the finest anywhere. The animals live in beautiful, well cared for, environments and the Aquarium is a great spot to watch aquatic animals up close. Sharks, Stingrays, Oh My! I just love it.

The zoo is always changing for the better and has lots to see. It does cost a fee for parking and entry.

The Columbus Zoo Is Famous For Its Gorillas

GORILLAS IN OUR MIDST: THE STORY OF THE COLUMBUS ZOO GORILLAS
GORILLAS IN OUR MIDST: THE STORY OF THE COLUMBUS ZOO GORILLAS The story of the breeding program for these fascinating and vulnerable creatures is one of the great stories of the zoo world.

COSI

One of the places that kids will love is COSI, which stands for Center of Science and Industry. Yes, it will cost money for the entrance fee, but it is worth it. Shows and science events, all sorts of hands-on ways to experience science for yourself. It’s a blast- but in a safe way.

It was awarded the honor of #1 Science Center in the country by Parents Magazine in 2008, and it will provide a full day of discovery and entertainment.

The Franklin Park Conservatory

This is a great day trip for the children, but it is as much for the adults as for them. Walk through the climate environments, enjoy the live Butterfly exhibit during the spring and summer, and let the beauty of the plants impart their beauty and feeling of serenity. There are plenty of activities throughout the year, as well.

Besides the plants, there is quite an exhibition of Dale Chihuly glass to behold. Most are permanent installations of his colorful glass sculpture, and the special art exhibitions that the Conservatory hosts are spectacular, in my opinion.

Entry fees are charged.

Museums

A Day of Art Appreciation

Some people just love museums- like me! Columbus has an Fine Art Museum, located in Downtown. The Columbus Museum of Arthas hours every day except Monday, and Sundays are free. You can enjoy a small repast within the cafe and shop in the delightful gift shop area.

Delve Into The Area’s History

The Ohio Historical Center at 800 E 17th Ave. next to the Ohio state Fairgrounds is filled with interesting exhibits ranging from prehistoric to modern times. You will enjoy the natural history, Native American artifacts, and a walk through the replication of old-time, small town America.

Kelton House is a small museum in Downtown, 586 E Town St. Combine it with your trip to the Art Museum and enjoy the architecture and journey into Civil War era history.

While in the downtown area, what about boarding an actual replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria? Yes, you can see what this authentic museum quality ship is like first hand, while learning lots about history. All the info you need to plan your day is on the ship’s website .

Yes, I ate this fabulous Sundae
Yes, I ate this fabulous Sundae at Jeni’s

My Short List Of Top Foodie Delights

I think these places will please those who love good food. Most of them are located in areas that have shopping and in the vicinity of day trip destinations. Dublin is in proximity to the Zoo, German Village is full of interesting shops and home to Schiller Park.

Family and Budget Friendly

Mediterranean food has quite a presence in the city, but try ‘The Olive Tree’ in Hilliard for Israeli, Greek, and Turkish delights. The Olive Tree Menu

Lavash is another good choice for Med. food, located in Clintonville on the North side of Columbus

For the best ice cream in incredible flavors go to one of the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream locations. Jeni’s locations

Breakfast pastries at Pistacia Vera in the German Village. Serves brunch and fine bakery tortes and other goodies. The Pistacia Vera

We have Mellow Mushroom Pizza Restaurants!
They are my favorite and it is a great place to hang out with family and friends.

Donato’s Pizza is here, and it is the local favorite. Try one of their thin crust specialties. My kids now live in far off foodie rich places like LA and Atlanta, but they think Donatos Pizza is a must have when home in Columbus. Don’t miss it. Located in many places around Columbus.

Vegetarian delight in the Whole World Restaurant, where I had my first taste of healthy vegetarian food! Consistently rated highly. it was my old neighborhood place and one of the first and best whole food places. Another good choice is NorthStar cafe with several locations around the city

Areas With Great Food Places, And Sights

German Village

Go to German Village, a historical area with lively restaurants and cute shops. Lots of good places to eat. Concerts in Schiller Park are a bonus.

The Grandview Hop

Grandview is another wonderful neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and coffee places. Vibrant and artsy. too many great places to name them all, and the neighborhood is wonderful for walking.

The Short North is Artsy

Speaking of art, an area with great places to eat and things to see is the Short North. The attractions are more for adults than families with young children, with gallery hop and many bars along with a higher price tag for a meal.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
1 West Bridge Street, Dublin, OH 43017, USA
[get directions]One of several locations in the city.

The Olive Tree
3185 Hilliard Rome Road, Hilliard, OH 43026, USA
[get directions]Great Israeli/Mediterranean food

Pistacia Vera
541 South Third Street Columbus, OH
[get directions]Delicious pastry and baked goods, brunch, and a selection of coffee and tea drinks

Mellow Mushroom in Dublin
6505 Dublin Center Drive, Dublin, OH 43017, USA
[get directions]Delicious pizza, mellow sixties atmosphere and fabulous hoagie sandwiches.

Lavash Cafe
2985 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214, USA
[get directions]

Report On Slate Run Farm

View the Parks

Columbus Also Has These Great Places

  • Bison at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park!
    Showcasing the visitor center at Battelle Darby Park
  • Ohio Renaissance Festival
    This is an easy drive from Columbus and promises all day fun for the whole family. My kids of all ages loved it, but the teens were really into it.
  • Ohio Caverns | America’s Most Colorful Caverns
    Ohio Caverns, located in West Liberty, Ohio is one of Ohio’s most popular tourist attractions.
  • Denison Museum [Denison University]
    The Denison Museum in Burke Hall . The collections of 8,000 objects from Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and Central America. Located in scenic Granville, Ohio, just 27 miles east of Columbus
  • Historical Home
    Historical American Greek Revival museum and private venue; tours, programs and community events. Open May-Oct: Wed-Sun 1-4 Located in Granville. (740) 587-0430
  • The North Market
    While going to the Short North, don’t forget the North Market. Gourmet foods await.
  • Olentangy Indian Caverns
    Tours of this limestone wonder are offered daily April 1- Oct. 31 and there is a little Indian village area.
  • Ohio Historical Center
    The Ohio History museum is interesting and varied in its topics. Exhibits of geological forms, to early native American history, through the pioneers, into the Industrial age. A very pleasant place to visit, and educational, as well.
  • Columbus Museum of Art
    This art gallery is a day trip for those who love art. It has a wide variety of art exhibited within its classic interior, and an intimate cafe.
  • Polaris Fashion Place
    For people who love malls, this will be the one you want to visit. Located just north of Columbus, in Delaware county. Easily accessible from I-71 & US 23 on Polaris Parkway. Features over 150 specialty stores, many are brand new to Columbus. The area has loads of fun places to eat. I like Mimi’s Cafe.
  • Anthony-Thomas Candies Co.
    Anthony-Thomas Candy Co. holds free factory tours are every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 am. to 2:30 pm. One of Columbus’ attractions for generations.

Hocking Hills copyright Ilona Erwin

The Great Outdoors

OLD MAN’S CAVE

Old Mans Cave site

If you love to hike in the great outdoors, then a trip to the Hocking Hills is just the daytrip you may have in mind. Old Man’s Cave is beautiful and is an interesting climate pocket that holds unusual plants for this part of Ohio.

There are other caves and cliffs in this part of the state, but Old Man’s Cave is probably the most popular. Others are Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and the Rock House.

This is our family’s favorite outing and we go at least once a year, and try for more.

Dawes Arboretum

Dawes Arboretum site

Located in Newark, Ohio to the east of Columbus, is this wonderful arboretum. It has a children’s discovery center, an extensive walking tour through the gardens, a historical house ( for a fee), and a driving tour that is ideal for those who have difficulty with walking or time constraints. Dawes Arboretum has a beautiful set of gardens and tree exhibitions, with a genuine Japanese garden with teahouse.

Discover Ohio Links

A Mall Can Be Fun

The best Mall is probably Polaris Mall, which is located off I71 going North to Delaware. Many great restaurants (which are kid-friendly) and the second location for Mellow Mushroom is in the area.

A smaller mall which I like is Tuttle Mall located between Hilliard and Dublin- which is handy if you are staying the many excellent hotels in the Northwest area of the city. Easton on the Northeast is a shopping spot, as well.

UPDATED: Malls are not very popular now, but Polaris and Easton have managed to thwart that trend. They continue to draw many people with their open air or sleek design and desirable stores and restaurants. Tuttle has struggled, but is clean and convenient.

Many seasonal attractions with a busy child playground center in the lower level of each of these malls.

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