Columbus offers plenty of vibrant, verdant ways to experience the great outdoors. A major metropolis, the capital of Ohio maintains a wide range of urban parks, trails and green spaces for locals and visitors to enjoy all across the city. If you're ready to get outside and play, here are 10 of the best green spaces to explore in Columbus.
Smell the roses—and the daisies, and the tulips, and all sorts of other flora—at Franklin Park. Due east of downtown Columbus, this park has 100 acres of wide-open space for picnics, frisbee-throwing and leisure walks. A fountain, cascading waterfalls, and flower gardens roll out a lush, gorgeous backdrop for summer weddings and seasonal community events. The property is also home to the beloved Franklin Park Conservatory. This local horticultural landmark houses botanical gardens, thriving greenhouses, educational classes, and workshops, touring exhibitions, Chihuly art pieces, and a seasonal farmers market.
The oldest public park in Columbus, Goodale Park stands out among a collection of architecturally significant residential homes in the stately Victorian Village neighborhood. Lincoln Goodale, the community's first physician, donated the land for the park in the 1850s, and a bronze bust of the good doctor still stands on the property in tribute. Park features include tennis courts, a picturesque pond, a gazebo, basketball courts, a playground, and a historic shelter facility. Don't forget to bring your camera—the view of the downtown Columbus skyline from Goodale Park is one of the best in town.
Covering a 175-acre spread of parkland skirting the river that runs along the western edge of downtown Columbus, the Scioto Mile links eight parks via well-traveled greenway trails. Along the pathways, pit stop to cool down with a splash in the massive interactive Scioto Mile Fountain and admire stunning views of the skyline. Urban adventurers can also kayak on the river or grab a set of wheels from any CoGo Bike Share station to cruise along paved paths. As you’re exploring, snap a few selfies against the whimsical public art installations. Seasonal concerts, festivals, live entertainment, and other events throughout the year provide even more incentive to check out the Scioto Mile scene.
Initially founded in the mid-1800s and renamed for a famed German poet in 1891, Schiller Park is a popular alfresco attraction within the charming German Village neighborhood located just south of downtown Columbus. A bronze statue of the park’s namesake Friedrich von Schillerkeeps proud watch over a fishing pond, landscaped gardens, softball diamonds, and a recreation center from its post at the center of the property. The Actor’s Summer Theater makes good use of the on-site stage for seasonal open-air Shakespeare productions.
Old Deaf School Park
The topiary garden at the Old Deaf School Park is one of Columbus’s hidden gems, attracting admirers to the downtown Discovery District with a living recreation of “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” by Impressionist painter Georges Seurat. Columbus artist James T. Mason and his wife Elaine masterminded the project in 1989 with a pond feature standing in for the Seine. All told, the fascinating scene contains strategically positioned topiary sculptures of men, women, children, boats, and animals. The garden is free to visit all year long, but it looks its best in full bloom during peak summer months.
John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons
Open-air yoga classes, concerts, a summer kickball league, a food truck court, community events—there’s always something fun going on at the family-friendly John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons, one of the city’s busiest downtown urban green spaces. Unveiled in May 2011 on the repurposed City Center shopping site, the buzzy 6-acre facility now serves as a backyard of sorts for downtown visitors, condo residents, and apartment dwellers. The forward-thinking project includes dining options, beautifully landscaped flower beds and gardens, the innovative NEOS Electric Playground, and an old-fashioned carousel.
Running 12 miles south from the northern trailhead in Worthington, the Olentangy Trail crosses over the river and winding through wooded parks for a highly pleasant bike ride, run or stroll. Scenic stops like Antrim Park, Whetstone Park, the Olentangy Nature Preserve, Tuttle Park, and other pretty green spaces provide plenty of opportunities to stop and catch your breath if you need a break in the action. The path also passes through The Ohio State University campus on its journey toward downtown Columbus, connecting its the southern terminus to the Scioto Trail at Confluence Park for those who just want to keep on trucking.
Columbus Park of Roses
From the Olentangy Greenway, it’s well worth taking a detour off the beaten path in Clintonville to appreciate the Columbus Park of Roses in Whetstone Park. Home to more than 12,000 floral specimens, making it one of the most extensive rose gardens in the country, the showy site boasts formal and heritage rose gardens in addition to the perennial, herb, and backyard plantings amid an atmospheric arboretum setting. Keep tabs on bloom progress online so you can visit when the flowers are at their most lavishly opulent.
Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens
The 60-acre Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens on Ohio State University's agriculture campus seamlessly blend nature and education, allowing students and public visitors the chance to commune with Mother Nature. Open year-round with no admission fee, this urban reserve boasts all manner of horticulture on display from bedding plants and greenhouse-grown varieties to native trees and gardens galore. Don’t miss the the Howett Hall Green Roof, the idyllic walking paths and the labyrinth.
Part of the Columbus Metro Parks system, the Scioto Audubon has reinvented a former brownfield as a thriving urban attraction studded with recreational facilities and natural habitats for local wildlife. Just to the southwest of downtown on the banks of the Scioto River, the centerpiece of the 120-acre property is a soaring rock-climbing wall ready to accommodate users of all skill levels. Or, rise above it all by scaling the water tower for spectacular panoramic views of Columbus below from the observation platforms. Elsewhere on the grounds, active visitors can check out an obstacle course, a dog park, a boat ramp for river access, sand volleyball, and bocce courts.