The city of Columbus is the capital of Ohio and a great place to visit for family-friendly events, activities, and attractions. Whether you're just visiting or moving here with your children, there's plenty to do in the city to keep everyone entertained year-round.
With over 50 indoor play places, dozens of museums and parks, and innumerable kids' events (especially in the summer), Columbus is one of the most kid-friendly cities in the United States, making it the perfect destination for families visiting the Midwest.
From one of the leading science exploration centers in the country to a field full of art dedicated to corn, you're sure to find something memorable.
One of the best Metro Parks in Columbus is the Slate Run Living Historical Farm, which is open year-round and features a first-hand look at life in the 1880s. Take a tour of the restored 1800s farmhouse and grounds, sign your younger kids up to help with the morning chores, or enroll older children in the Teens on the Farm Program that allows teenagers to make snacks from the era.
Since 1876, North Market has served central Ohio with dozens of locally-owned shops, restaurants, and boutiques where families can come to sample food from all around the region. Although it's free to visit, meals can get rather expensive depending on the establishment, but it's a great opportunity for kids to explore their developing taste buds. You can even build your own meals, catch a free concert, or take a class on farming, agriculture, or cooking.
Named the number one science center in the country by Parents Magazine, The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is a true kid's delight. Located inside a 320,000 square-foot warehouse, COSI features interactive exhibits, a huge planetarium, a giant-screen theater, and a variety of special shows scheduled each day.
The Columbus suburb of Westerville's Community Center (WCC) regularly features "open gym" hours where kids from around the neighborhood can come to hang out with friends, meet new children their age, and get some exercise indoors. Although the gym requires membership or a fee for entry, you can also stop by the "tree house" on-site, an indoor play gym resembling a tree house with slides, which is free to use. Membership to the WCC also comes with access to the large indoor-outdoor pool and splash park, which can provide hours of fun any time of year.
The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA) Summer Movie Series is a Columbus favorite with plenty of great movies for kids. Now in its 48th season, the CAPA Summer Movie Series is the longest-running classic film series in America, show times should run from June 15 through August 5 at historic theaters like the Ohio Theatre in downtown Columbus.
With a location in both East Columbus and North Columbus, Magic Mountain is a popular birthday celebration place, but few parents know there are plenty of special days and pricing mid-week for families. Each site has its own set of discounts and activities, but Toddler Tuesdays at Magic Mountain East and Monday "All You Can Play Day" at Magic Mountain North are among the most popular.
Featuring specific areas dedicated to Asian, African (including a separate section for the Congo), Australian, North American, and aquatic animals, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, has a wide variety of animal exhibits for your kids to enjoy. Originally opened in January 1927 with a small collection of animals donated by the Wolfe Family, the Columbus Zoo has expanded to house over 7,000 animals on the 580-acre property.
Right next to the Columbus Zoo is Zoombezi Bay, a splash spectacular where kids can go to cool down after a warm afternoon walking around the zoo and aquarium. Featuring a cyclone ride, "baboon lagoon," a tidal wave pool, the "Roaring Rapids Action River," and the "Python Plunge," this exciting waterpark is the perfect addition to an animal-filled day in Columbus.
If your kids haven't had enough fun at the zoo, you can always venture over to the nearby Polaris Mall and drop your younger children off at the zoo-themed play place. Here, they can jump on a tiger's back and lounge with a hippo while your older kids shop and play in the stores and entertainment centers of the mall.
Take a guided tour through the underground cavern system where the Wyandotte tribe of Native Americans once took shelter to escape from enemies. Located just a few minutes from the Columbus Zoo, this natural wonder is perfect for adventurous children and adults alike, and the tours are short enough to keep the attention of younger children, too.
Owned by Jack Hanna, The Wilds conservation center is located about an hour and a half outside of Columbus, but it's certainly worth the trip to let your kids see some wild animals up close—from the safety of an open-air safari bus. Featuring endangered exotic animals and domestic species alike, this day-trip from Columbus could be the perfect way to let your children get lost in the wonder of nature.
The Columbus Museum of Art's Center for Creativity invites kids of all ages to explore their creative side through an entire floor dedicated to discovery. Here, kids aged 3 to 14 (and older, really) can experience the Wonder Room, an interactive exhibit dedicated to hands-on art activities like building mobile sculptures and sheet forts, or head over to the Innovation Lab to explore the exciting world of technology.
Join the folks at Anthony-Thomas Chocolates for an hour-long tour of the 152,000 square-foot candy factory where you and your kids will get to see how it's all made and even sample some of the fresh chocolate goodies. Walking high above the production line on a glass-encased catwalk, you'll be able to see a birdseye view of the entire facility.
When it comes to ice cream in the Midwestern United States, no one does it better than Graeter's handcrafted ice cream. If you visit one of their five locations near Columbus, you can take a tour of their factory, let your kids play in the "Scoops & Chutes" indoor play area, and sample some of the latest and greatest flavors Graeter's has to offer.
The Columbus metroplex area is full of city parks—16 to be exact—that offer more than 175 miles of trails to explore in seven Central Ohio counties. No matter where in the city you're staying, chances are you're not far away from a great outdoor adventure. With plenty of places to play and discover plus a huge lineup of kid-friendly events throughout the year, a visit to one of Columbus' Metro Parks is a great way to spend a day in the city.
Opened in June of 2017, the new children's play area in The Mall at Tuttle Crossing was redesigned to incorporate a "STEAM" theme (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). Although this attraction is specifically designed for younger children under 42 inches tall, you can always explore the shops of this Columbus shopping center with your older kids, too.
Towel service, plenty of seating, and close proximity to food make the Easton Town Center's splash area a wonderful place to stay cool on hot days. The mall also hosts a Superhero Day, a Rally for the Ranch car show, weekly farmer's markets, and movie and concert series during the summer.
Opening for the season in mid-June, the Barnett Recreation Center Sprayground is a favorite spot for kiddies looking to cool off in the summer. Located at 1184 Barnett Road on Columbus' east side, the Sprayground has several spinning, spraying water features that are both hands-on and automated, which is great for surprised giggles and screams.
Complete with an Imagination Playground, seasonal bounce houses, an inflatable water slide on warm days, and a year-round carousel ride, the Columbus Commons' summer season for kids runs June 2 through August 18. Located in downtown Columbus, this central gathering ground also hosts a variety of events including free movies and concerts throughout the year.
One of the largest privately-funded historic districts in the United States, the German Village in Columbus can be a great way to spend the day leisurely wandering around this gorgeous piece of Ohio history. Try some German food, buy some German toys, and explore the rich heritage of this particular neighborhood with your kids. If your child is an avid reader, stop by the Book Loft, one of the coolest bookstores this side of the Mississippi.
Featuring foosball, pinball, duckpin bowling, ping-pong, and shuffleboard tables, as well as a full arcade with retro games (perhaps from your childhood), Pins Mechanical Company in Columbus is a great way to spend the afternoon with your children. Also be sure to check out the website for the special events' calendar for a full list of family nights at this unique bowling alley and recreation center.
See a Columbus Sports Team Play
If you've got a sports fan in the family, there are sports events year-round in Columbus. Catch a Clippers' game at Huntington Park, a Columbus Crew soccer game at the Columbus Crew Sports Center, an Ohio State Buckeyes game at Ohio State University, or a Columbus Blue Jackets' game at the Nationwide Arena.
Although a history lesson might not be your child's idea of a fun family vacation, the Ohio History Museum features an array of interactive displays and exhibits covering topics like air and space travel, the arts, the Civil War, and industry and labor in the region. With children's programming throughout the year, you're sure to find something your kid will enjoy at this Columbus museum.
Take a tour through the treetops at ZipZone Outdoor Adventures inside Camp Mary Orton or explore the all-new Adventure Park with your children for a day filled with fun and exploration. The Adventure Park is a unique attraction that allows families to navigate through obstacle courses high up in the sky (with safety clips and nets, of course).
If your kids have a bit too much energy to handle, consider visiting the World of Bounce, a 12,000-square foot warehouse filled with interactive inflatables, bounce houses, and trampolines. There are also several children's activities to enjoy in non-bounce rooms, and you can even rent out spaces at World of Bounce for private events.
Older kids will probably enjoy The Bounce Club a bit more, as it consists exclusively of trampolines which allows them to jump higher and do more flips and tricks—at their own risk.