Labor Day is summer's last hurrah, and Columbus, Ohio, is a worthwhile place to spend the holiday weekend, with plenty of activities for visitors and residents alike, entailing everything from vintage baseball and Greek cultural festivals to butterfly releases.
Although most locals spend the weekend by the pool, grilling with friends, some people enjoy walking the greenway trails by the Scioto River or splashing with their children at a water park. If you're in the Ohio state capital for Labor Day weekend, it's worth stopping by a few of the city's annual and one-time events.
Immerse yourself in culture, food, and entertainment at the Greek Festival, a Columbus Labor Day tradition for almost 50 years. The four-day celebration goes from Friday through Monday of Labor Day weekend at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, on Goodale Boulevard and High Street. It's worth a visit just to eat your way through the festival; taste traditional food from Greece like dolmades, pastitsio, moussaka, keftedes, gyros, and baklava sundaes, or even try a cooking lesson.
You'll also find jewelry, clothing, and art objects imported from the European country, as well as packaged Greek food to buy. Folk dancers perform to the festival's bouzouki music in traditional dress, and they'll teach you how to dance. In addition, you can take a tour of the cathedral to learn about its impressive mosaics and marble.
Running since 1983, the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival is one of the top events of the weekend in the region. Located in Northam Park in Upper Arlington, Ohio, the blind-juried arts festival is about a 10-minute drive from Columbus. Roughly 200 local, regional, and national artists set up at the event to sell their wares, which are made from a diversity of media.
As you peruse the works of art, make sure to stop for a bite to eat from the many food vendors and check out performances from local musicians on the festival's two stages. This one-day event held on Labor Day itself often attracts over 25,000 people.
On the Saturday evening of Labor Day weekend, hop on over to Grandview Avenue’s free sidewalk summer market event, The Grandview Hop, taking place between First Avenue and Fifth Avenue. Stroll along a half-mile portion of Grandview Avenue and experience live music, food, art, and fun activities for all ages. You'll be able to check out independently-owned shops and sidewalk merchants vending everything from handmade paper and leather goods to flavorful foods and home decor.
Zoombezi Bay is a fun, family-friendly water park outing that pairs nicely with summer. Located just north of Columbus near Powell, the water park offers numerous attractions, such as group rafting with music, waterslides, and a heated water playground for little ones. Cabana rentals are also available for those seeking more relaxing, splash-free moments. Several eateries are on-site as well as a shop for any last-minute items you may have forgotten, like sunscreen or bathing suits.
Zoombezi Bay is typically open on Labor Day weekend, but it's always helpful to confirm holiday hours on their website before planning a day trip.
As summer fades away, get to Ohio Village in Columbus on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend for a different type of activity—one of the nation’s largest vintage baseball festivals. Over 30 teams from across the United States head to Ohio Village to play the sport in an 1860s-style; you'll have a chance to give playing a try with the local team, the Ohio Village Muffins. Proof of the team's dedication to the origins of the sport: they like to educate people that in the mid-19th-century U.S., “base ball” was two words.
Historic games, sports, and other kids' activities will be going on all day. Families can also dine on some items from food trucks and find drinks to purchase nearby. Bring a blanket and chairs to have a comfortable place to land.
Open practically every day of the year, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a great spot for animal lovers hoping to explore over the Labor Day weekend. Bring comfortable shoes for your journey; you'll be walking around to learn about 10,000 animals from around the planet, ranging from a wolverine to a Madagascar tree boa to an American bison. It's quite an education for the whole family.
The most passionate learners can attend a summer family overnight with conservation educators as your guides. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offers before hours and after-hours special programming too. Contact the zoo if you are in need of a VIP cart due to any mobility issues.
Local musicians have been entertaining the public in the gazebo at Whetstone Park of Roses in Clintonville, an unofficial neighborhood in north Columbus, for over 60 years. The shows are always free, thanks to the Civitan Club of North Columbus, the City of Columbus, and local sponsors.
Head to the park on the Sunday night of the holiday weekend for a fun end-of-summer show where you likely might find a free snow cone as well. If the weather doesn't work for an outdoor show, concerts are moved to the shelter house.
In the late summer, there are numerous things to do at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. You can watch butterflies being released in the Pacific Island Water Garden during the Blooms and Butterflies educational presentations given daily through the middle of September. Or you may be thrilled to sample foods and watch fun cooking demos at Live Fire Sunday, held at the Live Fire Cooking Theater on the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus.
Another option—if you are age 18 and up—is to try your hand at creating items like bud vases, candy bowls, or tumblers from hot glass on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend during Hot Glass Studio Nights: Sizzling Saturdays in the North Courtyard.