Best Places for Kids in Central Ohio

Aerial view of vendors at Columbus, Ohio, North Market
••• North Market. Dave Ungar/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Columbus is a wonderful family-friendly city. Good schools, great neighborhoods and wonderful places to play makes the city one of the best in Ohio to raise kids.

Paid Places to Play

North Market

While free to visit, to eat it's going to take some cash, but this is a great opportunity to let your kids explore their tastes. Build your own meals! With free concerts, farmer's markets and classes, North Market is great for the whole family to explore all things food!

COSI

Named the number one science center in the country by Parents Magazine, The Center of Science and Industry is a true kid's delight. Hands-on activities for children of all ages makes it fun for the whole family. Whether taking in a movie on the Extreme Screen, checking out any of the premier rotating or permanent exhibits or having a splashy good time at the water table in the Little Kidspace, COSI is hours of fun.

Westerville Community Center Open Gym

CBus Mom, a great resource for kid activities, has a wonderful review of the Westerville Community Center's Open Gym at her site and she shares this helpful hint: "Westerville Community Center’s open playtime is a great way to meet up with friends who have kids similar in age,  and get the kids out for some exercise if it is too cold or too hot outside. Oh – and if you don’t have the cash one week for one reason or another, take the kids to the “tree house” to play. The indoor play gym resembling a tree house has slides, things to climb, places for mom to sit and keep an eye on the kids for FREE!!

CAPA Summer Movie Series

The CAPA Summer Movie Series is a Columbus favorite with plenty of great movies for kids. 2011's lineup includes Classic Looney Tunes as part of a Saturday morning cartoons theme.

Magic Mountain

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.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium & Zoombezi Bay

Right next to the Columbus Zoo is Zoombezi Bay. A splash spectacular, this place is where kids love to go to stay cool.

Columbus Museum of Art Center for Creativity

This space is designed to get the whole family excited about art and does the trick with hands-on activities and fun displays.

Anthony Thomas Factory Tour

Take a tour of this chocolate factory walking along an enclosed catwalk to observe the production lines.

Free Places to Play

On a tight budget or just need to kill some time with your children? Try these ideas.

Graeter's Scoops and Chutes Play Area

A play place in an ice cream shop. It couldn't get any better unless there was a tour of the ice cream factory—oh wait there is!

Metro Parks

Sixteen natural area parks with over 175 miles of trails in seven Central Ohio counties. Plenty of places to play and discover. Check out their website for special programs and events.

The Mall at Tuttle Crossing Space Themed Playplace

Get ready for blast off! Kids 42 inches and under are welcome at this soft play area.

Kids can planet hop, climb in and out of a U.S. spaceship or slide down the tail of a comet.

Polaris Mall Columbus Zoo Themed Playplace

Jump on a tiger's back and lounge with a hippo? Yes, please! A kid's delight, Polaris' Columbus Zoo themed play area is perfect for little kids.

Easton Mall Splash area

Towel service, plenty of seating and close proximity to food makes the Easton Mall Splash area a wonderful place to stay cool on hot days.

Barnett Recreation Center Sprayground Playground

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.

Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons, the 9-acre park in the heart of downtown Columbus hosts a carousel, green space, and packed roster of activities makes this park a great destination for families.