12 Best Romantic Things to Do Outdoors in Columbus, Ohio

Let nature provide the backdrop to a cozy date in the Columbus, Ohio area. Romance in Columbus is not just about dinner and wine at a local restaurant. There are parks, romantic spots on the OSU campus, and creek-side walks to take. You can do something adventurous together such as zip lining or paddling the waterways.

You can stroll beautiful gardens hand in hand, take a hike, or enjoy a bike route through town. Getting outdoors is a wonderful way to connect with nature and with each other.

01 of 12

Smell the Roses in Whetstone Park

Whetstone park of roses in Columbus Ohio
Holly Hildreth / Getty Images
185 Ceramic Dr, Columbus, OH 43214-3003, USA

The Whetstone Park of Roses is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. It is most popular during the spring and summer months as the rose gardens begin their full bloom, but it's worth noting that in the fall, the fall leaves are colorful and the winter brings a special kind of stillness to the beautifully maintained gardens. It's also a birdwatcher's paradise.

With multiple gardens, a fountain, lake, and other points of interest, this is the type of spot where a couple can spend an entire afternoon exploring the grounds, having a picnic or even fishing. In another area of the park, there are full tennis and basketball courts for a little one-on-one competition.

Fair warning—the park is also a favorite spot for wedding ceremonies in the warmer months so there are times when it can become very crowded.

02 of 12

Find a Spot at Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake Ohio State in Columbus Ohio

Artem Vorobiev/Getty Images

Mirror Lake, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

When most people think of Ohio State University, they think of classes, books, thousands of students slogging their way across campus and of course rabid fans roaming the streets during football Saturdays. It may surprise the casual observer to learn that the university has many areas for those with romance in their hearts. The renovated Mirror Lake is one of those outdoor areas.

For the majority of the year, Mirror Lake is a tranquil area of campus nestled among trees away from the hubbub of campus life. Students are often found studying under the trees or feeding the friendly ducks. The main fountain is a big draw and is often the subject of photographers who wish to capture the beauty of the campus. A smaller lesser-known fountain is located at one end of the lake and is surrounded by a stone bench— a perfect place for a smooch.

This idyllic scene is especially romantic during the weekend and at night. A quick bike ride from Columbus' main bike trails gets you to the lake for a cozy picnic for two or a quick drive at night shows off the lake's beauty under well-placed lighting. During the holiday season, the "Light the Lake" event places thousands of white lights throughout the trees surrounding the lake for an extra-special holiday touch.

A couple of things to note—the week before the Ohio State versus Michigan University game, the lake should be avoided. The Mirror Lake jump normally takes place the Thursday before the game and sees thousands of students jumping into the lake. The day may permanently move to Tuesday because of the scheduling of the game for Thanksgiving weekend.

In addition, parking is notoriously difficult on campus. There are garages available for parking and those are the visitors' best bet. Most parking around the area is for registered students with passes only and there is efficient around-the-clock enforcement.

03 of 12

Enjoy the Franklin Park Conservatory

franklin park conservatory Columbus Ohio
Richard Cummins / Getty Images
1777 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43203, USA
Phone +1 614-715-8000

The Franklin Park Conservatory has both an indoor and outdoor component which makes it a great place for a date any time of the year. The park grounds have a small pond, stream, wooden bridge, meticulously kept grounds and even a stage area for shows and concerts set on 88 acres. There are pathways that connect all areas of the park to each other which makes for a nice little walk.

Inside the conservatory are 400 species of plants from all over the world. The Victorian Palm House has more than 40 species of palms. And while the famed Chihuly exhibit has ended, the Conservatory still has several pieces of its own collection on display.

04 of 12

Take a Trail to Creekside at Gahanna

Gahanna creekside in Columbus Ohio

Fahlgrenwikitest/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

101 Mill St #300, Gahanna, OH 43230, USA
Phone +1 614-416-8188

With long trails for biking and walking, Gahanna is a great place for a date. The trails lead to shops and eateries and a waterfall. Checking out Creekside at Gahanna is worth the drive. You can't go wrong with the natural beauty of the area and, depending on the season, you can enjoy fantastic light displays or ghoulish Halloween fun.

No matter when you go, be sure to take a walk along creekside.

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05 of 12

Enjoy the Trees at Topiary Park

Topiary Park in Columbus Ohio

Sally Dillon/Getty Images

480 E Town St, Columbus, OH 43215-4708, USA
Phone +1 614-645-0197

An example of "living art," the Topiary Park located in downtown Columbus is a sculptural interpretation of Georges Seurat’s post-impressionist painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte. While the topiaries—54 human figures, eight boats, three dogs, one monkey, and one cat—are the main attraction, the grounds outside the "painting" are simply beautiful.

Parking around the site is plentiful and there is also a small gift shop on the premises.

06 of 12

Bike or Walk the Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile Columbus Ohio

Holly Hildreth/Getty Images

Columbus, OH 43215, USA

Located downtown Columbus, the Scioto Mile takes you through more than 145 acres of green space. Stretching along the riverfront from the Arena District to the Whittier Peninsula, the Mile connects downtown to the Scioto River through a system of seven parks, boulevards, bikeways, and pedestrian paths.

Couples can experience the Mile via bike or foot and visit some of the new and fun areas of downtown including the Scioto Mile Fountain, Scioto Greenway Recreational Trails, and more. There are always events in the area including open-air movies and concerts. And at night the river view, city view, and lights all make it a fantastic place for a romantic night out.

07 of 12

Take the Long Walk at OSU

Ohio State University The Oval

Artem Vorobiev/Getty Images

181 Oval Dr S, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Phone +1 614-292-6446

Another OSU romantic hotspot, the Long Walk is steeped in tradition and should only be used by the most serious of romantics—those wishing to get married.

The Long Walk is located on the Oval at OSU and is the sidewalk that runs the length of the Oval from William Thompson Library to the Ohio State University Seal at College Road. The tradition behind the walk is that a couple must begin the walk, hand in hand at the statue of former OSU president William Oxley Thompson and walk the entire length of the sidewalk until they reach the seal, where they kiss. If a couple does this they are destined to stay in love forever, get married, or whichever version of the legend you like. This is not a first date kind of thing.

Once again—keep in mind that parking is difficult in the area so don't ruin a wonderful time by getting a ticket, or in some areas, towed. Also, be careful taking the walk during inclement weather. The seal is notoriously slippery if it has snow on it.

08 of 12

Adventure in the Treetops Together

ZipZone Canopy Tours in Columbus

 ZipZone Tours

At the Zip Zone, you can challenge your fears together as you enjoy a zip line canopy tour. For an added sense of romance, go night zip lining around the time of the full moon. You can zip through the treetops in the dark on this guided tour. The Zip Zone is located at 7925 High St.

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09 of 12

Paddle the Waterways

Kayaks on Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio


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Olentangy Paddle offers kayak and canoe rentals and trips along the waterways of central Ohio. Rentals are available 7 days per week, four times a day, on the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. They also provide boats, equipment, and boat shuttling on other routes along Alum Creek, Big Walnut and other waterways in Central Ohio. Rentals include boats, paddles, life vests and instruction. There are no guides with you but the paddling routes are mild.

The paddle routes are one-way so you usually have to walk back or take a ride-share. If that doesn't sound appealing, they offer a Paddle & Pedal option for $6 extra, which includes a bike rental so you can pedal back.

10 of 12

Enjoy a Bit of Columbus History

Kelton House and Gardens in Columbus, Ohio

Kelton House and Gardens

The Kelton House and Gardens is a romantic setting for a stroll and to learn a bit about Columbus history. Kelton House was built in 1852 by Fernando Cortez and Sophia Stone Kelton, and thanks to the Junior League, the home has been restored and preserved with Kelton family Victorian treasures from the 1800s. The Kelton Home hid fugitive slaves as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

You can stroll the gardens, take an audio tour of the gardens and home, and on scheduled days, enjoy a tour and have tea with costumed docents.

11 of 12

Explore the Indian Caverns

The Olentangy Indian Caverns in Columbus

Columbus Underground 

The Olentangy Indian Caverns provides an outing to explore the beautiful winding passages and underground rooms of caverns in Delaware, Ohio, about a half-hour drive from Columbus. They are called Indian Caverns because there is evidence that the Wyandotte Indians used the caverns as protection from the elements and from enemy tribes.

When you tour the cave, you'll be traversing stairways that take you down 55 feet to the natural passages and rooms on three different levels. You can also view the fourth level where an underground river is flowing. The caves are open seasonally.

12 of 12

Enjoy the Animals

Close-Up Of Lizard On Tree Trunk At Columbus Zoo And Aquarium

Caleb Poe / EyeEm/Getty Images

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are not just for kids. Visiting the animals, both local and international, is always interesting. You may see a giraffe lope across the large enclosure, hear a wolf howl, or see a baby animal following its mother.

In the aquarium, you'll see brightly colored fish and turtles. There are special concerts in the summer as well as educational events.

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Best Romantic Things to Do Outdoors in Columbus, Ohio