Ohio’s capital city brims with unique options for visitors who want to immerse themselves in art and culture. From world-class museums and family-friendly facilities to edgy studios and forward-thinking galleries, Columbus prioritizes the arts with creative and often innovative results.
Here are 10 stops you’ll want to bookmark for your Columbus art itinerary.
The city’s premiere art destination, the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) maintains a wide-ranging collection of works that includes American, European, Modern, Impressionist, Cubism, German Expressionist, and photography elements. The stunning facility completed a major upgrade in 2015, which involved creating the expansive new Margaret M. Walter Wing, adding an airy glass atrium, and increasing its overall gallery space. Time your visit to enjoy lunch in the colorful Schokko Café with a view out the windows toward the Patricia M. Jurgensen Sculpture Garden. Don’t miss the chance to snap a selfie in front of the Chihuly sculpture that occupies the Derby Court event space. Hot tip: General admission is free on Sundays.
Columbus’ beloved Center for Science and Industry (COSI) first took shape back in the 1960s before moving to its current site in 1999. Inside the 333,000-square-foot digs, visitors of all ages can discover an array of interactive STEM-focused fun that covers space, geography, oceans, gadgets, energy, and machinery. Live science shows and demonstrations up the ante, along with an on-site planetarium and a National Geographic Giant Screen 4D projection theater for startlingly life-like movie screenings. The American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery is a must-see, with a model T-Rex and life-sized oviraptor nest (complete with eggs!) kids can climb into and over.
Cutting a dashing figure on the western banks of the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, the highly acclaimed National Veterans Memorial and Museum opened in 2019 to honor all branches of the United States Military services. The circular façade and handsome architecture make a striking first impression, setting the stage for a moving, emotional journey inside. Displays of timelines, artifacts, photos, and remembrances personalize the compelling stories of those who’ve served. After exploring the museum, take some time to reflect with a peaceful walk through the 2.5-acre Memorial Grove.
On The Ohio State University campus, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum stands ready to tickle visitors’ funny bones. Named for a famed Ohio native cartoonist, the museum celebrates wit and whimsy through traveling exhibitions and items on display from the permanent collection. Among the dizzying archive of holdings, visitors can observe and peruse comic strips and books, all manner of cartoons, and graphic novels that the museum has amassed since its founding in 1977. Guests are welcome to explore on their own, but guided tours shed new light on the subjects with intriguing context and relevant back stories.
Affiliated with the Columbus Museum of Art as of January 2019, the Pizzuti Collection showcases thought-provoking modern and contemporary works within a charming 1923 building in the Short North Arts District. Local philanthropists Ron and Ann Pizzuti have gifted pieces from their formidable personal collection to populate the museum site; the facility also hosts an evolving schedule of innovative exhibitions, programs, and shows.
Short North Arts District
The city’s epicenter of fashion and style makes a logical home for some of the most innovative art studios and galleries in town. The buzzy Short North Arts District houses a number of hotspots worth discovering on the first Saturday of each month during vibrant free Gallery Hop events; visitors are also welcome to explore any time during open hours. Make sure to tip your hat to the Studios on High Gallery, the oldest existing artist-owned and operated facility of its kind in Columbus. The 20 resident artists in the collective represent a wide swath of media that takes in oils, watercolors, sculpture, mosaic, textiles, jewelry, and more.
Otherworld offers a truly unique immersive art experience that allows visitors of all ages to walk into and through large-scale installations with a psychedelic vibe. The nearly 50 Instagram-worthy vignettes incorporate aspects of video game technology, neon lights, lasers, infinity mirrors, oversized sculptures, trippy nature scenes, and other haunting visuals. Guests are allowed to (gently) touch everything, making Otherworld an appealing destination for families with well-behaved kids. Admission can be a little pricy, but you won’t find another attraction like this anywhere in Ohio.
Another OSU fixture, the Wexner Center for the Arts arrived on the scene in 1989 with support from one of Columbus’ most prominent civic families. These days, the “Wex” brings together architecture, contemporary art, films, and other creative genres all under one comprehensive roof. Flexible gallery spaces and a theater accommodate an ever-changing calendar of rotating exhibitions, public gatherings, live performances, appearances by leading artists, and other art-focused events.
Take a deep dive into the roots of the Buckeye State at the Ohio History Center. Part of a statewide network that includes historic and archaeological sites, this Columbus-based museum details the geological formation of Ohio and some of the most significant events that have shaped the state. The Native American exhibit reveals insight into the territory’s earliest inhabitants, while the "Building the American Dream" display gives visitors the chance to see what life looked like for local families back in the 1950s.
Duffers will want to set a course to the Jack Nicklaus Museum, part of The Ohio State University sports complex. The champion golfer was born here in Columbus, making his hometown a fitting location for the museum that commemorates his illustrious career. Across 12,000 square feet of space, visitors can admire trophies, memorabilia, and photos while learning about the origins of the game itself in the Legends of Golf Gallery. The visitor experience includes a film presentation narrated by Sean Connery in the Nicklaus Theater. Fore!