Top Things to Do in Columbus

Be on the lookout for eye-catching sites, such as a 100-foot red metal ART sculpture, the Arch at McFerson Commons and the Scioto Mile Fountain that CNN calls one of the world’s 15 most spectacular fountains.

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway, or looking for ways to entertain friends and family, we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together the top things you must see, must do and must eat in Columbus, and this is just a start! Whatever you do, don’t miss out on these Columbus favorites.

Must See
  1. German Village – Herzlich Willkommen! A hearty welcome to German Village, Columbus’ premier downtown neighborhood and one of the preeminent historic districts in the United States. Here, you will also find The Book Loft  – 32 rooms of books at bargain prices; also greeting cards, posters, music CDs, DVDs, puzzles and much more.
  2. Short North Arts District – As the “art and soul” of Columbus, the Short North is a vibrant cultural and business community. The nationally acclaimed Gallery Hop is held on the first Saturday of the month.
  3. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens – The only botanical garden in the world with a permanent collection of glass artwork by Dale Chihuly. Seasonal exhibitions rotate year-round.
  4. Wexner Center for the Arts – One of the nation’s premiere cultural gems–an internationally known contemporary arts center at The Ohio State University. The Center offers exhibitions, performances, films, artistic residencies and educational programs.
  5. Columbus Museum of Art – This newly renovated museum, designed by a local architect, adds new gallery space for the museum’s permanent collection, and a bright new area for special exhibitions. An outdoor sculpture garden and excellent new restaurant make it a great spot to enjoy any time of day.
Must Do
  1. Scioto Mile – 253 acres of parkland in downtown Columbus features miles of multi-use trails stretching from Bicentennial Plaza in the south to North Bank Park in the North. This is a great spot to take a stroll and enjoy both the city and nature. The country’s largest free outdoor climbing wall is accessible from paths along the river at Scioto Audubon Metropark. Just east of the Scioto Mile is Columbus Commons, a six-acre park in downtown Columbus with more than 240 programs and events each year.
  2. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – Hand-feed a giraffe at the Heart of Africa exhibit, or see the millions of lights during the holiday season at Wildlights. Splash in the wave pool next door at Zoombezi Bayduring the summer months.
  3. COSI – A top-rated science center with more than 300 interactive exhibits in downtown Columbus.
  4. Easton – The Midwest’s premier destination for shopping, dining and entertainment. With its unique village setting, Easton is home to an eclectic assortment of restaurants, entertainment venues, exclusive retailers and a 30-screen movie theater.
  5. Columbus Coffee Trail & Columbus Ale Trail – Grab a coffee trail card to explore one of the best coffee scenes in the Midwest and taste what happens when quality and collaboration come first or pick up a Brew Book to experience Columbus’ booming beer scene, boasting 28 local craft breweries ranging from highly regarded production breweries to nano breweries.
Must Eat
  1. North Market – Central Ohio’s historic public market since 1876, featuring fresh and prepared foods, authentic ethnic cuisine, flowers, wine and beer, unique gifts and cookware.
  2. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – Don’t miss Columbus-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, from well-known James Beard Award-winning chef Jeni Britton Bauer, called one of the best ice cream spots in the U.S. by Food & Wine.
  3. Katalina’s – Neighborhood breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant housed happily in a 100-year-old gas station. The pancake balls are a must-try!
  4. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants – From The Avenue Steak Tavern, an all-occasion steakhouse in Grandview to The Pearl, a restaurant, tavern and oyster room serving made-from-scratch comfort food in the Short North Arts District, this Columbus-born concept has a great range of dining options.
  5. Pistacia Vera – A Columbus destination featuring from-scratch macarons, croissants, pastries, confections and more.
Attractions

Have a blast at Columbus’ attractions. Shop at the North Market’s more than 30 merchants and the Short North Arts District’s galleries and boutiques. Tour the beautifully restored Ohio Statehouse and explore the shops in historic German Village. Hang out in the Heart of Africa at “Jungle” Jack Hanna’s home zoo, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium or get hands-on at COSI, a top-rated science center featuring more than 300 interactive exhibits. Check out Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the only botanical garden in the world with a permanent collection of glass artwork by Dale Chihuly, then hit Easton, the Midwest’s premier shopping destination. Let loose a little at Eldorado Scioto Downs or Hollywood Casino Columbus.

The Scioto Mile recently renovated and created 33 new acres of parkland in downtown Columbus. With miles of multi-use trails stretching from Bicentennial Plaza in the south to North Bank Park in the North, this is a great spot to take a stroll and enjoy both the city and nature. Bicentennial Park hosts free concerts on summer weekends, and a huge set of fountains create a fun environment for kids to play in during the daylight hours. By night, sip a local cocktail or grab a burger at Milestone 229 and watch the fountain displays change through the evening. A trail leading south from Bicentennial Plaza leads you to the Scioto Audubon Metropark, an important birding area with a nature center, the largest free climbing wall in the nation, and lots of natural areas to explore. Even though it’s in the heart of downtown, the Scioto Mile is a great place to enjoy nature. Waterfoul abound, and paddling is encouraged.

Arts

Columbus’ art scene is bursting with creativity from independent artists, professional troupes and artists-in-residence, leading it to be named one of the “30 Most Fun Places to Live in the U.S.” by U.S. News & World Report and one of “17 Must-Visit Destinations in 2017” by Expedia.

Check out Shadowbox Live!, America’s largest resident theater company, take in what ARTNews calls one of the top art collections in the world at The Pizzuti Collection or view the largest collection of Franklin County artists just by walking the halls of the convention center. Other local favorites that you’ll get to experience include the acclaimed Wexner Center for the Arts offers three rotating exhibitions per year, focused on contemporary artists and a trip to the newly renovated Columbus Museum of Art.

Featuring more than 280 nationally acclaimed artists, the Columbus Arts Festival takes over the downtown riverfront every June. Stroll along the Scioto Mile with friends and family and enjoy the art, entertainment and food that make this event so special.

The people who create art in Columbus have incredible stories of inspiration, passion and purpose. Find out what inspires Byron Stripling, artistic director for the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and explore all of their stories.

Visual

Columbus has more than its fair share of arts institutions, including the venerable Columbus Museum of Art, which opened a new modern wing in late 2015. This expansion, designed by a local architect, adds new gallery space for the museum’s permanent collection, and a bright new area for special exhibitions. An outdoor sculpture garden and excellent new restaurant make the Museum a great spot to enjoy any time of day. On the campus of Ohio State University, the acclaimed Wexner Center for the Arts offers three rotating exhibitions per year, focused on contemporary artists. Next door, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum has the largest collection of cartoons in the world, and stages exhibitions in three galleries year round. The Pizzuti Collection in the Short North features works from the collection of one of the nation’s top art collectors. Find contemporary, arresting artwork in all genres from around the world.

Art galleries are clustered in the Short North Arts District, with a new nexus forming in Franklinton near studio spaces at 400 West Rich Street. Standouts include Hammond Harkins Galleries, Brandt-Roberts Galleries, the Joseph Editions and Lindsey Gallery.

Performing

There’s something special about getting dressed up and going out to see a show. In Columbus’ Theater District, there are four large theaters, The Palace, The Ohio, The Southern and The Lincoln, and three smaller spaces bringing you everything from ballet and opera to avant garde plays. The Wexner Center for the Arts puts on frequent dance, theater and music performances that bring in artists from around the world. During the summer months, the Columbus Symphony brings outdoor concerts to downtown’s Columbus Commons for its popular Picnic with the Pops series. The Brewery District’s Shadowbox Live! is America’s largest resident theater company, and performances range from the comedic to the artsy.

Film

Columbus’ film scene is growing by the day. With Hollywood knocking on our doors as a location for such films as I am Wrath and 478, there’s a growing local film production industry. The Columbus College of Art and Design’s film program educates some of the best animators in the nation, with several recent alumni earning Oscars for their work on Frozen.

When you visit, you’ll find a big variety of arthouse screening locations, like Studio 35 in Clintonville, The Drexel in Bexley, The Gateway Film Center near Campus and the Grandview Theaterin Grandview. The Wexner Center for the Arts screens avant-garde and rare historic films from around the world in its state of the art exhibition space called The Box. During the warmer months, outdoor screenings are popular. Here’s a listing of a few.

Film festivals, like the Columbus International Film Festival in and the Columbus Jewish Film Festival are another way to partake in the film scene.

Kid-Friendly Art

Columbus Museum of Art

The Columbus Museum of Art has a sunny new modern art wing, full of fanciful mirrored sculptures, colorful paintings and interactive projections. But best of all, the museum’s Wonder Room is an area full of real art that’s just for kids. Families can build sculptures of their own, that relate to the works on display, and there’s a huge indoor tree house for the times when you just need a break. Open Studio, offered every Saturday from 1-3 p.m. has all the art supplies you can imagine. Kids and adults can create art in many media based on a theme for each day. Interactive stations throughout the museum’s galleries also offer chances for kids to build with Lego blocks, create sand sculptures and share their reactions to artworks. Admission for kids five and younger is free, and the museum is free for all on Sundays.

Public Art

Throughout the city, and especially downtown, statues, murals and other works of art provide unique places to play and relax. Kids can spot classic paintings reinterpreted as murals in the popular Short North Arts District, or pose with life-sized anthropomorphic deer along the Scioto Mile. Statuary inside and outside the Ohio Statehouseoffers opportunities for historical discovery.

Cartoons

Columbus has a rich heritage of cartooning that continues to today. The world’s epicenter for this artform can be found at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum on the campus of Ohio State University. This recently opened museum hosts three galleries of cartoon and comic strip exhibitions, which can range from the early days of the medium to popular modern artists. The museum has free admission and is open Tuesdays-Sundays from 1-5 p.m.

Performing Arts

The Columbus Children’s Theatre puts on shows in professional theaters just for kids all year round, with talent from Columbus’ own kids. The BalletMet and the Columbus Symphony offer outstanding performances for budding dancers and musicians.

Events

Columbus’ huge roster of events and festivals is a great way to add some art to your kid’s visit. Festival Latino, the Columbus Greek Festival and the Asian Festival offer cultural music and dance from across the globe. The Columbus Arts Festival offers a great opportunity to see visual art from around the country, and also experience it through music, poetry and other performances. Families can even participate in glass bead sculpting, origami folding, kite-making, performing in a fairy tale and more.

Shopping

Columbus is rising as a fashion mecca and has become fasion’s best kept secret. As headquarters to retail giants like L Brands, Express, DSW and Abercrombie & Fitch, Columbus also has the third highest concentration of fashion designers behind only New York and Los Angeles.

Many of Columbus’ neighborhoods offer chic boutiques from independent fashion retailers and designers. The Short North Arts District is full of one-of-a-kind shops for men and women alike. Homage features screened vintage sports and civic logos from around the nation and carries only the best and softest t-shirts. The Candle Lab, in Worthington and the Short North Arts District offers hand-poured candles in more than 120 fragrances, pour-your-own custom scented candles, customizable home fragrance products and small-batch natural bath and body products.

Easton has stores like Tiffany & Co., Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton and is just 15 minutes east of downtown. This indoor/outdoor shopping center with its unique village setting and broad assortment of restaurants, entertainment and retailers is a fashion guru’s dream.

Polaris Fashion Place features an indoor/outdoor mall and close by stores such as Cabelas, and IKEA (opening summer 2017). Just north of Columbus is Tanger Outlets, Ohio’s outlet mall with more than 90 name brands.

Nightlife

When you’re looking for hard-charging night out, Columbus has you covered. Find live music any night of the week, local drinks at watering holes all across the city, and an accessible, diverse arts scene that leaves many bigger cities envious.

Columbus’ music scene is wowing national audiences with Made in CBUS acts like Twenty One Pilots, Lydia Loveless and Saintseneca. You can find local musicians playing live any night of the week at clubs across the city like Notes, Little Rock, Brothers Drake Meadery, Ace of Cups and the Big Room Bar. National acts take the stage at venues like the Newport, Express Live! and Nationwide Arena.

Columbus boasts more than 30 microbreweries, and a nice assortment of them can be found near the downtown corridor. Wolf’s Ridge, Seventh Son, Hoof Hearted, North High, the Elevator, Barley’s and Land-Grant all have great tap rooms full of unique brews. The Columbus Ale Trail is another way to explore the bounty of beer in Columbus. Watershed Distillery is known for its citrusy gin, and Middle West Spirits wins fans with its flavorful wheat vodka and whiskeys. You’ll find local beer and spirits on the cocktail menus and tap lists across the city. For a special treat, try craft cocktails at Curio in German Village, M downtown, or Denmark and Mouton in the Short North.

There’s something special about getting dressed up and going out to see a show. In Columbus’ Theater District, there are four large theaters and three smaller spaces bringing you everything from ballet and opera to avant garde plays. The Wexner Center for the Arts puts on frequent artist talks, dance and music performances and cinema screenings. During the summer months, the Columbus Symphony brings outdoor concerts to downtown’s Columbus Commons for its popular Picnic with the Pops series. The Brewery District’s Shadowbox Live! is America’s largest resident theater company, and performances range from the comedic to the artsy.

Every memorable night out requires the proper fuel, and Columbus’ top-notch dining scene has exactly what you need. Indulge in a pre-show dinner at Latitude 41. A special night out can start in the Short North with a dinner on the tucked-away patio at Basi Italia, or in German Village with Low Country cuisine at G Michael’s. If you’re looking for something more casual, try Harvest Pizzeria in Clintonville, Forno in the Short North or Arepazo Tapas and Wine in the Brewery District.

Made in CBus

Columbus takes pride in the wealth of locally owned businesses, restaurants, shopping and attractions all across the city. When you visit, our commitment to quality and collaboration will be apparent. Enjoy our top-rated distilleries, our artfully roasted coffee and some of the best ice cream you’ll taste anywhere. Our dining scene shines with independent restaurants ranging from stick-to-your-ribs to haute cuisine. You’ll find locally designed clothing and accessories from fashion giants Express and Victoria’s Secret and startup local brands like zerOz wallets and Robert Mason, as well as diverse locally owned boutiques in the Short North Arts District , Grandview, German Village and beyond.

A fun way to experience this is on the brand new Made in CBUS trail. The trail features 20 businesses, including top-rated distilleries, freshly cold-pressed juice shops, locally designed clothing and accessories and artfully created home goods. Pick up a passport at any participating stop or at one of three Experience Columbus Visitors Centers located in the Arena District, Easton and the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC). After purchasing an item at any four of the twenty stops, trail goers can redeem the passport for a free Made in CBUS t-shirt at the Experience Columbus Visitors Centers in the Arena District or the GCCC. For an interactive Made in Cbus trail map and information about each of the participating shops, visit madeincbustrail.com.

Explore here for all the CBUS-made products and CBUS-owned restaurants and shops that are going to make your next trip memorable. Throughout the site, you’ll find the “Made in CBUS” icon on everything that’s made here in Columbus.

Family

COSI continues to be a top-rated science center thanks to its more than 300 interactive exhibits. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium boasts the Heart of Africa exhibit where you can hand-feed a giraffe and then head next door and splash in the wave pool at Zoombezi Bay during the summer months. Family activities and crafts are offered every weekend to enhance your experience at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

No matter the season, there is always a sporting event taking place in Columbus. From the Columbus Clippers, Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians and Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew SC, to the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets, you will always find something fun for your family.

Shop, eat, play in the fountains and catch the latest movie at Easton, with its family-focused Fenlon Square. American Girl, Build-A-Bear, Lego’s, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and a 30-screen movie theater are just some of the options when you go.

Stoll along the Scioto Mile to enjoy miles of multi-use trails or take in free concerts on summer weekends at Bicentennial Park where kids can splash in the fountains during the daytime. Stellar parks like Columbus Commons and Scioto Audubon Metropark add excitement, while the Columbus Children’s Theater and slew of family-friendly restaurants make Columbus a great getaway for families.

Sports and Recreation

Bring your bike, or rent a CoGo and take a ride on the many trails in Columbus, including the newly renovated Scioto Mile highlighted by miles of trails, artwork and beautiful skyline views.

There are several Metroparks throughout Columbus that are beautiful for outdoor activity and exploring. Inniswood offers more than 100 acres of woods and streams to explore. Even if the flowers aren’t blooming, the beautiful forest is always so welcoming, with easy trails for hiking. Situated on 44 acres in Hilliard, Homestead Park includes hiking trails and plenty of interesting scenery, from the replica train station to the barns to the covered bridge and the ponds. Dublin’s Coffman Park surrounds features like the amphitheater, skate park, fishing ponds and more. It’s a perfect spot to get out of the house and stroll. Close by is also Indian Run Falls, a natural gorge with trails, observation platforms and a bridge over the waterfalls. Battelle Darby Creek offers over 7,000 sprawling acres to hike and explore. Warm up at the nature center and see if the bison are out roaming. Trek up and down the trails at Highbanks, crossing the bridges over the ravines and spying the bald eagles from the observation deck.

Hit the links at one of the many golf courses in Columbus where golf pro, Jack Nicklaus learned to play, including the Safari Golf Club at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Home to several major sporting teams, including NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the MLS’ Columbus Crew SC, Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, the Columbus Clippers and college-favorite, the Ohio State Buckeyes, you can catch a game no matter what the season!

OSU

Most known for their football program, led by head coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State football is always a force to be reckoned with. Come fall in Columbus, the Ohio State University campus is filled with die-hard fans ready to cheer on their team to victory. The Buckeyes play at Ohio Stadium, otherwise known as the “Horseshoe” and are part of the Big Ten Leaders Division. Whether you have tickets to the game or not, the experience on campus on game day is well worth it.

Ohio State athletics often also excels in numerous other sports winning 5 national championships in 2014 in wrestling, women’s rowing, synchronized swimming, pistol and of course football. Their basketball team is also always a team to watch in the winter months.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The only National Hockey League franchise in Ohio, the Columbus Blue Jackets play at Nationwide Arena, located in the heart of the Arena District. The Blue Jackets play in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and host games at Nationwide Arena from mid-September through mid-April.

Because of their central location downtown, there is a lot to do and explore before and after a hockey game. R Bar is a hockey-themed bar and is the official bar of the Jacket Backers Booster Club, just a few steps away from the Nationwide Arena doors. Boston’s, The Gourmet Pizza is right across the street from the Arena and great for dinner with your family before or after a game, offering pasta, pizza, sandwiches and more!

The Short North Arts District is within walking distance of the arena, just north along High Street. It offers independent restaurants, bars, retail shops and art galleries. Just look for the lighted arches across High Street that mark the district. Another area fun for after the game is Park Street – home to a dozen bars and night clubs that are also within walking distance of the arena.

View their schedule and make sure to catch a game – you’ll be glad you did.

Experience the Columbus Blue Jackets up close and personal with the Lofts Hotel travel package.

Columbus Crew SC

The Columbus Crew SC has emerged as a force in Major League Soccer, making it one of Central Ohio’s most popular sports attractions. The team plays in the United States’ first soccer-specific MAPFRE Stadium March through October. There is no better place to be than a tailgate with die-hard fans in the parking lot before a game.

Sports aficionados can sip local beers or nosh on food from area restaurants at MAPFRE Stadium during a Columbus Crew SC game. The popular Hot Chicken Takeover launched their food truck at Crew SC games and you’ll also find Dos Hermanos serving up tacos and Schmidt’s dishing out Bahama Mama’s. In the stadium itself you can declare your allegiance with the Columbus ‘Til I Die Dog, topped with bacon, shredded potatoes, corn, cheddar and Sriracha ranch. Top things off with sweet treats from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Craft beer fans can now find local breweries on tap, too! Columbus Brewing CompanyLand-Grant Brewing, Four String Brewing, and Elevator Brewing are all represented.

Get your soccer scarf ready, rest your voice and check out their schedule for tickets to an upcoming game. You will feel like part of the action and won’t be disappointed.

Watch the Crew SC’s “Club and City” video below!

Columbus Clippers

If you want to see the baseball stars of tomorrow, check out the Columbus Clippers, Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The Clippers play at Huntington Park, named the best ballpark in America, in the Arena District. Take advantage of their many promotions throughout the season, including fan favorite, Monday Dime-a-Dog nights. The season runs from April to September and includes day and night games throughout the season.

Huntington Park has gained recognition for its superior fan experience, and that includes local food and drink at concession stands. Ohio originals Bob Evans and Donato’s Pizza serve their signature fare. Fans of good barbeque will find sandwiches stuffed with pulled pork, beef, and chicken at City Barbeque. Wash it all down with Columbus Brewing Company’s pale ale or IPA.

There is a lot to do in the area before or after a game. Grab dinner and a margarita at Nada, a modern Mexican restaurant just across the street, or stroll through the North Market beforehand to find something for everyone’s pallet. The Arena District is full of bars, including the Big Bang dueling piano bar to have a little fun after a game.

View their schedule and take your family to a game. You’re guaranteed to have a good time!

LGBT-Friendly Columbus

Home to one of the largest Pride parades in the Midwest attracting more than 500,000 people, Columbus is a smart and open-minded city where people are free to be themselves and follow their passions.

Columbus is rising as a fashion mecca and has become fashion’s best kept secret with retail giants L Brands, Express, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Abercrombie & Fitch and more that are headquartered here. Find out why Columbus was ranked #3 on the Fashionable Destinations list here, then plan your fashionable getaway to Columbus.

Ignite your own memorable moments, discover Columbus’ expanding LGBT arts and culture scene and explore the city’s unique neighborhoods with the Go Out travel package at the Hilton Easton.

Browse through all of our resources, LGBT nightlife, sign up for the newsletter and check out upcoming events below.

View our Out in Cbus guide, or pick one up in an Experience Columbus Visitor Center.

Columbus Tours

Eat, drink and explore with Columbus Food Adventures. Get a real taste of Columbus on guided food tours with stops at independently owned businesses, complete with samples of their best menu items and behind the scenes access. Explore new cuisines and learn about the history of Columbus’ delicious neighborhoods. Or explore microbreweries, brewpubs and distilleries on a Columbus Brew Adventures tour. There are a variety of different tours for different levels of interest.

Discover the history, architecture, and uniqueness of Columbus and surrounding neighborhoods with a fun bike tour experience led by knowledgeable and local staff or join a highly experienced guide in a car or bus who will show you the historical, cultural and architectural history of Columbus on a Capital City tour.

SegAway Tours of Columbus will take you on a ride to discovering the charm and history of Columbus. You will explore miles of peaceful parkland along the Scioto River, the thriving Short North arts district, the vibrant Arena District and historic downtown. As you glide, your tour guide will entertain you with fascinating and humorous stories about Ohio’s Capital city.

For something a little more active, go on a guided tour of the treetops at ZipZone. ZipZone is the only zip line tour in Columbus! The Canopy Tour including our longest and our fastest line and a tour of a beautiful natural space in Columbus you would never have imagined!

This is just a start for touring the city. Check below for all of the unique tours offered in Columbus.