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Columbus Ohio Day Trips, Family Activities, Food, Fun

Updated on March 6, 2018
Ilona1 profile image

I have lived in Central Ohio for almost all my life. It has grown into a very metropolitan area with lots of great activities.Discover...

German Village Draws Tourists

German Village Bookshop, tucked among delicious restaurants,intriguing gift shops.
German Village Bookshop, tucked among delicious restaurants,intriguing gift shops. | Source

Family Activities Out And About In Central Ohio

From ice cream taste treats in flavors like salty caramel or brambleberry crisp to Mediterranean favorites such as chicken shawarma with the signature hummus, there are destination places to eat. With a world class zoo, a children's science museum, and a beautiful botanical conservatory, there are lots of things to see and do.

Here is the quick tour over some of the highlights that make Columbus Ohio a fun place for families to visit and explore.

Find The Fun In Columbus Ohio Parks

For those who love low-cost adventures, there are lots of parks to hike around in and many reasonably priced places to eat. Let's explore some of those parks first, and then we will probably work up an appetite for what Columbus restaurants have on the menu.

Parks With Gardens

Strolling through a wisteria arbor into a garden of herbs, entering a rock garden with a tinkling stream, or sitting on a park bench listening to a summer concert while the scent of roses lingers on the air, this is some of what you might experience in some of the Metro Parks of Columbus.

My family's favorite parks have beautiful gardens attached. The two best parks to visit inside the city of Columbus are Whetstone Park of Roses and Inniswood Metro Park. Both of these places have manicured gardens with things in bloom for the entire season, although for the Park of Roses the peak bloom is in June.

Inniswood Metro Park has a children's garden that is worth seeing. It combines a nature preserve with several developed perennial gardens that were created by the Innis sisters before being given to the city.

The Metro Parks System

Columbus has a large park system, all are free to visit. Families with young children are going to love Slate Run Farm. It is a living historical farm and always has events and animals to fascinate visitors. Costumed staff go about their chores and share the stories and welcome the participation of visitors. Heirloom animals, old time skills, and an experience of another time await.

The parks have shelter houses, well maintained trails, and are a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Each park has its own flavor and features. When visiting a certain area of Columbus, be sure to give the park located in its vicinity as visit.

See all the parks within the Central Ohio Parks System to find the one near you.

Inniswood's Secret Garden

Beautiful gardens Inniswood photo copyright Ilona Erwin
Beautiful gardens Inniswood photo copyright Ilona Erwin | Source
Changing displaysI nniswood copyright Ilona Erwin
Changing displaysI nniswood copyright Ilona Erwin | Source
Summertime concerts Park of Roses photo copyright Ilona Erwin
Summertime concerts Park of Roses photo copyright Ilona Erwin | Source

Columbus, Ohio And Vicinity Parks

Whetstone Park Of Roses:
3923 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214, USA

get directions

Whetstone Park and The Park of Roses

Slate Run Farm:
Winchester Southern Road, Canal Winchester, OH 43110, USA

get directions

Living historical farm

Inniswood Metro Park:
940 South Hempstead Road, Westerville, OH 43081, USA

get directions

Two Sisters made a beautiful garden and nature preserve and gave it to the City of Columbus.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens:
1777 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43205, USA

get directions

Indoor and outdoor garden displays and botanical collection.

Battelle Darby Metro Park:
1775 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway, OH 43119, USA

get directions

One of the largest parks, now a visitor center has opened with informative exhibits and a viewing area of real Bison!

The Canal Ride at The Zoo

This ride was so much fun
This ride was so much fun | Source

The Zoo: Christmas, Summer, Anytime

Animals, all seasons in a natural habitat.
Animals, all seasons in a natural habitat. | Source

Columbus Zoo Is Famous

Entertaining The Family


One of the places that kids will love is COSI, which stands for Center of Science and Industry. Yes, it will cost money for the entrance fee, but it is worth it. Shows and science events, all sorts of hands-on ways to experience science for yourself. It's a blast- but in a safe way.

It was awarded the honor of #1 Science Center in the country by Parents Magazine in 2008, and it will provide a full day of discovery and entertainment.

The Columbus Zoo

No list of fun in Columbus is complete without the Zoo. The zoo has different portions that add up to fun all by themselves, like "Zoombezi Bay", which is a waterpark. But I must say, the part I always like is the main zoo with the animals and beautiful botanical plantings!

Jack Hanna spearheaded the development of this zoo to make it one of the finest anywhere. The animals live in beautiful, well cared for, environments and the Aquarium is a great spot to watch aquatic animals up close. Sharks, Stingrays, Oh My! I just love it.

The zoo is always changing for the better and has lots to see. It does cost a fee for parking and entry.

The Franklin Park Conservatory

This is a great day trip for the children, but it is as much for the adults as for them. Walk through the climate environments, enjoy the live Butterfly exhibit during the spring and summer, and let the beauty of the plants impart their beauty and feeling of serenity. There are plenty of activities throughout the year, as well.

Besides the plants, there is quite a large exhibition of Dale Chihuly glass to behold. Most are permanent installations of his colorful glass sculpture, and the special art exhibitions that the Conservatory hosts are spectacular, in my opinion.

Entry fees are charged.


A Day Of Art Appreciation

Some people just love museums- like me! Columbus has an Fine Art Museum, located in Downtown. The Columbus Museum of Art has hours every day except Monday, and Sundays are free. You can enjoy a small repast within the cafe and shop in the delightful gift shop area.

Delve Into The Area's History

The Ohio Historical Center at 800 E 17th Ave. next to the Ohio state Fairgrounds is filled with interesting exhibits ranging from prehistoric to modern times. You will enjoy the natural history, Native American artifacts, and a walk through the replication of old-time, small town America.

Kelton House is a small museum in Downtown, 586 E Town St. Combine it with your trip to the Art Museum and enjoy the architecture and journey into Civil War era history.

While in the downtown area, what about boarding an actual replica of Christopher Columbus' Santa Maria? Yes, you can see what this authentic museum quality ship is like first hand, while learning lots about history. All the info you need to plan your day is on the ship's website .

Keep Updated

Almost all of Columbus Ohio attractions are open at all times, whether it is the Zoo, the Museums, or Parks. However, it is always good practice to check times and dates on their websites or by calling ahead.

The outlook for restaurants is not so bright, and most listed here are dependable, but it is the nature of the food world to constantly change. Always check to see if your favorite restaurant is still in business or located where last listed.

This city has some of the most exciting places to eat simply because it is a vibrant place. One of my favorite ways to discover eating places is to have a copy of the Columbus Monthly Restaurant Guide, but they also have a website with articles about dining in and around the city.

Dining in Columbus

Yes, I ate this fabulous Sundae
Yes, I ate this fabulous Sundae | Source

My Short List Of Top Foodie Delights

I think these places will please those who love good food. Most of them are located in areas that have shopping and in the vicinity of day trip destinations. Dublin is in proximity to the Zoo, German Village is full of interesting shops and home to Schiller Park.

Family and Budget Friendly

Mediterranean food has quite a presence in the city, but try 'The Olive Tree' in Hilliards for Israeli, Greek, and Turkish delights. The Olive Tree Menu (This restaurant has since changed ownership- but still worth a try)

Lavash is another good choice for Med. food, located in Clintonville on the North side of Columbus

For the best ice cream in incredible flavors go to one of the Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream locations. Jeni's locations

Breakfast pastries at Pistacia Vera in the German Village. Serves brunch and fine bakery tortes and other goodies. The Pistacia Vera

We have Mellow Mushroom Pizza Restaurants!
They are my favorite and it is a great place to hang out with family and friends.

Donato's Pizza is here, and yit is the local favorite. Try one of their thin crust specialties. Located in many places around Columbus.

Vegetarian delight in the Whole World Restaurant, where I had my first taste of healthy vegetarian food! Consistently rated highly.

Another good choice is NorthStar cafe with several locations around the city

Areas With Great Food Places, And Sights


Go to German Village, a historical area with lively restaurants and cute shops.


Grandview is another wonderful neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and coffee places. Vibrant and artsy.


Speaking of art, an area with great places to eat and things to see is the Short North. The attractions are more for adults than families with young children, with gallery hop and many bars along with a higher price tag for a meal.

Places To Eat A Treat

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream:
1 West Bridge Street, Dublin, OH 43017, USA

get directions

One of several locations in the city.

Pistacia Vera:
541 South Third Street Columbus, OH

get directions

Delicious pastry and baked goods, brunch, and a selection of coffee and tea drinks

The Olive Tree:
3185 Hilliard Rome Road, Hilliard, OH 43026, USA

get directions

Great Israeli/Mediterranean food

Mellow Mushroom in Dublin:
6505 Dublin Center Drive, Dublin, OH 43017, USA

get directions

Delicious pizza, mellow sixties atmosphere and fabulous hoagie sandwiches.

Lavash Cafe:
2985 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214, USA

get directions

Free Parks and Wide Open Natural Spaces

This is the reason to really love Columbus, Ohio ... city planners made plenty of green spaces and the Metro Park system is a real boon to Central Ohio.

If you want to see Buffalo and learn about prairies go to Battele-Darby, if you desire short hikes or long ones pick most any of the parks for outdoor enjoyment. There are Ranger stations and picnic sites in many of the parks and the trails are well kept and marked.

The parks are a big highlight of things to do in this area.

Report On Slate Run Farm

Hocking Hills copyright Ilona Erwin
Hocking Hills copyright Ilona Erwin | Source

The Great Outdoors

Old Man's Cave

Old Mans Cave site

If you love to hike in the great outdoors, then a trip to the Hocking Hills is just the daytrip you may have in mind. Old Man's Cave is beautiful and is an interesting climate pocket that holds unusual plants for this part of Ohio.

There are other caves and cliffs in this part of the state, but Old Man's Cave is probably the most popular. Others are Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and the Rock House.

This is our family's favorite outing and we go at least once a year, and try for more.

Dawes Arboretum

Dawes Arboretum site

Located in Newark, Ohio to the east of Columbus, is this wonderful arboretum. It has a children's discovery center, an extensive walking tour through the gardens, a historical house ( for a fee), and a driving tour that is ideal for those who have difficulty with walking or time constraints. Dawes Arboretum has a beautiful set of gardens and tree exhibitions, with a genuine Japanese garden with teahouse.

A Mall Can Be Fun

The best Mall is probably Polaris Mall, which is located off I71 going North to Delaware. Many great restaurants (which are kid-friendly) and the second location for Mellow Mushroom is in the area.

A smaller mall which I like is Tuttle Mall located between Hilliard and Dublin- which is handy if you are staying the many excellent hotels in the Northwest area of the city. Easton on the Northeast is a shopping spot, as well.

Many seasonal attractions with a busy child playground center in the lower level of each of these malls.

Malls Aren't What They Used To Be

Everywhere malls are less of a draw, but the two listed here have been dependable, Places like Grandview and Clintonville have the smaller boutique shops. Dublin has a fun downtown space with shops, restaurants, and attractions.

A little further out- Springfield

Further Afield

Springfield is a little west of Columbus, Dayton is 65 miles west, and Cincinnati is to the South. Cleveland to the North is on Lake Erie and there are many different fields trips and sights in that region of Ohio.

Filled with many parks, and nature preserves, it is rich with outdoor activities, so consider mapping your way around the State after exploring places of interest inside the city of Columbus and its nearby regions.

© 2013 Ilona


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    • Ilona1 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for letting me know about that- I'll have to check that out this summer. My family likes to eat at the Cheesecake Factory at that mall. Inniswood Matreo is close to there :)

    • Robb Hoff profile image

      Robb Hoff 

      5 years ago from Cincinnati, Ohio

      Thanks! My daughter is excited about the American Girl store opening there and we were looking to make a couple day trip this summer. Great info!


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