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The 20 Best Things to Do in Columbus Ohio for First Timers


If you are visiting Columbus, Ohio, you will find a vast array of activities and attractions to enjoy. As the state’s capital, it is an area of historical significance, and this is reflected in many of the landmarks and attractions. However, there are also lots of fun activities to suit all tastes and budgets, along with some fantastic outdoor spaces to explore. With so many things to see and do in this city, planning your vacation itinerary so that you get the best experience of this city may seem tricky. To give you some guidance, the following are the 20 best things to do in Columbus, Ohio, for first-timers.

20. Kingmakers Board Game Parlour

Something a little different to do during your trip to Columbus is to spend a couple of hours at Kingmakers Board Game Parlour. According to The Crazy Tourist, there are more than 500 board games to play at this café. This means that you can combine grabbing some refreshments with having some family fun during your vacation. This is also a good option if you are looking for something to do on a rainy day.

19. Hayden Falls Park

Sitting on the west side of Scioto River is Hayden Falls Park. This is one of the prettiest spots to visit in Columbus. It is a two-acre spot with its main feature being a 35-foot waterfall. The park is set in a unique gorge habitat with a rocky face and trees and plants growing from the cliff. It is a natural ecosystem that is protected, and there is a boardwalk that overlooks the river and waterfall. Visitors an also sit at the picnic tables with a spot of lunch while admiring the stunning scenery around them. If you are visiting the area on a limited budget, then this is a good option as it is a free activity.

18. Sherrie Gallery

Located in the Short North Arts District, the Sherrie Gallery is a small art gallery that opened in 1986. It contains a diverse range of works, including paintings, jewelry, wood sculptures, glass art, mixed media pieces, and ceramics. The exhibitions at this gallery rotate every four to six weeks. It is open to the public from Tuesday through to Sunday every week but it is closed on Mondays.

17. Ohio History Connection

There is a diverse community in Ohio, and this is protected by the Ohio Historic Connection. At this tourist attraction, you can learn more about the different communities that make up the Ohio society, and the role they have played to history, industry, and society as a whole. The collections on display include various artifacts from different periods of history, and they tell the story of significant individuals. Just some of the artifacts on display include wedding dresses, automobiles, farm equipment, and items relating to local businesses.

16. Ohio Expo Center and State Fair

In 1886, the Ohio Expo Center became the permanent home to the Ohio State Fair. This Expo Center is one of the most dynamic venues in the Midwest, with more than one million acres of event space. It is also home to an ice rink, modern livestock facilities, multi-purpose buildings, historic structures, pavilions, and basketball courts. There are multiple major events hosted at the center throughout the year, so you should check what is on during your stay before you embark on your trip. The fairgrounds are open throughout the year, and there are fun rides for all the family. Even if the expo center is not holding an event, it is still worth a trip to the fairground.

15. The Park of Roses

Officially called Whetstone Park but is better known as The Park of Roses, this park covers 13 acres. Within the park there are 12,000 roses, hence the name by which it is known locally. It is a relaxing place to spend some time that is filled with beautiful aromas. In addition to the formal rose gardens, there are also herb gardens and perennial gardens. There are paved pathways weaving through the different sections, and park benches where you can sit and take in your surroundings.

14. Walk or Cycle the Scioto Mile

The Scioto Mile is a riverfront destination in Columbus. It consists of an integrated system of pathways, cycle paths, parks, and boulevards. The Scioto Mile consists of 145 acres of parkland that runs from the downtown riverfront Arena District to the downtown area of the Whittier Peninsula. Not only is it a great outdoor space, but it is also a different way to view the cityscape and admire various landmarks in the city. Along the way, you will find a free outdoor climbing wall, an interactive fountain, and an amphitheater that hosts events throughout the year. There is also the Scioto Audubon, which is a 120-acre open space that attracts both shorebirds and birds of prey.

13. Ohio Architectural Salvage

An unusual attraction to visit in Columbus is the Ohio Architectural Salvage. Located close to the Ohio State Fairgrounds, this was originally opened by Chris Sauer in 2011 simply as a resource for finding salvaged architectural elements. Now, it has also become an unusual attraction in the city. It has a large collection of eclectic, vintage, and antique artifacts. These range from small doorknobs to large exterior columns. It is an interesting place to peruse, and it gives you a little insight into the architectural history and styles of Ohio. It is a great place to buy an unusual memento of your trip.

12. Huntington Park

Located in the Arena District, this park is home to the Columbus Clippers baseball team. There are three levels that can accommodate up to 10,000 spectators. When there is a game on, there is an amazing vibe that even those who are not baseball fans can appreciate. In addition to the park, there is a lively rooftop bar, a club-level patio, a club bar, and a Hall of Fame. Therefore, there are things to do before and after a game. If you want to watch a baseball game during your visit, it is advisable to book tickets in advance.

11. Ohio State University

Ohio State University is a functioning educational establishment, but it is also a busy tourist attraction. There are several attractions you can visit on the university campus, including the Hopkins Hall Gallery, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, the Jack Nicklaus Museum, the Museum of Classical Archaeology, and the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection.

10. Ohio Statehouse

If you want to learn more about the history of the city during your stay, then a top activity to include in your itinerary is a visit to the Ohio Statehouse. There are things to enjoy both inside and outside of this attraction. From the exterior, visitors can explore the 18 acres of beautiful gardens and admire the Greek Revival architecture of the Ohio Statehouse. Once inside, visitors can appreciate the artwork on display and learn more about Ohio’s history from the informative exhibitions. Ohio Statehouse is part of Ohio Capitol Square, along with the Senate Building and Atrium, which is also worth a visit while you are in the area.

9. Schiller Park

There are multiple parks to visit in Columbus, and one of the best is Schiller Park. The park was first created in 1867 but has changed names several times since. Within the park, there are floral displays, lawn areas, basketball courts, a recreation area, playgrounds, a gazebo, and picnic areas. There is also a stage as various events are hosted at this venue throughout the year.

8. Ohio Stadium

Sports fans will love watching a game at Ohio Stadium, and even those who are not sports enthusiasts can enjoy the exciting vibe. The stadium was built in 1922, and it has had huge sums of money spent on renovation. It is now one of the most recognizable landmarks not only in Ohio but also in sports history in the rest of the United States. It seats almost 105,000 people, so the vibe is electric. If you want to watch a game during your visit, check the schedule and book tickets in advance.

7. Ohio Theater

Built in 1928, Ohio Theater was completely restored during the 1980s, says The Crazy Tourist. Throughout the year, a diverse range of performances is held at this venue, with options including symphonies, operas, ballets, musicals, and comedic performances. They even show old movies on a large screen. You should check what is on during your visit and book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

6. Topiary Park

Those who prefer outdoor activities should consider a trip to Topiary Park. Originally, the park was envisioned as a garden for the School of the Deaf. However, it was dedicated to Columbus in 1992, says Vacation Idea. It is cared for by volunteers who maintain the garden to a high standard for the public to enjoy. This is a free activity and it is a peaceful place to relax or reflect.

5. German Village

German culture is an important part of the history and culture of Columbus, as a third of the population of this city was once of German heritage. The German Village is now on the National Register of Historic Places due to its historic significance to the area. The bars, coffee shops, delis, and restaurants reflect the German heritage of the area and it is a fantastic place to sample some traditional German delicacies and dishes. There are also many interesting landmarks in this area to explore if you put aside a few hours to explore the village.

4. Columbus Museum of Art

One of the top art attractions in Columbus is the Columbus Museum of Art. There is a combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions in this art museum. One of the permanent exhibitions is a collection of modern American and European works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, including some pieces by local artists. The museum is also used as a venue for the art community to come together.

3. Short North Arts District

Art lovers should take the time to visit the Short North Art District during their stay in Columbus. This district is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Columbus, and it is filled with art, fashion, and sculpture. There are multiple galleries to explore, and there are 17 lighted steel arches positioned throughout the district. It is also worth noting that Short North Arts District is one of the best places for dining out as it is home to some of the best restaurants in the city. Therefore, you can spend a full day wandering around the various galleries and exhibitions, admiring the street art and grabbing a bite to eat.

2. Center of Science and Industry

A fascinating attraction for all the family is the Center of Science and Industry as there is something to interest people of all ages at this attraction. It is divided into sections according to the scientific field. One of the highlights of the visit is the planetarium, although there are many fun and educational interactive activities to enjoy. You will need at least a full morning or a full afternoon to make the most of all the exhibitions and interactive activities there are to enjoy at this attraction.

1. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

According to Vacation Ideas, the best thing to do in Columbus is to visit Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The botanical gardens cover 88 acres, and there are delightful displays of plants, flowers, and trees. The conservatory hosts nature-based exhibitions throughout the year, including both plant life and artwork. There is a range of educational and cultural events held at this venue at various points throughout the year.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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