17 exciting things to do with kids in Columbus, OH

Parents planning a fun family vacation will soon discover that there are terrific things to do with kids in Columbus, OH. No matter the season, the dynamic destination, nicknamed “Discovery City,” entices with exciting activities and attractions for all ages. Outdoor lovers will enjoy strolling the scenic trails of Scioto Mile and discovering inviting public parks, such as the 6-acre John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons downtown. Other original places worth a visit include the American Whistle Corporation and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Keep these 17 exciting things to do with kids in Columbus, OH, in mind when planning your itinerary.

1. Expand your mind at COSI

As far as Columbus, OH, kid activities, a visit to COSI, also known as the Center of Science and Industry, is like going on a fascinating family field trip. For more than half a century, the world-class institution has been showcasing the worlds of science, technology, engineering, and math with 300-plus interactive experiences, explosive live shows, and 9 galleries. You can visit the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery at COSI and engaging exhibits like Space, where visitors can test their astronaut skills. The fun continues outdoors at Big Science Park, which invites even more experimentation.

2. Meet the animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium always makes the cut when it comes to Columbus kid activities. Of course, that’s not surprising since it's one of the top zoos in the United States. What began as a small collection of animals in 1927 has grown to include a multitude of incredible wildlife, from African lions to koalas and more. The animal exhibits are divided by regions and include Adventure Cove, Australia and the Islands, and more. Special tours and experiences like Chatting with Cheetahs make visits even more memorable. Other things to look forward to include Keeper Talks, fun rides, and places to play.

3. Go on an outing to the Ohio History Center

The Ohio History Center makes learning about the Midwest state fun and stands out as one of the best things to do in Columbus with kids. It’s hard to miss the center, the headquarters of the Ohio History Connection, with its Brutalist-style architecture off Interstate 71. Inside, visitors will encounter interesting exhibits, such as Following in Ancient Footsteps, Ohio-Champion of Sports, the 1950s: Building the American Dream, and more, offering families the chance to learn about the significant milestones along the way. Outside is where you'll find the adjacent Ohio Village, a living-history museum capturing 19th-century Ohio life.

4. See what’s on view at the Columbus Museum of Art

Set in downtown, the Columbus Museum of Art captures the imagination. The cultural organization lives up to its mission of “creating great experiences with great art for everyone,” making it a popular choice for things to do with kids in Columbus. A walk through its galleries reveals an impressive collection of late-19th- and early-20th-century American and European modern works of art, including pieces from local artists, as well as contemporary art, photography, and other media. A huge draw for families on the weekends is the Wonder Room, which offers hands-on activities that tie into the rich textile arts collection on display.

5. Enjoy a production at the Ohio Theatre

It’s never too early to instill an appreciation for the arts in children, and adding the Ohio Theatre – Columbus Association of the Performing Arts to your list of things to do with kids in Columbus can help make that happen. This historic venue presents over 100 performances each year and has featured such notable headliners as Julie Andrews, Yo-Yo Ma, Carole King, the Boston Pops, and many more. Performances span music, dance, and theater, including the offerings of resident Columbus Symphony, BalletMet, and Broadway in Columbus. Along with world-class performances, the theater itself is an architectural gem with lush interiors to admire at every turn.

6. Stroll, shop, and grab a bite at the German Village

Getting an up-close look at a charming neighborhood can be a great activity for family fun in Columbus. Situated south of downtown Columbus, German Village is a notable district on the National Register of Historic Places with shops, art galleries, restaurants, and other attractions to explore. You can stroll the gardens of Schiller Park, a lovely green space that hosts Shakespearian plays during the summer, or head to South Third Street for food and something sweet at Schmidt’s Fudge Haus. Finally, be sure to pop your head into one of the art galleries for creative inspiration.

7. Splish and splash at Zoombezi Bay

Nothing says family fun in Columbus, OH, more than a trip to Zoombezi Bay. Owned by the Columbus Zoo, the 22.7-acre water park is a delightful seasonal attraction located in Powell, just a little north of the city. Little ones won’t have time to be bored with all of the fun stuff to experience, from going down the waterslides at Baboon Lagoon to body surfing at the Wild Tides Wave Pool or going tubing on the Roaring Rapids Action River. Other thrilling possibilities include racing down Dolphin Dash and taking the twists and turns of the Otter Banks.

8. Take in the greenery at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

For parents looking for tranquil things to do with the kids in Columbus, OH, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a peaceful place for strolling and admiring gorgeous plants and flowers. Along with viewing the incredible collection of exotic plants here, visitors will encounter breathtaking glassworks by the famous artist Dale Chihuly placed throughout the biomes and plant collections. Immersive experiences, such as the Paul Busse Garden Railway, will enchant children and grown-ups alike. Inside the Conservatory, you can browse eclectic ecosystem exhibits on display, from the Himalayan Mountains to the Rainforest and Desert, all surrounded by lush plant life.

9. Take the family for chocolate treats at the Anthony-Thomas Candy Factory

Your family will literally be like kids in a candy store when you visit the Anthony-Thomas Candy Factory. If you have ever wanted to see what goes on behind the scenes in chocolate-making, this fun and fascinating 45-minute tour brings you up close to all the candy action that happens in this 152,000-square-foot facility. Although the factory opened in the mid-1990s, Anthony-Thomas has been producing scrumptious chocolates since 1952. During the experience, little ones will discover interesting tidbits and get to see the kitchen where the confectioner’s famous Buckeyes are made and learn about the final packaging process.

10. Build and bond with the family at LEGOLAND Discovery Center

It’s hard to deny that LEGOLAND Discovery Center stands out as a popular destination for family fun in Columbus. Billed as the “Ultimate Indoor LEGO Playground,” this family-friendly attraction appeals to kids of all ages. In the 4D LEGO Cinema, children can take pics with their favorite LEGO characters, while over at Kingdom Quest, the entire family can hop on a chariot to try to save a princess together. One thing not to miss is the collection of amazing replicas of famous Columbus landmarks, such as the Ohio State University Football Stadium.

11. Try the different flavors at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Homegrown sensation Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams offers several Scoop Shop locations throughout the city, including North Market, German Village, Easton, and Clintonville, to name a few. What makes everyone want to scream for this artisan ice cream, the brainchild of acclaimed ice cream maker and cookbook author Jeni Britton Bauer, is the care and creativity put into every creamy creation, from smooth textures and buttercream bodies to the beautiful spaces to sit and enjoy them. There are plenty of interesting flavors to try, including Raspberry Rose Jelly, Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Honey Vanilla Bean.

12. Explore the enchanting greenery of the Topiary Garden

If you're looking for a great spot to take pictures in Columbus with the kids, visit the Topiary Garden. This idyllic downtown green space is not your run-of-the-mill city park. Instead, it’s a dreamy landscape depicting the George Seurat painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Across 7 acres, precisely pruned Yew trees show a striking recreation of the scene. There’s even a pond representing the River Seine. Altogether, the lovely topiary creations include boats, dogs, a cat, and 54 people. This one-of-a-kind topiary garden is a must-see destination when visiting Columbus.

13. Plan a stop at the American Whistle Corporation

When it comes to things to do with kids in Columbus that you can’t experience anywhere else, a tour of the American Whistle Corporation tops the list. There is, in fact, no other manufacturer of metal whistles in the United States, so the kids can boast to friends about visiting this attraction. During the 45-minute tour, you’ll get to see working machinery and find out what a typical day is like at a thriving manufacturing plant, as well as learn fun facts about whistles. To top it all off, everyone gets to take home a new American Classic whistle as a souvenir from their trip.

14. Go behind the scenes at the Ohio Statehouse

Kids get a glimpse of the inner workings of local government with a visit to the Ohio Statehouse. Part of the Capitol Square complex that is home to the Senate Building and Atrium, the Greek revival-style National Historic Landmark offers self-guided tours and mobile tours of different areas, including a look at the outside monuments and gardens as well as the rooms and artwork. On the ground floor is the Ohio Statehouse Museum, which features exhibits highlighting the state government process and more, including paintings of all the U.S. Presidents originally hailing from Ohio, from William Henry Harrison to Warren G. Harding.

15. Snap photos of the kids at the Field of Corn

Just outside of Columbus in Dublin, Ohio, is the sensational public art installation known as Field of Corn. The grassy fields featuring 109 concrete ears of corn provide a striking backdrop for photos of the kids. Osage orange trees also figure prominently. The commission by artist Malcolm Cochran can be found at Frantz Park. The project is the third installation of the Art in Dublin Public Places project. As for the significance of the Field of Corn, it honors the local community’s farming legacy and rural landscapes. The poignant work has received several awards as the best public artwork in central Ohio.

16. Spend time outside at John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons

As a gathering place for Central Ohio, John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons makes a great addition to a fun travel itinerary of things to do with kids in Columbus. Set in downtown, the 6-acre park framed with the soaring city skyline hosts 200 events a year, including family-friendly concerts, performances, and festivals. Within the vicinity are 12 spectacular gardens, a carousel at the southern end of the park, the colorful NEOS Electric Playground, and the OPEN Play recreation center. As for food, grab a bite at Tortilla Street Food and end with a scoop from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

17. Step back in time at Slate Run Living Historical Farm

Exploring Columbus with kids includes venturing just outside the city to find interesting places like the Slate Run Living Historical Farm. Set in the town of Winchester, Ohio, the family-friendly attraction takes you back to the 1880s with costumed actors reliving farm life through entertaining reenactments such as preparing meals and tending to the house. There’s a lot to see with gardens, a farmhouse, and friendly animals like pigs and horses. A visit here is a fun way to learn about the past and provides an interesting backdrop for family pics.