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Top Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio

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Located in the heart of Ohio, the capital city of Columbus is on the rise as a cultural center and hip city to visit. While it is known as the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Columbus is much more than a football-crazed college town. With an influx of young people and creatives, Columbus currently ranks as the 15th most populous city in the U.S. and boasts enough entertainment and events to keep its residents — and tourists— occupied. From art and music to shopping and outdoor activities, Columbus has something to offer every visitor.

Catch a Ball Game in Columbus

Sports fans can catch a game during any season in Columbus thanks to the city’s three professional sports teams and the Ohio State University’s many athletic programs.

The Arena District downtown houses two of the city’s three professional sports teams — watch the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets tear up the ice at Nationwide Arena or cheer for the MLB Triple-A Columbus Clippers at Huntington Park. When there isn’t a hockey match, Nationwide Arena also hosts events and concerts featuring world-class acts you won’t want to miss. While in the Arena District, stick around to hear live music almost any night of the week at one of the district’s more than six concert venues.

If baseball and hockey aren’t your style, catch the beautiful game played by Columbus Crew SC, Ohio’s Major League Soccer team. The Columbus Crew SC play at MAPFRE stadium in north Columbus from March to October. Built in 1999, MAPFRE stadium was the first soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and is now a popular spot for soccer fans to tailgate together before a match.

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Experiencing sports in Columbus would not be complete without a stop at the Ohio State University to cheer for the Buckeyes in almost any NCAA sport from basketball to gymnastics. During football season, be wowed by Ohio Stadium, home to the college’s Big Ten football team. The impressive double-horseshoe stadium can pack in 102,329 fans decked in the red and grey, all screaming “Go, Bucks!”

Experience Columbus Arts

Columbus has a creative energy you won’t find just anywhere. The Short North Arts District, which is now called “the art and soul” of Columbus, was once a deserted neighborhood until local artists brought it back to life in the 1980s. Artists began hosting monthly art exhibits among the abandoned buildings and soon claimed the space as their own. The bustling district now features over 300 shops and local artist galleries. On the first Saturday of every month, the district hosts Gallery Hop— a vibrant celebration with street performers, gallery exhibits, local food, and fun for all ages.

The Pizzuti Collection is a local favorite in the Short North Arts District. This unique collection was founded by Ron and Ann Pizzuti, whose private collection sparked the project. Featuring an outdoor sculpture garden and contemporary art from all over the world, the Pizzuti Collection has been praised as one of the best art collections in the nation. The Pizzuti Collection also presents artist lectures and a resource library for anyone seeking to learn more about art.

Another lively hub for the arts in Columbus is the internationally recognized Wexner Center for the Arts, located on the Ohio State University campus. This contemporary arts center always offers something new with its rotating galleries, film presentations, theatrical performances and educational programs.

For a more traditional art experience that is perfect for kids, head to the Columbus Museum of Art. This art museum features American and European art from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as contemporary artists. For the little ones, the CMA offers summer art workshops where kids can learn about art-making and then dive in themselves. The Columbus Museum of Art also features hands-on activities in their Wonder Room that is open throughout the year.

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Stop and Smell the Roses

At the Park of Roses, you’re invited to literally stop and smell the roses — over 400 varieties of roses, to be specific. The Columbus Park of Roses was created in 1953 and features several different gardens with over 12,000 roses, as well as a perennial garden and an herb garden. With wide paved paths and plenty of benches, the Park of Roses is perfect for a casual afternoon stroll.

Another relaxing garden right in the heart of Columbus is Topiary Park. This unique outdoor space uses sculpted bushes to recreate George Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.” This landscape is probably the most well-known pointillist painting, but even if you’re not familiar with the painting, you will still love exploring the carefully clipped people and animals made from trees.

If you are looking for a more interactive park, explore the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden, one of the most popular attractions in Columbus. The conservatory connects the community to nature through its various workshops and events on gardening, wellness and the fine arts. Explore exotic plants from around the world in the Conservatory or take a cooking class in the community garden. For the art-obsessed, marvel at Dale Chihuly’s glass art collection and James Turrell’s light art installation.

Experience the Outdoors in Columbus

Still looking for more nature to enjoy? Take a bike ride down the Scioto Mile— a lush green parkway that runs straight through the heart of downtown Columbus. Starting in the Arena District, the Scioto Mile follows the river all the way to the Whittier Peninsula where you can experience wildlife up close at the Scioto Audubon. The Scioto Audubon boasts the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the country, bird habitats, fishing, boating and much more! Along the way, don’t forget to stop for a splash at the 15,000 sq ft interactive fountain at Bicentennial Park.

If you don’t feel like walking or biking around the 145 acres of the Scioto Mile, try taking a Segway tour through downtown. The city offers two different guided Segway tours — the Original City Tour and a River & Bridges Tour that features attractions on both sides of the Scioto River.

Or you can hop on the river and row! Olentangy Paddle offers kayak and canoe rentals so you can explore the Columbus waterways on your own, or join one of the guided tours they offer throughout the spring and summer seasons.

Historic Attractions in Columbus

One of the most unique historical attractions in Columbus is German Village. This 233-acre village was created by German immigrants in the 19th century and quickly became a hub for German culture. However, the neighborhood struggled during World War I when anti-German sentiments were common — some of the street names were even changed to sound less German. Now, the neighborhood has been revitalized and visitors can view German architecture, eat sauerkraut and bratwurst, and even hear German spoken in the streets.

When exploring downtown Columbus, the state capitol building is impossible to miss at the center of Capitol Square. The Ohio Statehouse is a masterwork of Greek Revival architecture with impressive limestone pillars and a large circular dome. Inside the statehouse, visitors can view artwork memorializing important events and historical figures in Ohio’s history. The Ohio Statehouse also houses a museum where you can learn about Ohio’s history. On the way out, stop at the gift store for unique Ohio souvenirs.

Get a Sip of the Nightlife

After the sun sets on a busy day of sight-seeing, Columbus is still buzzing with many nightlife hot-spots. But before heading out for the evening, you’ll probably need a pick-me-up. The Columbus Coffee Trail has you covered — this trail represents the best coffee shops in Columbus and rewards visitors with a free t-shirt for taking a sip at four or more locations. Coffee-lovers from across the country will not be disappointed by these artisan brews and carefully crafted lattes.

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Once you have your caffeine fix, hit the Ale Trail for another tour of beverages that you won’t want to miss in Columbus. The Ale Trail features over 40 local breweries and is an easy way to experience all of Columbus’s locally-brewed favorites. If beer isn’t your taste, Columbus offers a wide range of wine and cocktail bars to please any night owl.

Entertainment Events in Columbus

The Ohio Theater is a performing arts center in the heart of downtown Columbus featuring symphonies, Broadway acts, ballets, operas and movies. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra finds its home here as well as Opera Columbus and BalletMet. Traveling Broadway acts frequent the Ohio Theater and are one of the theater’s most popular attractions. Built in 1927 and restored in 1970, the architecture and artwork of this historic theater are enough to make it a must-see!

For more theatrical treats, check out Shadowbox Live!, the largest residential theater company in America. Shadowbox Live! offers a unique twist on theater by incorporating modern features like rock and roll, live comedy shows and lots of original content. The Shadowbox Live! venue also features a full bar and bistro-style restaurant.

These venues are just the beginning of live entertainment in Columbus. The Arch City boasts many concert venues that bring in famous performers year-round:

  • Express Live!
  • Newport Music Hall
  • Bicentennial Park
  • Schottenstein Center
  • The Basement

Enjoy Columbus Festivals

Dating back to 1850, the Ohio State Fair is a long-standing tradition of providing food, fun and, of course, agricultural education. This annual celebration is held right in Columbus in late July and features over 240 shopping vendors and farm-fresh foods from across the state. You can also catch a concert from such well-known artists as the Beach Boys. Even though the fair’s attractions have expanded over the years, the focus of the Ohio State Fair remains to teach kids and families about agriculture. Explore this year’s free interactive learning events, such as the Natural Resources Park and Ag is Cool education stations.

Another can’t miss annual event in Columbus is ComFest, short for Community Festival. This lively weekend event brings the Columbus community together in Goodale Park each June to sing and dance to local music and celebrate inclusivity. ComFest is a free event run entirely run by volunteers and attracts many local performers, artists and organizations.

If you love upbeat music and mouthwatering barbecue, Columbus’s Jazz & Rib Fest is for you. Held each summer, this unique food and music festival stretches over 33 acres along the Scioto Mile. Enjoy “hot ribs and cool jazz” for three days along Columbus’s scenic riverfront.

Fun for the Whole Family

One of the best family-friendly attractions in Columbus is certainly COSI. Short for Center of Science and Industry, COSI promotes active learning through engaging science exhibits and activities for all ages. Be sure to check out the Dinosaur Gallery that houses a full-size T-Rex cast and the Planetarium, which is the largest planetarium in the state of Ohio. COSI also partners with the Ohio State University for university outreach and innovative research opportunities. Consider participating in a research experiment during your visit!

Featuring over 10,000 animals, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is another great way to spend a day in Columbus. The zoo is home to creatures from six different regions around the world and the aquarium submerges you in the wonders of the ocean. You and your family will be amazed by 650 different species of animals from the safari to the rainforest. To continue the adventure, check out the on-site water park and 18-hole golf course.

Experience Columbus’s Best Shops

Columbus has the third highest concentration of fashion designers in the U.S., following only New York City and Los Angeles. This means you will find the hottest brand name clothes and upcoming fashion trends alike! Tap into the fashionista in you at Columbus’s premier shopping centers — Easton Town Center and Polaris Fashion Place.

If you are really serious about fashion, you won’t want to miss Highball. Held each October, Highball showcases the quirky and creative sides of fashion for one wild Halloween celebration. Wear your best fashion-forward costume and mingle with artists and Columbus locals. The best part of this event is that all the money raised goes right back to the community!

For a more locally focused shopping experience, head back to the Short North District where you can find small boutiques selling Columbus-made and loved goods. The Short North is a great place to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs to take home, such as an Ohio printed t-shirt from Homage or a hand-poured candle from Candle Lab.

Whether you are an avid reader or not, no trip to Columbus is complete without a peek inside Book Loft. This massive independent bookstore in German Village holds such a large collection of books that you are encouraged to pick up a map of the store at the front desk. Explore Book Loft’s 32 different rooms to find your favorite classic or discover a new work from a Columbus local.

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Eat Some Pizza

After a long day of appreciating art, shopping, and exploring the outdoors, it’s time for a bite to eat. Stop by Giordano’s in north Columbus at 2137 Polaris Parkway, right around the corner from the Polaris Fashion Place. Enjoy our famous Chicago-style deep dish or dig into any of the other Italian favorites on our menu. Our Columbus, Ohio, location features a full bar and cool atmosphere that will complement your visit to the hip capital city.