(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)


Colum­bus, Ohio is home to so much more than Jack Han­na’s Award-Win­ning Zoo and Ohio State Foot­ball. Fun things to do in Colum­bus, OH include food, fes­ti­vals and even a boozy river! 


Colum­bus lies in the cen­ter of Ohio. Colum­bus is sur­round­ed by sub­urbs, many of which have their own cool attrac­tions.  It’s a big, bustling city, at least by Mid­west standards!





Ohio State University



View of Ohio Stadium

The March­ing Band at Ohio State, lov­ing­ly called “The Best Damn Band in The Land” is per­haps as famous as the foot­ball team. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Joe Ben­go at Wikimedia.



Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty is per­haps for what Colum­bus is best known. Ohio State is home to a whop­ping 62,000 stu­dents! Parts of Colum­bus feel down­right emp­ty dur­ing the sum­mer with­out all the stu­dents run­ning around. Every Sat­ur­day, in the fall, down­town Colum­bus is packed with Ohio State Buck­eye fans ready to cheer on both the foot­ball team and the march­ing band. 





The Buck­eyes are named for the Ohio state nut, which is poi­so­nous, by the way. How­ev­er, the choco­late and peanut but­ter ver­sion, sold around town, should be fine. 


Buckeye Nuts

If you find these lay­ing around, don’t eat them! If you find the can­dy ver­sion, eat as many as you can! Pho­to cour­tesy of Wikimedia



Ohio Sta­di­um, lov­ing­ly called “The Shoe” holds almost 100,000 fans! I grew up 3 hours from Colum­bus, but we were still glued to the TV every week. Ohio State is a big part of the Ohio ethos. Two unique parts of Ohio State cul­ture have per­me­at­ed Colum­bus and to a cer­tain degree, the rest of Ohio. First, a healthy dis­like of Michi­gan. If you hap­pen to vis­it any­where near the Ohio State vs. Michi­gan game, you’ll find many of the M’s around town crossed out. Babies born in Colum­bus dur­ing “Xichi­gan” week even get spe­cial “Beat Xichi­gan” blan­kets. Sec­ond, if any­one should hap­pen to call out O‑H to you, the prop­er response is I‑O. If you real­ly want to fit in with the locals, you can join in on spelling out O‑H-I‑O “YMCA” style. 



Photo of President Obama spelling out OHIO

Even Pres­i­dent Oba­ma joined in when he vis­it­ed Colum­bus. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Pete Souza and part of the pub­lic domain.



The Columbus Zoo



Photo of Columbus Zoo gate

The Colum­bus Zoo is per­haps best known for being the home of Jack Han­na rather than what it should be known for, the 21+ only lazy riv­er. Pho­to cour­tesy of Adol­phus at Wikimedia.



The Colum­bus Zoo is a world-famous zoo for one main rea­son: Jack Han­na. Yep, the guy that’s always schlep­ping ani­mals through the late-night talk show cir­cuit is from Ohio! The Zoo is huge, with exhibits ded­i­cat­ed to Aus­tralia, Asia, North Amer­i­ca, and Africa. If you want to see every­thing, you will def­i­nite­ly need a full day. My sis­ter loves the polar bear exhib­it the best because you can walk under the exhib­it and watch the polar bears from below. 




Don’t Miss! The Los Ange­les Zoo: A Walk on the Wild Side



Zoombezi Bay 


Right next to the Zoo is Zoombezi Bay, a water­park. Zoombezi Bay has sev­er­al water­slides and pools for the kids to enjoy. It’s a nice water­park, and I think most fam­i­lies will be able to find some­thing to do. But, and I can­not stress this enough, Zoombezi Bay has an adults-only area called “Croc­tail Creek.” You can take an adult bev­er­age with you and just float around on this lazy riv­er. It’s heav­en. Trust me, you need to go. Pawn the kids off on their oth­er par­ent or their grand­par­ents and go! 






Photo of Cosi

This fou­cault pen­du­lum greets you as you enter COSI. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Brant Jones via Wikimedia.



COSI, or the Cen­ter of Sci­ence and Indus­try, is a large sci­ence cen­ter fea­tur­ing dinosaurs, live shows, and even a plan­e­tar­i­um. Every­one I know who has tak­en their kids to COSI has absolute­ly raved about it. COSI is huge, so you should def­i­nite­ly plan to spend a lot of time there, espe­cial­ly if your kids are sci­ence buffs. 


Pro Tip: Teach­ers get into COSI for free. Dis­count tick­ets are avail­able at area AAAs for members. 


Don’t Miss! Romance and RVs? Explor­ing South­ern Ohio Togeth­er from the MOCO RV Park


Summer Fun


Red, White and Boom


Every year on the 4th of July Colum­bus hosts Red White and Boom, the Mid­west­’s largest fire­works show. If you want to attend, make sure you are down­town ear­ly. Traf­fic is a night­mare. Most of my friends in Colum­bus get hotels down­town for Red White and Boom so they don’t have to try to dri­ve that day. 



Ohio State Fair


In August of every year, the Ohio State Fair is held in Colum­bus. The fair typ­i­cal­ly attracts around a mil­lion peo­ple to the Colum­bus area. The State Fair fea­tures rides, con­certs, ani­mal exhi­bi­tions and a but­ter sculp­ture. The fair also fea­tures over 200 food ven­dors. If it can be fried, some­one at the fair is fry­ing it. You can even get deep fried but­ter, deep fried can­dy bars, deep fried cook­ie dough and deep fried cheese­cake. The fair is not the place to go if you are watch­ing your cho­les­terol. (Although there are health­i­er options, I promise). 



Don’t Miss! Hol­i­day Fam­i­ly Shop­ping in Ohio’s Amish Country



When You Go


The eas­i­est way to get to Colum­bus from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is to fly into John Glenn Colum­bus Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. From there you can rent a car if you want, although Uber’s are easy to get in the Colum­bus area. Colum­bus has a robust pub­lic bus sys­tem called COTA and a bike rental ser­vice called CoGo. If you can’t find a flight into Colum­bus, you could fly into Cincin­nati or Cleve­land, and dri­ve to Colum­bus. It’s about a 2‑hour dri­ve either way. 



Where to Eat


While in Colum­bus you need to try Jeni’s Ice Cream. Jeni’s does­n’t use any arti­fi­cial fla­vors or dyes. My hus­band rec­om­mends the S’mores fla­vor, but I like the mint choco­late chip bet­ter. If you’re in the mood for piz­za, check out Late Night Slice. It’s the best piz­za I have ever eat­en. True to their name, Late Night Slice is open until 3 am!  Melt Bar and Grilled is an Ohio favorite, they have 2 loca­tions in Colum­bus. Don’t let the word “bar” scare you, Melt is very fam­i­ly-friend­ly. Melt serves up gourmet grilled cheese, mac and cheese, burg­ers and so much more. 


Don’t Miss! A Local’s Guide to Lake Erie Beaches



Where to Stay


I’m a big fan of The Sher­a­ton Suites out­side Colum­bus for a bud­get stay ($70–100 a night). It’s clean, it has an indoor and out­door pool, and I once stayed there for 5 weeks straight while in Trav­el Agent school, so now it has a nos­tal­gia fac­tor for me! The Black­well is a nice hotel right in the heart of down­town, they even offer rooms with a view of Ohio Sta­di­um. ($125–150). Le Meri­di­en is in the heart of the Short North dis­trict, Colum­bus’s trendi­est neigh­bor­hood. ($200–250) 

Check out cur­rent prices and even find an AirBnB near the place you want to stay by throw­ing in your trav­el dates below:




Pin this sto­ry so you can find it when you are ready to get your Adults Only lazy riv­er on!



Columbus Ohio has a world famous zoo, great food, and a boozy river. What more could you ask for? There are many things to do with kids! Many things to do in Columbus, OH!


Columbus Ohio has a world famous zoo, great food, and a boozy river. What more could you ask for? There are many things to do with kids! Many things to do in Columbus, OH!



Emi­ly House­hold­er Stacey is a mom and trav­el agent based in Sun­ny Cleve­land Ohio. When she isn’t writ­ing or chas­ing her tod­dler, you’ll find her eat­ing as many buck­eye can­dies as she can manage.