If you only had 24 hours to spend in Columbus, what would you do? This was a hard question for me to answer, but I’ve come up with a list of must sees and must dos that I feel will leave any visitor with an experience uniquely Columbus.

I’m sharing these ideas in a three part series - the first post is geared to families, the next to the business traveler, and finally, a post to help a local decide what to do with visiting friends or family.

Here's part one of three, with suggestions geared to families.

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24 Hours in Columbus - Family Edition

Columbus has always been a city with lots of fun and affordable things to do with family. Here are some recommendations for a great day in town.

Where to Stay There are several great hotel options at varying price points around downtown - click here to check them out. Two properties that stick out to me as reasonably priced and great for families are the Holiday Inn Columbus Downtown Capitol Square , near the heart of downtown, and the Drury Inn & Suites Convention Center , near the Arena District. Both have a complimentary breakfast, a pool and adjoining rooms upon request.

Where to Eat Cap City Fine Diner & Bar in Grandview is a local favorite. The menu features old diner favorites with an upscale twist, and you can’t go wrong with the meatloaf.

Max & Erma’s was founded in Columbus back in 1972 and serves great family meals as well as a good drink selection. You can dine at one of their 15 Columbus area locations, including the original Max & Erma’s in German Village. Don’t forget your order of hot cookies.

What to Do and See While in town with children of any age, including adults who act like children, two must dos are the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and COSI - they were recently ranked the number one zoo and number one science center in the country. You most likely won’t have time to take in both on one day, so you may need to choose your best option (or stay a while longer):

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to Jungle Jack Hanna, who serves as the zoo’s director. With over 600 wildlife species and habitats ranging from North America to Asia, the zoo also features live entertainment and educational programming daily. If you are here in the summer, don’t forget to save some time for Zoombezi Bay Water Park , adjacent to the zoo. The kids will be tired after a long day at the zoo and should have no problem falling asleep.

COSI

Photo: COSI

Columbus’ hands-on science center, COSI features 300 interactive exhibits throughout 7 exhibition areas, including the country’s only high wire unicycle and a 7-story Extreme Screen Theater. COSI is a great way to spend time exploring and learning about how science and discovery affects our everyday lives. Plus, opening March 27 will be Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition , featuring dozens of artifacts recently recovered from the wreck site, amazingly detailed room re-creations, and a gallery devoted to Ohio's connections to the historic voyage.

If you like the COSI idea, you can easily combine it with a trip to the Ohio Statehouse & Museum (just a few blocks north of COSI on Broad Street) . The museum features a lot of hands-on, interactive exhibits that educate patrons on government process as well as explain Ohio's governmental history. It's open seven days a week and there is no admission fee to the statehouse or the museum. Make sure you take a statehouse tour before exploring the museum.

Save a Few Bucks If you like these recommendations and are considering planning a family getaway to Columbus, check out our newest travel package, the Lights and Sights Gift Getaway . For $259, this all-in-one travel package includes:

· Two nights accommodations (Drury Inn & Suites is the preferred hotel) · 4 tickets to the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium · 4 tickets to Columbus Museum of Art · 4 tickets to Franklin Park Conservatory · 4 tickets to COSI · 2 FREE Kids Meals at Max & Erma's Restaurants

Hope you'll check back in next week, when I'll continue this series with suggestions for the business traveler in Columbus.