Columbus is a wonderful destination for families! Whether you’re a visitor or resident, these are the must-do family attractions across the city.
Explore the colorful greenhouses at Franklin Park Conservatory and discover more than 400 species of plants from the around the world, all intermixed with beautiful glass artwork from Dale Chihuly. In spring and summer you can see butterflies hatching, then watch as they flit and fly over your head in the Palm House. Eat lunch in the cafe and stroll the botanical gardens outdoors, too. And don’t miss the new Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden, two acres of interactive activities for kids to roam and discover.
Visit the Ohio History Center to explore the Buckeye state from ancient times to today, and all of the animals, people, plants, buildings, artifacts, technology and other items that make it significant. Step back into time at the Ohio Village, a recreated 1980s Ohio village, where craftsmen demonstrate their work. The village is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day annually.
The Columbus Zoo is consistently rated one of the best in the country. You can spend multiple days visiting all of the animals, from polar bears splashing in the water, to giraffes dashing across the African plains, to manatees in the aquarium, kangaroos, tigers, reptiles, birds, elephants and so much more. Enjoy interactive activities like riding the train or the boat, petting stingrays, feeding giraffes, laughing at animal shows and more. Pair your Zoo visit with a day at Zoombezi Bay, a water park which features water slides, wave pools and lazy rivers.
The award-winning Columbus Metropolitan Library and its many branches feature a host of children’s activities, from reading hours to play areas to other special events.
The Center of Science and Industry will unlock kids’ inner scientists. Around every corner is something new to discover. Take a walk with dinosaurs, discover the oceans, learn about renewable energy, watch big screen movies, explore the cosmos at the planetarium. Current special exhibitions highlight Jim Henson’s puppet creations, mythical creatures and the Apollo 11 moon landing.
This beautifully restored firehouse dates back to 1908. Learn about the history of firefighting over the past century and see a collection of hand-drawn, horse-drawn and motorized firefighting equipment.
In addition to its world-class exhibitions, the Columbus Museum of Art features the Center for Creativity, where kids can draw, build, play and create. They can stimulate their imaginations in the Wonder Room or create their own work of art in the Big Idea Gallery. The museum also hosts a series of kid’s workshops. And it’s free to visit every Sunday!
The new LEGOLAND Discover Center at Easton offers 36,000 square feet of games, exhibitions, rides and play areas – all dedicated to one of the world’s favorite toys: Legos! Build and race your own Lego creations, immerse yourself in the 4D movie theatre, see Ohio icons represented in Lego form and so much more.
Columbus Children’s Theatre has been entertaining families for over 50 years, with plays and musicals produced for all ages. Their touring company visits area schools, and they offer theatre classes, too.
The Contemporary American Theatre Company, or CATCO, is central Ohio’s professional theatre company. In addition to a regular season of comedies, dramas and musicals, their CATCO Is Kids program offers a half dozen productions throughout the year aimed especially at children.
The city of Columbus and surrounding areas enjoy a wealth of city-run parks, trails and facilities that offer plenty of fresh-air activities for the whole family. Visit the Columbus Commons for concerts, festivals and movies, plus Commons For Kids activities on Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. early June through early August. Pair a visit to the Main Library with a stroll through the Topiary Park, carefully sculpted into the shape of Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.”
Explore Columbus Metro Parks
Central Ohio enjoys a wealth of park space, with more than 20 metro parks and greenways, all of which are family-friendly. Learn about wildlife and climb the rock wall at Scioto Audubon, spot bald eagles at High Banks, visit a working historic farm at Slate Run, marvel at the gardens at Inniswood, explore the natural play area at Three Creeks. Check out our post on 10 Columbus Metroparks to Explore This Spring for more ideas.
Play in the Fountains
Kids can cool off in the warmer months by splashing in a fountain. There are several throughout the city. The Bicentennial Park fountains along the Scioto Mile are a popular spot, with waterworks designed for kids big and small. The Town Square fountains at Easton are perfect for running through. Several city community centers feature “spraygrounds,” like Barnett, Blackburn, and Indian Mound community centers. Discover splash pads in several other parks across the region, including Ballantrae Park in Dublin, Hanby Park in Westerville, and Station Park in Hilliard.
Go to the movies!
Many locally owned movie theaters host special screenings aimed at families. Studio 35 and Grandview Theater and Drafthouse offer free kid’s menus Tuesdays and Wednesdays from June through August. CAPA hosts their popular Summer Movie Series at the Ohio Theatre, which often includes one or two kid-appropriate films, in addition to a couple Saturday morning cartoon showings. The Gateway Film Center offers regular children’s programming like kid-friendly spooky movies and sensory-friendly films. Every summer they partner with the Columbus Metropolitan Library on the From Book To Film series, featuring movies inspired by books from late May through late August. And every last Saturday of the month is Hoot, a showing of kid-friendly films from around the world paired with music from popular local band The Shazzbots.