As someone who has lived the majority of their life in Ohio, I love how each region and city is so different from the next. Despite being just 2 short hours south of Akron, Columbus is vastly different! From the food to the sights, exploring Columbus is an adventure! There are so many must-see attractions. And I’m going to share my go-to tips to experience Columbus as a family!
The Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory
My sister and her family (who happen to live in the Columbus area) have raved about the Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for a long time. Scott’s Miracle Gro Foundation Children’s Garden is located outside of the main conservatory. You still enter through the main building, and head back outside and around the building.
Combining Nature, Education, and Play!
Kids learn so much through play and discovery. The Children’s Garden provides a safe space with so many fun activities to get kids of all ages engaged and playing with the natural world around them.
The Children’s Garden features a canopy walk, nature play zone, learning pavilion, wetland exploration, a gardening centers, and so much more!
The staff at the learning pavilion was absolutely wonderful. They were patient and excited to share information with all three of the kids — and show off this beautiful caterpillar.
My kids enjoyed every single activity. In fact, we had to practically drag them out to head on our next adventure!
I can’t even decide what my favorite part of this adventure was. The Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory is an absolute must-see! Bring a towel, lather on the sunscreen, and let them explore!
See the hours and admission rates for the Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory here!
Grab a bite at The Rusty Bucket
One of my favorite family-friendly restaurants in the Columbus area is the Rusty Bucket. The kids and I have been going to one of their restaurants (most are located in the greater Columbus area) almost every single time we’re in Columbus.
The reason it’s the absolute greatest?! This upscale casual restaurant has the absolute most delicious pub food — with a twist.
Bonus? It’s incredibly affordable for a family of five to grab a full meal — even with appetizers.
My suggestion is to try the Pierogi as a starter. It features four perfectly cooked cheese and potato pierogi. But I also have to say this — the chicken tenders appetizer may be my single most favorite food from any restaurant ever. Yep. They are that good.
Lucky for us, our kids wanted chicken tenders, so I was able to sneak one (or two!) from them! Just know, whatever you order, the portions are BIG. So bring your appetite (and you’ll probably still leave with a box!).
View locations, menu, and hours here.
Stay in the city’s center at the Drury Inn
One of the best ways to immerse yourself and your family in the Columbus experience is to stay in the heart of the action. The most central location to stay in is at the Convention Center. And the most relaxing and most inclusive spot to do so is at the Drury Inn.
The Drury Inn and Suites at the Convention Center features on-site garage parking, clean and spacious rooms, free breakfast and dinner (including adult beverages!), and my kids personal favorite — an indoor and outdoor pool!
It’s located just minutes from the North Market and the Short North Arts District, as well as the Arena district. Additionally, its central location means you can jump on the highway with just a 5 minute drive!
Catch a Columbus Clippers Game
If you know me, you’ll know I don’t follow sports. But if you know me, you’ll know that I am 100% always down to see a sporting event live and in person — especially minor league teams. The food, the fans, the energy — it’s perfect! And one of the most fun and energetic stadiums I’ve ever been to is the Columbus Clippers at Huntington Field.
To my surprise, all three kids lasted until nearly the 7th inning! I can honestly say I saw about 15% of the game because the rest of the time was spent either getting my kids snacks or helping them eat the snacks (they tried shelled peanuts for the first time ever).
The stadium is gorgeous. Not too big and the perfect way to see a game as a family. The food options at the stadium are awesome — from stadium dogs to pretzels, from local craft beers to Dippin’ Dots — you will get whatever you have a craving for!
Head here for ticketing information for the Columbus Clippers.
Dine on the patio at Milestone 229
Milestone 229 is located in Downtown Columbus on the Scioto Mile — a collection of parks and trails along both banks of the Scioto River. The patio sits overlooking the huge Scioto Mile fountain.
The restaurant serves fresh made cocktails and upscale comfort food. But don’t worry — they have plenty of kids options on the menu! And you absolutely must try the pretzels — and ask for extra butter!
The location alone is stunning. But the atmosphere and the food just push this location to a must-visit! And, as gorgeous as the inside of the restaurant is, try to get a seat on the patio so you can get a view of the whole city.
The food and the drinks are delicious. I recommend getting the Chicken Salad with fresh sliced strawberries, goat cheese, bacon, red onion, cashews, and a poppyseed vinaigrette. I don’t usually go for salads when dining out, but this salad is absolute perfection!
View the full menu and make a reservation here.
Visit the Columbus Zoo
The Columbus Zoo has been made famous by Jack Hanna. His service and dedication as the zoos director from 1972 to 1992 put the Columbus Zoo on the map. Spanning 580-acres and featuring 10,000 animals, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is unlike any other zoo you’ve been to before.
The zoo is comprised of 6 distinct regions as well as over a dozen rides at Adventure Cove.
I’m going to be 100% honest — It is incredibly difficult to see and do everything at the Columbus Zoo in one day. Especially if you have little kids. But it is absolutely, wholeheartedly worth it.
If you’re short on time, here’s what you must see:
- the carousel (it’s a beautiful work of art — and the kids always love it)
- feed the giraffes
- ride the island boat ride
- see the elephants up close!
Whatever you do, stay hydrated and prepare for a lot of walking!
Head here for zoo hours and admission information.
Stop for lunch at Cap City Fine Diner
Cap City Fine Diner, features a retro-feel across its three Greater Columbus locations. But know this before you go — you are going to want to order the meatloaf and a Peach Palmer (an Arnold Palmer made with house made peach puree).
Cap City Fine Diner is really upscale comfort food with a twist. Order one of their “Famous Large Plates” and you’ll be full to the max! Honestly, all of their menu offerings are super big.
Cap City is known for their meatloaf. But, if you’re like me and don’t want to order a whole hearty meatloaf dinner in the middle of the day (cause it would cause me to sleep all afternoon); you have options! Try the Diner Meatloaf Melt.
But save room for dessert! Because it is to die for! The staff and chefs at Cap City are so incredibly talented. I suggest not leaving a single course behind.
For hours, menu, and reservations, head here.
Learn and Play at COSI
The first time I was at COSI (or the Center of Science and Industry museum), I was a girl scout in grade school. I remember my visit vividly — from the astronaut ice cream to the planetarium — it was a defining moment in my childhood.
Lucky for me, I’m able to visit COSI with my kids whenever we are in Columbus.
One of the reasons COSI is on my must-see list is because it has something for everyone. Every single age group will get a kick out of (at the very least) one of the exhibits.
Some of exhibits are permanent and others are temporary or special exhibits. Be sure to check out the current special exhibits because they won’t be there for long!
Most recently we were able to see The Animation Academy. Ari made a short stop-motion movie with Gumby and Remy played around with the green screen.
Explore German Village
Whenever someone asks about areas of Columbus that cannot be missed, I mention German Village. German Village is known for its charming brick houses and red brick roads. But it’s also known for having some of the best food and shopping spots in town.
When you’re visiting German Village, you absolutely must go to the following places:
- Stauf’s Coffee Roasters – Try their lavender latte and a scone!
- Pistacia Vera – Grab a pack of French Macarons or a ham and cheese croissant.
- The Book Loft – Spend an hour (or a day) walking through one of the 30+ rooms filled with practically every book you can dream of!
- Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus – Grab a to-go pack of the famous Schmidt’s Sausages and whichever seasonal Jumbo Cream Puff is available!
- Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – Columbus’ own Jeni Britton Bauer is the mastermind behind some incredible ice creams and sorbets.
- The Thurman Cafe – If you’re really brave, order the Thurmanator as seen on the show Man v. Food!