From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The capital of Ohio and home to Ohio State, Columbus offers visitors and locals alike a host of fun things to do and places to explore. From local parks and gardens to dozens of amazing restaurants, Columbus provides some amazing things to see and do around town.
Whether you're looking for things for couples to do in Columbus, or want ideas for the whole family, we've got you covered. Let's get into some of the top things to do in Columbus, Ohio.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
There are several beautiful state parks in and around Columbus for you to visit when you want to get out into nature. Below are some of our favorites!
Hocking Hills State Park has it all - waterfalls, cliffs, caves, and lush greenery and forests. Hocking Hills has five different major hiking areas as well as all sorts of outdoor activities such as canoeing, rock climbing, horseback riding, and even ziplining. It’s about an hour away from Columbus and while it’s a wonderful day trip, camping is also available, so you can spend the night and make it a weekend trip.
Caesar Creek State Park is located in southwestern Ohio and is a beautiful park on Caesar Creek Lake. In addition to swimming, fishing, and boating on the lake, you can also visit the Pioneer Village and Caesar Creek Nature Center to learn about the area’s history.
Mt Gilead State Park is a small and centrally located state park that is gorgeous year-round. The park is great for hiking, fishing, picnicking, and exploring. Mt Gilead allows boating with rowboats, canoes, and small boats with electric motors, and they also have camping available year round.
John Bryan State Park is home to the Little Miami River, which created a beautiful limestone gorge in this tranquil state park. There’s plenty of hiking trails, picnic areas, and a disc golf course for you to enjoy a day trip.
No matter if you're looking for hiking trails through the woods or prefer paved city pathways, we've rounded up some of the best hiking trails in Columbus for you to traverse.
Scioto Mile: This urban trail runs along the Scioto River throughout town. It has 9 parks along the way, plenty of benches and green grass that provides an escape from the city without leaving.
Alum Creek Trail: This paved Columbus trail runs along the Alum Creek from Westerville to Three Creeks Park. It’s broken up into three sections, North, Central, and South, which are appropriate for beginner hikers, walkers, and bikers.
Gahanna Woods Loop: This 2.3 mile loop is located in the Gahanna Woods nature preserve and is a nice easy trail with beautiful flowers, marshland, and forest. It tends to be a bit more rustic and muddy than the paved city trails, but the beautiful surroundings make up for a little mud.
Blendon Woods Loop: This trail is a 2 mile loop in Blendon Woods Metro Park that is great for beginners and families. You’ll hike through different environments including a few hills, the creek, and plenty of forest.
As you explore Columbus, you'll notice there are a ton of great food options. There are restaurants serving all sorts of cuisines, so be sure to add these picks to your list of places to grab a bite to eat.
When you’re craving mouthwatering Italian food, Basi Italia serves simple yet innovative Italian dishes. This intimate restaurant is tucked away in Victorian Village and has a fantastic patio to enjoy your meal when the weather permits. The small size keeps this hidden gem busy, so we recommend making a reservation.
Eden Burger serves vegetarian and vegan fast food such as burgers, wraps, fries, shakes and other crave worthy “junk” food. However, all their food is organic and made without animal products, so you can feel good eating burgers made from lentils and shakes made from coconut milk.
Tai’s Asian Bistro serves up a variety of delicious Asian dishes. From Japanese sushi and ramen to Vietnamese pho and bahn mi sandwiches, you’ll find flavorful dishes and huge portions.
Vegans love Portia’s Café, which serves raw, organic, and gluten-free breakfast dishes, salads, and soups. They also make delicious smoothies and have a coffee bar, so it’s the perfect place to start your day in a healthy and tasty way.
There are several great sushi places in town, but one of the best is Akai Hana. This authentic Japanese sushi restaurant knows its stuff. They even import some of their fish directly from Japan! All of their ingredients are incredibly fresh and the food is delicious.
If you’re craving Mexican food, be sure to visit Los Guachos Taqueria and grab their famous $2 Al Pastor tacos. And if you go on a Monday, the tacos Al Pastor are BOGO, making this both a cheap and fun meal.
Shwewww! If you're in the mood for flavor, go to Island Vibes. Known for traditional Caribbean dishes, you can expect to see goat and oxtail on the menu. You can't go wrong with any of their featured entrees. But let me tell you, the jerk chicken is to die for.
Columbus isn't just about nature and food, there are tons of fun things to do in Columbus both during the day and at night.
Parents looking for things to do in Columbus with kids will be pleased to hear that this town is very kid friendly. Below are some of our favorite things to do with kids in Columbus.
Get ready for a whole new type of adventure. Otherworld is a 32,000 square foot immersive art installation that’s a mix of exploration, playgrounds, and large-scale sci-fi and fantasy art. Wander through 40 different rooms of enchanted forests, secret passages, and narrative sets that encourage visitors to explore. While this exhibit isn’t scary, some of the rooms are pretty dark and may be frightening for young children who are afraid of the dark. However, those particular rooms can easily be skipped in favor of brighter rooms. For older kids and teens, this is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Kids won’t run out of fun things to do at Buckeye Raceway. Race indoor electric karts, play a game of tactical laser tag, or try your aim with axe throwing. It’s the perfect way to spend the afternoon burning off some energy with the family.
At Slate Run Living Historical Farm you can experience what life would have been like on an Ohio farm in the 1880s. The costumed staff demonstrates the daily duties and chores that would have been done around the farmhouse, barns, and gardens, and kids can see the different animals that would have lived on the farm. Visitors are even encouraged to help out and experience what work and like was life back then.
For kids obsessed with LEGOs, the Legoland Discovery Center is a must visit destination. The LEGO building zones let them build whatever they can imagine, while the 4D cinema shows 3D movies and adds wind, rain, and snow effects for a fully immersive experience. You can even go on a behind the scenes LEGO factory tour to see how LEGOs are made.
If you’re looking to cool off in the summer, visit Zoombezi Bay, the water park located across the street from the Columbus Zoo. From a giant wave pool, to tons of water slides and a lazy river, there’s plenty of ways to play in the water. There’s even a kiddie area for younger children to enjoy.
Don't burn all your energy during the day, because there are a ton of fun things to do in Columbus at night as well.
There aren’t many drive-in movie theaters left in the United States, but the South Drive-In Theater in Columbus is going strong! The theater shows movies for kids and adults and is a perfect date night or family weekend outing.
Beer lovers will want to check out the Columbus Ale Trail, a collection of 46 breweries around the city. Pick up a free copy of the Ale Trail Book and make sure to get a stamp at any of the breweries you visit to earn prizes!
Shadowbox Live is the largest resident theater company in America and offers a unique blend of sketch comedy, rock and roll musicals, and dance theater in their performances. Come early and grab a drink and meal from the bistro menu and enjoy a high energy show.
Get ready for a fun night out with your choice of ball related games at Pins Mechanical Company. Choose from foosball, pinball, duckpin, ping pong, or patio pong while enjoying a craft beer or cocktail from their bar. They even bring in a lineup of food trucks so you won’t get hungry while playing.
Exploring Columbus doesn't have to cost a ton, in fact there are plenty of cheap things to do in the city.
It’s easy to spend an afternoon at North Market, the public market filled with over 30 farmers, vendors, merchants, and makers selling their wares. Between the farmer’s market, night market, and everyday vendors, you’ll be able to shop, dine, and explore to your heart’s content.
This historic neighborhood is just south of downtown Columbus and is full of preserved architecture from the 1800s. While the German Village doesn’t have a kitschy Bavarian look, it was originally settled by German immigrants and is full of restaurants, shopping, and breweries to explore. Be sure to stop at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus for hearty German food with live music, and The Book Loft, an incredible bookstore with 32 rooms to explore!
This fun neighborhood is full of art galleries, coffee houses, craft breweries, and eclectic small shops. It’s a hub of culture and the local arts scene and there’s always something more to discover. Take a look at the outdoor murals or art galleries, grab a bite to eat at any of the multiple trendy restaurants, and support the local shops.
Some of the best things to do in Columbus are free, and won't cost you a dime.
Comic and cartoon enthusiasts will love checking out the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library. It has the largest collection of comic materials in the world, including newspaper comic strips, magazine cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, original art, and more. The museum offers free admission and is open Tuesday to Sunday.
Gardeners and flower enthusiasts alike should make sure to stop by the Park of Roses, a beautiful 13 acre park that showcases thousands of roses in every variety, as well as perennial and herb gardens. There are plenty of benches for visitors to stop and smell the flowers and paved paths throughout the garden. The best time to go is from mid-June through mid-September to see all the roses in bloom.
The first Saturday of every month is Gallery Hop Saturday at the Short North Arts District. Starting at 4 pm, head over to High Street and visit the art galleries, watch the street performers, and peruse the vendors selling hand crafted and one of a kind items.
Columbus's only true lifestyle sneaker boutique, Sole Classics has been in business for over 11 years and continues to be the go-to shop for limited and exclusive footwear. They carry all of your favorite brands like Nike, Vans, Asics, New Balance, Adidas Originals, Converse, Reebok, and more. The store is split into two sections; one being more athletic/sportswear-based and the other side having more of a lifestyle/casual appeal. SC is known for having a strong relationship with Vans, too – the store has collaborated and designed shoes for Vans on nearly 10 projects.
Probably the quirkiest record shop of them all, Lost Weekend is great for a unique shopping experience. Being a repurposed home, immediately the layout and decor will spark your curiosity. Once you get past the awesomely peculiar environment, you’ll notice they have an extremely diverse collection of records. LWR also has one of the best mixes of newly released and old records. Last but not least, the customer service is great. If you ask a question about one of the records, be prepared for a healthy response.
After you've spent the day finding places to explore in Columbus, you'll probably be ready for some relaxation. These spas around town will help soothe your tired muscles.
When you’re ready for some rest and rejuvenation, head to Open Sky Day Spa. This relaxing spa features massages, facials, and nail treatments for you to indulge in.
Moroccan Steam Spa & Turkish Bath offers a variety of spa treatments to soothe your skin, but you’ll not want to miss their steam baths. For extra pampering try one of their packages which includes a mix of special steam treatments and massage.
Don't forget your workout when considering different things to do in Columbus. Luckily there are a bunch of great gyms and yoga studios for you to try.
Heartfelt Yoga Studio is located in the Short North Arts District and offers yoga classes for all levels of experience.
Yoga On High offers both in-person classes and online streaming classes for their members, as well as events and class series around specific topics. They’re also a great resource for yoga teacher training and offer different curriculums for teacher training.
Powerhouse Gym is a leader in the fitness industry and provides excellent fitness and training facilities so you can work out on your own or join in any of their group classes.
Whether you’re looking for motivating group classes or certified trainers, The Fitness Loft Columbus can help you meet your fitness goals.
While there are tons of fun things to explore in Columbus, Ohio, sometimes you just want to get out of town for a bit. Here are some great ideas for fun nearby day trips.
The Capital City Wine Trail is full of wineries and tasting rooms in and around Columbus. While there are several tasting rooms in the city itself, you can visit actual vineyards located outside of town. Many of these wineries offer tours and sell wine tastings, and it’s a great way to explore the local wine scene nearby. Stop by the Capital City Wine Trail website for maps and a list of the wineries.
Cuyahoga National Park is a bit of a drive from Columbus, but it’s the only National Park in Ohio and worth a trip. This beautiful area runs along the Cuyahoga River and has over 125 miles of hiking trails for visitors to enjoy.
The Olentangy Indian Caverns are a natural system of underground caverns that were used by the native Wyandotte tribe as a haven from their enemies and for ceremonial purposes. You can tour these beautiful and unique caves, and there’s also a petting zoo and gem mining activities for kids.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Columbus that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Columbus? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.