Most residents of Ohio’s capital and largest city, Columbus, know that the city was named after well-known explorer, Christopher Columbus. However, did you also know that Columbus is often praised by visitors for its affordability and restaurant scene? Columbus locals can regularly enjoy numerous interesting and walkable neighborhoods, unique culinary experiences, and world class attractions. If you’re looking to make some family memories right in your own “backyard” this summer, consider The Gardner School’s bucket list of attractions and places of interest in or around the Columbus area.
Al’s Delicious Popcorn Factory
A tasty and free activity, kids of all ages are welcome to on the Popcorn Tour at Al’s Delicious Popcorn factory. Learn how the famous popcorn is made and sample some of Al’s lip-smacking flavors such as Cookies & Cream, Pizza, Bubblegum, and everybody’s favorite—Jelly Bean!
Ballantrae Community Park
A kids favorite in the Dublin area, located just outside of Columbus, is the Bunny Splash Pad at Ballantrae Community Park. This simple and beautiful splash park sits in the shadow of a giant mound with industrial-size bronze bunny statues. Take a picnic lunch to enjoy while the kids play in the dancing waters.
Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
Families can explore science and discover fun at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), a dynamic hands-on science center in Columbus. Special activities for kids include COSI’s little kid space, where children from birth through first grade can explore and learn in a colorful and engaging atmosphere. In addition to unique exhibits, you can also experience an on-site planetarium and a National Geographic giant screen theater.
Columbus Clippers Baseball Game
Based at Huntington Park baseball stadium in Columbus, the Columbus Clippers is a Minor League Baseball team, and catching one of their games during the summer can be a fun family outing. Kids can eat free at Huntington Park on Wednesdays, so it can be a great day to catch a game, if your schedule permits.
Columbus Library Summer Reading Program
Summer reading is fun! It will keep your child’s reading skills strong, and he or she can earn prizes. At the Columbus Library, everyone from infants to adults can participate in the Summer Reading Program, and the best part is that it’s free. All you need is a library card.
Columbus Museum of Art
Located in downtown Columbus, the Columbus Museum of Art was the first museum to register its charter with the state of Ohio. Boasting contemporary art exhibits and a permanent photography collection, the museum has much to offer families, including a center for creativity, young child studios, summer art workshops, and more. Admission is free for children ages 5 and under.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Home to more than 11,000 animals, representing nearly 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. Admission is free for children 3 and under, and families can experience a variety of special learning opportunities, including summer day camps and overnight experiences.
Kiwanis Frog Jump & Festival
This June 24th event at Coffman Park draws more than 1,000 "frog jockeys" to participate in several age divisions, as thousands of spectators cheer on their favorite frog. The Annual Kiwanis Frog Jump competition features multiple playoff rounds that lead to a championship battle. Then fun includes several prizes, inflatables, food vendors, quality outdoor time with the family!
Ohio History Center
At the Ohio History Center, families can explore a museum, library, and archive of Ohio’s rich history with fun, interactive exhibits, exploring everything from Ohio life in the 1950s to extinct and endangered Ohio species to an exquisite collection of restored Civil War battle flags. Admission is free for children under 5 years old.
Olentangy Indian Caverns
Formed millions of years ago by an underground river, the Olentangy Indian Caverns are a series of natural underground caves, passages, and rooms occupying three different levels in Delaware, Ohio. Families can enjoy 30-minute tours that re-create the days of lost Indian tribes and pioneer explorers. A bonus for kids—the site also features an animal encounter and gem mining experience. Admission is free for children ages 3 and under.
Stratford Ecological Center
Located just south of Delaware, Ohio, is the Stratford Ecological Center. This working farm is devoted to promoting an understanding of how we relate to land, animals, and plants. All ages will enjoy being able to interact with farm animals and horticultural practices on the 236-acre property, which includes a 95-acre State Nature Preserve. Parents might want to check out Farm Camp, which is offered to kids during the summer.
An extension of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Zoombezi Bay is a 22.7-acre waterpark just north of Columbus. Sure to excite the whole family, Zoombezi Bay is home to some of the most exhilarating water slides around! The park features 17 state-of-the art water slides, a wave pool, an action river, an adults-only lazy river, private cabanas, a children’s interactive play structure with 100 water features, and much more. Admission is free for children ages 3 and under.