Top Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio

As Ohio’s capital city, Columbus has the expected lineup of great museums, a zoo and botanical gardens. But its downtown neighbors—the eclectic Short North Arts District and the 19th-century German Village—take it out of the realm of typical. Check out our trip guide for what to do, where to eat and where to stay.


Bicentennial Park Kids splash in a 200-foot-long series of fountains that shoot water 75 feet in the air. The riverside park also hosts free dance, music and theater performances at an outdoor pavilion.

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum The impressive collection of Ohio State-owned materials includes rare and historical comic strips, graphic novels and editorial cartoons.

Capitol tours The flat rotunda roof of the 1861 Ohio Statehouse distinguishes this building from other capitols. Take free hour-long tours.

Capitol tours

State Capitol

Center of Science and Industry A dinosaur gallery encourages interactivity with exhibits, such as a climbable, full-scale model of an Oviraptor nest. Other areas of the museum cover themes such as space and energy.

Columbus Food Adventures Themed tours introduce foodies to a variety of local cuisines. Sample authentic Mexican dishes on the popular taco truck tour, or learn about one of the city’s neighborhoods on a food and walking tour.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium More than 600 species reside at this top-ranked zoo. At Polar Frontier, a see-through underwater area lets visitors see polar bears playing in a pool. Stingray Bay encourages hands-on exploration.

German Village A few blocks south of downtown, bakeries, bookshops, delis and gift stores line the narrow brick streets of this enclave of 19th-century European-style brick buildings.

Huntington Park Home of the Triple-A team the Clippers, this minor-league baseball park sells hot dogs for 10 cents during select Monday games. Enjoy drinks and skyline views from the Hall of Fame Bar.

North Bank Park Kids splash in an interactive fountain along the Scioto River. Signs share the city’s history.

North Market Visitors shop among 34 merchants selling fresh produce, flowers and prepared food at this year-round indoor market. Some days bring special events, such as live music and cooking classes.

Pizzuti Collection Contemporary art collectors Ron and Ann Pizzuti showcase highlights from 40 years of acquisitions in a refurbished office building.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park Scale one of the nation’s largest free outdoor climbing walls at this 120-acre adventure park that also contains an obstacle course and sand volleyball courts.

Short North Arts District In the 1980s, artists began to convert dilapidated buildings north of downtown into shops and galleries. Today, the district thrives with chic shops, galleries and restaurants.

Short North Arts District

Short North Arts District

The Topiary Park Sculpted evergreens re-create the scene from Georges Seurat’s pointillist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.

The Topiary Park

The Topiary Park

The Wilds Spend the night in a yurt within sight of zebras, antelope and threatened species at this conservation center in Cumberland, 75 miles east of Columbus. An open-air safari bus tours the gently rolling property to get passengers close to rhinos and Bactrian camels.


Barcelona Snag a patio table at this tapas spot in German Village. The $60 tasting menu includes six dishes, each created by a different chef.

Basi Italia A New York-trained chef brings his skills to a house in the heart of Victorian Village, serving creations such as creamy sweet crab and corn risotto. Try for a seat on the patio.

Brassica Hop in the cafeteria-style line at this popular Mediterranean spot in Short North to assemble a bowl or pita wrap with your choice of rice, lentils, creamy hummus, vegetables and unexpected proteins such as lamb bacon.

Columbus Coffee Trail This string of coffee destinations (24 and counting) was charted to educate. At One Line, learn how brewing style affects flavor. Fox in the Snow forgoes Wi-Fi—and a business phone—to promote interaction in its sunny gas station-turned-cafe.

Denmark on High Try seasonal cocktails and savory apps in the bar and lounge overlooking High Street.

Fox in the Snow Cafe Savor artfully crafted coffees and delectable bakery fare—such as buttermilk biscuits served with honey and house-made jam—served in a sunny space that was once a garage.

Fox in the Snow Cafe

Fox in the Snow Cafe

G. Michael’s Bistro and Bar White tablecloths add a formal touch to this historical stable. Low-country dishes (shrimp and grits with ham) impress guests.

The Happy Greek Guests eat Greek favorites (tzatziki, gyros, kabobs, desserts and, yes, flaming cheese) in Short North.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams Creative flavors like Wildberry-Lavender and Brambleberry Crisp join more typical (but equally tasty) choices like The Milkiest Chocolate.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Katalina’s The former gas station pumps out baskets of golden pancake balls filled with berry preserves, Nutella, dulce de leche or pumpkin-apple butter.

Little Eater Cara Mangini, author of the award-winning cookbook The Vegetable Butcher, stays true to her veggie-centric roots at the Clintonville neighborhood spot. Try the flight of six vegetable creations.

Northstar Cafe Staff serve items containing sustainably sourced ingredients, such as the beets and squash in the roasted root salad.

The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro Upscale American and French cuisine shines in a 19th-century building that used to serve as a church. Dinner music nights with live jazz, opera or chamber music performances make a visit even more special.

Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus Americanized German foods star at the German Village spot. Try the Autobahn buffet.

Skillet More than 40 regional farms, gardens and dairies supply ingredients. A simple pork mac ’n’ cheese reaches new heights with cheddar from local Laurel Valley Creamery and apple cider-infused pork shoulder.

The Thurman Cafe The 3⁄4-pound Thurman Burger— with ham, cheese, sauteed onions and ’shrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, pickles, and mayo—warrants the sometimes two-hour wait.

Watershed Kitchen and Bar A four-course tasting menu lets you sample a variety of Chef Jack Moore’s creations, such as beet salad with feta and fried chicken with whipped pig butter. Spirits come from the adjoining Watershed Distillery.


German Village Guest House This 1800s guest house is now a chic five-room hotel. The hands-off owner sets out a light breakfast. Guests cozy up by an outdoor fireplace in the evenings.

German Village Guest House

German Village Guest House

Hilton Columbus Downtown Showcasing more than 150 works from central Ohio artists, including prints on guest room ceilings, this hotel has the cachet of an art gallery. A 12-story-high atrium lights public spaces.

Hotel LeVeque A star machine and telescope in every room reflect the celestial-theme decorating in the hotel, on the lower floors of a 1927 Art Deco tower. A recent $27 million renovation also created a restaurant and bar, The Keep, which serves French brasserie fare such as whole fish in shrimp sauce.

Hotel LeVeque

Hotel LeVeque. Photo courtesy of hotel.

Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph In the heart of Short North Arts District, 135 rooms and suites contain sleek wooden accents crafted in Ohio. The hotel’s Guild House restaurant plates entrees such as ribeye with turnip puree.

For information: Experience Columbus


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