The Getaway
Cool Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio

Ohio's state capital certainly has a lot going for it. It's full of friendly people and great minds, live music, sporting events, shopping and museums, nature trails and gardens, arts and culture, zoos and parks, restaurants and festivals, and bars and nightlife. Columbus pretty much has everything you could ever ask for in a city, and you can experience it all for a lot less money and with far fewer crowds than some of the glitzier American metropolises.


01 Snap a selfie with Arnie

A sculpture of Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Columbus Convention Center

You might think an 8-foot tall muscle-bound bronze statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger looks a little out of place in an Ohio city, but the former governor of California's connection to Columbus is almost as strong as his famous Austrian accent. It all started in 1970 when he won the Mr. World contest in Columbus and befriended the event organizer soon after. To this day, the city hosts the Arnold Sports Festival, also known as the Arnold Classic, an annual bodybuilding and fitness expo.


02 Ramble through the roses

Rose garden erperlstrom / Getty Images

It's all coming up roses here at the Columbus Park of Roses -- 12,000 of them, to be precise, sprawling across 13 acres. There are also herb and perennial gardens scattered throughout this sublime spot, which was established in 1953 by the Central Ohio Rose Society and the Columbus Rose Club.


03 Visit the gates of hell

Blood bowl in Columbus bill baker / flickr

Hiding behind an unassuming Tim Hortons in Columbus is a Hellmouth. The ominous-looking Gates of Hell is actually a drainage tunnel built to let a stream from Glen Echo Park River feed into the Olentangy River. Typically it's bone dry unless it's been raining. There's something about this perfectly round, graffiti-adorned portal to total blackness that is eerily compelling, or at the very least, worthy of a photo shoot.


04 Read your way through 32 rooms of books

Crowd at the Book Loft in German Village during the "Village Lights" holiday celebration

The Book Loft, a 32-room, three-story independent bookshop located in Columbus' charming German Village neighborhood, is one of the city's top tourist attractions. It started with just five rooms when it first opened its doors in February 1977, but as other stores in the building began closing, the Book Loft just kept adding rooms until it grew into the behemoth it is today. With an estimated half million books for sale, the quirky bookstore now takes up a whole block and is so big it needs its own directory.


05 Grab a burger at a boxing-themed restaurant

If you're overwhelmed by all your lunch options, don't hang up your gloves just yet! Nestled at the heart of Columbus, the Ringside Cafe is a cozy burger joint that really punches above its weight. Open since 1837; this restaurant takes the title as the oldest eatery in the city. The menu is divided into three divisions. Lightweights, Welterweights, and Heavyweights, depending on the size of your appetite, but the Heavyweights is where you'll find all the burgers. You can choose from seven, including the Portobello Burger and the Brown Bomber, all of which are served with house-made chips, pickle spears, and fresh veggies. If you want to get in the ring with the most famous offering on the menu, go with the Ali, a 3/4 pound Angus patty topped with sharp cheddar, and a fried onion ring served with coleslaw.


06 Stroll amongst living sculptures

The Topiary Garden Park in Columbus, Ohio

The instantly recognizable pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, was recreated in the topiary form at a picturesque park in Columbus. The so-called Topiary Park was the brainchild of James T. Mason, a Columbus sculptor, who was inspired to design a few topiaries for his lawn by his wife, Elaine. The original idea grew and grew until it eventually spiraled far beyond the scope of a backyard project. The public art installation, which was officially dedicated in 1992, includes topographic sculptures of eight boats, 58 people, three dogs, a monkey, and a cat, all shaped from yew trees.


07 Stop by German Village

Columbus skyline at night

German Village is a charming historic neighborhood lined with cobblestone streets and beautiful brick houses. In 1974, the entire district was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It's chock full of coffee shops, lunch and brunch spots, patisseries, parks, restaurants, and live entertainment. You could easily spend whole days exploring this quaint quarter of Columbus.


08 Walk amongst giant numbers

The Numbers Garden, Ohio Photo Credit: Kevin Fitzsimmons

Going by the numbers, you're bound to enjoy this whimsical campus sculpture garden featuring larger-than-life numbers and hidden mathematical formulas. The Numbers Garden, which was installed in 1994, can be found on the lawn outside the engineering building at Ohio State University. You can count on getting a few good selfies here as you hang out with these human-sized numerals.


09 Eat your way through an indoor marketplace

Columbus' North Market is famous both inside and outside the city, and as soon as you step inside and breathe in the delicious aromas of cuisines from around the world, you'll know why. With ethnic food, gourmet groceries, fresh local produce, and unique handmade cuisine, the market has been connecting local vendors to the community since it was established in 1876. Either bring your purchases home with you or enjoy them right on site -- there are plenty of tables located on the second floor of this repurposed factory building.


10 Down a drink at the city's oldest tavern

A drink sitting on a shelf at a bar Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

For almost 200 years running, The Blind Lady Tavern has been serving up libations to Columbus' thirsty patrons. This bar and restaurant, which was also briefly a brothel and a boarding house, is close to the courthouse. It, therefore, has always been a popular meeting place for relaxing after a long day at work. With a cozy, burgundy wood interior, this storied tavern is practically dripping with charm.


11 Get cultured at the Columbus Museum of Art

The CMA's permanent collection includes works of art by world-renowned artists, including Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Cézanne, and Matisse. There are pieces by well-known American painters Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell, and local artists like Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson get their due too. Temporary collections have focused on fun themes such as Lego and "Where The Wild Things Are" writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak. Check out the museum's calendar for currently running workshops, and you can immerse yourself in a high-quality cultural experience at a beloved local institution. The CMA welcomes children.


12 Dabble in STEM at the Center of Science and Industry

The Center of Science and Industry on the west bank of the Scioto River has been voted the number one science museum in the country. With themes like oceans, space, and dinosaurs, the center is truly family-friendly, and you can spend hours with little ones here. COSI dedicates itself to interactive science education, field trips, and outreach programs. Furthermore, Ohio State University operates a research center and on-site medical labs. And the Columbus Historical Society preserves and exhibits aspects of Central Ohio's history on the premises too. There's a lot going on here and plenty to see!


13 Support the arts at Ohio Theatre

Ohio Theater in Downtown Columbus has been a National Historic Landmark since 1977. It's a grand performing arts center, and thanks to the community, it was rescued from demolition in the 1960s. Architect Thomas W. Lamb was particularly proud of Ohio Theater, one of the many he designed. Today, you can go to the Ohio Theater to see the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, watch ballet or opera, or catch a movie. You'll get good views from wherever you're seated, and the gorgeous decor will leave you impressed and longing to return.


14 Amble the corridors of Ohio Statehouse

Ohio Statehouse is a worthy stop on your itinerary if you're interested in politics, history, or architecture. The vast Greek Revival-style state capitol building was completed in 1861 after over two decades of construction. Marvel at the fixtures and finishings, and try and join one of the free volunteer-led tours for additional insight into the design choices and key moments in the building's past. Ohioans often feel a sense of pride when visiting this city landmark.


15 Be continually amazed at Otherworld

Open since 2019, Otherworld is an immersive art experience like no other. Unlock the mysteries and explore secret tunnels en route to more than 40 rooms full of mind-blowing installations and sci-fi fantasy. It is the epitome of cool—a futuristic extravaganza of creativity and technology that engages all your senses and feels like an acid trip without the actual consumption of illicit drugs. If you're in the Arch City, we can't recommend Otherworld enough for young and old alike, and we'd even suggest you make a day trip of it if you live two to four hours away.


16 Pay your respects at National Veterans Memorial and Museum

Completed in 2018, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum is a new homage to all American vets. It honors the sacrifice of those who have served and their families. And it celebrates what veterans have achieved within the walls of an impressive and innovative structure. You can learn about various wars since the Revolution and hear individual stories. Patriots should put this museum on their agenda. Spend time in the gallery or meditation garden, or do the scavenger hunt with kids.


17 Make more than memories at LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Lego enthusiasts will find loads to tickle their fancy at LEGOLAND Discovery Center. It's all about perspective at Miniland's Columbus replica. Enjoy extra large foam bricks or Lego car racing and rides, build to your heart's content, watch Master Builders do what they do best, and get hours of entertainment with grandpa or your little sister.


18 Take it easy at Hayden Falls Park

Hayden Falls Park is there for you if you're seeking a moment of calm amidst a hectic schedule. It will transport you away from the bustling city to a wonderfully energizing green space. The 35-ft. waterfall is the centerpiece, but you can also spot beautiful birds and rare plants in the gorge. Note that the cascade isn't stroller or wheelchair-friendly if you have accessibility needs. Stretch your legs on the wooded walk here, but consider your accessibility needs—the cascade isn't stroller or wheelchair-friendly.


19 Be inspired at Kelton House Museum & Garden

The Keltons were abolitionists who used their wealth to help the Underground Railroad. Their home was a sanctuary for enslaved people, and the Keltons' oldest son died at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads. Patriarch Fernando also served as a pallbearer at Abraham Lincoln's funeral. There's so much more to learn about this inspiring activist family, and you'll leave feeling galvanized to fight the good fight and do acts of kindness.


20 Picnic at Schiller Park

Formerly known as Stewart's Grove and City Park, Schiller Park settled on a name in 1891. It was named after the poet Friedrich von Schiller, but anti-German sentiment during the First World War led to a brief period where the park was known as Washington Park. A German Village highlight with landscaped gardens, softball, a stage, and fishing opportunities; you'll want to linger for a while.


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