If you’re wanting a family-friendly getaway, but don’t want to travel too far, look no further than Columbus Ohio.
It’s only about 100 miles north, about an hour and a half away, depending on where you’re headed. Just enough time to get a change of scenery without the kids getting antsy and asking “are we there yet?” eleventy times.
We recently gathered up our fam for a little weekend getaway to Columbus and here are our top 10 tips for an epic family-friendly trip through Central Ohio.
1. Stay at The Junto Hotel. The location is perfection. It’s right across the street from COSI. There’s a great playground, splash pad, swings, and green space just steps away from the hotel. They have kid-friendly bunk bed rooms, and even include two free tickets to COSI for all guests (just one of the many great amenities). There’s a beautiful lounge, coffee shop and rooftop terrace at The Junto, and it’s also walking distance from lots of other great spots downtown. They have complimentary cookies and milk in the lobby at night and yummy coffee and breakfast every morning. The Junto also has a Gear Garage, where you can borrow all kinds of outdoor recreation goods and games to make your visit even more fun and adventurous, especially being so close to the Scioto River and walking trail. Learn more at thejuntohotel.com.
2. Go to COSI. If you’re in Columbus, especially with kids, COSI is a must. They always have new exhibits - right now it’s King Tut, which was perfect for our aspiring archeologist. They also have a little kidspace play area that’s designed for babies through first grade, where parents can relax while the kids climb, slide, build, splash, imagine, make art, and pretend. Always cool science experiments, animal meet-and-greets, and interactive learning opportunities all throughout the space, too.
3. Take a delicious tour through the Anthony-Thomas Chocolate Factory. Ever wonder how chocolate is made? Take an hour-long tour through the glass-enclosed suspended "Cat-Walk" to observe this 152,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art candy factory. The tour guide explains each process step-by-step from the kitchens and copper kettles to the pipes were liquid chocolate flows and then how it’s all packaged. The tour finishes in a beautiful 2,500 square-foot retail shop, and everyone leaves with a free sample! They do factory tours every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 9:30am and 3:30pm. Just walk-in, no need to schedule in advance, and it’s only $2 for kids and $4 for adults.
4. Have a kid-friendly “fancy” meal at Milestone 229. It’s downtown, overlooking the river, and right next to a huge splash park. They have elevated food, wine and cocktails for adults and a fun kids menu, complete with cool metal lunch trays that they come out on. Pack a swimsuit and towel for the kids because you can bribe them with a visit to the splash pad next door if they’re clean platers.
5. Light up your life at Lighthouse ArtSpace. “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience” is their current exhibit and the kids LOVED it. This 500,000 cubic foot huge room has music and projected displays appearing on the ceiling, floor and walls for an immersive experience that takes you inside all the Disney films and animation, from their very earliest to today’s favorites. It’s interactive too with responsive floor projection design that moves when the kids run across it, your bracelet lights up in sync with the projections, and bubbles fill the gallery during underwater scenes. We’ve been to the Monet and Van Gogh Immersive experiences back home, but the kids loved this one way more, because, you know, Disney.
6. Say “Guten Morgen” to German Village. One of the most picturesque and historic areas in Columbus, German Village is also super kid-friendly. We went to Chocolate Cafe for some brunch (one of many local cafes, restaurants and coffee shops in the area - tough to choose!), The Book Loft (one of the largest independent book stores in the country) and then Schiller Park, which has a great playground, walking trails and the prettiest floral gardens.
7. Go out West(erville). Located just 15 minutes northeast of downtown Columbus is Westerville, which has so many parks it’s called “a city within a park.” We went to Alum Creek Park North and it was probably the coolest park we’ve ever been to. It has a webbed climber, wobbly bridge, climbing wall, slides, swings and tightrope for the ninja warriors. Plus, a sand pit and an interactive game to get any extra energy out. Then we went to Giammarco’s for a hearty Italian dinner. They’re known for the best spaghetti and lasagna in the city and you can play bocce ball in the back.
8. See a show. Whether it’s at the Schottenstein Center, Nationwide Arena, Ohio Expo Center, or even the Columbus Children’s Theatre, there’s always a fun concert or production coming to town. Cirque du Soleil was at The Schott when we were there, so we went and it was incredible!
9. Make it to Momi Land. This isn’t your typical petri dish play place. Momi Land was voted the best indoor playground in Ohio for good reason. First off, it’s super clean. And there’s so much to do for a good range of ages (we had an almost-9, 6, and 5 year old there for example). There’s a huge ball pit, tunnels and slides, trampolines, little vehicles they ride around in, a little play kitchen and grocery, and a great seating area for parents and guardians to sit back and watch it all. The kids loved it so much we actually went back a second time so they could wear themselves out before the car ride home.
10. End on a sweet note in the Short North. Nestled between downtown and the Ohio State campus is the Short North Arts District. Think OTR on steroids. Tons of great restaurants, bars and boutiques. But there’s lots of fun for kids, too. From Big Fun Columbus (a vintage toy shop) to Rocket Fizz (a soda pop and candy shop) to, of course, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Jeni’s is a must-visit when you’re in Cbus, but it gets pretty busy on weekends, especially at night. Try to go earlier in the day to avoid the long lines and crowded seating area. And after you get them all loaded up on sugar, run off some energy at the nearby (and gorgeous) Goodale Park.
We packed all this fun into a three-day, two-night stay. There was so much more we wanted to do, too, like visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and it’s Zoombezi Bay water park, Legoland and the American Girl store at Easton Town Center, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Wonder Room at the Columbus Museum of Art, bike along the Scioto Mile and visit even more of the parks around Columbus.
Experience Columbus is a really helpful resource for all things Columbus. They have great ideas for any kind of experience you’re looking for around Central Ohio, from kid-friendly trips to date night or getaways with friends. You can learn about all the neighborhoods, get visitor guides, and download the CBUS Rewards App where you get exclusive discounts and rewards for doing things around the city. Learn more at https://www.experiencecolumbus.com.