Top Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio

As Ohio’s capital city and one of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest, Columbus has the expected lineup of great museums, a zoo and botanical gardens. But its downtown neighborhoods—the eclectic Short North Arts District and the 19th-century German Village—take it out of the realm of typical.


Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse. Courtesy of Experience Columbus

Capitol tours

The flat rotunda roof of the 1861 Ohio Statehouse distinguishes this Greek Revival-style building from other capitols. Take self-guided or free hour-long tours and view the inner beauty of the rotunda, which stretches 120 feet to the skylight and makes a bold statement with its salmon stone walls and hand-cut marble floors.

COSI science museum Columbus Ohio
COSI. Courtesy of Experience Columbus

Center of Science and Industry

This acclaimed science museum features interactive exhibits on topics like dinosaurs, space and energy, plus a big-screen theater and planetarium.

Tour_Courtesy of High Bank Distillery
High Bank Distillery. Courtesy of High Bank Distillery/Experience Columbus

Columbus Distillery Trail

Taste award-winning blended whiskey at High Bank Distillery, one of seven stops on the Columbus Distillery Trail. Check in using a digital pass to win prizes along the way.

Columbus Ohio Food
Columbus Food Adventures. Courtesy of Columbus Food Adventures

Columbus Food Adventures

Themed walking (and eating!) tours including German Village, Grandview Avenue, All Dessert Tour, Brewery District and Short North Tour.

Columbus Museum of Art

Dating to 1878, this downtown art museum's collection spans American and European modern art, Impressionism, German Expressionism, Cubism, folk art, contemporary art, glass, photography and more. For a contemporary art focus, head to the Pizzuti Collection of the museum in the Short North.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

See more than 600 species at this top-ranked zoo, or journey 95 miles east to Cumberland to explore The Wilds, the zoo's conservation center and safari park.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Ryan Donnell

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Explore indoor and outdoor gardens and see the world's largest collection of Dale Chihuly's glass artwork in a botanical garden. Herb gardens, a canopy walk, play structures and a Hocking Hills-inspired splash area—waterfall and all—cover the 2-acre Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children's Garden. Seasonal events enliven the gardens' appeal year-round.

German Village

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

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Six trails in the 123-acre park lead to 10 themed gardens, woodlands and streams. More than 2,000 species of plants thrive in the preserve.

National Veterans Memorial and Museum
National Veterans Memorial and Museum. Courtesy of OSP Images

National Veterans Memorial and Museum

Late astronaut and Ohio senator John Glenn helped spearhead the $82 million museum, the only one in the U.S. dedicated to telling the stories of veterans from all branches of the military. Exhibits include video interviews and letters from soldiers.

North Market, Columbus Ohio
North Market. Courtesy of Randall L. Schieber/Experience Columbus

North Market

Visitors shop among merchants selling fresh produce, flowers and prepared food at this year-round indoor market. Monthly Night Markets bring special outdoor activities.

Columbus Ohio park
Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Courtesy of Laura Watilo Blake/Experience Columbus

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, sand volleyball courts and recreation fields.

Short North Arts District Columbus Ohio
Short North. Courtesy of Levi Ely/Experience Columbus

Short North Arts District

The district has morphed into a 20-block mosaic of fashion boutiques, restaurants, bars, murals and new faces. In 2019, $500 million of investment added more storefronts and lofts.

Topiary Park Columbus Ohio
Topiary Park. Randall Lee Schieber

Topiary Garden Park

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

Eat and Drink

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.


Hop in the cafeteria-style line at this popular Mediterranean spot in Short North lets you customize a bowl or pita wrap with your choice of rice, lentils, creamy hummus, vegetables and proteins.

Budd Dairy Food Hall Columbus Ohio
Budd Dairy Food Hall. Courtesy of Experience Columbus

Budd Dairy Food Hall

This chef-driven incubator in the Italian Village neighborhood offers eight unique kitchens plus a revolving popup and a buzzy rooftop patio.

Chapman's Eat Market

Chef-owner BJ Lieberman left a Michelin-starred restaurant in Washington, D.C., to open this German Village spot. Try globally inspired entrees like Chicken and Shrimp Khao Soi, with house-made ice cream (in flavors like Chocolate Chile) for dessert.

Fox in the Snow Columbus Ohio
Fox in the Snow. Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Columbus Coffee Trail

This string of coffee destinations will lead you to some of the city's best brews at locations like One Line, Fox in the Snow and Stauf's Coffee.


On the edge of German Village, this plant-forward restaurant offers shareable dishes like falafel wraps and semolina cavatelli plus and a drink menu that includes natural wines.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams Columbus ohio
Jeni's. Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Creative flavors like Boston Cream, Gooey Butter Cake and Brambleberry Crisp join more typical (but equally tasty) choices like The Milkiest Chocolate (multiple locations).


Guests rave about the lobster bisque, Alaskan halibut dinner, risotto and New York strip steaks at this longtime local favorite.

Northstar Cafe

Staff serve items containing sustainably sourced ingredients, such as the beets and squash in the roasted root salad (multiple locations).

The Pearl

The brick-walled gastropub features house-made seasonal punches plus made-from-scratch comfort foods like fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and clam chowder.

The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro

Small-plate upscale American and French cuisine shines in a 19th-century building that used to serve as a church. The seasonal menu offers specialties such as squab terrine with foie gras or spiced duck breast with candied fruit Bordelaise.

Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus

Americanized German foods star at the German Village spot. Try the signature sausage platters with German potato salad, chunky applesauce and split-top buns.


More than 40 regional farms, gardens and dairies supply ingredients for dishes such as Cheese Blintzes or smoked sausage at Skillet.

Understory Columbus Ohio Patio
Understory. Courtesy of Understory/Experience Columbus


Housed in a repurposed 1927 schoolhouse, this popular spot offers several vibes under one roof. Sip craft cocktails in the light-filled lounge, enjoy a fast-casual menu at Commons or unwind under a canopy of trees on the expansive outdoor patio.


For an elevated dining experience, head downtown and try Veritas' five-course tasting menu with global dishes like lobster with succotash or tomato with raspberry and herbs.

AC Hotel Columbus Downtown
AC Hotel Columbus Downtown. Courtesy of AC Hotel Columbus Downtown/Experience Columbus


AC Hotel Columbus Downtown

New in 2021, this Marriott Hotel is within walking district to the Short North Arts District and features one of the city's most popular rooftop restaurants, Lumin Sky Bar and Kitchen.

DogHouse Columbus

Scotland-based BrewDog opened what is billed as the world's first beer hotel, with 32 guest rooms (each equipped with a BrewDog tap) next to a state-of-the-art sour brewery and taproom.

Graduate Columbus

Decor in this collegiate-themed boutique hotel reflects the scarlet and gray of Ohio State University as well as influences from state luminaries like John Glenn and Ohio's eight presidents.

Hilton Columbus Downtown

The newly expanded hotel is now the state's largest (with 1,000 rooms), but this lodging has the cachet of an art gallery, with more than 225 works by 100 area artists, including prints on guest-room ceilings.

Columbus Ohio boutique hotel
Hotel LeVeque. Ryan Donnell

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 $27 million renovation also created a restaurant and bar, The Keep, which serves French brasserie fare.

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 special-occasion Guild House restaurant plates modern American entrees such as chicken roulade with sweet corn puree.

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