things to do in columbus

Discover the best sights, activities and eats in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Columbus, Ohio, Is an Underdog Destination but Shouldn’t Be. Here’s Why.

Ohio’s capital is, quite simply, one of the biggest underdog destinations in the United States. But the reality? The city of Columbus is popping. With arts! With breweries! With family fun! With so much more.

After just one visit, you’re sure to become the city’s next great booster, and when people ask, “Columbus? Who knew?” You’ll burst forth with, “I did!” Here’s what you’ll tell them about.

Rich with Art

Head straight to The King Arts Complex for an immersive and joyful education in all the contributions African-Americans have made to America and beyond. Named for Martin Luther King Jr., the art center is a hub of activity for visual arts, dance and music.

If you’re lucky enough to be in town during the summer Heritage Music Festival, carve out plenty of time for a treat your ears will never forget.

things to do in columbus
Check out the Wonder Room at the Columbus Museum of Art. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Columbus Museum of Art‘s mission of connecting people and art — what could be better than that? — plays out wonderfully. New exhibits are served up in innovative ways for adults and kids alike.

Head straight to the Wonder Room to see art reach new heights — literally! Textiles commissioned for the space hang from just about every surface. Also in the museum you’ll find plenty of 19th- and 20th-century American and European art.

Game Time

Sports fans are ahead of the game when it comes to knowing of Columbus’s wonders. Seriously: Just ask an Ohio State fan. And while we’re on the subject, football is everything for the Buckeyes.

If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to a game — and you should definitely try — all of your senses will get a workout. Don’t you dare head to the restroom during halftime. The Ohio State Marching band is legendary.

things to do in columbus
Batter up at Huntington Park. (Photo: Getty Images)

Not into football? Worry not. Columbus also hits the ice for hockey with the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. And see tomorrow’s big-league stars today when the Columbus Clippers play at Huntington Park. Or go see a soccer game at Mapfre Stadium. Wear Columbus Crew SC ‘s yellow and black to get in good with local fans.

Quench Your Thirst

The Columbus area’s craft beer scene does not fool around. With at least 30 craft breweries — 19 right in the city — you’re sure to find some suds to love.

Five to try if they’re on tap: the smooooooth finishing Honey Wheat Lager at North High Brewing Company; the football-homage Stiff-Arm I.P.A. at Land-Grant Brewing Company; the slightly smokey, nice and chocolatey, Stone Fort oat brown ale at Seventh Son Brewing; the sure-to-end-in-a-nap All the Breakfast 2018 imperial breakfast cream ale Wolf’s Ridge Brewing; and Endeavor Brewing Co.’s English Mild — it’s Nitro!

Kid Happy

Get your hands-on fun at the Center of Science & Industry (COSI). Kids, teens and, yes, even you adults will find plenty of fun and learning inside. (But don’t tell the kids about the learning bit. It’ll sneak up on them, and they won’t mind.)

things to do in columbus
Kids love the quirky art at COSI. (Photo: Getty Images)

From the big bones in the Dinosaur Gallery to Ohio’s largest Planetarium, you’ll hear a whole bunch of WOW! out of your littles. But any day the weather is fine fine fine, don’t dare go anywhere but the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where you can hop on into the Kangaroo Walkabout or offer a rainbow-bright lorikeet (FYI: it’s a bird) a cup of nectar.

If you want to add on an extra-special something fun, consider a behind-the-scenes Wild Encounter tour.

Adult Joy

Oh, to be 13 again — but without the drama. And with cocktails! That’s what’s ahead for your night if you spend it at 16-Bit Bar+Arcade. Equal parts video arcade and cocktail bar, you can drink a Kevin Bacon (bourbon, ginger ale and bacon jerky) while playing BurgerTime.

Or get dizzy on a Cyndi Lauper (grape vodka, sour, sprite, grenadine) while playing that all-time dizzy video game, Q*bert. With more than 40 games on the floor and plenty of creative drinks on the menu, you’ll be happy settling back into the better version of your 13-year-old self.

For an entertaining night out that relies more on meeting people, people watching and watching a game or hearing some music — while also enjoying some tasty grub and your new favorite local beer (phew!) — you’ll want in at The Walrus.

The night spot with the best logo around (hello, cute walrus face), The Walrus is sure to help you find some good Columbus folks to call your new besties. The it place to hang? The patio. On a nice night you’ll want to stay forever. (Though you’ll need to leave at 2:30 a.m., closing time.)

Buy Some Really Cool Goods

What, you didn’t know that Columbus is a shopper’s paradise? Well it is. You might even want to set a budget for the trip before you blow through next month’s expense money. Oh, kidding! Limiting your shopping dollars isn’t fun. Go to town. And by “town,” we mean Columbus.

Your best bets for everything from the latest styles to gifts for friends: Stroll the looks-quaint-but-serves-up-names-you-know streets of Easton Town Center; shop inside at Polaris Fashion Place; grab some Buckeye gear and other goods at The Mall at Tuttle Crossing; and finish up at The Shops on Lane Avenue.

Chow Time

Old-school Columbus is definitely still going delicious at Lindey’s. Founded by Sue Doody in 1981, the restaurant has a menu that leans traditional in a delicious way. Duck breast, crab cakes, French onion soup and so much more. Go hungry. (In town for a special occasion? Lindey’s is your go-to spot.)

Want to go to town on a burger? Say hello to The Thurman Café, another long-standing, delicious Columbus tradition. Opened in German Village in 1942, the café has a menu that takes some time to take in. The french fries section alone offers plenty of options.

First time? Get the “ThurmaGoldiGarlaLina,” which features fries in garlic wing sauce topped up with Carolina Gold and blue-cheese dressing. As for that burger, will it be the Macedonian Burger, served on Texas toast with red peppers and feta cheese? Or maybe The Blazin’s Burger, loaded up with Tabasco and fried jalapeño slices? Whichever you choose, it’ll be a win.