10 Unique Things to Do in Columbus

by Paul Joseph  |  Updated October 21, 2023

With thousands of University students inhabiting the city for much of the year, it’s little wonder that Columbus pulsates with energy, offering tons of unique things to see and do.

(Photo: tlarrow via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Thanks in large part to an economy based on state-funded sectors, the Ohio capital of Columbus has remained insulated from the fluxes of the market, and as a result has thrived in recent years. If you’re planning a visit to Columbus, we’ve sought to whet your appetite by picking out 10 of the city’s activities and attractions that you won’t find anywhere else.

Explore a top class museum

Columbus has an impressive number of museums and among the most distinguished is the nationally acclaimed Center of Science and Industry. Known locally as COSI, the museum is situated in the city’s downtown district and is home to an array of interactive exhibits and displays. Highlights include a planetarium, a dinosaur gallery, a giant screen theatre, and the outdoor Big Science Park.

333 West Broad Street / Thurs-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Weds

Or for art enthusiasts visiting Columbus, the city also boasts the exceptional Columbus Museum of Art. One of the region’s largest cultural venues, it offers both permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as diverse educational programs, with a focus on bringing American art and history to life for the communities of the Chattahoochee Valley. Among the notable works on display are late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American and European art, including early Cubist paintings by the legendary Pablo Picasso.

 480 East Broad Street / Fri-Sun & Weds – 10am-5pm Thurs 10am-9pm Closed Mon-Tues

Visit a historic working statehouse

One of the oldest fully-operational statehouses in the United States, the Ohio Statehouse is a veritable goldmine of historical interest. Housed in a striking example of neoclassical architecture, it’s a visual masterpiece, boasting magnificent, palatial rooms and a sweeping grand staircase in the adjoining Senate Building that was modelled on the Paris Opera House. It’s also filled with priceless art, including a marble bust of Abraham Lincoln – the only one the President posed for during his lifetime. Guided tours are available daily.

1 Capitol Square / Mon-Fri 8am-5pm Sat-Sun 11am-5pm

The imposing Ohio Statehouse (Photo: Steven Miller via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Take a look around the German Village

During the mid-19th century, following the implementation of new refugee laws, German migration to Ohio exploded, with many of these immigrants settling in Columbus. Simultaneously, a neighbourhood was developed for them which would become known as the German Village. While the city’s German population has fluctuated down the years, the village’s roots have endured, with the German Village still home to several German pubs as well as the ever-popular Schmidt’s Sausage Haus eatery, which serves up delectable bratwurst against a backdrop of live oompah music.

Discover a huge variety of exotic animals

Situated a quick drive north of central Columbus, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has a staggering 10,000 residents spanning a huge range of species. Designed to help visitors learn about different geographical areas and their inhabitants, the zoo has been divided into six regions spanning the globe. Among the perennial favourite experiences here are seeing giraffe’s launch into a sprint, wolves letting off their trademark howls, polar bears hitting the water, and kangaroo’s traversing their enclosure with some signature hopping.

4850 West Powell Road, Powell / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

(Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Peruse a vast farmers’ market

There’s no better way to get under the skin of a city than to take a wander around one of its public markets. Open six days a week, the North Market dates back more than 140 years and continues to offer a sensory explosion of sights, smells and sounds. Everything from foodie treats to handmade jewellery and other craftwork are on display, though even if you don’t plan to purchase anything then the market offers an immersive experience for visitors.

59 Spruce Street / Tues-Sat 9am-7pm Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon 

(Photo: PA Photo Archive via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Explore a vibrant arts district

Columbus has a buzzing arts scene and at its epicentre is the ultra-hip Short North Arts District. The brainchild of renowned local artist Sherrie Riley Hawk, who led the area’s regeneration over a decade ago and has her own art gallery here, the district hums with activity both night and day. As well as several contemporary galleries that have taken residence in converted warehouses, there are also funky music and clothing stores, regular street exhibitions, open-air night markets and trendy eateries.

Catch an American football match

With a capacity of 100,000 spectators, there’s not often a shortage of tickets available for matches at Ohio Stadium, home to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Like so many US university teams, the Buckeyes enjoy a fervent support, but visitors are always warmly welcomed at the vast area too, whose distinctive shape has led to it being dubbed “The Horseshoe”. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the sometimes complex rules of American Football (or “football” as it’s known to natives), the red-hot atmosphere will make it an experience to remember.

Ohio Stadium, 411 Woody Hayes Drive

Soak up the tranquility of a horticultural mecca

Located a short walk from downtown Columbus, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is ideal for those seeking some calm respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Founded at the tail-end of the 19th century, the venue is a haven of horticulture where you’ll find exotic plant collections, special nature-based exhibitions, and an assortment of eye-catching artworks by acclaimed American glass artist Dale Chihuly.

1777 East Broad Street / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm

(Photo: Steven Miller via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Let the kids loose on LEGO

If you’re visiting Columbus with small kids in tow, then one must-visit attraction is the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Jam-packed full of plastic brick-based exhibits and interactive play areas, the venue is guaranteed to keep children occupied for hours on end. Favourites include the Kingdom Quest adventure ride, a Columbus cityscape made entirely out of LEGO a 4D cinema featuring famous LEGO characters on the big screen, and the chance to create and track test your own LEGO racing car.

157 Easton Town Center / Thurs-Fri 11am-6pm Sat 9am-7pm Sun-Mon 11am-6pm Closed Tues-Weds

Book at GetYourGuide

(Photo: GetYourGuide.com)