Are you looking for fun ways to keep the kids entertained but don’t want to spend money every time? I’m with you! That’s why I put together a list of fun and FREE activities to do with your kids in Columbus! Do you have some ideas I should add to this list? Send me an email at: [email protected]!
Attend a Storytime at the Library.
Columbus Metropolitan Library has 22 Branches throughout Franklin County. I have a lot of storytime programs listed over on my calendar on the website, or you can also check out the Library’s calendar of events here, and filter by location and age group to find a free storytime to attend. Or just visit a new Library Branch that you’ve never been to, explore the kids area and check out a few books!
Visit German Village
German Village, located just south of downtown Columbus, is a unique area known for charming brick houses and cobblestone streets. You can simply wander around and admire the architecture and historic charm, or browse some shops. I recommend visiting the Book Loft, the 32 room bookstore, whenever you’re in German Village! Additional ideas for your visit can be found here.
Visit a Nature Center
Nature Centers have displays and exhibits, may have live animals and programs, and are a great way to stay out of the elements. The following Nature Centers are ones that we like to visit in Columbus:
- Highbanks Metro Park
- Battelle Darby Metro Park
- Blendon Woods Metro Park
- Blacklick Woods
- Deer Haven Park
- Grange Insurance Audubon Center
Check the websites for hours, programs and other information.
Located on the Ohio State Campus, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum houses the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartoons and comics, including original art, books, magazines, journals, comic books, archival materials, and newspaper comic strip pages and clippings. Located in Sullivant Hall, 1813 N High St. See website for hours and additional information.
Try a New Park or Playground
Columbus has so many great playgrounds, parks and recreation areas. I recommend visiting one of our Metro Parks! The Columbus Metro Parks features 20 outstanding natural area parks with more than 230 miles of trails and over 28,400 acres of land in seven Central Ohio counties. Many of the Metro Parks have a lot of hiking options, plus playgrounds to explore and many programs available at the Nature Centers. I list many of the Metro Park programs over on the website on my calendar! Be sure to check out my list of favorite playgrounds in Columbus. Let me know of any that you would add to this list!
Visit a Waterfall in Columbus
We are fortunate that we have a few waterfalls, right here in the city! If you are lucky to visit one after a rain, it can be really spectacular! Here are three within Columbus:
- Hayden Falls: Located in Dublin, Hayden Falls is easily accessible from the parking lot. A flight of stairs and a quick walk on the boardwalk takes you right to the waterfall. Address: 4326 Hayden Run Rd, Dublin, OH 43017
- Indian Run Falls: Indian Run Falls is also located in Dublin and has a trail that loops around the park. Address: 700 Shawan Falls Dr, Dublin, OH 43017
- Millikin Falls at Quarry Trails Metro Park. This waterfall is located at Quarry Trails Metro Park in Columbus. There is an Upper Trail of .05 miles, and a Lower Trail of .75 miles. Address: 2600 Old Dublin Rd, Columbus OH 43228
Find a Mommy and Me Playgroup
Let’s be honest, us moms crave social interaction just as much (or sometimes more) than our kiddos! Find a local playgroup to provide playtime for the littles, and adult conversation for us moms. Or, start your own in your neighborhood, with your friends or through word of mouth on social media. Here are a few ideas to find play groups:
Fit4Mom Columbus North and Fit4Mom Upper Arlington/Hilliard offer regular play dates for the Littles after a class. The play groups are free to attend even if you don’t attend class (though you can always try a class for free).
You can also look for groups that exist on your local moms/parents groups on social media, or ask your friends if they know of any playgroups that you can attend. Sometimes you meet new friends at the library, playground or park and you can create your own new playgroup with new friends!
Visit a Little Free Library
I see a lot of Little Free Libraries in my area when I’m out and about. You can make it a fun adventure and an exciting hunt for the family to try to find a Little Library or two and leave a book while you take a book. There is a Little Free Library Map and Search tool available here.
Explore Franklin Park Conservatory on Community Day
Community Day is the first Sunday of each month and admission is free for residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus (with valid ID) at Franklin Park Conservatory. The Conservatory is open 10am-5pm.
Visit the Columbus Museum of Art on Sundays
Columbus Museum of Art provides free general admission for museum visitors, each and every Sunday (open 10am-5pm on Sunday’s). Special exhibition admission is an additional $10 for nonmembers.
Visit Graeter’s on Bethel Road and the Free Indoor Play Area
Graeter’s on Bethel Road has a fun play area that is free and fun for the kids. The ice cream is delicious at Graeter’s, so I recommend taking along some money for a treat or ice cream while you’re there. Who can resist ice cream?
Take a Hike
I have a list of great spots for a family hike on the website, or explore one of the Metro Parks or other great spots for hiking in Columbus.
For a list of Farmers Markets for 2023, check out my list here. Of course you may end up finding something to purchase, but there is no entrance fee for Farmers Markets and they are a lot of fun, whether you buy anything or not.
Take the kids bowling for free this summer!
There is a program where kids can bowl free all summer long! Check out more information here. Note, shoe rental is usually required and not free -all the details on the program can be found in my post.
Now that summer is here, visit one of the free Splash Pads around Columbus. Be sure to pack snacks, sunscreen and water! Check out the list of local Splash Pads here.
The Carousel is so much fun and also FREE to ride! More details: Open daily from 11am-7pm. Hours may vary for weather and events. Thanks to our partner, PNC, all carousel rides are free! We do our best to keep things updated on the homepage when the carousel is closed due to weather or ticketed events. If it’s raining the carousel cannot operate, and if rain is in the forecast we typically err on the side of caution. If you want to confirm the carousel is running before you head to the Commons, please call our security team to confirm it’s open: 614-227-3788.
(When you arrive, if there is not an operator nearby, please call 614-227-3788 to request one).
Giving back to your community with your kids is a great way to spend time together. Spending time helping others builds compassion and empathy. Seeds of Caring has unique, kid-focused volunteer opportunities for your family, classroom, or group. Upcoming in person opportunities are listed on the website.
Have any free activities in Columbus that you love to do with your family? Let me know so I can add to this list!