20 Free (or Nearly Free!) Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio

The city of Columbus in Ohio may be large, and it may be the capital, but that doesn’t mean you will be wowed as soon as you arrive. That wow moment will come once you realize how many things to do in Columbus, Ohio are available to you. While there are many things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids, you will discover there are many things to do in Columbus, Ohio at night too. The best part is many of them are free or cheap things to do in Columbus, Ohio.

Where is Columbus, Ohio?

The city of Columbus is almost in the center of the state of Ohio. This city is quite far from many of the other major cities in the state including Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. No worries though, because there are plenty of smaller cities and towns near Columbus, Ohio for you to visit if you are interested in day trips.

Columbus, Ohio
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Best Time to Visit Columbus, Ohio

It is not easy for us to say when the best time to visit Columbus, Ohio is, because there are a couple amazing times to visit. Blooming flowers make May and June the perfect time to visit Columbus, while the fall foliage make it seem like September and October are the better months.

Weather in Columbus, Ohio

The weather in Columbus, Ohio can literally change by the minute, so you must always be prepared for almost anything during your visit. The summer months are warm, but short. Fall and spring are both cool, but not as cold as the winter months. There is snow during the winter, but the worst of it arrives during the months of January and February.

20 Free (or Nearly Free!) Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio

1. Relax in the Topiary Garden

Topiary Garden, Columbus, Ohio
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

There is so much more than topiaries in this Topiary Garden. As you are walking along the paths, you will find yourself passing by many different gardens. We recommend sitting on one of the nearby benches to take a break and simply relax in the tranquility.

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2. Listen to Live Music at Live Polaris

Listening to live music is one of the best things to do in Columbus, Ohio for free during the summer. Simply head over to Polaris Fashion Place on Thursdays throughout the summer. The lawn area is large, and you can find the perfect spot to lay a blanket out if you arrive early enough.

3. Wander Through Powell Street Market

The Powell Street Market is only held twice a year, so you will need to plan your trip carefully if you want to add it to your list of things to do in Columbus, Ohio. At least 100 vendors line the streets for a day to sell handmade crafts, antiques, and even snacks. While it won’t be free if you purchase anything, it is free if you simply walk around.

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4. Explore the James Thurber House

James Thurber House, Columbus, Ohio
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

James Thurber was an author, New Yorker cartoonist, and humorist. His home is now on the National Register of Historic Places and you can see the inside. Admission is always free during the week, but you will need to pay a fee if you want to take a guided tour.

5. Explore the North Market

The North Market is similar to a farmer’s market. There are thirty vendors at the North Market, and they sell everything from gift baskets, cookware, coffee, produce, and flowers. There are even prepared foods, so you can stop those hunger pains during your visit. Please be aware that it is free to wander around and explore this market, but you will spend some money if you choose to buy anything. We still wanted to add it to this list of things to do in Columbus, Ohio for free, because we do not always count the cost for food and souvenirs in with our visiting Columbus attractions budgets.

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6. Do a Little Window Shopping at the Grandview Hop or the Gallery Hop

The Grandview Hop is a Columbus, Ohio event that is held on the last Saturday of the month from May through September. The Gallery Hop is held on the first Saturday of the month. If you happen to miss those events, you can always wander around all the different market districts throughout the city.

7. Go for a Hike


There are thousands of trails in Columbus, Ohio. While you will want to choose the trails you take carefully, many of them are considered family friendly and perfect for kids. The walking paths at Schiller Park are the best ones for kids, while Goodale Park offers scenic views.

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8. Attend a Festival

If you are looking for kid friendly things to do in Columbus, Ohio, the local festivals will be your best option. There are many festivals held in the city throughout the year, so there is an excellent chance you can include this thing to do in Columbus, Ohio this weekend with kids. While we can’t possibly list out all the festivals held in Columbus, OH every year, we can share a couple favorites. Those favorites include the Asian Festival, Jazz and Ribs Fest, and the Circleville Pumpkin Show.

9. Attend an Event at a Local Library

Most people think of libraries as a place to check out books, but in Columbus, OH, the libraries offer so much more. Family day events and story time are only two of the many fun cheap things to do in Columbus, Ohio for families at the local libraries.

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10. Explore the Riverfront at Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile, Columbus, Ohio
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Scioto Mile is comprised of 145 acres and goes through the center of Columbus. You will see many different Columbus attractions along the way, as well as many different things for kids to do. You may think you can see this space in Columbus in a short amount of time, but we recommend planning to stay for a few hours.

11. Take a Tour of the Statehouse

Tours of the Statehouse are always free, but you will need to make sure you are there during the times the guided tours are available. It is easy to check ahead by looking at the website or simply calling.

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12. Explore Highbanks Metro Park

There is more than 1,000 acres within the Highbanks Metro Park. The best feature at this park is the 100-foot shale bluff that looms high above the Olentangy State Scenic River. There are many deep ravines as well, so you will have plenty to look at. This is one of the best things to do in Columbus, Ohio during the spring, summer, and early fall. This park is only open from April through September.

13. Go Birdwatching at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

Go Birdwatching at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

One of the unique things to do in Columbus, Ohio is birdwatching in Pickerington Ponds Metro Park. While this is one of the fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio for free, most kids will not enjoy doing it for too long. You will want to try to hold their interest as long as you can though, because there is a chance you can see more than 250 different birds there.

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14. Have a Cultural Experience at the Columbus Art Walks

The Columbus Art Walks are self-guided audio tours that come complete with walking maps. The walks go through many different districts in the city including Capitol Square, German Village, the Brewery District, and Highland West.

15. Explore the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens

The Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens is comprised of sixty plus acres. There is never a charge to see the arboretum, but if you want a guided tour, there is a small fee. One of the favorite spots in this area is the green roof garden.

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16. Have Fun at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, Columbus, Ohio
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

If you love reading comics in the newspaper, then you will love seeing the largest collection of cartoon materials in the entire world. The collection inside this museum includes all types of newspaper comic strip clippings, graphic novels, editorial cartoons, comic books, and so much more. This museum is closed on Mondays, so you will want to plan your visit carefully. We suggest marking information like that on your itinerary, so you do not forget.

17. Visit the Ohio Craft Museum

The inside of this museum contains rotating permanent exhibits, as well as five different major exhibitions that change every year. This museum does offer events and workshops throughout the year, but you can also take advantage of the Craft Research Library if you are not there when one of those workshops or events is taking place.

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18. Visit the Orton Geological Museum

The Orton Geological Museum is open during the week and it is the perfect place to learn all about fossils, rocks, and minerals. While some of those items are from the state of Ohio, others are from other parts of the world.

19. Relax at the Park of Roses


If you are looking for romantic things to do in Columbus, Ohio for couples, the Park of Roses is the perfect solution. This is one of the top things to do in Columbus, Ohio for free and you can take the kids if you want to. There are at least 12,000 roses in this public park. There are three rose gardens in all, as well as perennial and herb gardens.

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20. Visit the Riffe Gallery

One of the best things to in Columbus, Ohio at night during the week is visiting the Riffe Gallery. This gallery has been open since 1989 and it is filled with works of art by local artists. You will also see many of the art collections from the local museums during your visit.

Expert Tips for Traveling to Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio is a wonderful place to visit, but you must be aware of a couple tips that will make your vacation there even better.

Choose Your Mode of Transportation Wisely – You may think that you need to rent a vehicle for your time in Columbus, Ohio. The truth though is you really don’t need one. You can easily walk throughout the city to reach many of the Columbus attractions. If you find that something you want to do is further than you want to walk, you can simply hop onto one of the local buses to reach your destination.

Columbus, Ohio

Create Your Itinerary Wisely – There are so many things to do in Columbus, Ohio, so you must create your itinerary wisely. If you don’t, you may find that you are not going to cross everything off your list. This will mean disappointment for everyone in your family.

Beer Lovers Must Visit the Brewery District – The Brewery District is a popular place in Columbus, and it is where you must visit if you love all things beer related. While you can grab a pint at any restaurant, these breweries are always going to be a better option.

These are the twenty free, or nearly free, things to do in Columbus, Ohio. Many of these free things to do in Columbus are perfect for families. While not all family things to do in Columbus, Ohio are going to be free, many of them will still be cheap enough to not break your budget. This means you might be able to arrange to bring someone with you to watch the kids, so you can add a few things to do in Columbus, Ohio for couples to your list. You won’t regret that decision for a moment!

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