As the capital of Ohio and the largest city in the state, Columbus was named the best place in the country to raise a family by Newsweek in 2009. For parents whose plans run more along the lines of visiting Columbus than moving there permanently, taking advantage of the ample collection of kid-friendly activities in the city can make for a great family vacation. Here are ten of the best attractions for kids that Columbus has to offer, which make up only a small selection of the many available options.
- COSI Columbus (Columbus, OH 43251) – The COSI hosts an array of traveling exhibits, alongside their renowned permanent installations. The kid-friendly attractions include a Kidspace for little ones. a Big Science Park that teaches kids to lift a car off the ground using scientific principles and allows them to ride a Centripetal Generator. Don’t miss the only high-wire unicycle installation in the country, which older kids are welcomed to ride.
- Ohio Historical Society (Columbus, OH 43211) – The Ohio Historical Society network spans the entire state, with the headquarters in Columbus hosting a museum and several historically-themed attractions on the grounds. The highlight of the complex is the Ohio Village, a fully recreated Ohio town from the nineteenth century, complete with costumed interpreters and several authentic buildings.
- Columbus Zoo, Aquarium and Zoombezi Bay (Powell, OH 43065) – Combining the kid-pleasing charms of a zoo, water park and playground makes the Columbus Zoo, Aquarium and Zoobmezi Bay a safe bet for parents looking to keep their kids entertained for an entire day. The pachyderm building on site is also the largest in the world, and is open year-round. Fifteen water slides, a lazy river and wave pool make up the water park section, which also includes a shallow area for little ones.
- Slate Run & Slate Run Living Historical Farm (Canal Winchester, OH 43110) – One of the best ways for kids to learn about history is to observe it in action, an opportunity afforded by the Slate Run Living Historical Farm. Helping with chores on the working 1880′s era farm give kids an accurate picture of life during that time period, while the thirteen miles of trails are a delight for fans of hiking. There’s also a campground space that families can reserve through the park offices, a sure-fire hit for outdoors enthusiasts.
- Franklin Park Conservatory (Columbus, OH 43203) – More than seventy-three thousand square feet of greenhouses and classrooms call the ninety-acre Franklin Park Conservatory home, including a Victorian glass house. Waterfalls, unique gardens, collections of exotic plants and educational programs are among the offerings at Franklin park, as well as several summer programs directed solely at kids.
- Ohio Railway Museum (Columbus, OH 43085) – One of the oldest railroad museums in the nation, The Ohio Railway Museum boasts the Ohio Public Service Interurban Car #21, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kids with an affection for trains are sure to be in heaven with the exhibits and rides on streetcars or a classic Pullman passenger.
- The Kelton House Museum & Garden (Columbus, OH 43215) – Special tours led by historical reenactors celebrate the significance of Kelton House during the time of the Underground Railroad, while meticulously manicured gardens reflect the Victorian theme of the home beautifully. Tours and teas are available to visitors, with many special events held on-premises throughout the year.
- German Village (Columbus, OH 43215) – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, German Village is a short jaunt from downtown Columbus. The brick streets, lovingly maintained homes and diverse selection of shopping, dining and park options make this quaint four-mile area a favorite with Columbus residents and visitors alike.
- The Works (Newark, OH 43058) – Whether the tastes in your family run towards visual art, exploring scientific concepts through interactive learning or simply enjoying the peace of a beautifully-maintained courtyard, there’s something for each of you at The Works. Visitors of all ages and abilities are invited to experience the engaging exhibits and installations, making sure that everyone in the family has a great time.
- Santa Maria (Columbus, OH 43215) – Give kids an up close and personal view of American history with a visit to this impressive replica of the famed Santa Maria, part of the fleet that carried Christopher Columbus on his fateful journey. The forty-five minute tour includes interaction with navigational tools, but there’s also a special children’s tour available.
If the timing of your trip coincides with the arrival of the Ohio State Fair, be sure to take the chance to experience one of the largest state fairs in the nation. Columbus plays host to a surprising number of festivals and special events throughout the year, so be sure that you check local listings in the weeks leading up to your trip to get the most out of your visit.