By Lexi Sweet
Columbus, named one of 7 cool state capitals that also happened to be great places to visit by TripAdvisor in 2020, is the perfect place to take the family for some affordable fun in the sun this summer.
Feel confident during your visit knowing that more than 200 local businesses have taken the Live Forward Pledge to keep health and safety at the forefront of operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Just look for the orange window decal as an indicator.
We’ve rounded up top spots around the city to get you excited to travel again and remind all visitors to check websites prior to their visit for any new operating hours or procedures. Plus, when you book a hotel directly at ExperienceColumbus.com, you have the choice of free admission to two of Columbus’ top attractions – Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Franklin Park Conservatory.
Sea Lions, Seals and Water Slides; Oh My!
As seen on National Geographic’s “Secrets of the Zoo,” the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals representing 650 species from around the globe. Watch a polar bear swim above your head, hand-feed a giraffe, say “G-Day” to the koalas, ponder the giant pachyderms and be amazed by the manatees. Adventure Cove, the Zoo’s newest exhibit, is home to California sea lions and harbor seals and features an amphitheater for 300 with 10 shows a day. Guests can go on an underwater experience through a 60-ft. long tunnel and get 360-degree views of marine mammals.
As the home zoo of Jungle Jack Hanna, you can get up-close-and-personal with a variety of animals in the former director’s Animal Encounters Village. You can also extend your stay to swim and play at the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park on site, which combines the fun of hanging out at the beach with the excitement of 17 on-site water slides. This combination water/amusement park has something for the whole family, including the adults-only Croctail Creek and Sandbar for ultimate relaxation.
Gardens, Parks and Greenspaces Galore
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers plenty of space to continue social distancing on its 90 acres of stunning greenspace. The facility houses the world’s largest collection of Chihuly glass in a botanical garden, which was completely reimagined in 2019, so there’s never been a better time to visit. For the little ones, the two-acre Scott’s Miracle-Gro Children’s Garden features 16 different interactive experiences celebrating the Ohio landscape and focuses on introducing and connecting children to the natural world so the fun never ends.
Though a booming metropolis, outdoor adventure can still be found in and around Ohio’s capital city. With 20+ Metro Parks throughout the city, downtown boasts miles of multi-use trails along the Scioto Mile and the country’s largest free outdoor climbing wall at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Take in free concerts on summer weekends at Bicentennial Park or the Columbus Commons.
Rent a CoGo Bikeshare from any station throughout the downtown area and explore a series of interconnected greenspaces. Hop on a paddleboard or kayak and explore the city via the waterways of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers.
Root, Root, Root for the Home Team
The northwest part of downtown Columbus is known as the Arena District, and beginning this summer all of Columbus’ sports teams will be housed within a few blocks of one another in this lively entertainment district. The Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, play at Huntington Park, named best ballpark in America numerous times by Ballpark Digest.
Directly behind that field, 2020 MLS Cup Champions, Columbus Crew SC, will open a new 20,000-seat stadium on July 3, 2021. Unique features will include a continuous wraparound roof, a 360-degree concourse, event space, a 3,400-capacity standing section, along with two patio decks and a “Nordecke Beer Garden” (a first for Major League Soccer), and a brew hall that will also be open on non-match days.
Nearby, neighborhood anchor Nationwide Arena is home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the only NHL franchise in Ohio and provides an electrifying atmosphere as a cannon booms every time the Jackets score.
Step Back in Time
The streets of German Village, just south of downtown, offer ample historic charm and modern swank thanks to the lovingly restored brick houses, shops, streets and sidewalks. The entirety of this charming neighborhood is on the National Registrar of Historic Places, and its German roots show through largely in its dining options. Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus is a family-owned and operated German eatery passed down for generations, located in a historic livery stable featuring live music and the best cream puffs you’ll find. Find more summer fun at ExperienceColumbus.com.
Columbus Offers Family Fun in the Sun