By Lexi Sweet
At the time of this writing, we’re not sure what the future holds for back-to-school plans, but it’s almost a guarantee that this fall will be far from normal. If kids are still having school from home, even part time, it’s going to be more important than ever for families to get out of the house on weekends.
Since most of us spent the spring and summer exploring our communities, fall is the perfect time for a short daytrip or weekend getaway; and located less than two hours from anywhere in Ohio with plenty of fun activities for the whole family, Columbus is the perfect destination.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
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. Their signature fall event is the “merry-not-scary” Boo at the Zoo that promises fun for the whole family. The Zoo’s various regions get dressed up for the spooky-kooky Halloween event of heroic proportions.
Taking place during the weekends of October 16-18, October 23-25 and October 30-November 1, this tradition might look a bit different than in previous years, but families can still expect plenty of candy and superhero appearances to surprise and delight. Even better, there is no cost beyond regular admission fees.
Attendees at this year’s event also have the opportunity to be among the first to experience the new Adventure Cove region that opened this summer. A state-of-the-art sea lion and seal habitat comes to life with a unique glass-encased underwater viewing tunnel as well as an amphitheater offering daily shows. As Jungle Jack Hanna’s home zoo, Adventure Cove will also be the new site of his Animal Encounters Village.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
The 90-acre Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is especially lovely in the fall, when their annual Harvest Blooms exhibit transforms the grounds into an otherworldly autumn landscape of hundreds of pumpkins, heirloom gourds, colorful mums and various foliage cascading throughout the gardens. The vibrant sea of color makes the perfect backdrop for jack-o-lanterns and many special events take place each year to help kids experience the magic created by numerous pumpkin displays.
This fall will be a special time to visit the Conservatory because in addition to the beautiful Harvest Blooms, the Paul Busse Garden Railway exhibit is on display through January 6, 2021. Busse is a household name in the botanical garden world, but some might not know that he actually began his career in Columbus and got his first big break during AmeriFlora ’92, the event that helped establish Franklin Park Conservatory.
Featuring 1,122 feet of miniature train tracks that weave through gardens, over visitors’ heads and alongside waterfalls as they travel from one whimsical scene to the next, this exhibit is unlike any others ever created as it features a giant enchanted tree inspired by California redwoods, inside of which guests can explore and discover a magical scene hidden within. The experience is accompanied by fantastical villages and thematically designed horticultural landscaping that help bring fairytale magic to life.
National Veterans Memorial and Museum
Columbus’ National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) is the only place in the country that honors all veterans, from all eras of conflict and branches of service, under one roof. The more than 50,000-square-foot facility is situated on downtown Columbus’ Scioto Mile riverfront and directly adjacent to the museum sits a 2.5-acre Memorial Grove, designed for contemplation and reflection upon the museum experience. Fall is an especially good time to visit as there is always ample Veterans Day programming. Plus, NVMM will be celebrating its two-year anniversary this October.
To accompany its permanent exhibitions, this September NVMM will debut a new special exhibit – We the People: Portraits of Veterans in America. On display through January 2021, it will feature portraits from Mary White, a watercolor artist from Cleveland.
Columbus has so much to offer, and it’s important to know that you can explore Ohio’s capital and feel safe doing so thanks to the Live Forward Pledge. Look for the orange window decal on more than 100 storefronts during your next visit for a quick and easy indicator of which businesses have made the health and safety of their patrons a priority upon reopening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
You don’t have to travel far to feel far away, so consider Columbus, named one of Travel Channel’s top U.S. cities to visit in 2020, for a quick getaway this fall. Customizable Roar & Explore packages (available at experiencecolumbus.com/roarandexplore) make planning easy, and experiencecolumbus.com has plenty of additional ideas for fun fall activities.
Fall Fun in Columbus