The key to a successful family vacation is planning. With that being said, we’re so excited to visit Columbus next weekend and I’ve been doing some research. I received tons of great feedback from resident Columbus moms who had great suggestions for family fun in the area.

With the COSI Science Center, Columbus Zoo and Zoombezi Bay Waterpark I’m sure we’ll have a packed schedule but I definitely want to add a few stops to our trip! Check out our list of 20 free (and nearly free) fun, family friendly attractions in the Columbus area. Also, be sure to enter to win the Roar and Explore Adventure Giveaway if you haven’t already ($400+ value!).

20 Things to do in Columbus Under $20

1. Ballantrae Community Spray Park

“But the whimsical community of Ballantrae... resembles an Irish countryside with stone houses, fabricated rolling hills, decorative grasses and hand-stacked, rubble walls. And then, of course, there are the 15-foot-tall dancing rabbits. The three statues, titled the “Dancing Hares,” are part of a 32-acre community park at the entrance of the development at 6350 Woerner Temple Rd. The park also contains the Ballantrae Spray Park, an outdoor water fountain that’s a popular hangout for families in the summer. The fountain is open daily from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., May 26 through Sept. 3.” – Examiner

Ballantrae Community Spray Park
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2. Creekside Park

“This beautiful five-acre park is the centerpiece of historic Olde Gahanna. Best known for its lovely waterfall, the park invites visitors to stroll the walkways, enjoy a nostalgic picnic, take a paddle boat ride, fish, or wade in the delightful water of the meandering Big Walnut Creek.” – Trip Advisor

creek side park columbus ohio
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3. Field of Giant Corn Ears

“Maybe it’s supposed to be ironic, this former corn field, sprouting 109 people-sized ears of concrete corn in a large oddball art display. But it’s also a salute to Sam Frantz, an inventor of hybrid corns, and a very weird sight along the highway.” – Roadside America

field of giant corn ears
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4. Hocking Hills Adventures

“Hocking Adventures has grown to offer kayaking, tubing, night tours, riverside camping, cabins, go-karts, mini-golf and more The Riverside Campground now includes over 80 spacious sites along the Hocking River. In addition, the Riverside Campground consists of two picnic pavilions, perfect for grilling and family gatherings, and a full service shower house. Furthermore the campground boasts 5 comfy Amish built camper cabins, 18 hole mini-golf and a challenging go-kart track.” – Hocking Hills Adventures

5. World’s Largest Basket

“This monument is, in fact, the world’s largest basket, and it’s also the seven-story corporate headquarters of the Longaberger Basket Company.” – Roadside America

worlds largest basket
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6. Clifton Gorge Nature Center

“Exhibits feature live native turtles and fish, including a musk turtle and long-nose gar. Various animal pelts and mounts are also popular. “ – Ohio Nature Preserves

7. Splash Pad at Easton Mall

“Kids love to frolic in the water fountain at Easton. The rotating jets and gusts of water are a delightful way to cool off on a hot day. Easton encourages the fun by providing towels and drinks to kids who play in the fountain. There’s plenty of shade or sun for moms and dads to enjoy while the kids let off a little steam. Sometimes there’s even family-appropriate entertainment for the frolicking youngsters. Check their website to find out who, what and when.” – Columbus Parent

Eastonmall splash pad
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8. Community Garden Campus at Franklin Park Conservatory

“Designed as a living classroom and idea center, this four-acre garden provides creative resources for anyone interested in gardening and edible landscapes. Explore the culinary, herb and fragrance gardens, apiary, rose pavilion, berry house, and 40 community garden plots.” – Franklin Park Conservatory

9. Ohio Caverns

“Ohio Caverns is one of Ohio’s most popular tourist attractions. The caverns remain a steady 54 degrees year round featuring some of the most unique formations in America. Guests from around the world come to experience the 35 acre park for an all-day family fun adventure.” – Ohio Caverns

10. North Short

Short North Arts District is a vibrant, balanced residential, cultural and business community. It’s the premeir place for dining, shopping and more! – Short North

north short
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11. Lunch at North Market

“North Market is Columbus’ only remaining true public market. More than 30 merchants vend a wide variety of fresh, local, authentic food. Offerings include organic produce, grass-fed beef, pork, lamb and goat, pastured poultry, sustainably raised seafood, locally roasted coffee, baked goods, cheeses, flowers and other artisan food items.  The Market also provides an international selection of freshly prepared foods, authentic ethnic specialties, distinctive gifts and personable service from its merchant owner operators. On Saturdays during the growing season Columbus’ oldest operating farmers market takes places on the outdoor market plaza. Sundays from June through October local artisans, vintage sellers, furniture makers and jewelers converge on that same plaza to sell their wares at Market Flea. Seasonal events and festivals celebrate small, independent producers.” – North Market

12. Tour the Ohio Statehouse

“The Ohio Statehouse is one of America’s finest examples of Greek Revival architecture and is one of the oldest working statehouses in the United States. The Ohio Statehouse was completed in 1861 after 22 years of construction. The sweeping grand staircase of the Senate Building was modeled after the Paris Opera House. Restored to its original grandeur in 1996, the Statehouse is filled with priceless amazing historic art, including a marble bust of Abraham Lincoln – the only one the President posed for during his lifetime. Even the Statehouses expansive grounds have a history, as Civil War Union soldiers frequently camped there.” – Ohio Statehouse

13. Anthony Thomas Chocolates

“Factory tours are open to the public every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9am to 3pm. No appointment is necessary. You may arrive at your convenience between those hours. Walk along our comfortable, glass-enclosed suspended “Cat-Walk” and observe nine lines producing 30,000 pounds of chocolates per shift. Our experienced tour guides explain each process step-by-step from our kitchens to the final packaging. View interesting sights such as our huge copper kettles where the centers are created and our unique silver-wrapped pipes that carry liquid chocolate throughout the factory. The tour finishes in our beautiful 2,500 square-foot retail shoppe.” – Anthony Thomas Chocolates

14. Perkins Observatory

“Friday Evening Public Programs start promptly at 9PMon Fridays. Our public nights are fun for the whole family! Individuals, families, and groups of all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend.” – Perkins Observatory

15. Graeters Ice Cream

Irresistible ice cream and a unique indoor play area! What more could a kid ask for?

graeters ice cream store
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16. German Village

“Neighborhood cultural organization hosting activities & working to preserve local German history… it is a neighborhood with architecture dating from the 1840s-1890s that has been preserved, and its use as a shared residential and commercial neighborhood has been maintained.” – German Village

17. Scioto Mile

“Located in the heart of downtown Columbus, the Scioto Mile is an urban oasis comprised of more than 145 acres of lush parkland. Stretching along the riverfront from the vibrant Arena District to the natural beauty of the Whittier Peninsula, the Scioto Mile reconnects downtown to the Scioto River through an integrated system of parks, boulevards, bikeways and pedestrian paths.” – Scioto Mile

scioto mile
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18. Alum Creek State Park’s Main Beach

“Alum Creek’s 3,387-acre reservoir and 4,630-acres of gently rolling span of fields and woodlands provides a hub of recreational activity just minutes from Ohio’s capital city. Quiet coves nestled among shale cliffs await the solitary fisherman in the park’s northern reaches while sunseekers mingle with thousands on Ohio’s largest inland beach.” – Ohio Parks

19. Columbus Museum of Art Wonder Room (Free on Sundays)

“The Wonder Room is a one-of-a-kind gallery designed to foster imagination, experimentation, and storytelling in visitors of all ages. In January 2014, this family friendly space re-opened with a new immersive dark and mysterious woodland environment  that includes: Many new and unique hands-on activities, the creative work of 8 local artists, and more than 20 works of art from the CMA collection.” – Columbus Museum

20. Visit the Santa Maria

“The Santa Maria’s tours dramatize the daring and determination it took for Columbus and his explorers to set out on their mission. Experience the lives they led, interact with replicas of the navigational tools they used, play the games they played to pass the time.Make your plans now to visit the world’s most authentic, museum-quality replica of Christopher Columbus’ flagship.” – Santa Maria.org

santa maria columbus
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  1. […] What should families look for when they’re planning a weekend getaway? Planning is key! Plenty of fun things to do with kids; indoor and outdoor activities available depending on weather. You’ll need to find a great place to stay; a family friendly accommodations… clean, comfortable preferably with a pool. Lastly, family vacations don’t have to cost a fortune. Keep in mind it’s about making memories, not breaking the bank. I’ve been doing a little research on Columbus. I was able to talk with local Mothers who gave some really great advice on places to travel. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find a collection of family friendly Columbus attractions to explore (while staying on a budget) with 20 Things to do in Columbus under $20. […]

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