Family Friendly Columbus

By:  Tom Driver

Do your kids enjoy butterflies landing on their shoulders?  Painting a masterpiece?  Figuring out how that thing works?  They can do all those things within a few short miles of downtown Columbus, OH.

A butterfly landing on Sydney’s arm makes her day

Beginning in the heart of downtown, drive 2.5 miles east on Broad Street from the High Street intersection to find the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.  In addition to the variety of living ecosystems available for tours all year, the Conservatory offers several seasonal family programs.  Inside the Pacific Island Water Garden, Blooms and Butterflies provides an opportunity to get up close with butterflies.  One landed on my daugter’s arm and her face lit up like one of the holiday trees on display during the annual Merry and Bright event.  The holiday tradition includes a model garden railway and enough lights to illuminate a forest.  General admission for kids 3-17 is $6 and $11 for adults.

An interactive display in one of the galleries.

Return west along Broad Street for two miles for The Columbus Museum of Art.  Several areas have been redesigned to appeal to art lovers and their children, or grandchildren.  The Wonder Room provides families the chance to create their own masterpieces through a multitude of hands on activities.  Many of the galleries include puzzles, drawing tables, and building block activities which allow aspiring artists the opportunity to recreate many of the famous pieces on display.  Parking is behind the museum and admission is free on Sundays.

The beautiful Topiary Park.

A great place for an afternoon picnic with plenty of shady trees and space for kids to run and play is at The Topiary Park, a short 1/4-mile walk south on Washington Avenue from the museum.  This amazing greenspace brings Georges Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte to life through topiaries.

Sliding down the pole at the Fire Museum.


The Central Ohio Fire Museum is 0.3 miles north of Broad Street along N. 4th Street.  This restored 1908 station house offers a collection of hand-drawn, horse-drawn and motorized fire apparatus.  Visitors retrace the steps of firefighters and learn about their day-to-day lives.  After a fire safety lesson kids can explore the Play Area, where they can drive a “real” fire engine and slide down a pole; enthusiastically endorsed by my daughter and her friends.  Adults $6, kids $4.

Sydney demonstrates static electricity at COSI


Take 3rd Street south to Broad Street and turn right.  After crossing the Scioto River take a left on S. Belle Street to find COSI; the Center of Science and Industry.  Named the #1 Science Center in the country by Parents Magazine, COSI is an interactive wonderland for scientists, dreamers, and innovators.  The last Friday of every month is Family Friday Night and COSI offers extended hours and price-reduced admission. General admission is only $9.95 after 5pm and includes all of COSI’s Classic Exhibitions plus a movie in the Extreme Screen Theater.

After “learning” all day enjoy some evening baseball at the new Huntington Park or the NHL at Nationwide Arena.  Columbus has so much to offer.