15 Best Things to Do in Franklin County, OH

Franklin County, OH
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Located in central Ohio, Franklin County features plenty of interesting attractions, nature locations, and fun places to enjoy with the family.

The county, included in the Columbus, Ohio Metropolitan Statistical Area, has the highest population rate in the state.

It includes 16 cities, with Columbus being the largest, 10 villages, and 17 townships, along with several census-designated areas and unincorporated communities.

Founded in 1803, the county was named after American statesman Benjamin Franklin.

Columbus, the county seat, takes up more than half of its land area and is home to many top attractions like COSI and the Columbus Museum of Art, along with the premier Ohio State University.

Visit some garden attractions, trek scenic trails, or simply enjoy the beautiful metro parks.

If you’re ready to discover more, then here are the best things to do in Franklin County, OH.

Explore Amazing Discoveries at the Center of Science and Industry

Exterior of the Center of Science and Industry
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The Center of Science and Industry features the wonders of science through amazing exhibits.

More popularly known as COSI, this 320,000-square-foot science center is located on West Broad Street in downtown Columbus.

Since 1964, this popular attraction has welcomed thousands of visitors each year inspiring curious minds to take an interest in STEM topics through interactive exhibits, live shows, and hands-on experiences.

Stop by the Tutankhamun exhibit and learn about this great Egyptian king’s treasures, explore the human body and more at the Life exhibit, or travel through time through technology’s Progress.

Get up close with the dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History’s Dinosaur Gallery or learn about interesting organisms at Nature's Superheroes: Life at the Limits.

Signage of the Center of Science and Industry
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Travel in a space capsule and explore the Space exhibit, or better yet, see the amazing universe at the state-of-the-art COSI Planetarium.

Bring out the scientist in you at the Big Science Park, learn about energy sources at Energy Explorers, and enjoy live shows like the Electrostatic Generator or Rat Basketball.

Likewise, little tots can enjoy fun play and feed their curiosity at Little Kidspace®.

You’ll also enjoy other attractions like the Ocean, Gadgets, and COSI Lab Spaces.

After touring the Center of Science and Industry, you can grab snacks and beverages at Atomic Cafe or shop for souvenirs and unique items at Science2Go Shop.

Explore the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Aerial view of Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
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A premier botanical garden in Central Ohio, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is truly a lovely attraction anyone will enjoy.

With general admission, you can visit this 13-acre garden space on East Broad Street.

Stroll the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus, an extensive 4-acre garden that includes a rose pavilion, berry house, apiary, and garden plots, along with a demo kitchen and Live-Fire Cooking Theater.

Take a safari tour to see the Topiary Collection with over 30 lifesize animal topiaries on display or watch the scale model trains travel as they travel to Fairytale Land, the Wild West Town, pass through the animal-themed Who Lives Here, and take on the European Travels.

One of the well-loved attractions here is the 1895 John F. Wolfe Palm House, one of the oldest structures in the garden; it’s even more spectacular when it lights up during the Light Raiment II.

Flora at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
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With over 400 plant species, you’ll enjoy strolling around the garden collections including the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children's Garden, Botanical Gardens, and Bonsai Collection.

If you love art pieces, see Dale Chihuly’s impressive glass artwork collection, then visit the Cardinal Health Gallery featuring creative works by local and international artists.

For some worthwhile activities, you can sign up for different classes and workshops including glassblowing, cooking, fine art, gardening, and wellness.

Looking for something to remember on your trip? Head out to Botanica Gift Shop for plants, garden tools, pottery, terrariums, and other unique items.

Likewise, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens also houses the Garden Café where you can enjoy al fresco dining.

Colorful pumpkins at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
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Admire Modern Artworks at the Columbus Museum of Art

Sculptures at the Columbus Museum of Art
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Columbus Museum of Art is an art lover’s haven featuring late 19th to early 20th century works of art.

You’ll find the museum on East Broad Street in Columbus, open from Tuesday to Sunday.

View and admire the world’s largest art collections by local artists Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, George Bellows, and Elijah Pierce.

You’ll also have a glimpse of well-acclaimed pieces at The Photo League along with the Collection of American Social Commentary Art by Philip and Suzanne Schiller.

Exterior of the Columbus Museum of Art
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Browse through the galleries showcasing various artworks in different media; you can also check out some upcoming exhibits on their website.

You can also sign up and join regular events and programs such as Monthly Studio Themes, Studio Experiences, Yoga classes, and Wednesdays @ 2 Behind the Scenes Talks; likewise, kids can also enjoy themed Summer Art Workshops.

Columbus Museum of Art also hosts the Bar Art Music every Thursday from June to September with live music, art, food, and libations to enjoy.

Statue at Columbus Museum of Art
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Enjoy Shopping and Dining at North Market

Exterior of North Market
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Hailed as one of the country’s top public markets, North Market features Ohio’s best merchants, producers, and farmers.

With two locations on Spruce Street in downtown Columbus and Dublin’s Longshore Street, you’re sure to enjoy shopping and dining any time of the week.

If you’re heading to the Downtown market, you’ll find more than 30 merchants selling gourmet items to specialty dishes.

Try Barrel & Boar’s BBQ, some hand-rolled Bavarian Pretzels by Brēzel, the best Mediterranean Foods by Firdous Express, and buy fresh seafood cuts from Coast to Local Market.

Vendor and shopper in North Market
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Also, the North Market Bridge Park features ready-to-eat foods, fresh groceries, gift items, and personalized services.

Buy your meat and fresh produce at Saddleberk, catch Dos Hermanos’ Taco Tuesdays, savor all-vegetarian pita pockets by Falafel Kitchen, or enjoy Cuban sandwiches and authentic Cuban cuisine at Pablo’s Havana Café.

North Market also features events like the North Market Happy Hour and Market Bar’s Friday Night Jazz.

Interior of North Market
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Have Fun Adventures at ZipZone

Bring your family to ZipZone and enjoy the fun amusement attractions.

Operating since 2012, this locally-owned outdoor adventure space on North High Street in Columbus is a great place to bond together.

Feel the adrenaline rush as you zoom on a zipline and see the awesome views of Ohio over the treetops.

Whether you’re new to ziplining or you’re already an expert thrill-rider, you’ll enjoy the Canopy Tour as you speed over 20 acres of forest landscape; you can also have your adventure moments captured on photos during this tour.

For a different kind of experience, you can enjoy the fun Night Flight Tours zipping your way through the lush forest under the night sky.

If you’re in for more exciting adventures, take the 5-course Adventure Park with different levels of difficulty to challenge your agility, strength, and skills.

Young adventurers also have their own Kids Park which includes several elements like rope climbs, tightropes, platforms, and a kid-size zipline.

Join the Exciting Happenings at Scioto Mile

Jazz fest at Scioto Mile
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Scioto Mile is a premier urban park located in central Columbus.

The 175-acre waterfront oasis stretches from the lively Arena District to the Whittier Peninsula that runs along the Scioto River.

It includes nine parks specifically Dorian Green, Bicentennial Park, The Promenade, Genoa Park, Battelle Riverfront Park, North Bank Park, McFerson Commons, Scioto Audobon, and Alexander AEP Park.

Stroll along the Mile’s relaxing green space areas and enjoy the stunning skyline or bike along the path to see some city views.

Splash pad at Scioto Mile
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Go on a canoe or kayak tour, enjoy with the kids at the fountain, or drop by the Cultural Arts Center to see art exhibits, then head out to Milestone 229 for some tasty meals or drinks.

You can also catch exciting music festivals and summer events held at the Mile such as the Jazz and Rib Fest, Rhythm on the River Music Festival, An Evening of Dance with BalletMet, and the WinterFest during the holidays.

City events like the Columbus Arts Festival, Columbus Food Truck Festival, Columbus Science Festival, and many others are also held along Scioto Mile.

Trail at Scioto Mile
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Check Out the Shops and Restaurants along Short North Arts District

Night scene at Short North Arts District
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Central Ohio’s Short North Arts District is popularly known as the art and soul of Columbus.

This vibrant city area hosts more than 300 locally owned businesses and is also regarded as a great example of urban revitalization.

Go for an Art Walk through a self-guided tour coordinated by Columbus Public Health and admire the beautiful architecture, art, and local history.

Likewise, you can join the Short North Temporary Mural Tour to see existing murals and additions to the Short North Arts District Mural Series.

You’ll enjoy happy hour with your friends with rows of restaurants and bars in the district offering delicious menus and drink specials; you check out Arch City Tavern, Four’s on High, Lemongrass Fusion Bistro, and many others.

You can also visit nearby parks in the area like Goodale Park, the city’s oldest park along with the Italian Village Park and Poplar Park which features performers at the Gallery Hop.

Explore the neighborhood and browse for more shops and stores along the Short North Arts District.

View Contemporary Works at Wexner Center for the Arts

Exterior of Wexner Center for the Arts
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Wexner Center for the Arts located inside Ohio State University offers opportunities to explore contemporary art.

The center serves as a platform for promising visual artists and an avenue for diverse audiences to gain cultural experiences and understanding of modern art.

For more than three decades, the center has become a valuable resource through exhibits, film screenings, educational programs, artist residencies, and featured performances.

Browse compelling works of various contemporary artists at the gallery.

Signage of Wexner Center for the Arts
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Enjoy a unique cinematic experience with around 200 screen shows featured every year from independent films, classics, documentaries, and international motion pictures.

You can also catch captivating dance, music, and theater performances by various artists and companies from around the globe.

Wexner Center for the Arts also hosts interesting talks and special events throughout the year.

Interior of Wexner Center for the Arts
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Visit the Ohio History Center and Ohio Village

Exterior of Ohio History Center and Ohio Village
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You’ll discover the fascinating stories of Ohio and experience life during the 19th-century era at the Ohio History Center and the Ohio Village.

The Ohio History Center is home to the Ohio History Connection which manages millions of artifacts and thousands of archival materials from the 88 counties of Ohio.

Open from Wednesday to Sunday, visitors can visit and view the extensive collections of old photos, newspapers, books, maps, and other resources.

You’ll learn about local and natural history at the Indigenous Wonders of Our World: The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks exhibit, as well as The Nature of Ohio and Discovery Park galleries.

See the interesting displays at Follow the Flag, Creative Ohio, Ohio Through Time, Creative Ohio, and Champion of Sports; likewise, browse the  WWI Era - Collections 1914-1919 and the 1950s -Building the American Dream exhibits to learn about Ohio’s early days.

Interior of Ohio History Center and Ohio Village
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The Ohio Village, on the other hand, is open seasonally and gives guests a chance to visit 19th-century Ohio.

Hear the village stories, tour each of the buildings, homes, and shops, and try out some fun activities.

Feel like a student at the old Ohio Village School, be one of the high-society guests at the Burton House, or see know the latest village news from The Telegraphic Advertiser; likewise, there’s more to learn and explore at the village.

You can also catch various events throughout the year like the Independence Day celebration, and the Ohio Village Opening Day, among others.

While you’re at the Ohio History Center and the Ohio Village, you can grab some good eats at the Plaza Cafe, and buy souvenirs and mementos at the Ohio History Store.

Pay Tribute at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum

Exterior of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum
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A special museum to honor all military heroes, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum will inspire you with individual stories and experiences shared by Veterans.

Take a narrative tour and browse through the exhibits highlighting the lives of servicemen from responding to their call to duty to their lives after serving in the military.

Step into the Veterans Among Us presenting 14 thematic booths featuring highlights of Veterans' journeys, as well as personal stories of sacrifice and achievements.

Learn about the inspirational stories of Veterans serving the public through various community efforts at the Legacy of Service exhibit; likewise, explore the different themed displays presented at the Service and Citizenship Gallery.

Entrance to the National Veterans Memorial and Museum
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The Remembrance Gallery on the mezzanine level offers a space to reflect and remember those who sacrificed their lives in service; the area also features a display of “infinity flags” to honor millions who died in serving the country.

Just beside the museum, you can visit Memorial Grove, a 2.5-acre area where you can meditate and enjoy the surrounding views with lines of Elm trees and calm water pools.

Visit the National Veterans Memorial and Museum on West Broad Street in Columbus from Wednesday to Sunday.

Signage of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum
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Enjoy the Family Attractions at the Franklin County Fair

Get to experience lots of fun local events at the Franklin County Fair happening every July.

Held at Hilliard’s Northwest Parkway, the county fair has been a well-attended yearly attraction for over a hundred years.

Join the fun and excitement at the dog and animal shows, car shows, and craft show events as well as enjoyable races, contests, and competitions.

Likewise, there’s also an array of tasty food choices to try and enjoy and baking auctions and food competitions to catch.

Of course, fairgoers of all ages are sure to enjoy the thrilling rides and fun-filled games.

Have loads of fun at the Franklin County Fair!

Take a Tour of the Jack Nicklaus Museum

Exterior of the Jack Nicklaus Museum
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The Jack Nicklaus Museum allows visitors to learn about the life of the legendary golf master and Ohio native.

Right at the center of The Ohio State University sports complex, this 12,000-square-foot attraction takes you to the history of the sport and Jack’s exceptional career, along with his contributions to the world of golf.

Learn how the sport started in Scotland during the 1400s and know more about the golf game traditions, as well as other golf legends such as Zaharias, Palmer, and Jones among others.

See the displays at the Decades exhibit to see the life of Jack from his boyhood to the rise of his 50-year golf career; you’ll also see his George Low Sportsman putter on display.

Browse the Major Championship Galleries highlighting his major championships and recreating the environment of these majors, and his 6 Master trophies on exhibit.

Signage of the Jack Nicklaus Museum
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Likewise, you’ll see how Jack also focused on his family during his career which is featured in the Nicklaus Family Room, and watch a film narrated by Jack Nicklaus II sharing their life on golf tours.

More so, you’ll have a glimpse of how the Memorial Tournament started in 1976 through artifacts that include the pair of golf shoes Greg Norman wore in his 1995 victory game.

Check out over 400 plus golf courses all over the world designed by Jack shown on a wall map and learn how a golf course is designed from scratch.

Tour the Nicklaus Art Gallery and admire the original collection of Nicklaus paintings created by renowned golf artist Glenn Harrington, then watch an on-screen presentation of Jack’s life and career, narrated by actor Sean Connery.

Have a meaningful experience at the Jack Nicklaus Museum.

See Fascinating Collections at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Interior of Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
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At Ohio State University’s Sullivan Hall, you’ll be surprised to find a uniquely amusing cartoon and comic collection.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum feature the world’s biggest compilation resources all related to cartoons and comics.

The museum was established in 1977 and was initially started with Milton Caniff’s artworks and papers.

Today, you’ll get to see a variety of comic and cartoon materials from editorial cartoons, comic strips, and comic books to graphic novels, sports cartoons, and magazine cartoons.

Reading room in Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
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Browse unique original art and manuscripts including the Jim Borgman Collection, the Woody Gelman Collection featuring the Winsor McCay cartoons, and the Nick Anderson Collection to name a few.

Likewise, you’ll see more original cartoons at the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, founded by Mort Walker, the brains behind Beetle Bailey.

Find other interesting displays from the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, the Jay Kennedy Collection, and professional archives from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, Newspaper Features Council, and others.

Plus, you’ll see an extensive collection of Japanese manga comics at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Japanese exhibit in Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
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Catch the Vibrant Blooms at Columbus Park of Roses

Scenic view of Columbus Park of Roses
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Columbus Park of Roses is one of the country’s largest rose gardens open to the public all year.

Right on North High Street in Columbus, you’ll find thousands of rose varieties and over a mile of pathways and benches scattered around the park, just the perfect setting to relax and unwind.

The garden park spans 13 acres and includes a certified arboretum and five garden themes.

The seven-acre Formal Rose Garden dates back to 1953 and features an Italianate-style garden landscape with thousands of Grandiflora, floribundas, shrub roses, climbers, and hybrid tea.

Pretty flowers at Columbus Park of Roses
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Stroll the Heritage Rose Garden which features rose varieties that precede today’s modern roses, then head out to the Perennial Garden where you’ll find more than a hundred varieties of perennials, bulbs, shrubs, and trees, most of which are native to Ohio.

If you’re fascinated with herbs, you can view nine classifications featured at the Herb Garden including Edible Flowers, Dyes, Culinary Herbs, Teas, Pollinators, Roses, and Native American Herbs.

Drop by the Backyard Garden to get creative ideas to set up your garden, then head out to see various migratory birds, bird species native to Ohio, insects, and pollinators that make the Arboretum their habitat.

Have a lovely visit to the Columbus Park of Roses.

The grounds of Columbus Park of Roses
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Go Nature Tripping at Gahanna Woods State Nature Preserve

Signage of Gahanna Woods State Nature Preserve
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If you’re a nature lover, you’ll enjoy a glimpse of stunning nature sceneries at Gahanna Woods State Nature Preserve.

You can access the park along Taylor Station Road and explore over a hundred acres of scenic nature trails and vast meadows.

It was founded in 1973 and is currently leased to the City of Gahanna Parks, which made efforts to preserve one of central Ohio’s few remaining wood areas.

The preserve also offers more than 50 acres of picnic areas and hiking trails.

Explore the park and find rare plant species, as well as some of Ohio’s most unique wildflowers such as the swamp saxifrage, skunk cabbage, and the yellow water-crowfoot among others; you’ll surely spot plenty of bird species and wildlife while hiking.

See the woodland pools surrounded by forests full of pin oaks and silver maples, likewise, the higher areas at the preserve are lined with rows of mature oaks, beech, and maple trees.

Get immersed in these nature views at Gahanna Woods State Nature Preserve.

Final Thoughts

Franklin County, Ohio is a great family vacation stop with lots of fun and interesting attractions you can visit.

From scenic nature parks and themed museums to great local shops and historic attractions, this location has everything you need for a worthwhile trip.

You’ll also enjoy plenty of vibrant local happenings and family-friendly festivals in the region.

Plan your travel and get ready to enjoy the best things to do in Franklin County, Ohio.

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