16 Free Things to Do in Columbus, OH

Free Things to Do in Columbus, OH

Columbus, Ohio, is a vibrant city with a wealth of offerings.

From a diverse food scene to a unique arts and culture landscape, there is always something to explore.

What truly sets Columbus apart is the abundance of exciting and engaging activities available at no cost.

For both longtime residents seeking new discoveries and visitors hoping to experience the city on a budget, Columbus provides numerous free learning opportunities.

This guide will navigate through some of the free things to do in Columbus, Ohio.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Hadassah Wiley, Paul Stickley, Brinley Talley, Charles Engelhardt, Andera Reed, Johnny Cox and Brielle Gallegos.

Discover the Great Outdoors at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

Daytime view of Scioto Audubon Metro Park
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There's something magically therapeutic about birds chirping at dawn, and nowhere is it better experienced than at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

It's a sanctuary nestled by the riverside, spread across 120 acres, and offers many activities to keep one engaged and connected with nature.

It is expected to find me amid the bird habitats, binoculars in hand, looking out for a rare species or two.

And when I'm not doing that, I usually find hiking the numerous trails, each weaving its way around the park, revealing a new vista with every turn.

One of my favorite spots in the park is the high tower.

The panoramic view it offers of downtown Columbus is breathtaking.

I often find myself seated there, soaking in the cityscape against the backdrop of the setting sun.

And it's not just about passive activities.

The park doesn't leave any stone unturned to keep its visitors active.

Close view of the flowers at Scioto Audubon Metro Park
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Whether the climbing wall that tests your strength and endurance or the volleyball courts that bring out the competitive spirit in you; there's no shortage of options.

For fitness enthusiasts, there are plenty of workout areas.

And for those who prefer a stroll, there's the dog park, where you can take your furry friends for a walk.

Speaking of accessibility, the park is wheelchair-friendly too.

Family outings are a joy at Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

The play area for kids is a delight, keeping the little ones engaged while the adults can cook up a storm at the grill area.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park has come a long way, from being a mere impound lot to becoming a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

As someone who has had the chance to witness this transformation, I can vouch for the fact that the park is a testament to the city's commitment to preserving its natural resources and providing quality outdoor experiences for its residents.

A beautiful rose at Scioto Audubon Metro Park
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See the Enchanting Vistas at North Bank Park

The grounds of North Bank Park
Randall Vermillion / Shutterstock.com

There's something almost magical about North Bank Park.

Nestled right in the heart of our city, it's a place where you can escape from the everyday hustle and bustle and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of nature.

The park offers breathtaking views of the river, and if you're lucky, you might even catch sight of a train crossing the bridge against the backdrop of the stunning skyline.

One of the many perks of living here is that it's just a short bike ride away, making it easily accessible from everywhere.

This verdant sanctuary is a favorite among my family as well.

In the sweltering summer months, the splash pad offers a delightful respite for the kids, while the adults can relax at the chairs and tables sprinkled around the place.

Trail at North Bank Park
arthurgphotography / Shutterstock.com

As you stroll down the stairs, you're led to the Scioto Mile, another gem in our city's crown.

There's an event venue, too, which can be rented for special occasions.

So, the pavilion can be your perfect partner, whether you're planning a birthday bash or a wedding reception.

Just imagine celebrating your special day in such a picturesque setting!

So, what are you waiting for?

Experience the charm of North Bank Park, a place we locals cherish.

Take a Breath of Fresh Air at Bicentennial Park

A fountain at Bicentennial Park
aceshot1 / Shutterstock.com

I've never experienced anything like a lazy Sunday afternoon at Bicentennial Park.

Picture this: the sun is shining, the air is filled with children's laughter playing in the 15,000-square-foot Scioto Mile Fountain, and I'm lounging on the grass with a cup of coffee from the onsite glass-enclosed eatery.

Bicentennial Park is not just another park in Columbus.

It's a hub of activity and serenity rolled into one.

I'll often pack a picnic, grab my most comfortable blanket, and set up camp for the day to watch the world go by.

Sometimes, I might even rent a scooter and explore the park's trails.

Signage of Bicentennial Park
Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock.com

A truly versatile space, the park also doubles up as a cultural venue, hosting the annual Jazz and Rib Fest - a feast for the senses with live music and delicious food.

One of my favorite parts has to be the stunning views from the bridges - they're awe-inspiring, giving you a panoramic view of the Scioto Mile.

It's a breathtaking sight and one that makes you appreciate the beauty that Columbus has to offer.

Whether you're into outdoor sports, kayaking down the river, or just lounging around on a shaded bench, Bicentennial Park offers something for everyone.

Trust me, if you're looking for a slice of tranquility in the heart of the city, you won't be disappointed.

Trails at Bicentennial Park
Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock.com

I try to detour through the Riffe Gallery whenever I'm around downtown.

It's become somewhat of a tradition, a slice of tranquility amidst the whirlwind pace of urban life.

What's fascinating is that each visit feels like a unique experience due to the consistent rotation of high-quality artwork on display.

It's like my ever-changing museum nestled right here in Columbus.

The gallery is housed within a striking building, an architectural gem.

It's the kind of place that enthralls you even before you step inside.

I remember going there once for the play, 'Momentum.'

The performance was incredibly engaging, and the building's aesthetics added to the overall experience.

I must say, it's not just about the visual arts at The Riffe Gallery.

It's a place where all forms of art converge.

The Riffe Gallery has woven itself into the fabric of my local routine, and I can only see that bond growing stronger with each inspiring visit.

Take a Leisurely Stroll Down the Scioto Mile Promenade

Aerial view of Scioto Mile Promenade
Nicholas J Klein / Shutterstock.com

I can't help but be drawn to the Scioto Mile Promenade regularly.

There's something about the cool breeze coming off the river, the lush greenery, and the peaceful ambiance that entices me repeatedly.

The view of the river and bridges is just breathtaking.

Where else can you get such a serene yet vibrant view right in the heart of the city?

You can find me there at almost any time of day.

The early mornings are enchanting; the park is quiet, and I feel like I have everything to myself.

But even if I can only make it down later in the day, it's still a wonderful place to be.

The park has a great set of swings that I love sitting on.

It's the little things, you know?

The shaded areas are perfect when you need to sit, relax, and gather your thoughts.

Trail at Scioto Mile Promenade
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Moreover, the recent addition of garden areas and greenery has given the park an even more refreshing feel.

For anyone with an active lifestyle, this place is a goldmine.

I often see people jogging or cycling down the promenade.

It feels like our little fitness hub right in the city's heart.

And let's not forget about the Civic Center Garage right next door.

For just $5, you can park right next to the park. Just don't forget to take the ticket with you!

The park is also an excellent spot for a picnic.

There are many grassy areas where you can spread a blanket and enjoy a meal with friends or family.

So, whether you're looking for a peaceful spot to read your book, a place to exercise, or want to enjoy the beautiful view, the Scioto Mile Promenade has got you covered.

Discover the Wonders of Blendon Woods Metro Park

Trail at Blendon Woods Metro Park
Richard345 / Shutterstock.com

Every day feels like a new adventure at Blendon Woods Metro Park.

This natural haven, spread across 653 acres, serves as my daily escape from the mundane and as a reminder of nature's beauty.

The park is home to a waterfowl refuge and a nature center featuring various activities for families and individuals alike.

Cleanliness is a notable feature of this park.

Clear signage and well-maintained trails make navigation a breeze, even for newcomers.

The park's management does an excellent job providing plenty of trash cans, which I believe contributes to the overall cleanliness of the trails.

It's a small detail, but it makes every path walk at Blendon Woods enjoyable.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Blendon Woods Metro Park is a dream come true.

One of my personal favorites, the disc golf course, never disappoints.

Each visit offers a new experience and a different animal sighting, making the rounds even more exciting.

Parking is abundant, and the park goes further by providing drinking fountains for humans and our furry friends.

The park's dedication to ensuring the comfort of its visitors is truly commendable.

Beyond the lush greenery and outdoor activities, the park's nature center is a fun and learning treasure trove.

From educational activities to fun rope swings and even a zipline, it's a place where families can bond and create long-lasting memories.

Blendon Woods Metro Park is a nurturing community that fosters a deep appreciation for nature's bounty.

Whether you're looking for an adventurous day out or a serene sanctuary to unwind, Blendon Woods is the perfect destination.

Take a Stroll in Topiary Park

A pond at Topiary Park
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There's a place in my city that always makes me feel like I've stepped right into a painting - Topiary Park.

You might think I'm exaggerating, but trust me, I'm not!

The park replicates Georges Seurat's painting, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte."

The landscape plants here are meticulously trimmed and shaped to mimic the characters in the image, and it's quite a sight to behold.

I have a ritual of sorts with Topiary Park.

Find me on any day, rain or shine, and you'll see me wandering about the park, camera in hand.

There's something about the way the light plays off the leaves.

Even when it's raining, it paints a whole different picture.

I've captured captivating images in the morning, dusk, and even night.

Daytime view of Topiary Park
matteo_it / Shutterstock.com

The park is just as photogenic as you can imagine!

When not indulging in my photography hobby, I often seek out the park for moments of tranquility.

If you enjoy quiet moments too, you'll appreciate the park's peaceful atmosphere.

On warm summer afternoons, I enjoy taking a book along, finding an excellent, shaded spot, and getting lost in a good read.

Whenever I welcome new neighbors to Columbus, I make it a point to introduce them to this unique park.

I distinctly remember an evening stroll with a friend who had recently moved to Columbus.

We spent the evening discussing the park's concept, how it came about, and marveling at its well-kept grounds.

The park's quaintness and charm never fail to fascinate newcomers.

So yes, Topiary Park is a gem in the heart of Columbus, a little slice of art and nature intertwined, and I feel lucky to call this place my sanctuary.

The grounds of Topiary Park
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Check Out the Park of Roses

I must confess that I have found a little piece of paradise right in the heart of Columbus.

The Park of Roses, a 13-acre wonderland adorned with various roses, perennials, and herb gardens, promises to charm one and all.

My visits to this place have never disappointed me, no matter the time of the year.

I remember my last visit, right in mid-October.

Despite not being the peak season, the place was still a riot of colors with so many roses in full bloom.

It was quite a spectacle.

The roses' diversity is astounding, and every visit feels like a new discovery.

Walking through the park is delightful, with countless opportunities to capture beautiful pictures.

Dog owners, take note!

This park is a haven for your furry friends.

Just be sure to keep them leashed, as others do the same.

The park itself is a well-rounded recreational space.

You can spend some time at the playground, relax around the ponds, or lose yourself in the endless paths that wind through the floral splendor.

The place is incredibly tranquil, where one can lay on the clean green grass, listen to the rustle of leaves, and let go of all stress.

And, of course, stopping to smell the roses is a must!

One can comfortably cover the entire park in about an hour.

However, the time can vary depending on your pace and penchant for exploring every nook and cranny.

Don't forget to plan your visit according to the blooming season to enjoy the best of what this park has to offer.

Trust me, a visit to the Columbus Park of Roses is something you'll not regret.

Take a Stroll through Goodale Park

A water fountain at Goodale Park
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There's something about the tranquil allure of Goodale Park that always draws me in.

Lying just north of downtown Columbus and amid the Victorian charm of Short North and Victorian Village, this park is my refuge from the city's hustle and bustle.

As I step onto the walking paths that wind through the park, I'm greeted by a magnificent fountain set in a large pond - a jewel at the heart of this urban oasis.

If you're lucky, like me, you might even catch sight of residents casting their lines in hopes of a leisurely catch.

The park is peppered with amenities that cater to sports and recreation enthusiasts.

I've spent countless summer afternoons at the baseball diamond and on the basketball and tennis courts, engaging in friendly matches with fellow locals.

Trail at Goodale Park
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The park features a playground for families with children, and while it might seem small, it's always brimming with joyous laughter and youthful energy.

One of my favorite things about Goodale Park is the historical markers scattered throughout.

As I stroll along the paths, I often stop to read these plaques, immersing myself in the park's intriguing past.

And when I need a break from my leisurely walks, there's no better place to rest than in the park's pavilion or shelter house, where I can enjoy a quiet lunch while drinking in the views of the city skyline.

Goodale Park is my go-to escape, whether for a brisk morning jog, a game of tennis, or to unwind by the pond.

It's a testament to Columbus's charm, blending nature's serenity with city life's vibrancy.

Metal benches at Goodale Park
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Spend the Day at John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons

Aerial view of John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons
JsjesseeCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It's hard not to fall in love with Columbus, Ohio, especially when you have the luxury of visiting the John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons.

It's in the city's heart, offering a gloriously manicured green space, perfect for catching your breath amidst the city's hustle and bustle.

My mornings usually begin with a casual stroll by the park's beautiful gardens before dropping by the quaint cafes for coffee.

Seeing the ongoing seasonal events will leave you mesmerized.

Watching the city come to life from the comfort of this urban park is a treat.

Now, if you're a book lover like me, you'll appreciate the small reading room in the park.

It's an idyllic spot to tune out the world and dive into a good book.

And for the kids, or the kids at heart, the carousel ride offers a whimsical touch to the park's charm.

One of the park's highlights is the family-friendly concerts on the lawn.

Nothing beats sitting on a blanket with your favorite drink and immersing yourself in the music.

You can feel the city's love for the arts during these concerts.

And the Picnic with the Pops is a summer tradition that we look forward to every year.

The park's accessibility is a boon, too.

With plenty of on-street parking, garages, and even rental scooters, getting to the park is a breeze.

So, next time you're in Columbus, don't miss out on this local gem. It truly is a breath of fresh air.

Enjoy the Bronze Arnold Statue

Close view of the Arnold Statue
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It was just another Saturday morning when I took a walk near the Arnold Statue.

A fantastic addition to our area's numerous charms, it always catches my eye.

This isn't just an ordinary statue.

It honors the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won Mr. World in Columbus in 1970.

The statue, aptly placed in the city's heart, offers a quick photo op for anyone passing by.

It's a fun place to stop while in Columbus.

And the best part?

Daytime view of the Arnold Statue
CiEll / Shutterstock.com

You can park your car on the street right in front of it, hop out, and get pictures with the Terminator himself.

I assure you, it's a surefire way to make your friends green with envy when you post your photographs on social media.

Today, the bronze Arnold stands tall and proud, a constant reminder of Schwarzenegger's mark on our city.

So, next time you're around, visit the Arnold statue.

It's a small piece of history, an icon in our cityscape, and a fun place to spend a few minutes of your day.

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane at Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum

One of the gems in our city that I always recommend to car enthusiasts is the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum.

It's a fascinating place that takes you back to the golden era of automobiles.

The kind of cars had character and were crafted with incredible attention to detail.

I've visited this museum several times, and every visit feels like a new experience.

The cars, nearly all with original parts, are a sight to behold - each one tells a unique story.

It's not your typical museum with a steady flow of foot traffic, mainly because it's a privately owned collection.

So, a heads up - you need to call ahead and schedule an appointment.

Don't let this deter you, though. It only enhances the experience, making it more personal and intimate.

I highly recommend making a trip to the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum.

It's not just a collection of cars; it's a journey through time, a testament to the beauty and ingenuity of classic automobiles.

Visit the Orton Geological Museum

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Every time I want to escape the monotony of life, I find myself wandering in the wonderland of the past at Orton Geological Museum.

It's right here within walking distance of Ohio State University's campus, a unique gem tucked away amidst the hustle and bustle; exploring this museum is always an adventure.

The museum houses an impressive collection of dinosaurs, fossils, and minerals.

Moreover, the towering fossils invoke a sense of awe, dwarfing visitors and reminding us of the grandeur of ancient life.

Having spent countless hours there, I can tell you it's an absolute paradise for curious kids.

But it's not just for the little ones.

Adults will find plenty to pique their interest, too.

One of my favorite experiences was when one of the museum's professors spared some time to explain to us about the dinosaur species that were found right here in the U.S.

It was an exciting and enlightening conversation, making us feel as if we'd been transported back in time to the age of dinosaurs.

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Although compact, the museum houses a rich and diverse collection of fossils from various creatures of the dinosaur era.

There's something new to look at every corner.

The range is genuinely captivating, from the skull of a T-Rex to the skeleton of a giant sloth and various marine fossils.

Not to mention, they also have a collection of different meteoroids and a variety of rocks.

The museum also offers a small gift shop, a delightful little corner where you can get a memento of your visit.

And the best part? The entrance to the museum is free.

As for the parking, it's available in the visitors' parking lots, costing around $4.70 per hour.

So next time you are in the area, take some time to visit the Orton Geological Museum. It's a journey into the past you won't want to miss.

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Explore the Historical Ohio Statehouse

Exterior of the Ohio Statehouse
SMReid / Shutterstock.com

You never really grow tired of the majestic grandeur of the Ohio Statehouse.

The crowning glory of our city is a stunning Greek revival building completed in 1861, and every time I visit, I find myself completely immersed in its historic charm.

Trust me when I say that the Statehouse, which is brimming with historical art and offers public guided tours, is something you don't want to miss out on.

The guided tour, which lasts around 60 minutes, is an experience.

From the towering dome adorned with the Great Seal of Ohio, the flag, and three giant paintings to the intricate fossils embedded in the floor and walls, every corner of the Statehouse is a testament to Ohio's rich past.

I remember one rainy day when we couldn't explore the outside; the alarms went off, and we were temporarily locked down.

But even that was an adventure, with the kids taking great delight in fossil hunting inside the building.

The Statehouse also houses a museum, and it's an absolute treat for history buffs like me.

It's a treasure trove of fascinating stories and facts about our state.

Interior of the Ohio Statehouse
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Did you know that Ohio is the birthplace of eight United States presidents?

Or that each statehouse received a copy of the library bell?

I learned this and so much more during my visits.

The exterior of the Statehouse is just as impressive as the interior, with beautifully landscaped gardens perfect for a stroll.

While waiting for a tour to start, you can read the war letters scattered around the grounds.

It's a poignant reminder of those who've fought for our freedom.

The Ohio Statehouse isn't just a building; it's a window into our state's history and a symbol of our collective heritage.

Whether you're a history enthusiast or just someone looking for a beautiful place to explore, I highly recommend a visit.

Aerial view of the Ohio Statehouse
Mihai_Andritoiu / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Charm of Dorrian Green

There's something undeniably soothing about spending a lazy afternoon at Dorrian Green.

With its wide-open fields ideal for a pick-up game, a picnic spot that screams 'family time,' and numerous shady places offering respite from the sun, it's an oasis in the city's heart.

As the afternoon sun kisses the ground, my kids run ecstatically towards the play area.

Their laughter echoes, their joy contagious, as they climb, slide, and swing - their merriment unbound.

The playground at Dorrian Green is indeed a wonderland for children.

Beyond the playground, the park also houses a unique music area where you can play with various science exhibits and create music with mallets.

On some special days, the park comes alive with free concerts.

Sipping on a drink from the bar, munching on snacks, and enjoying live music certainly makes for an unforgettable experience.

But what truly sets Dorrian Green apart is its commitment to inclusivity.

Having hosted the All Disabilities Festival is a testament to Columbus's beautiful spirit.

I can't help but fall in love with this place repeatedly.

The park is clean, with well-maintained bathrooms, and serves as a haven for squirrels and other wildlife, making it a perfect blend of urban and natural elements.

Dorrian Green is a community space where memories are made and cherished.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore the Tranquility of Sharon Woods Metropark

Gorgeous sunset over Sharon Woods Metropark
arthurgphotography / Shutterstock.com

There's a certain serenity that washes over me each time I step onto the well-worn trails of Sharon Woods Metropark, a daily ritual that connects me with nature profoundly.

The park, nestled in the heart of Central Ohio, offers an expansive 761-acre preserve of forests, fields, and even a picturesque lake, perfect for those who need a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It provides abundant open space, with Sharon Woods offering extensive walking and bike paths that meander through the verdant surroundings.

A sense of safety pervades every park corner, with park rangers constantly patrolling the area, ensuring every visitor enjoys their time without concern.

Cookouts have always been my family’s favorite pastime, and the park's shelters offer a perfect spot for such occasions.

The view from the shelters overlooking the fields dotted with wildflower blooms is simply enchanting.

But that's not all there is to do here.

Trail at Sharon Woods Metropark
arthurgphotography / Shutterstock.com

This oasis in the city has something for everyone - from fishing at the sparkling lake to exploring the nature trails or just enjoying a quiet moment by the water watching the sunset.

And let's not forget about the little ones.

The park boasts plenty of swings for kids and open spaces to run around and play.

My kids particularly love the natural play area and the small lake where they can toss stones and watch the ripples spread on the water's surface.

The beauty and tranquility that Sharon Woods Metropark offers is unparalleled.

Whether you're a nature enthusiast, an active outdoor person, or just someone seeking a quiet retreat, this park is the perfect destination.

And the best part? It's always just a stroll or bike ride away on Schrock Road.

Final Thoughts

I am continually amazed by the beauty and diversity Columbus, Ohio, has to offer.

So, whether you’re a seasoned local or a curious traveler, trust me, Columbus will never fail to surprise you with its bounty of free attractions.

Visit us today!

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