Entertaining your parents in your hometown can be intimidating. Putting together a perfect schedule full of fun activities, incredible restaurants, tourist attractions and local hangouts is almost impossible. Thankfully, your parents probably just want to see what your life is like in Columbus—giving you the perfect excuse to mix in spots like your favorite cafe and craft brewery with the touristy stops like art museums and trendy neighborhoods.
We rounded up some of our must-visit stops to put on your parent-friendly itinerary. Have fun!
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You haven’t had a donut until you’ve had a Buckeye donut. From Boston Cream to plain glazed, all of the donuts at Buckeye are made fresh daily using only quality ingredients. The shop is conveniently located on High Street in the heart of the campus neighborhood and is a favorite for college students looking for a late-night study snack. Looking for something savory? Buckeye Donuts also has a selection of delicious breakfast items, gyros, salads and more—but seriously, don’t leave the shop without a donut.
One of the most famous, and impressive, attractions in Columbus is the Center of Science and Industry or COSI. Officially opened in 1964, COSI inspires interest in science, technology, engineering and math topics through a special “hands-on fun” brand of learning. All across their 320,000-square-foot facility, they bring science to life through 300+ interactive experiences and exhibits. Go stargazing in the Planetarium; interact with dinosaurs in the Dinosaur Gallery; or take a ride on the High Wire Unicycle—17 feet above the ground!
The Ohio Statehouse is our state capitol building and is truly a magnificent sight to behold! Unlike many of the other states’ capitol buildings, the Ohio Statehouse didn’t take inspiration from the United States Capitol, because it was actually designed and built before the glorious building in D.C. was ever erected. Instead, it was built in the Greek Revival Style, with many features drawing inspiration from the Tholos of Delphi and the Parthenon of Athens. You can tour the historic building for free—Monday through Friday every hour on the hour, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Karen Martens via Park of Roses Foundation
This public garden in the heart of Columbus has grown over the years to include over 12,000 roses or more than 400 varieties. While late May through mid-June is the best time to visit to find peak bloom, each season offers a unique and beautiful perspective. The park is free year-round and open to visitors from dawn to dusk.
Since April of 2013, Seventh Son Brewing has been producing incredible beers at the intersection of 4th and 4th in Columbus’ historic Italian Village. When you visit this top-rated Columbus brewery, you’re guaranteed a good time thanks to the delicious food trucks outside, the creative brews, and the unique events they hold every week.
Inspired by Georges Seurat’s famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte, this park is truly a local gem. Stroll through the garden and admire the artistry of the sculptures, each of which has a personality of its own. The iconic park is located downtown and is open 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Photo courtesy of North Market
Since 1876, the centrally located North Market has served Columbus residents—which makes it the most seasoned market in the area. The vendors (be they candy makers, fishermen, bakers or farmers) strive to promote the diversity and vibrancy of our Ohio community, serving only the best in locally produced products. They are open year-round and feature everything from ethnic foods to gourmet groceries and unique gifts.
While this stunning theater is one of the state’s most beautiful buildings, featuring Spanish-Baroque architecture with breathtaking details (including the 21-foot high chandelier!), it was created as “a palace for the average man.” Thomas W. Lamp, the Scottish architect in charge of the Ohio Theatre project in the 1920s, envisioned a place where anyone, regardless of wealth or status, could go and see a film or a live performance. Today, you can experience all of the history and majesty at one of the 100+ performances the theater puts on each year.
When visiting Columbus for the first time, a meal at this popular vegetarian eatery is a must! While they do serve a few dishes for meat-lovers at Northstar Cafe, it’s their vegetable-focused meals that truly stand out. All of their salads are excellent—our favorite is the Chopped Salad, crafted with avocado, almonds, blue cheese, apples and an optional turkey or bacon topping—but you can’t go wrong with anything on their extensive menu.
Photo courtesy of the German Village Society
German Village is located in the heart of Columbus but still feels like it’s worlds away. This is due to the German Village Society’s efforts to maintain the historical feel of the neighborhood, the intricate architecture, and the idyllic urban garden parks throughout the area. In fact, German Village is one of the largest, privately funded historic districts in the country. Take a few hours to explore the charming streets and quaint shops and restaurants all around the neighborhood to give your parents a true taste of Columbus area history.
While you’re exploring German Village, don’t miss the chance to stop into this bibliophile gem. The Book Loft offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It is one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores and is made up of a grouping of pre-Civil War era buildings that were once general stores, a saloon and a nickelodeon cinema. The 32 rooms of bargain-priced books are bound to make you forget about the outside world for just a bit.
Even most out-of-towners know about Jeni’s. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream creates some of the most famous ice creams around—they’ve even been named one of the best ice cream shops in the country by Food & Wine Magazine, Thrillist and US News. And it all started right here in Columbus when Jeni Britton Bauer decided to open a trendy ice cream shop in 2002. Stop by one of their many locations around the city for a cold treat; we highly recommend Brambleberry Crisp!
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Stretching along downtown Columbus’ riverfront, The Scioto Mile offers 145 acres of lush parkland, fountains and scenic overlooks, providing the perfect destination when entertaining out-of-town guests. Not only will you get a spectacular view of Columbus right on the river, but there are plenty of stops along the Mile that you can explore! Learn something new at COSI, get cultured at the Cultural Arts Center, or see a show at the Riverfront Amphitheater—there are endless opportunities for fun downtown.
Due to its high concentration of art galleries, music venues, boutiques, restaurants and the like, the Short North Arts District is sometimes fondly referred to as the “art and soul” of Columbus. Vibrant urban attractions abound in this area, so there is never a shortage of fun things to do and see. In fact, it’s one of the areas most recommended for visitors! Need some itinerary inspiration? Check out our guide to the neighborhood.
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