Riding a high-wire unicycle, splashing in a massive fountain and feeding giraffes highlight a family weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Here are 10 must-dos for your next road trip to the capital city.

By By Louisa Worthington Fitzgerald
August 08, 2017
Scioto Mile Fountain

1) Center of Science and Industry With interactive exhibits covering themes like space, energy and the oceans, there's a world of activity for the family here. Ride inside a Mars rover simulator or on a high-wire unicycle that lets even the most unbalanced rider pedal across an 84-foot-long cable. Little Kidspace includes a tree house and a light-and-shadow workshop. cosi.org

2) Scioto Mile At this 145-acre green space, kids race to the Scioto Mile Fountain, the city's splash pad that shoots more than 1,000 jets of water. You'll also find a pedestrian trail, an amphitheater and the city's Cultural Arts Center, where you can take classes on painting, ceramics and more. sciotomile.com

Photo by Randall Schieber

3) The Book Loft Thirty-two rooms of reads make The Book Loft in the German Village neighborhood a novel destination. Bookworms browse the five dedicated children's rooms, including an impressive collection of teen and young adult literature. bookloft.com 

4) North Market Even the pickiest eaters find culinary satisfaction in the wide variety of baked goods and prepared foods sold by 25 vendors at this indoor market. Unique offerings include hotdogs with Reuben toppings and banana nut soft pretzels. Even ice cream flavors seem inspired: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams scoops wildberry lavender and salted peanut butter at the spot that started her on the road to fame. northmarket.com

5) Ohio Village Experience what life was like in a 19th-century small town at Ohio Village (4 miles north of downtown). Watch the Muffin's, the village's baseball team, play according to 1860s rules in their dapper uniforms of white shirts, bow ties and striped pillbox hats. You can also explore the community's general store, pharmacy and toy shop. ohiohistory.org

6) Columbus Museum of Art Wander into the Wonder Room at the Columbus Museum of Art, a woodland-inspired space anchored by a 15-foot tree made of cardboard and foil. Kids can build their own cardboard tree, dress up like woodland creatures and hide in the tree house. columbusmuseum.org

Photo courtesy of Columbus Museum of Art

7) Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Herb gardens, a canopy walk, play structures and a Hocking Hills-inspired splash area—waterfall and all—cover the new 2-acre Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden. Another kid favorite: the Paul Busse Model Garden Railway, nestled within the Himalayan Mountain Biome, which winds through a storybook village among conifers, vines and shrubs. fpconservatory.org

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
| Credit: Ryan Donnell

8) The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium This zoo in Powell is home to more than 10,000 animals from around the world. The Heart of Africa exhibit houses perennial favorites like lions, zebras, cheetahs and wildebeests in an expansive savanna setting. Feeling wild? Stick around to feed the giraffes or ride a camel. columbuszoo.org

9) Olentangy Indian Caverns A few miles from the Columbus Zoo, you can journey into underground caverns believed to have been used by the Wyandotte Indians as refuge from inclement weather. Venture back aboveground to explore the on-site country store, gem mining area, playground and miniature golf course. olentangyindiancaverns.com

10) Slate Run Historical Farm Get in touch with your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder at Slate Run Historical Farm, 20 miles southeast of Columbus. Tours and demos immerse visitors in what life was like at a late-1800s house and barn. Kids love the up-close encounters with pigs, turkeys, and horses-and may even get the chance to herd some sheep. metroparks.net

Photo by Mindi McConnell