Winter’s here and the holidays are over. And spring (and spring *break*) feels so far away. If you’re looking for a fun way to spice up the next few months, consider a trip to Columbus.
Clocking in at just over an hour away, Columbus is an easy and very doable day trip from Cincinnati. Or, be a little extra and book an AirBNB for a weekend of family fun in our state’s capital. And if you’re worried about Columbus in the winter — don’t! Columbus boasts a very impressive resumé of indoor attractions, museums and activities to keep your family busy and warm all winter long.
Here are 10 Columbus attractions to explore this winter:
Ohio’s only NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets are a fun, indoor option for sports fans during the colder months. Their regular season runs into April, and games are very family friendly, with lots of afternoon matches and fun promotions. This is a really great option for older kids.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium offers a one-of-a-kind experience that’s aimed to get families thinking about animals, the environment and conservation. The Columbus Zoo is huge; in each direction you’ll experience different habitats and species, all designed to be interactive and accessible. The “North America” area is especially fun; we saw (Santa’s) reindeer, Arctic foxes and a variety of bears. The polar bears, for example, can be seen both above ground and below; definitely visit the underground viewing area. Once you’re down there (if you’re lucky), you’ll have a front-row seat to watch the bears happily diving and swimming in the water. A baby polar bear was born last Thanksgiving, and it might be available for guests to see later this year!
The Zoo also boasts an Aquarium that’s extremely cool. Manatees, sea turtles, sharks and more — you can easily spend an entire afternoon at this Columbus attraction. My kids especially loved the Discovery Reef area, which was alive with lots of different water-bound creatures. (I personally loved the manatees; Stubby was massive and absolutely magnificent!) And the best part — the Aquarium is entirely indoors, making it a pretty perfect place to visit during the winter.
The Columbus Museum of Art (CMOA) is incredible. If the thought of taking kids to an art museum makes you nervous, I understand. However, the CMOA is one of the most accessible and kid-friendly places I’ve ever been, hands down. There’s an entire wing just for kids: the JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity. This space has tons of craft options, open studio hours and classes, plus LEGO bricks for building. It reminded me of art class in elementary school, in all the best ways.
Definitely visit on a Saturday, as there will be extra activities and events throughout the museum. Serendipitously, on the day we visited, there was a LEGO competition happening in the atrium. My kids entered and had 20 minutes to recreate their favorite movie scene, all from LEGO bricks. They each created a scene from The Empire Strikes Back… and won! It was such a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Also — special shout-out to the staff at CMOA. Every single staff member I interacted with at CMOA was so incredibly friendly and kind. I felt very welcome there with my family — and that makes all the difference in the world, when you’re out with kids.
In 2018, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum opened in Columbus, making history in a number of ways. Not only does this museum honor the men and women who have served in *all* branches of the U.S. military, but it also tells their stories. Never before has war and military service been so personal, making the National Veterans Memorial and Museum a must-visit for each and every American. This museum is absolutely worth the drive — read all about it here.
Here in Cincinnati, we are fortunate to have one of the best botanical gardens in the US right at our fingertips. In addition to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, budding botanists can also geek out at Krohn Conservatory, one of the city’s greatest treasures. And in Columbus, you’ll find a perfect marriage of the two at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
The Conservatory itself is breathtaking. Located inside the John F. Wolfe Palm House, which dates back to 1895, it’s a huge greenhouse divided into wings with different biomes. It’s bright and sparkling and stunning — a breath of fresh air during the winter. Right now, you can check out Chihuly: Celebrating Nature, an exuberant celebration of art and color, with Chihuly’s stunning glass artwork intermixed with the plants and flowers. It’s an indescribably beautiful experience that takes your visit to Franklin Park Conservatory to the next level.
And if you’re brave, bundle up the kids and let them explore The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden. It’s a two-acre discovery garden and nature playscape that will keep your kids busy and happy for hours — you’ll hear zero complaints about the cold!
LEGOLAND Discovery Center opened in 2018 in Columbus and is the 12th ‘land in North America and the only location that’s a true day trip from Cincinnati. It’s 36,000 square feet of fun in Columbus’s Easton Town Center, and it’s everything your LEGO-loving kids could dream of… and more! With indoor playgrounds, two rides, MINILAND Ohio, a 4D cinema, virtual “factory tour” and 10 themed play zones, LEGOLAND Discovery Center is absolutely worth the drive.
Otherworld was recently named one of TIME for Kids World’s Coolest Places — and it is. Each of Otherworld’s 47 (!) rooms is completely unique. There are endless spaces to explore, and like any art exhibition, the experience is personal and dynamic. It’s a completely immersive art experience that’s truly unlike anything else in the world. And somehow, it’s also kid friendly, accessible and completely wild and wonderful. Words don’t do it justice — you have to experience Otherworld for yourself!
9 & 10: COSI
COSI is reason alone to visit Columbus, and this museum is a place where you can happily spend an entire weekend. Every time we visit COSI, I discover something new, and this trip was no exception:
COSI’s Planetarium is the largest in Ohio, and being inside its domed walls puts the whole universe into perspective. (It’s very similar to the OMNIMAX in terms of layout and feel.) There are shows offered all day long, and while you’ll pay extra for a ticket, it’s worth it. Your Planetarium ticket is basically your key to, you know, the universe. (No big deal!)
So I think we can all agree that COSI has the *best* rotating exhibits, and Unseen Oceans is, hands down, my favorite so far. My kids are very into the ocean, and all of the weird and wonderful life it holds, and Unseen Oceans literally immerses you in this wild world.
My kids were speechless. With the use of robotics and satellite monitoring, this exhibit reveals the unseen habitats of the oceans’ most mysterious animals and habitats. It’s mind blowing. Unseen Oceans epitomizes what COSI does best — this Ohio museum truly puts you there, whether it’s deep under the ocean or far out into the universe.