Two-hour Trips: Columbus offers families variety

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com
The Columbus Arts Festival along the Scioto Mile is shown. Scioto Mile offers plenty of walking and biking paths for families to enjoy.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com The Columbus Arts Festival along the Scioto Mile is shown. Scioto Mile offers plenty of walking and biking paths for families to enjoy.

COLUMBUS — Columbus, the capital of Ohio, has much to offer families as a vacation destination that is just a 2-hour drive away.

Ranked “Highest in Visitor Satisfaction in the Midwest” by J.D. Power on the 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction Study, the city has restaurants, retail and attractions for all and there are many free activities for families as well.

Among the popular attractions for families are the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and COSI.

Jack Hanna developed an international awareness of the zoo, which has been expanding. The zoo is home to more than 7,000 animals.

Two well-known exhibits are the pachyderm and lowland gorilla displays.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com
Children look 
at a glass sculpture
at the Franklin Park 
Conservatory.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com Children look at a glass sculpture at the Franklin Park Conservatory.

The Columbus Zoo is among the few in the United States to house Queensland koalas, bonobos and manatees, and a newer attraction, Heart of Africa, captures the feel of an African savannah.

And baby animals are not an uncommon site. Three new polar cubs were born in November.

The zoo also has a waterpark, Zoombezi Bay, where families can cool down.

COSI is a hands-on science center for kids and adults and has more than 300 interactive exhibits. The seven-story Extreme Screen Theater is the largest in Ohio.

The new planetarium also is the largest in Ohio and offers state-of-the-art technology, projection and sound systems. An outdoor science park is available for children of kindergarten age and younger.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com
The High Wire Unicycle at COSI, center of science and industry, is the only one in the world and challenges guests to ride a unicycle across an 84-foot cable while 17 feet above the ground.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com The High Wire Unicycle at COSI, center of science and industry, is the only one in the world and challenges guests to ride a unicycle across an 84-foot cable while 17 feet above the ground.

For those interested in going to the zoo and COSI, there is a special package available, including hotel stay, at columbusfamilyfun.com.

Families don’t have to spend a lot to have fun in Columbus. The city also offers plenty of free things to do.

Columbus Commons has attractions to see and in which to participate, such as a hand-carved carousel and an outdoor reading room.

Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus is a riverfront park with plenty of paths and bikeways.

It offers programs such as Rhythm on the River with local musicians.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com
A giraffe enjoys a piece of lettuce from an excited young boy’s hand at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Heart of Africa.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com A giraffe enjoys a piece of lettuce from an excited young boy’s hand at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Heart of Africa.

The Grange Insurance Audubon Center gives visitors a chance to enjoy migrating birds.

The Topiary Garden is a landscape interpretation of Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.” It is open from sunrise to sunset and offers plenty of visuals and picnic areas.

PBJ and Jazz concerts are held every Saturday.

Inniswood Metro Gardens is a nature preserve with 2,000 plant species, rock gardens and themed gardens to explore. “Field of Corn with Osage Oranges” is a half-acre park filled with 109 cement ears of corn as art. And giant cement ears of corn is definitely not an everyday sight.

Low-cost adventures also await visitors. The Book Loft in historic German Village is 32 rooms packed with books, including a kids’ section.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com
The Easton fountains offer families a chance to cool down.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com The Easton fountains offer families a chance to cool down.

The Anthony Thomas Chocolate Factory offers free tours 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays June through August, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays September to May.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has both indoor and outdoor gardens filled with exotic plant life from around the world and water features. There is also glass artwork on display to view. Family activities and crafts are offered on weekends, and special events and entertainment are throughout the year. Several museums are available, too.

The Columbus Historical Society and the Ohio History Center and Ohio Village offer a look into the history of the area. In nearby Hillard is the Early Television Museum, where families can take a look back at television through the ages.

In Pickerington is the Motorcycle Hall of Fame for enthusiasts. On the Ohio State University Campus is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum that offers displays of the medium. And for more art exhibits, visitors can go to the Columbus Museum of Art.

Also available for families is the Columbus Children’s Theatre, Amaze-The Columbus Escape Experience, Magic Mountain Fun Center Polaris and Skyzone Trampoline Park.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com
A boy looks at a butterly at the Franklin Park Conservatory.

Photo courtesy ExperienceColumbus.com A boy looks at a butterly at the Franklin Park Conservatory.

Visit experiencecolumbus.com for more details on these destinations, as well as an events of calendar of special programs.

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