With an extra day off for Presidents’ Day Weekend we planned a quick 2 night getaway to Columbus, OH last month. It’s centrally located just a few hours from several cities and is the perfect quick family getaway weekend in the Midwest. We totally lucked out with crazy spring-like weather in February but even if you’re visiting in the cold, there is so much to do. Here’s my best recommendations for spending a weekend with kids in Columbus, Ohio.
What to Do
One of our main reasons for visiting Columbus was to take advantage of another reciprocal membership museum on our ASTC Passport. COSI (Center of Science and Industry) has three full floors of exhibits that took us most of a day to check out. My kids loved the Oceans, the outdoor play area and the special exhibit on mazes. There is a fairly large play area for kids younger than 2nd grade as well. They even have a Big KidLab within that space for 2nd graders through age 11. We had lunch in the cafe and I was very impressed with the quality and freshness of food. The museum is located across the river from downtown and because we had such a warm day we walked along the riverwalk area behind the museum as well.
Columbus Museum of Art
On Sundays the Columbus Museum of Art is free and since we had a foggy cool morning, it was the perfect activity. There just happened to be a Lego exhibit which my boys adored and some Lego figures hidden around the Museum for a short scavenger hunt. My boys are just now getting old enough to do a bit of exploring in a nicer museum like this so after a quick browse through the galleries, we spent most of our time in the Children’s Wonder Room which had several invitations to create art, some games and a fun tree house to play in. I’m not sure I’d pay the admission fee but for a free attraction, we had a lot of fun.
Just south of downtown is an area known as German Village. This historic neighborhood is full of charming houses and brick-lined streets. There are shops and restaurants scattered throughout but be prepared to do a bit of walking since they’re not centrally located in once place. We mostly drove around a bit looking for lunch options (parking can be tricky) but we did stop and play at the Schiller Park and popped into The Book Loft, a maze of a bookstore that make for fun discoveries. In nicer weather, this would be a great place to explore on foot.
Further out from the city, in the suburb of Dublin where we stayed, there are a large number of public art installations. Dublin has commissioned these outdoor exhibits for many years and they’re scattered around town and make for a fun stop or treasure hunt. We visited Scioto Park to see Leatherlips and drove by a few of the others. The Columbus Zoo is also close by and while we didn’t have time for the zoo, their water park looks like it might be worth another trip in warm weather.
Where to Eat
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
If you only get to eat one thing in Columbus, it needs to be Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. This local ice cream maker (who has started expanding across the country) has multiple locations around the city and we might have eaten at there at least twice during our short stay. The flavor combos are some of the best and most interesting I’ve come across in a while. The small comes with 2 half-scoops so you can maximize the flavors you try. There was nothing we didn’t like and even my crazy children, who have no sense of adventure, were very happy with their vanilla and sprinkles. A lot of flavors are seasonal but if you see it, Juniper and Lemon Curd and Wildberry Lavender have my strong endorsement!
101 Beer Kitchen
On a recommendation from a friend, we tried local chain, 101 Beer Kitchen for dinner. This place blows the local gastropub out of the water. The menu is super inventive without being snooty and my husband was impressed with the beer list. I tried a wood-fired pizza with duck and fontina cheese that was topped mandarin oranges, arugula, and pomegranates. Amazing! Even better, the kids meals were some of the best I’ve seen with lots of choices to mix and match and reasonably priced at around $6.00 for an entree, two sides, drink and dessert. I love when restaurants put thought into a menu for the whole family and this place gets a gold star for that!
A Few Other Suggestions
We attempted to check out The Thurman Cafe in German Village on the advice of another friend, who said this was the prefect hole-in-the-wall burger joint but unfortunately we didn’t plan very well and the wait was too long for our hangry kiddos. Judging by the crowds and the smell, this one looks like a total winner and I wish we’d been able to try it. Instead we ended up at The Northstar Cafe. The food was fresh and well made but we were expecting the regular menu and were disappointed to find that the only the brunch menu was available on the weekends until 3. Their regular menu looked much better and I wish we could have tried that.
Where to Stay
Embassy Suites- Dublin, OH
I found a great deal on a one bedroom suite (a must for us to get a restful night’s sleep) at The Embassy Suites in Dublin, OH. I tend to prefer a suburban hotel for it’s cheaper rates, free parking, and lower cost dining. Because we were visiting on the weekend, the traffic was light for traveling into the city and we made the trek from this northeast suburb in under 20 minutes. The hotel was well-appointed and nicely decorated. They had recently renovated the rooms but unfortunately we when arrived, the pool was a still under construction. I wish they’d been more transparent about that before we arrived so we could have prepared the kids. On the plus side, we loved the free evening reception for free drinks and breakfast for the fresh omelette bar. The hotel is near Dublin’s small village center with shops and restaurants and close to lots of other quick service options for dinner. If you can snag a good weekend rate, it’s a great deal.
If you’re in the Midwest and need a weekend away with your family, Columbus fits the bill. There are a wide variety of attractions, food and lodging were affordable, and the city was easy to navigate. Make sure to double-check the fall football schedule for Ohio State game day traffic but otherwise this is a city that can be explored year round.
Have you been to Columbus before? Where did you explore? Leave a comment with your favorite Midwestern getaway city. We’re always looking for new ones to explore!