Amazing and Free Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio.

Part of the charm of the state capital of Ohio is how affordable it is. The 14th most populous city in the United States and one of the fastest-growing communities, Columbus has a diverse economy of banking, food, clothes, aviation, technology and engineering.

There are many activities and events for every budget and every age group. The second largest city in the Midwest (after Chicago), the city spans over 200 square miles and hosts a selection of annual festivities and offers a span of parks, tours and festivals.

Enjoy the Many Parks

Take a hike in the glorious outdoor scenery with the thousands of trails Central Ohio has to offer. Some hikes are designed for the fitness fanatics, other for life’s strollers and some for those who want to stop and take in their surroundings.  Many tours can be done in free guided groups or alone, if you feel confident enough. 

Columbus’ Metro Park offers a variety of activities for children at no extra cost, a great option if you’re trying to amuse your kids during the holidays. Schiller Park, open to the public since 1867, has an outdoor amphitheatre that often hosts free community plays and concerts, as well as a tennis court, walking paths and historic statues.  The 71-acre Scioto Audubon relaxingly sits on the riverbank in the center of the city and is home to volleyball courts, a 15,000-foot climbing wall and various fishing spots. 

Visit the Statehouse

Take a free guided tour of the Greek revival state capital building, which is offered weekdays between 10am until 3pm and on weekends from noon until 3pm. One of the oldest working state buildings in the country, the building has a rich history and contains many large-scale pieces of art on the walls. Tours depart from the map room, accessible from the Third Street entrance by Capitol Square. 

Experience the Art

Opened in 1989, the Ohio Arts Council Riffe Gallery displaus the work of Ohio’s artists. It usually costs a small entrance fee but is free on Thursdays after 4 pm and on the first Sunday of every month.

 The free gallery is in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and Arts, just across the road from the Statehouse. Exhibits are diverse and always changing and include shows dedicated to photography, fashion, sculpture and quilts. 

It’s not just filled with art, there is something for everyone. The gallery also showcases emerging filmmakers, documentary producers and performing arts troupes.

Visit a Festival

Columbus holds a multitude if festivals with great food, entertainment and fun activities. June offers a Pride festival which celebrates the city’s June Pride Festival and Spring hosts an Asian festival filled with fun Chinese themed activities. Ohio biggest festival is Festival Latino which highlights Latin American culture. 

Other activities include the Columbus Greek festival which highlights Greek art, food and music and many Halloween and harvest related activities.  

James Thurber House

The James Thurber House was once the residence of the respected and famous American author, humorist, and New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber. A self-guided tour around his stunning historic house is free of charge on weekdays, for a small price you get a guided tour around the establishment and gardens. The listed house features a sculpture garden, a rotating schedule of art in its gallery and frequent literary events

Topiary Garden

The Topiary Park is perfect if you are a fan of both art and nature. Sculptor, James T. Mason’s creation is based on the George Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.”

The park is wheelchair-accessible and also features tables, benches and walkaways, perfect for picnics on a family day out. 

Listen to the Music

Every Thursday night, during the summer months, live bands and musicians can be found playing live at Polaris Fashion Place. The concerts run from the start of June until the end of August.  Bring your own chairs and blankets and make a picnic evening out of it. You’re not allowed to bring your own drinks, but they are available to purchase on-site, with all proceeds going to local charities. 

Enjoy family-friendly music, activities and film related activities at Hoot Family Film Series. Many of these events and activities are free with a non-perishable donation to the Open Shelter. The last Saturday of every month, they host child-friendly short film screenings from around the world, teamed with fun music and dance activities. Check their website 

Traveling to Columbus, Ohio from Outside the USA

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program designed by the American government that allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without needing to apply for a US government issues Visa.   

What is a VWP country, you may be thinking? A VWP country is selected by the US government to be in the VISA Waiver Program have high-income economies and a High Development Index, generally regarded as developed countries.

The ESTA online form can be filled out very easily and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. You must have a credit or debit card or a Paypal, a working email address and all required fields on the application form filled out accurately. You will get a reply shortly after applying and in no more than 72 hours.

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