10 Outdoor Activities in Columbus, Ohio: A Local’s Guide to Parks, Trails, and More

Updated on June 8th, 2023

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Columbus is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with a plethora of exciting activities to keep residents entertained and engaged with nature. From exploring parks and gardens to biking and kayaking, the city is full of adventure. Whether you’re a long-time local, are considering buying a house in Columbus, or searching for apartments in the city on Redfin, there’s no shortage of things to do outside. Get ready to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Columbus with these 10 exhilarating outdoor activities that locals can’t get enough of.

lion at the columbus zoo

1. Explore the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

In the heart of Columbus, Ohio, is the renowned Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a perfect destination for anyone living in Columbus. Spanning over 580 acres, this world-class facility is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from across the globe. Embark on an immersive journey through themed regions such as the African Savanna, North America, Asia Quest, and more. With a focus on conservation and education, the Columbus Zoo offers a wide array of interactive exhibits, educational programs, and up-close encounters with wildlife. In addition to the animal attractions, you can also enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including rides, a water park, and a golf course, making it an ideal outing for the whole family.

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2. Stroll through the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

For those seeking a serene retreat to connect with nature and art, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a must-visit destination. This captivating 88-acre complex showcases diverse plant collections, breathtaking gardens, and spectacular art installations that promise a rejuvenating experience. The Conservatory is home to over 400 species of plants from around the world, housed in various biomes, including a desert, a rainforest, and a Himalayan mountain range. The captivating Chihuly Collection features the stunning glass artwork of Dale Chihuly, masterfully integrated into the lush green landscapes. 

3. Visit the Scioto Mile

The Scioto Mile is a picturesque urban oasis, stretching along the banks of the Scioto River and connecting downtown Columbus with the vibrant Arena District. This scenic waterfront park offers an array of outdoor recreational activities for locals to enjoy, with miles of multi-use trails for walking, jogging, and biking. The Scioto Mile also boasts an interactive fountain, perfect for children to play in during warm summer months, and ample green space for picnics or simply soaking up the sun. Cultural events, concerts, and festivals frequently take place at the Bicentennial Park amphitheater, adding to the dynamic atmosphere of the Scioto Mile. As you explore this beautiful park, be sure to stop at one of the many charming cafes, restaurants, or local shops that line the streets, offering a taste of Columbus’ thriving urban scene.

4. Explore the Olentangy Trail

The Olentangy Trail offers a delightful escape for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, providing a 13-mile-long scenic pathway that meanders through the heart of Columbus. Following the banks of the Olentangy River, the trail connects several parks, including Antrim Park, Whetstone Park, and the Park of Roses. The tree-lined, paved route is perfect for walkers, joggers, and cyclists, while the numerous access points and resting spots along the way make it a convenient and enjoyable excursion. The Olentangy Trail also serves as a crucial link to other popular trails in the area, such as the Scioto Greenway Trail and the Alum Creek Trail.

alum creek in columbus ohio

5. Bike the Alum Creek Greenway Trail

The Alum Creek Greenway Trail is a hidden gem in the Columbus area, offering a scenic, 22-mile-long route that traverses diverse landscapes and connects numerous parks and recreational facilities. Winding along the Alum Creek, the trail presents picturesque views of the waterway, lush woodlands, and open meadows, providing an idyllic setting for walking, jogging, or cycling. Several trailheads and access points make it easy to join the trail at various locations, while the multiple bridges and underpasses ensure a smooth and uninterrupted journey. The Alum Creek Greenway Trail is also part of the Ohio to Erie Trail, a 320-mile-long route that connects the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Lake Erie in Cleveland.

6. Visit the Topiary Garden Park

Nestled in the historic downtown area of Columbus, the Topiary Garden Park is a unique and enchanting outdoor attraction. Inspired by Georges Seurat’s famous painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” the park features a living topiary interpretation of the artwork, complete with 54 life-sized human figures, eight boats, three dogs, a monkey, and a cat, all meticulously sculpted from yew trees. The carefully manicured gardens and tranquil pond provide a serene backdrop for this impressive display of living art. Not only is the topiary exhibit a sight to behold, but the park itself also boasts plenty of open green space, walking paths, and benches, providing the perfect setting for a peaceful picnic, leisurely stroll, or even an outdoor art lesson. Nestled in the heart of a historic neighborhood, the Topiary Park is a charming and whimsical oasis that offers respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

7. Play a round of golf at one of Columbus’s many golf courses

Columbus is home to several excellent golf courses, including the Muirfield Village Golf Club, which hosts the annual Memorial Tournament. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced golfer, there’s a course for everyone to enjoy. The courses also offer stunning views of the city’s natural beauty, making it a unique golfing experience. 

carousel at the columbus commons

8. Attend a concert or movie at the Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons is a vibrant, urban green space in the heart of downtown Columbus that serves as a hub for community gatherings and outdoor activities. This inviting six-acre park boasts lush lawns, beautifully landscaped gardens, and a state-of-the-art performance stage, which hosts a variety of cultural events, concerts, and festivals throughout the year. Columbus Commons is also home to an enchanting carousel, a reading room, and outdoor fitness classes, catering to visitors of all ages and interests..

9. Go kayaking on the Scioto River

One aspect that makes Columbus such a good place to live is its proximity to water. For those who prefer water-based activities, kayaking on the Scioto River presents a unique way to experience Columbus’ natural beauty. The gentle currents of the river provide an ideal environment for both novice and experienced kayakers, allowing for a leisurely paddle while taking in the city’s picturesque skyline and lush riverside landscapes. Several outfitters along the river offer kayak rentals and guided tours, making it easy for visitors to embark on this aquatic adventure. Paddling through the heart of the city, you’ll have the opportunity to observe wildlife, explore secluded islands, and witness the vibrant urban life of Columbus from a refreshing new perspective.

10. Hike the trails at Highbanks Metro Park

Highbanks Metro Park, located just north of Columbus, is a sprawling 1,200-acre natural oasis that provides an ideal setting for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and reconnect with nature. The park’s extensive trail system offers over 11 miles of picturesque hiking trails, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty, catering to a variety of skill levels and interests. As you traverse the diverse landscapes, including lush forests, open meadows, and steep ravines, keep an eye out for the park’s abundant wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and various bird species. Highbanks Metro Park is also home to a number of ancient Native American earthworks and burial mounds, adding an element of historical intrigue to your outdoor adventure.

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.

Chibuzo Ezeokeke

Chibuzo is part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about local insights and home improvement. His dream home is a Mediterranean-style house with a large kitchen and plenty of windows.

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