We’re getting to the hot part of the summer where you can’t go outside for more than 10 minutes some days without being a sticky mess. If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the heat, check out these free and cheap family activities around Columbus.
Community Rec Center Pools are great options for swimming when you want to stay out of the hot sun. Indoor pools are usually less crowded in the summertime too. Dublin Community Recreation Center ($5-$15), Worthington Community Center ($5-$8) and Westerville Community Center (currently closed for renovations) are about the same cost as outdoor pools, and less likely to be packed on hot summer days. Westerville Community Center also has a climbing wall (fees required), and a great, free indoor playground for kids off of the lobby (playground also closed for renovations in July 2019).
Goldfish Swim School Dublin has Family Swim for open to all every Monday – Thursday from 12:30pm – 1:30pm and Fridays 6:30pm – 8:00pm! Family Swim Event is just $5/person or $15 for a group of 3 or more; Family Swim Passes are accepted. Verify hours and dates before you arrrive.
6175 Shamrock Ct., Suite G, Dublin, OH 43016
Goldfish Swim School Westerville has Family Swim for open to all on Monday – Thursday from 12:30pm – 1:30pm select Fridays 6:30pm – 8:00pm! Family Swim Event is just $5/person or $15 for a group of 3 or more; members free! Verify hours and dates before you arrrive.
765 Brooksedge Blvd, Westerville, OH 43081
Splash pads and pools are a good place to stay cool, but don’t forget the sunscreen! Sunscreen wears off quickly in water, and the sun reflects off the water, so you’ll need to be extra vigilant on hot sunny days. Check out these free splash pads around Columbus, or find out where you can get a day pass for public pools in Columbus.
Enjoy the air condition and shade at these 50+ indoor play play options around Columbus. Be sure to check the websites, as hours may vary during the summer.
Grange Audubon Center: Small indoor play room with books, bird watching, costumes, climbing structure and cave.
Libraries are an amazing resource, and many have extra activities going on in the summer for all ages. Check out the closest branch to you, or explore one across town. They’re a great place for a play date too! Most are also offering special programming and events for the summer reading programs, so check out the prizes that are offered for these!
Mall playgrounds: Hit a couple of stores, and when the kids get restless, head to the play areas. After they’re done, the food court in the perfect stop for lunch or a snack.
Go bowling at a local alley with the Kids Bowl Free program. Family passes can be added on for less than $30, so the whole family can bowl for cheap all summer.
Arts and Crafts
Michael’s offers Kids Club every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. where kids can do weekly craft projects for just $2
Lakeshore Learning stores have free crafts on Saturdays from 11 am – 3 pm.
Home Depot offers Building Clinics for kids on the first Saturday of the month. Check the Home Depot site for dates, times, and schedule projects and help teach your kids about safety and building.
Join the fun at Polaris KidX Kid’s Club Summer Series on Fridays through the summer
Movies and Music
On the last Saturday of the month, The Gateway Family Film Center hosts Hoot Family Film Series featuring crafts, short films, music by the Shazzbots, and more. Admission is free; canned food donation requested.
Movies theaters across town offer free and cheap movies through the summer. Watching a movie in a cool, dark theatre is perfect for the hot, humid days.
After the sun goes down, the air cools off, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy an outdoor movie. There are TONS of free outdoor movies scheduled this summer all over the city!
These free outdoor Concerts in the Parks will be cooler once the heat of the day has passed, and you can enjoy dinner on a blanket, or dine from food trucks where available.
COSI Family Fun night is held on the last Friday of each month featuring reduced admission and evening hours.
Franklin County residents can enjoy half-priced admission at the Columbus Zoo on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. There are plenty of building to visit to get out of the heat on your visit, and you may discover new-to-you exhibits. Zoo admission can be pricey for the whole family, so if you think you would go a few times per year, you’ll save money with a yearly membership which includes parking. You can also take the COTA Zoo Bus and get $3 admission to the Zoo or $10 off admission to Zoombezi Bay!
Columbus Museum of Art offers free admission on Sundays and they have great areas for all ages – even toddlers! Kids under 5 are always free, and Thursdays from 5-9 pm are “pay what you want”.
The Works in Newark: Like a mini-COSI, there are plenty of interactive exhibits for all ages focusing on scientific, technological or artistic topics, driving simulators, invent lab to build and take apart, as well as a little kids area that features creative play with pretend produce and ice cream stands, puppet stage, science lab, firetruck, train table, and much more.
A-ha Children’s Museum in Lancaster is a hands-on, interactive, playful and educational fun that encourages everyone to explore and get their hands into everything. It’s the ultimate play place – and totally affordable!
Metro Park Nature Centers: These all vary in substance, but many of the nature centers at the Metro Parks have things for the kids to explore and interactive exhibits, so it’s definitely checking out all of the ones around you.
Wexner Center for the Arts offers FREE admission for exhibitions for everyone on Thursdays from 4 -8 p.m., as well as on the first Sunday of every month.
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State has exhibits and programming that comic book and cartoon fans will love. Admission is free! With cartoon and comic book focus, some exhibits may feature more grown-up material, but the museum attempts to place signs so that parents know to steer clear of certain areas with young kids.
Just want to take the kids for a sweet treat? Head to one of the many fro-yo shops around town, stop at Graeters on Bethel for ice cream and the indoor playground, or Our Cupcakery in downtown Dublin has a build your own cupcake bar where you can select a cupcake and decorate it with frosting and toppings. The price is just $1/oz, with the average price being $3.
Need some suggestions for grown up fun? Don’t worry, no date required…most of these would be fun with friends or by yourself!