There’s so much free and cheap fun for kids around Columbus in the summertime, and we’ve gathered a huge Bucket List for Kids in Columbus for you to explore!
Whether you want to enjoy the sun or avoid it, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor options to keep busy on the cheap.
From festivals and community events, movies and concerts, educational and cultural fun, to nature-focused or active fun ideas, cheap eats, and attractions in Columbus – you can fill your summer days with fun.
If you want to get away for a few hours or a few days, we have some out-of-town ideas that you’ll want to check out!
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- Free and cheap events this weekend in Columbus
- Bucket list of free and cheap fun for kid in Columbus
- Splash Pads in Columbus
- Over 50 Indoor Play Places and Activities in Columbus
- Over 15 Summer Reading Programs for Kids and Adults
- Touch a Truck events in Columbus
- Free and Cheap Summer Movies for Families
- Free Outdoor Concert Roundup around Columbus
- Free Movies under the Stars
- Discounted and Free Museum Days in Columbus
- Best Places to Pick Berries in Columbus
- Best Places to Pick Apples and Peaches in Columbus
- Over 325 Central Ohio and Columbus Festivals
- Planetariums and Astronomy: Best Places to See the Stars in Ohio
- Columbus Zoo Tickets, Discounts, and Free Days
- Kids Eat Free (or cheap) in Columbus
Scroll to the bottom to check out all of the Summer Family Fun coming up for the next 30 days.
Summer Bucket List: Festivals, Movies and Music in Columbus
Check out this list of over 325 festivals around Columbus this year. The list is constantly being updated as new festivals are added.
Pack a picnic and enjoy free outdoor movies under the stars at multiple locations around the Columbus this summer. There are also drive-in theatres all over Ohio that you can visit too!
Catch a free or cheap family friendly movies at theaters around Columbus when it’s too hot or too rainy, or you just need to get out of the house. There are options for almost EVERY day of the week, all summer!
Enjoy family friendly outdoor concerts around the city at over 22 locations nearly every night of the week.
There are 3 FREE Lolli-Pops! Summer Children’s Concerts in Powell this summer
Enjoy PBJ and Jazz free kids concerts at Topiary Park in June, July, August, and September. Kids are encouraged to dance around and have fun! Bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful Topiary Park.
Enjoy concerts for kids with Popcorn Pops concerts with The Columbus Symphony at Columbus Commons. Tickets are $10-$12 and include free popcorn and lots of fun activities before the concert like inflatables, obstacle courses, carousel rides, and more. Bring a picnic or snacks! Stick around for a movie under the stars after the concert!
Summer Nights at Zoombezi Bay are included with admission on select Fridays, and the park stays open until 10 p.m. and features after-hours water fun, animal ambassadors, music, and a dive-in movie at dusk at the wave pool.
Summer Bucket List: Nature and Active Fun in Columbus
Each Friday brings free activities and fun at Commons for Kids at Columbus Commons from June 10 – August 12. Games, inflatables, interactive fun, carousel rides, and more! If the temps are over 80, the water slides will be available, so bring towels and a swimsuits!
Carousel Rides at the Commons are FREE this year from April 22 – September 30! The carousel is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Closed during private events)
Stay cool at these 15 Splash Pads in Columbus
Most outdoor pools open Memorial Day weekend through the start of school or Labor Day! See the list of outdoor pools open in Central Ohio.
Go for a hike at Columbus Metro Parks or Preservation Parks in Delaware County. Enjoy your favorite park or check out a new one. Many have playgrounds or play areas just for kids.
Explore the Magical Fairy Trail at Infirmary Park in Granville! Take the kids on an adventure through the woods and keep an eye out for fairies as you find all 30 little fairy homes, schools, and businesses.
Bike the Olentangy Trail or the TJ Evans Trail in Licking County, whether you have a destination or just want to ride for a bit.
Pick berries and other fruit at u-pick farms near Columbus. It’s such a fun family activity with lots of photo ops, and you get to bring home the delicious berries! In addition to berries, peaches and apples should be ready for u-pick starting in late July at farms across Central Ohio.
Head to one of these Accessible Playgrounds in Columbus. These playgrounds are so much fun and are perfect for all ages and all abilities!
Visit Sunrise Sanctuary in Marysville on Open Barn Days to meet and learn about the resident rescue animals who were abandoned, abused, or neglected. Admission prices are: Adult (18+) Admission $10, Youth (4-17) Admission $5, and Children 3 and under are free. All funds raised go directly toward caring for the approximately 230 animals that call Sunrise home. Dates sell out quickly due to capacity limitations, so purchase tickets in advance!
Check out our list of over 50 Indoor Play Places that are perfect for too hot or rainy days when you don’t want to be stuck inside with the kids. They are great for playdates too!
Need some ice cream? Graeters on Bethel Rd. Scoops and Shoots Play Area is a free play area with slides and structures to climb in and around. No purchase necessary, but it’s ice cream, so just plan to get some while you’re there. Otherwise, the play area is completely free! Geared for ages 9 and under.
Go Bowling in Columbus!
- Kids Bowl Free: Enjoy 2 games of free bowling every day this summer at select bowling alleys with Kids Bowl Free! Add adults to the pass for one low price.
- AMF Sawmill and AMF Stardust: Purchase an AMF Summer bowling pass which includes 3 games per day, plus rental shoes all summer.
- Star Lanes Polaris: Stop in for the Summer Beat the Heat Bowling special on weekdays, Manic Monday, or Kids Eat Free on Wednesdays.
Roller skating in Columbus. Whether your kids are new to roller skating or experienced, it will make for a fun and tiring activity. There are 3 roller skating rinks in the Columbus area, and all are offering fun activities and skating parties over summer break. Sessions are 2-3 hours long, and some are discounted admission or included meals. Most of the websites offer additional coupons, so be sure to look for those
- Skate America in Grove City: Great pricing and plenty of discounts
- Skate Zone 71 near Morse Rd: Tons of skate parties with character visits. There are also discounted days, young teen nights, and adult nights, and more
- United Skates of America on Refugee Rd: Lots of family skate, character skate, and discount days.
Indoor Ice Skating. It’s not just a wintertime activity! Click on the links to find the most current public skate times.
- Chiller Ice Rinks in Easton, Lewis Center, Dublin and Downtown: Check public skate times and pricing for each location.
- The Ohio State University Ice Rink, 390 Woody Hayes Drive, Columbus. Phone: (614)292-4154
Public admission is $6, skate rental is $3. Closed during Summer 2020
- Lou & Gibb Reese Ice Arena, 936 Sharon Valley Rd, Newark. Phone: (740) 349-6784
Admission $3-$6, skate rental is $3. Closed until August tba.
Play: Cbus, 535 Lakeview Plaza Blvd Worthington, OH 43085
Bring your teens with you to free fitness activities around Columbus.
Free summer workouts for teens with the Planet Fitness High School Summer Pass. Teens ages 14-19 can work out for FREE in all of its 1,700+ locations nationwide from May 16 – August 31, 2022
Summer Bucket List: Educational, Cultural, and Artistic Fun in Columbus
KidX Summer Series at Polaris Fashion Place: Kids can enjoy FREE activities that inspire them to explore their world with Polaris Fashion Place. Kids will enjoy themed crafts, activities, music, characters, treats and more.
Cookies for A’s at Cheryl’s Cookies. Take your kids to Cheryl’s Cookies with their report cards to score some cookies for earning A’s! Note: I know certain schools do not assign letter grades. Please contact Cheryl’s directly to ask how they accommodate those.
Over 15 Free Summer Reading Programs. There are so any ways to get rewarded for reading with Summer Reading programs. There are options for all ages!
Kids won’t know they are learning during the fun Free YouthSpark programs at Microsoft stores.
Learn how to get the most out of your Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPod at Free Apple Workshops at the Apple Stores. They have courses available for all ages.
Story times in Columbus. Not only are there TONS of story times around Columbus, but libraries typically hold events and activities for all ages through the summer. Check out the summer programming for your local library – there are tons of special events going on!
Check out some stars at the best Planetariums and Astronomy Parks around Columbus.
Kids will love building something at the Home Depot Kids Workshop each month
Free Airplane Rides for kids with Young Eagles. Volunteer pilots give kids age 8-17 years old free airplane rides. The flight lasts about 15 or 20 minutes long, and the pilot also involves the kid in the pre-flight inspection, and teaches him or her about the instrument panel, aeronautical chart and parts of the plane.
Summer Bucket List: Must-visit Attractions in Columbus
Discounted and Free Museum Days in Columbus. Exploring museums is the perfect blend of entertainment and education, and a great way to spend an hour – or all day! Museum admission can be expensive, but some of the best museums in Columbus offer discounted or free museum days and special events. There are several great museums that are free all of the time!
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a summertime staple. There are plenty of indoor areas to explore when the sun is too hot or its raining. The Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Get $3 admission to the Zoo by taking the COTA Zoo Bus, plus other discounts and free days are available through the summer.
Zoombezi Bay is a little pricey for families without a membership, but it may be a good option for a staycation. Get $10 off admission to Zoombezi Bay by taking the COTA Zoo Bus.
Free Sunday admission at Columbus Museum of Art, with lots of fun for kids to enjoy in the Wonder Room other creative spots.
Central Ohio Fire Museum & Learning Center, 260 N. Fourth St., Columbus
The Fire Museum does have an admission fee, but at just Adults $8, Seniors $7, and Children $6, we thought it still deserved a mention because it was fun, educational, and historic. The restored 1908 Station #16 is full of fire department history, including hand-drawn, horse-drawn & early motorized fire apparatus as well as other exciting displays.
Kids will love visiting the play area, where they can dress up like firefighters, slide down a fire pole, and ride in a real firetruck cab complete with bells and sirens. The main goal of the museum and the educators is to teach people what to do in the event of a house fire, so you’ll get plenty of important tips and info.
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State has exhibits and programming that comic book and cartoon fans will love.
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.
Franklin Park Conservatory: There are multiple discounts available to make admission more affordable, including free admission for Franklin County residents on the first Sunday of each month for Community Days. Kids will LOVE the huge Scott’s Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden, so plan to spend a few hours there.
Visit the Topiary Park and check out all of the amazing living topiary sculptures. It’s a is a living recreation of Georges Seurat’s famous post-Impressionist painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte. The Topiary Garden Park is open daily from dawn until dusk, and admission is free to all visitors. Check out these other amazing public gardens around Columbus.
Take a train ride or several at The Ohio Railway Museum on Sundays.
Olentangy Indian Caverns near Delaware is awesome, even if you don’t plan to tour the caverns. There are outdoor play structures and lawn games, and gem mining. The highlight for my kids is the huge animal encounters area (just $4 per person). They loved feeding the friendly animals and frolicking with them in the “petting zoo”.
Factory tour at Anthony Thomas Chocolates: The tour lasts about an hour, where you’ll experience candy making from start to finish from the glass-enclosed suspended “Cat-Walk”. You’ll see 9 lines producing 30,000 pounds of chocolates per shift. Tours must be scheduled online; available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am – 3 pm. No walk-ins are permitted at this time. Groups can be scheduled for parties of 4 to 16 people. Admission Fee: Children 12 and under are $1.00 per person. Anyone over the age of 12 is $2.00 per person.
Summer Bucket List: Community events in Columbus
4th of July Parades and Celebrations around Central Ohio. Most parades, festivals, and fireworks
Explore over 20 farmers markets around Columbus – every day of the week! Kids enjoy helping to pick out produce and baked goods, and enjoy the entertainment.
Columbus Clippers have awesome promotions and a family-friendly atmosphere, and admission is cheap!
Cheer on our local MLS soccer team at the Columbus Crew SC games.
Touch-a-Truck events around Columbus. Kids LOVE these events featuring safety vehicles and other fun activities. They can climb on firetrucks and in police cruisers, and meet the everyday heroes in our communities!
Search for treasures at garage sales in Columbus.
The Irish Fairy Doors of Dublin Trail: Pick up your Trail Guide at the Irish Fairy Garden in the Dublin Visitor & Information Center (9 South High Street) and follow the path on your trail guide through Historic Dublin to different businesses to find tiny magical fairy doors. Find the name of each resident fairy, fill in your passport and return your completed passport to the Visitor’s Center for a FREE Fairy Doors of Dublin t-shirt.
Explore different areas of the city with Monthly Neighborhood Hops and Walks throughout Central Ohio. There’s fun for all ages at these events, and it’s a great way to check out the city.
- Franklinton Fridays– 2nd Fridays
- North Market Night Market – 3rd Fridays (June-Oct)
- Mount Carmel St. Ann’s 4th Fridays in Uptown Westerville – 4th Fridays
- Short North Gallery Hop – 1st Saturdays
- Moonlight Market on Gay Street – select Saturday nights
- The Grandview Hop – last Saturday (June-Sept)
- Sunday Sunlight Market on Gay Street – select Sundays
Cheap Eats in Columbus
Find other dining freebies and deals in Columbus here.
Kids Eat Free each day of the week at various restaurants (verify details before you go, as promotions can change).
If kids (or you!) have a summer birthday, there are tons of birthday freebies to redeem. You could make a whole day of it!
Have a picnic – seriously, kids love picnics! Bring a blanket, pack some special treats, and head to a park – or even your backyard!
Take a little drive to these fun places
Fun and Tasty Adventure Trails in Ohio. These tasty and fun trails will take you on an adventure in Ohio. You’ll find trails focused on faires, doughnuts, tacos, buckeye candy, and covered bridges (as well as several grown-up options). Complete them in a day, or spend the whole summer working through it. Several offer prizes for completing the trail, but the reward is the time spent along the way.
There are several fee-free days at National Parks through the year.
Road trip to Cincinnati and find 20+ things to do with kids
Head North of Columbus to Comfort Inn Splash Harbor Hotel with indoor waterpark, plus tons of fun activities in the area, like Buckeye Children’s Museum, Richland Carousel Park, U-pick farms, Buckeye Express Diner, and tons more (check out our post)
Tour the Butler County Donut Trail at your leisure and earn a t-shirt if you complete all of the stops
Dawes Arboretum in Newark features miles of beautiful landscaping and trails, plus an indoor Nature Center that kids will love. Note: they now charge admission for non-members, but there are a variety of free days, discounts, and passes available at the library.
The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology in Newark is like a mini-COSI for kids of all ages. The new SciDome Planetarium is opening in June, which will give you even more to do! Bring a picnic to eat in the courtyard, or grab lunch at a nearby restaurant.
Kids ages 3-5 qualify for a Free Pre-K Pass at Cedar Point. The Free Pre-K pass is good for unlimited visits through 2022 season at Cedar Point.
A-ha Children’s Museum in Lancaster is a fantastic play museum that encourages creative play for kids 1-8. The outdoor area is amazing, so you can plan to spend a few hours there. Check the link or visit the Facebook page for future updates.
Little Buckeye Children’s Museum in Mansfield: Huge creative play museum with exhibits in the arts, sciences, transportation, and imagination play for ages 2-12. See website for hours. Admission is $8 for 2 and up.
Mighty Children’s Museum in Chillicothe: Creative development exhibits and stations while allowing for self-directed learning for building creativity, divergent thinking, problem solving, and the ability to innovate. Open Wednesday – Sundays; admission is $6. Exhibits are ideal for ages 8 and under.
Hike at Hocking Hills: So much to explore, with trails, waterfalls, caves, and more. Book a cabin or take a day trip!
Farm at Walnut Creek: Check out the working farm, feed exotic animals, and enjoy family time in a beautiful setting. Ride the wagon or drive thru the farm to visit with and feed the animals.
Other resources that’ll help entertain the kids
Top Free and Cheap things to do in Columbus
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Check out the list of Free Family-friendly Summer Fun put together by Eat Play Cbus for other great ideas!
Summer Break Fun for the next 30 days!
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Options not currently available (but that we hope come back)
Get reduced admission and late hours on the last Friday evening of the month at COSI Family Friday Night, plus certified teachers get FREE admission all the time!
Thanks! We have a road trip coming up with kids soon and will definitely check it out!
Kelly Davis-Orr says
For those long summer drives, download some kids’ podcasts! Highlights Hangouts is a brand new one that kids will love!