Labor Day weekend signals the end of Summer for many, with pools closing, schools in session, and the last long weekend of summer. If you’re more of a fall person (like me), it marks the start of our glorious fall season. Either way you look at it, it’s cause for celebration.
Labor Day is a federal holiday, celebrated on the first Monday in September. Government offices, schools, banks, libraries, and many businesses are closed, while stores and entertainment venues such as movie theaters typically remain open.
History of Labor Day Weekend
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City as proposed by the Central Labor Union. The day was designated to recognize the contributions American workers make to the prosperity of the country.
Over the next decade, other states joined in to celebrate Labor Day, organizing parades, speeches by prominent labor leaders, and an amusement festival for labor workers and their families. In 1894, Congress made Labor Day a legal holiday. Thus it’s a day off for many, except those working at 24/7 types of business and the entertainment and retail industries.
We’ve gathered a list of free and cheap things to do on Monday for the Labor Day holiday (as well as some ideas for the whole weekend. You’ll find out local events, as well as some great picnic and BBQ tips from our mother site, the national Living on the cheap website.
Free and cheap things to do over Labor Day Weekend in Columbus
- The Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival. This annual arts festival has fun for everyone.
- Great locations for photography sessions in Columbus
- Free Metro Park hikes and activities
- Best hikes and scenic drives for Fall Color in Ohio. While you aren’t likely to see much fall color until later in the season, you’ll start to see subtle changes starting in September.
- U Pick: Best places to pick apples in Columbus. Wander through an orchard for fresh air and juicy apples. Even if the weather is hot, this just SCREAMS fall.
- Happy Hour! Let’s face it – happy hour is a great date any time of the year. Discounted food and beverage, a more relaxed and social atmosphere, and early hours that leave the rest of your night free – which is especially good if its a first date AND last date! This huge happy hour list is always being added to – I’d love to know your favorite!
- Columbus Ale Trail: Travel the Ale Trail through Central Ohio and find a new favorite craft beer.
- Catch a caffeine buzz with the Columbus Coffee Trail. After four stops, you earn a free Columbus coffee experience t-shirt and after all 19 stops, you earn a free travel mug, presented by AT&T.
- Check out these other Fun and Tasty Adventure Trails, including Gahanna’s Herbal Cocktail Trail, Licking County Wine Trail, Route 33 Brew Trail, Columbus Taco Trail, Ohio Buckeye Trail, and more!
- Drive to Granville, Ohio to visit the magical Fairy Trail at Infirmary Mound Park before the fairies fly away for the year!
- Discounted and Free Museum Days in Columbus: Check out this whole list of free and check museum days and explore the arts in Columbus! Check for special hours over Labor Day weekend.
- Play like a kid at a game-based bar like Pins Mechanical or 16-Bit Bar + Arcade. If you’ll be at the downtown locations, dine at one of the eaterys along 4th Street like Dirty Franks, Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Little Palace, or El Camino Inn. They are all amazing and are all in the same block, so just grab a seat wherever you can.
- Check out one (or more) of the most beautiful public gardens in Columbus before they change with fall weather
- Finish up your Back-to-School Shopping with these lists
- Get a day pass at one of these pools in Central Ohio
- Enjoy one of the Splash Pads around the city to cool off
- Go stargazing at a planetarium or observatory
- Labor Day Weekend at the Columbus Commons. They aren’t hosting anything ON Labor Day, but they have free concerts and a Shadowbox Live performance over the weekend.
Featured Fairs & Festivals during Labor Day Weekend in Columbus
(find more below in the calendar listing!)
- Van Wert County Fair: August 28 – September 2
- Obetz Zucchinifest: August 30 – September 2. Entertainment, FREE concerts, food, beer garden, a cruise-in and motorcycle show, and a fantastic parade. Admission is free!
- Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival: August 30 – September 1
- Greek Festival: August 30 – September 2
- Canal Winchester Labor Day Festival: August 31 – September 2
- Ohio Renaissance Festival – August 31 through October 27, Saturdays, Sundays, Labor Day Monday
Food, Picnics & Barbecue
Plan to relax at home? Here are some BBQ and picnic tips and ideas from Living on the Cheap
- How to throw a picnic for less
- How to save money on a summer party
- Cheap recipes for your barbecue
- Save money with healthy summer salads
- Easy recipes with cheap summer sweet corn
- Keep the kids cool with DIY ice pops