Labor Day weekend signals the end of Summer for many. Pools close, school is in session, and its 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.
Obviously this year is a little different for Labor Day. Some of the major events, like the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival, the Annual Greek Festival, and other festivals and fairs, are cancelled. But you can still make the most of this long weekend. We have a few events you can still enjoy this Labor Day weekend, as well as some great ideas of places to explore around the city.
Free and cheap things to do over Labor Day Weekend in Columbus
We never know what our weather will hold for us, but hopefully we have some great weather for Labor Day weekend. Check out our huge list of outdoor fun, as well as a section of indoor or weather-proof activities, just in case…
Outdoor Fun for Labor Day Weekend
Sunflowers, glorious sunflowers! We are so lucky to have so many amazing sunflower fields around Central Ohio this year! While some fields have finished for the season, there are still sunflower fields in bloom, and more to come!
Nature walks and scenic hiking trails in Columbus Check out our list of great nature walks and hikes, or pick your own hike from the many Metro Parks around our city.
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.
Great locations for photography sessions in Columbus. Not up for hiking? Head to the parks and other areas around town for some great photo locations.
Drive to Granville, Ohio to visit the magical Fairy Trail at Infirmary Mound Park before the fairies fly away for the year!
Best Places for Canoeing and Kayaking in Columbus. If you’d rather be on the water, here are some great places to canoe, kayak, or SUP, plus places to rent the gear if you don’t have your own. Weekends are always popular, so you may want to book ahead in order to get a spot this weekend!
Creeking in Columbus: Creeks and other water to explore. If you’d rather be IN the water, or let your kids splash around, we have a list of great creeks to explore in Columbus if the weather is nice. Let them get dirty and wet before we’re stuck inside (or cold in the snow) for the winter.
Caverns, animals, and more at Olentangy Indian Caverns We love the Olentangy Indian Caverns…animals, activities, caverns, and more. You can spend several hours of fun here!
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. Many farms have early varieties ready to pick! Peaches are still in bloom at some orchards as well!
Go stargazing at a planetarium or observatory Public programs aren’t currently being held, but there are some star-gazing options on this list.
Walking labyrinths in Columbus and Central Ohio Want to take a moment to reflect? Walking labyrinths are the perfect way to zone out and tune into yourself.
The best Dog Parks in Columbus The dog days of summer may be over, but your dogs will love visiting these dog parks in Columbus. Fall is a great time to visit the dog parks for dogs that are easily overheated in the summer.
Drive in Theatres in Ohio. Catch a movie at the drive-in! Cooler evenings make for a more enjoyable movie experience (less bugs and not too hot!). Bring blankets to snuggle up! There are lots of drive-ins in Ohio, as well as a couple around Central Ohio.
Check out one (or more) of the most beautiful public gardens in Columbus before they change with fall weather
Weather proof fun for Labor Day weekend
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 the Celtic Cocktail Trail, Licking County Wine Trail, Route 33 Brew Trail, Columbus Taco Trail, Ohio Buckeye Trail, and more!
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. Some museums have not reopened yet, so check the links for changes/details/restrictions.
Featured Fairs & Festivals during Labor Day Weekend in Columbus
(find more below in the calendar listing!)
Van Wert County Fair: August 31 – September 6, 2021
Millersport Sweet Corn Festival: September 1-4. Festival, concerts, rides, 5k, and more
Greek Festival: September 3-6. The festival is a Central Ohio Labor Day weekend tradition which highlights Greek culture and features cathedral tours, authentic food and drink, exhibits, shops, music, dancing, and more.
Obetz Zucchinifest: September 3-6, 2021. Rides, car show, parades, and free concerts with Ezra Ray Hart, and Big & Rich.
Old Hilliardfest Art and Street Fair: September 4, 2021
Ohio Renaissance Festival: September 4 – October 31, 2021 Saturdays, Sundays, Labor Day Monday
Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival: September 4-5
Head to Buckeye Lake for some fun on the water!
Just 30 minutes outside of Columbus, Buckeye Lake is the perfect escape for all things lake, land + leisure. Don’t know what to do there? They just launched a new website and integrated mobile app to help you plan your trip ahead of time! Here are some ideas:
- Sweet Corn Festival: Kick off the weekend with food, parades, rides, contests and more at this ear-resistable event!
- Food Trucks: Stop by the Millersport Coffee Lot each Sunday from 11am to 4pm to pick up lunch from one of many visiting food trucks. Eat on site at one of the picnic tables or take it home but don’t forget to check out the shops along Lancaster Street and grab a coffee before you go.
- Live Music: The events page is full of opportunities to see live music while relaxing at local restaurants, breweries & wineries.
- On the Lake: Schedule a pontoon tour with Captain Buck, go swimming or rent a boat for the best (and possibly last) summer weekend on the water.
Food, Picnics & Barbecue
Plan to relax at home? Here are some BBQ and picnic tips and ideas from Living on the Cheap
Don’t feel like cooking? Check out the restaurant and fast food deals available over Labor Day weekend at Living on the Cheap.