It’s winter time, and indoor play is a great way for kids to burn off some energy. Whether you’re at home with your children during the week, or you’re hanging out with them on the weekends and evenings, sometimes you just need to get out of the house! There are plenty of indoor play places and activities in Columbus to help your little ones burn off some energy without worrying about the wildly fluctuating temps of winter in Ohio.
Please check links or call before you go in case there are changes in hours during the holidays.
Don’t forget to check out the Columbus on the Cheap event calendar to find upcoming activities and events going on in Columbus. You’ll discover family-friendly options, as well as plenty of grown-up date ideas and nights out, wine tastings, movies, and more.
Mall play areas and Stores with play areas
Polaris Fashion Place: The zoo themed play space is great for kids under 5 years old. There’s only one point of entry, and seating around the play area.
The Shops at Worthington Place: This play area isn’t big, but its clean and doesn’t get too busy. If you feel like splurging for lunch or dessert, hit up Pies and Pints for pizza afterwards, or just swing through Cookie Dough Creamery for a sweet treat.
The Mall at Tuttle Crossing: The kids area is on the lower level and is good for kids until 42 inches tall. There are structures for the kids to play on and seating around the enclosed area.
LEGO Store at Easton: LEGO lovers can play with a lego table set up inside the store, as well as other hands-on activities
United Art & Education in Hilliard: Play area in the front of the store
Pottery Barn Kids in Polaris: Toys for kids to play with, plus story times on Tuesday and other special events through the year.
Whole Foods Stores: Small play areas in the store cafe areas.
Barnes & Noble: Store usually have trains or blocks set out for kids, or they can look at books. Area stores all host story times and special events.
Free play areas and activities
Libraries: Most local libraries have a kids area with puzzles, small toys, and other fun activities, plus story times for all ages. The Columbus Main Library is a favorite with lots of play structures, double-sided fish tank, and more. Staff often walks around and interacts with kids. You can easily spend a couple of hours playing and exploring.
Graeters Scoops and Shoots Play Area: There’s a great play area in the Graeters on Bethel Rd. 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.
Columbus Museum of Art (Free on Sundays)- The Center for Creativity offers hands on imaginative and creative play in several areas for all ages. Free on Sundays, Kids under 5 are always free, and Thursdays from 5-9 pm are “pay what you want”
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.
Eagles Nest at Giant Eagle: Grocery shopping with kids can be stressful for everyone…but if you go to the Dublin, Westerville, and Kingsdale, you can drop the kids off at the FREE Eagles Nest. Kids ages 3+ will play (crafts, games, movies, etc) while you shop in peace.
Coffee Connections in Hilliard: This coffee house has a separate space behind with more seating and a kids’ area on the second floor with comfy seating and creative play opportunities.
Westerville Community Center: Free Tree Top Playground right off of the lobby which requires no membership or admission. The structure looks best suited to 2 years and up, as it’s quite high
Central Park Playland at Westerville Christian Church: Large indoor play climbing structure inside of the Westerville Christian Church. Open play during designated times throughout week, check website or Facebook page for hours (dates listed here). Best for kids ages 3-6. If your 2/3 year old is short or isn’t a good climber, the structure may be hard for him or her as the climbing platforms are a bit high for that age. There is one small slide that’s good for younger age, but it was often dominated by bigger kids who weren’t very patient with small toddlers. Socks required. Benches to sit and watch kids, plus a little cafe area with tables and highchairs in lobby to have a snack or lunch before you leave (cafe wasn’t open when we visited). Like the Facebook page for closure information (happens occasionally). Great option for birthday parties for just $75; book 6 months in advance as it fills quickly.
Grange Audubon Center: Small indoor play room with books, bird watching, costumes, climbing structure and cave.
Vineyard Community Center in Westerville: Free indoor playground from 6 pm-8:30 pm M-F, 9 am-2 pm on Saturday. Ages 4-11.
The Naz Playplace in Grove City Church of the Nazarene: Indoor playground for ages 4-11, and cafe inside the church, so you can grab lunch after the kids play. See hours on the website. Story time is held on select Tuesdays.
McDonald’s Indoor PlayPlace: Bethel, Sawmill, Renner Rd., W. Broad, and Worthington-Galena locations have indoor PlayPlaces. You’ll spend a little on lunch or a drink, but you have to eat anyway.
Chick-fil-A Playgrounds: Located at Grove City, Sawmill, Polaris, Hilliard, Easton, and E. Broad. Stop for a meal or drinks and let the kids play. Sawmill Chick-fil-A hosts a storytime from 9:30-10:15 on the first and third Monday of the month.
Ohio State University Airport: While this isn’t a play area, it’s a great place to explore! Watch planes and helicopters land and walk through the terminal. Pack a lunch or eat at Jack and Benny’s Barnstormer Restaurant.
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. 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. There are plenty hands-on activities, and a station tour with retired firefighters. They also offer information about what to do in the event of a house fire. Open Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Check Facebook page for holiday and weather closings.
Day-specific Drop-in Programs (typically not held during the holidays)
Toddler Time at Westerville Community Center, Fridays through November 16 from 9:30-11:30 am: For kids kindergarten age and under and their parents, $3 admission. Wide variety of large and fine motor skills equipment will be available, plus arts and crafts.
Pee Wee Play Gym at Westerville Community Center, Mondays, through November 19 from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.: 3-year-olds and under with parent, Drop In Rate: $3. Wide variety of large and fine motor skills equipment to play with.
Preschool Open Gym at Dublin Rec Center, Mondays and Fridays from 9-11 am through December 21: For ages 6 months – 6 years, $3 per child. The gym is set up with age appropriate toys and equipment for you and your child to play and have a safe, fun time. Follows Dublin Schools schedule and weather closings; no open gym on October 19, 22, & November 23
Play Cafes and Paid Attractions
Piccadilly in Bexley: Offer open play times and also structured classes (registration required), Drop-off days, and spring break and summer camps. Wifi, food ,and coffee available. Day Pass: 6-12 mos free, $7-9 first child, $5 per sibling (day pass entitles you to return visits on same day). Happy Hours Special! $5 per child 2-5 pm weekdays.
Peapod Play Cafe in Gahanna: Interactive toys and clean play spaces for kids, plus seating area for adults in view of the play area (adults welcome in the play area). Coffee; healthly, kid-friendly goodies; free Wi-Fi – very friendly staff. Great place for play dates. Ages walkers through 7 with an adult. Day Pass: $10 per child, $6 an additional child or $4 additional for three or more children. Last hour of the day $5 per child.
Firefly Play Cafe in Clintonville: Indoor playspace for kids 6 and under, plus special music, story and art times weekly. Wifi, snacks and coffee available. Day Pass: 0-12 mo free, $5 for 12-23 mos and $8 for 24 mos and up.
Tree of Life Play + Cafe in Hilliard: Multi-level indoor playspace is multi-level with tunnels, a slide, ball pit, and interactive floor games great for kids 46″ and under. Hours are M-W: 9am – 6pm Th-Fr: 9am – 8pm, Sa : 9am -12:45pm. Admission is $6.99 per child for day admission, $5.99 for siblings.
COSI in downtown Columbus: So much fun for all ages, and Little Kidspace keeps kids 6 and under contained and entertained. Tickets are $15-$20, plus parking. Memberships available.
Chuck E Cheese: Arcade, games, pizza, and more. Special offers available on website.
Pins Mechanical in downtown Columbus and Dublin: Duckpin bowling, pinball, ping pong, bocce, and foosball. Kids are welcome until 8 pm. 21 and over after 8 pm.
16-Bit Arcade in downtown Columbus: 40+ old school arcade games. While 16-Bit is usually 21+, the 3rd Sunday of the month from noon- 5 pm in Shorty Day. All ages are welcome with adult supervision. Location will be opening in Dublin; details tba for kids hours.
(pricing and hours subject to change; please verify at links before visiting)
World of Bounce in Columbus: 12,000 square feet of party and play area filled with gigantic interactive inflatables. Open Bounce times for kids ages 2+ $10* per child / $7* per sibling plus tax. Check website for hours. Monday evening is just $5. Viewing area and wifi available. Family Night is Wednesday from 6-9 pm for $35 including 2 adults, 2 children, large pizza, and drinks (add-ons available).
The Bounce Club in Powell: 2 large rooms of trampolines built into the floor and 2 foam pits. See website for open play hours for different ages. Pricing is $10 per hour and up, $8.50 for siblings. They also offer fitness classes, mommy & me, and teen jump.
Sky Zone in Lewis Center: Indoor trampoline park and foam pits. There are lots of open jump times (pricing starts at $8 for 30 minutes), but Toddler Time is best for walking – age 5 to keep kids safe from older kids. Tuesdays: 9:30am-11am Fridays: 9:30am-11am Sundays: 11am-12pm $10 per child. (verify schedule, as changes may occur) All toddlers must wear SkySocks. They also offer special Sensory Hours each month.
Vertical Adventures Training Center (6295 Busch Boulevard, Columbus): Open Hours are a fun way to check out rock climbing. There are Open Hours Monday-Friday from 3-8 PM, Saturdays from 11 AM-8 PM, and Sundays from 11 AM-6 PM. All first-time visitors receive FREE Day Passes every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday including all gear. Day Passes for all other visitors are $5 for kids and $10 for adults. Parents who want to learn more about managing the ropes can take a Rope 101 class; there are options available, one that includes an instructor to climb with the kids. Cost is $39 for a family of 4 and includes 2 free weeks climbing at all three locations. They also offer Rock Climbing classes for kids, summer camps, and climbing clinics.
Open Gym at Integrity Gymnastics in Plain City: Open gyms for Toddlers/Preschoolers, and for ages 6-16 every week. Check website for schedule changes. Cost is $5-$10.
Gym Skills in Gahanna: Preschool Area, Foam Pit Gym Area, Tumble Trak, and Juice Bar and Pro Shop. Stay and Play is for kids walking – 10 years old (sectioned off for younger kids), $8-$15 non-members Open Gym is for ages 6 and up to work on whatever skills they want. Cost: $12-$15.
Recreation Outlet in Powell: Enjoy all of the fun of going to a park – but stay inside! The huge indoor showroom features a huge variety of playsets, trampolines, basketball courts and more. Pay-to-Play on Mon-Fri is $6 for 2 hours, Sat-Sun and school holidays is $8 for 2 hours. Charitable Play is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m with a $2 donation per child per visit.
Magic Mountain in Polaris and Reynoldsburg: KidsGym Playland climbing structure for Ages 3 and older: Weekdays: $5, Weekends: $6.50, Ages Under 3: $3.00. Arcade games, laser tag, adventure golf, and more, as well as food available.
Lazer Kraze in Lewis Center and Gahanna: Laser Tag, Inflatables (Lewis Center), Trampoline Park (Gahanna), Arcade and more. Pricing for individual attractions on site; check specials tab for deals.
Glow Putt Mini Golf in Gahanna: Indoor glow-in-the-dark putt putt. Pricing is $5 and up.
Ice Skating: You don’t have to brave the frigid temps with these indoor ice skating rinks.
- 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.
- Lou & Gibb Reese Ice Arena, 936 Sharon Valley Rd, Newark. Phone: (740) 349-6784
Admission $3-$6, skate rental is $3.
- Merry on Main – Ice Skating at Partners Park: December 15, 2018 – January 1, 2019 (website)
Let the holiday spirit surround you this December with Merry on Main in historic Uptown Marysville! During the holiday season, Partners Park and its pavilion are transformed into Santa’s Village, which features a giant 30-foot Christmas Tree, Santa’s House and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, festive music, and dazzling Christmas lights. And new this year is an “iceless” ice rink! The simulated ice rink is open December 15 through January 1, 2019 and has a capacity of 80 skaters. Ice skates are required and are available to rent FREE of charge. Ice Rink Operating Hours: weekdays 5:00 to 8:00 PM; weekends 2:00 to 8:00 PM
Holiday Hours: Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day: 2:00 – 8:00 PM. Closed Christmas Day
Bowling: Check your local bowling alley for pricing and hours. Here are some family-friendly alley suggestions.
- Star Lanes Polaris, 8655 Lyra Drive, Columbus
- Rule (3), 650 Windmiller Dr., Pickerington
- Columbus Square Bowling Palace, 5707 Forest Hills Blvd., Columbus
- AMF Sawmill Lanes, 4825 Sawmill Road, Columbus
- Gahanna Bowling and Family Fun Center, 215 W. Johnstown, Gahanna
- Ten Pin Alley, 5499 Ten Pin Alley, Hilliard
Roller Skating: You probably did a lot of roller skating while you were a kid – and for good reason…it’s tons of fun!
- Skate America in Grove City: Great pricing and plenty of discounts through the year
- Skate Zone 71 near Morse Rd: Tons of skate parties with character visits. Little kids skate is on Saturday mornings. There are also discounted days, young teen nights, and adult nights.
- United Skates of America on Refugee Rd: Lots of family skate and discount days.
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.
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 and Fridays 6:30pm – 8:00pm! Family Swim Event is just $5/person or $15 for a group of 3 or more.
765 Brooksedge Blvd, Westerville, OH 43081
Goldfish Swim School Lewis Center has Family Swim open to all Family Swim Event is just $5/person or $15 for a group of 3 or more. Monday – Thursday from 12:30pm – 1:30pm and Fridays 6:30pm – 8:00pm
7838 Green Meadows Drive Lewis Center, OH 43035 (614) 407-3474
Dublin Community Recreation Center ($3-$8 for daily admission) 5600 Post Road, Dublin. Lazy river, zero entry for area, waterslides, and more. Check link for leisure pool hours.
Worthington Community Center ($5-$8, free under 3) 345 E. Wilson Bridge Rd., Worthington, OH 43085, Ph: (614) 436-2743. Great option for little kids with zero entry, little kids slide, plus lazy river and vortex and larger slides. Check link for leisure pool hours.
Westerville Community Center ($4.50-$7.50) Westerville Community Center also has a climbing wall (fees required), and a great, free indoor playground for kids off of the lobby. 350 N. Cleveland Ave., Westerville, OH 43082, Phone: (614) 901-6500. Pool features shallow area, lazy river, fountains, slides, and more. Check link for leisure pool hours.
Crafts and Activities
Michael’s offers Kids Club every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. where kids can do weekly craft projects for just $2, plus Make Break events through the year with lots of slime-making and other fun activities. Purchase may be required.
Lakeshore Learning stores have free crafts on Saturdays from 11 am – 3 pm.
Home Depot Kids Workshops are held on various Saturdays (usually 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.
Gateway Family Film Center hosts Hoot Family Film Series on the last Saturday of the month featuring crafts, short films, music by the Shazzbots, and more for donation of canned goods.
Take a little drive for one of these lesser known attractions
Dawes Arboretum in Newark: The Discovery Center is located in the lower level of the Visitor’s Center and has hands-on nature activities, puzzles, books, a working beehive (visible from inside), turtles, a snake, and an amazing Bird Watching Garden where you can watch a variety of birds, see chipmunks play, and may even spot a cat wandering around. If you’re there on a nice day, wander through the Storytime Trail outside of the Center, where you’ll read a page of a story at each stop along the trail. This is a fantastic place to get some exercise with a stroller on a nice day (lots of hills, wooded/shaded paths) and enjoy a picnic after you’re done too, so you can easily fill a couple of hours. Note: Dawes Arboretum plans to start charging admission in Spring of 2019. They plan to charge $10 per person per visit, or $60 family admission yearly pass. The family pass only is a good deal if you plan to visit multiple times a year, so once these go into effect, we will likely remove this option from the list. We encourage you to visit before then instead!
The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology 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. There are also history and art exhibits and a few outdoor features including an Interurban Railway Car to check out. The size isn’t overwhelming and you can check everything out and play in just a couple of hours. Kids 2-16 are $6 and adults are $10; COSI members get 1/2 off with COSI card via reciprocal benefits. Closed Sunday and Monday, offers free Curious Kids programs on Tuesday at 10:30AM with crafts and other fun based around a theme.
AHA! Children’s Museum in Lancaster: 4,000 square foot, adventure space featuring more than 30 hands-on exhibits and activities for children of all ages! $6 per person, open Mon-Sat 10 am-4 pm, and on Sunday, November through March only 12-4 pm. On mild days, check out the amazing new outdoor area!
Jolly Hoppers Bounce and Play Center is also in Lancaster, so if your kids have the stamina, you can go there after A-HA, or take a separate trip entirely. Admission is just $7 per child with no time limit during open bounce (Wednesday + Thursday: 10am-2pm, Friday: 3pm-7pm, Sunday: 12pm-3pm). We made a weekend out of visiting both of these attractions, and stayed in a hotel nearby. It was a fun filled weekend with our family. Read the details about our weekend visit to Fairfield County here. There are other options in the same plaza area for slightly older kids. Jump N Trampolines & Foam Pits ($7/hour) includes foam pits, trampolines, dodge ball, and climbing walls. (see website for open jump hours). Tag-M Laser Tag features two bases that each team must conquer to win in a 6000 square foot arena.
Little Buckeye Children’s Museum in Mansfield: Exhibits in the arts, sciences, transportation, and imagination play for ages 2-12. See website for hours. Admission is $8 for 2 and up. There are 2 floors of imaginative fun, and many different themed sections that kids will enjoy.
When you’re done at Little Buckeye Children’s Museum, walk one block to the Richland Carousel Park for a few spins on the beautiful hand-carved carousel. Ride tickets are just $1, and are less expensive when you buy more.
SPI Sciece Play Initiative in Mount Vernon: Non-profit, local play space with a focus on science and technology, located in the Kenyon College Wright Center (400 S. Main Street, Mount Vernon, Ohio). Open every day except Wednesday. Admission is $3; memberships (monthly and annualy) available. Free on Second Saturdays from 2:00-5:00 p.m. from December – April. Free during Main Street Mount Vernon First Fridays from May through October.
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.
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Don’t forget to check out the birthday freebies for kids (and you!), and take advantage of some great offers during birthday months!