Visitors to Columbus will discover attractions that appeal to every interest. Families can experience the fun side of science at COSI, night owls can listen to live music as they sip martinis in the Short North and art enthusiasts can peruse works at the Columbus Museum of Art and Wexner Center for the Arts. Shoppers can meet every material need at Easton Town Center or Polaris Fashion Place, gardeners can indulge their love of flora at Franklin Park Conservatory and visitors of all ages can encounter their favorite animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
We've put together a list of attractions that rate high with out-of-town visitors as well as residents.For more information, call Experience Columbusat 221-6623 or (866) 397-2657, visit its website at ExperienceColumbus.com or speak with a representative at one of the visitor centers in Easton Town Center and the Arena District. You also can pick up informative publications in the airport and the convention center or check out visitor kiosks with maps located throughout downtown.
Here is Columbus Guests' list of the top tourist attractions in Central Ohio, in alphabetical order.
The focal point of this downtown neighborhood is Nationwide Arena, which serves as home to the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets and also hosts concerts and special events. The appropriately named Arena District, located on the northwestern edge of downtown, is a hotspot for tourists as well as locals. Following the arena's opening in 2000, the area quickly filled up with restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, including an indoor/outdoor concert facility, Lifestyle Communities Pavilion (461-5483), and the plush Arena Grand Movie Theatre (469-5000). At the Dispatch Ice Haus skating rink inside the arena, you can watch an official Blue Jackets practice or take a spin yourself during public skating hours; call 246-3380. McFerson Commons, a park lined with maple trees, adds some green space to the area, with the historic Union Station Arch serving as its entrance.
The latest addition to the neighborhood is Huntington Park, a new home for the Columbus Clippers, minor-league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The $50 million, 10,000-seat baseball stadium across from Nationwide Arena debuted in 2009. The diamond sits six feet below the sidewalk, with a section open to Nationwide Boulevard so passersby can take in the action for free.
For more information on the area, visit arenadistrict.com.
Capitol Square/Ohio Statehouse
Capitol Square, in the heart of the city at the intersection of Broad and High streets, is dominated by the refurbished Ohio Statehouse, a Greek revival building begun in 1839 and built over the next 22 years entirely by prison labor. Ohio's Capitol building, restored to its original beauty, features the stunning Statehouse rotunda; chambers of the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate, with reproductions of their original ornate chandeliers, desks and carpets; the Map Room, with a marble map of Ohio and its 88 counties inlaid in the floor, and the Senate building's Grand Staircase, with its original mosaic tile floor, skylight and ceiling murals. The Ohio Statehouse Museum on the ground floor features interactive multimedia exhibits depicting the democratic process, the workings of Ohio's government and the Statehouse's place in history.
The Statehouse is open weekdays 7 am to 6 pm and weekends 11 am to 5 pm. Free guided tours are offered Monday through Friday on the hour 10 am to 3 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday noon to 3 pm. Visitors should arrive at least five minutes before the hour. Groups of 10 or more are asked to schedule a tour in advance; call 728-2695 or (888) 644-6123. All tours depart from the Map Room, accessible from the Third Street entrance. Audio tour signs posted at the base of each monument on the Statehouse grounds allow visitors to use their cellphones to listen to free descriptions. The Statehouse Museum is open Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm and weekends noon to 4:30 pm. The Capitol Café is open Monday through Friday 7 am to 3 pm. For special events, distinct tours and group tour opportunities, visit ohiostatehouse.org.
There's often some activity going on outside the Statehouse, as well. The front steps provide performance space for free concerts and other entertainment, while the surrounding 10-acre lawn is dotted with cannons and statuary and is a popular spot for outdoor lunches.
Located just south of the Ohio Statehouse and bordered by State, Third, Rich and High streets, the new Columbus Commons park features nine acres of green space in the heart of downtown. The grounds include a handmade carousel, walking paths, an amphitheater for outdoor performances by local groups, gardens designed by Franklin Park Conservatory and a unique outdoor reading room, with books supplied by the Columbus Metropolitan Library, free Wi-Fi and space for literary events. A full schedule of events is planned for the park, which debuted in summer 2011; visit columbuscommons.org for details.
Columbus Museum of Art
The city's major art museum, at 480 E. Broad St. near the eastern edge of downtown, features a broad collection of American and European paintings-including works by Degas, Renoir, Monet and Picasso-as well as sculptures, photographs, ethnic art and an interactive children's exhibit. A substantial collection of 20th-century sculpture is displayed in front of the building and in an adjoining outdoor sculpture park. The museum frequently hosts traveling exhibitions; this season includes Caravaggio: Behold the Man!, Oct. 21 through Feb. 5, 2012. Year-round activities include lectures, gallery talks and children's activities. The museum also houses the Museum Store and the Palette Express, which serves lunch Tuesday through Sunday 10 am to 3 pm.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 am to 5:30 pm, with extended hours Thursday until8:30 pm, and is closed Monday. Admission is $10, senior citizens and students $8, children 6 to 17 $5, under 6 free. Admission is free for everyone on Sunday. Parking is free. Public tours, offered Thursdays at6:30 pm, Fridays at noon and Sundays at 1 pm, arefree with admission. Call 221-4848 or visit columbusmuseum.org.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
One of the city's top destinations for families, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is located along Rt. 257 about six miles north of the I-270 outerbelt in Delaware County. It continues to garner much attention through the promotional activities of director emeritus Jack Hanna. With more than 700 species of wildlife, the zoo designates the animals by geographical area, including North America, which features a wetlands area, songbird aviary and prairie dog habitat; the African Forest, with bonobo and gorilla habitats, and Asia Quest, featuring giant fruit bats, red pandas and Amur tigers.
Other visitor favorites include Manatee Coast, with a massive indoor habitat that serves as home to several of the endangered mammals, and Australia and the Islands of Southeast Asia, which features a tropical aviary, along with kangaroos and koalas. Polar Frontier, a major attraction that opened in 2010, is home to two polar bears, two Alaskan brown bears and a number of Arctic foxes.
For an up-close and personal experience, visit Animal Encounters Village and "Animals on Safari," a 20-minute show in which trained animals perform impressive stunts set to music.
Zoogoers can cool down at Zoombezi Bay, a water park with state-of-the-art water slides, lazy and action rivers, a wave pool and other family-friendly attractions. Zoombezi Bay is open daily May 27 through Aug. 24 and weekends through Labor Day; gates open at 10:30 am. General admission is $29.99, seniors 60 and over and children 2 to 9 $24.99, under 2 free.
The zoo also operates Safari Golf Club, a mature 18-hole course that includes a driving range and learning center.
Zoo hours vary throughout the year. Visit columbuszoo.org for current hours of operation. Special events include Wildlights in November and December, when the zoo is decorated with more than two million lights. Admission is $14, seniors age 60 and up and children 2 to 9 are $10, under 2 free. Parking is $5. Call 645-3550 or (800) 666-5397 or visit columbuszoo.org.
The Center of Science and Industry, a favorite attraction for young visitors and their families, recently was named the country's No. 1 science center by Parents magazine. Located at 333 W. Broad St. on the Scioto peninsula downtown, COSI focuses on hands-on learning. The $125 million museum park, housed in a massive structure designed by world-renowned architect Arata Isozaki, features more than 300 interactive experiences and exhibitions. Themed areas include Ocean, Space, Gadgets, Progress and an outdoor Big Science Park. Visitors can explore a working radio and TV station in the WOSU@COSI area, see a film in the seven-story Extreme Screen Theater and visit little kidspace, a safe and interactive area exclusively designed for tiny explorers. The center also houses the AtomiCafé restaurant and a Science2Go! store.
COSI hosts traveling exhibits as well, such as Dinosaurs: Explore, Escape, Survive, May 28 through Sept. 5, and Dora and Diego, Oct. 8 through Jan. 22, 2012.
Call 228-2674 or visit www.cosi.org for current hours and admission rates. Open until 9 pm the last Friday of every month for Family Friday night.
Easton Town Center
This hugely popular shopping, dining and entertainment center is a favorite destination for out-of-town visitors. Located on the northeast side at I-270 and Easton Way, the town center is an indoor/outdoor property that houses more than 200 retail, dining and entertainment options, including the Funny Bone Comedy Club, a 30-screen movie theater and first-class hotels. An array of top-name stores can be found here, including the Apple Store, Burberry, Tiffany & Co., Crate & Barrel, LEGO, Nordstrom, Madewell, lululemon, North Face, C.O. Bigelow and Sur La Table. Restaurants include the Cheesecake Factory, Smith & Wollensky, Mitchell's Ocean Club, California Pizza Kitchen, McCormick & Schmick's and P.F. Chang's China Bistro. Easton's pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined streetscapes include open-air gathering spaces, outdoor patios and unique fountains.
Easton Town Center is open Monday through Thursday 10 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am to 10 pm, Sunday noon to 6 pm; hours are subject to change, and several restaurants offer extended hours. Call 337-2200 or visit eastontowncenter.com.
Franklin Park Conservatory
This classic, turn-of-the-century "plant house" at 1777 E. Broad St. in Franklin Park, about three miles east of High Street, is on the National Register of Historic Places and showcases more than 400 plant species as well as spectacular glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly. The conservatory offers diverse climates including a tropical rainforest, a cool Himalayan mountain and a lush Pacific Island water garden. The 88-acre Franklin Park surrounds the conservatory, which also has extensive bonsai, orchid and palm collections. The Victorian glass-walled Palm House features a permanent light installation by artist James Turrell that uses colored LED lights to illuminate the historic space.
The conservatory also houses the Botanica gift shop and the Conservatory Garden Café and hosts lectures, workshops and family programs throughout the year. Special attractions in 2011 include the 17th annual Blooms & Butterflies exhibit, featuring thousands of free-flying tropical and native butterflies, running through Sept. 11, and Hungry Planet: Local Food, Global View, which runs Aug. 20 through Nov. 20 and features large-scale photographs and juried art installations depicting points of view on the American diet and eating habits, as well as local food trends.
Open daily 10 am to 5 pm, with extended hours on Wednesday till 8 pm. Admission is $11, students and senior citizens $9, children 3 to 17 $6, under 2 free. Parking is free. Call 645-8733 or (800) 214-7275 or visit fpconservatory.org.
German Village and the Brewery District
Just south of downtown across Livingston Avenue, an easy walk or short COTA bus ride from downtown hotels, these adjacent neighborhoods are favorite tourist destinations for culinary treats and self-guided walking tours in old-time Columbus. Originally settled by 19th-century German immigrants, many of whom worked in nearby breweries, the area has been in a constant state of renovation since the 1960s. Today, German Village is a nationally recognized historic preservation district with quaint brick streets and sidewalks that meander past restored houses and a number of fine restaurants and shops. The village's Schiller Park attracts picnickers during warm weather and hosts outdoor theater performances each summer.
Guided group tours of German Village are available through the German Village Society (221-8888) and include a standard tour and a deluxe tour that lets visitors peek into two area residences. Guided tours should be scheduled two weeks in advance. The standard tour is $6, senior citizens and students $5. Complimentary maps for self-guided walking tours are available at the society office and visitors center, 588 S. Third St., where a 12-minute video about the historyof the village can be viewed. The visitor center is open Monday through Friday 9 am to 4 pm, Saturday
10 am to 2 pm. For more information, visit germanvillage.com.
The Brewery District, just west of German Village, offers restaurants and bars in both old and new buildings. Along High and Front streets, visitors will find popular after-work and weekend gathering spots. Shadowbox Live, a sketch comedy and rock 'n' roll troupe, moves to its new theater space in the Worly building in August 2011. Nearby, the Whittier Peninsula recently underwent major redevelopment and now is home to Scioto Audubon Metro Park.
The 135-year-old North Market, which occupies a prime location between the Short North and the Arena District, features more than 30 merchants selling everything from exotic ice cream and authentic Belgian waffles to kitchen gadgets and vegan cookies. Vendors offer a wide variety of prepared foods, along with fresh fish, locally raised meat, imported cheeses and specialty salsas. The market also hosts events and activities throughout the year, from cooking classes and wine festivals to live musical entertainment.
The market, located at 59 Spruce St., is open Tuesday through Friday 9 am to 7 pm, Saturday 8 am to 5 pm and Sunday noon to 5 pm; some stalls also are open Monday 9 am to 5 pm. During the growing season (roughly April through early November), farmers set up outside the market on Saturday mornings to sell freshly picked flowers and an abundance of produce. Call 463-9664 or visit northmarket.com.
Ohio State University
The OSU campus, located about three miles north of downtown, is a world of its own, and well worth a visit. With more than 56,000 students, it is the third-largest single campus in the country. At the center of campus life is a parklike area called the Oval, laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City's Central Park. Around the Oval are the Wexner Center for the Arts and such venerable buildings as University Hall, Orton Hall and the Thompson library, which was extensively renovated in 2009. A new,$118 million Ohio Union debuted in 2010. This student activity center includes performance and ballroom space and five dining options. Also on campus is Ohio Stadium-aka the Horseshoe, or simply the Shoe-which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its more than 100,000 seats are entirely filled when the Buckeye football team plays at home. The South Campus Gateway along High Street features restaurants, bars, shops and a movie theater.
A student-led campus walking tour, bundled with an overview session about the university, is available most days, Monday through Friday and select Saturdays at 9 am and 1 pm. Tours leave from the Student Visitor Center at 154 W. 12th Ave. and generally last about two and a half hours. Reservations are required and two weeks' notice is requested; call 292-3980 or visit campusvisit.osu.edu and click on Visitors.
Polaris Fashion Place
Located off I-71 at exit 121, Polaris Fashion Place is a first-class shopping destination with six department stores: Saks Fifth Avenue, the Great Indoors, Macy's, Von Maur, Sears and JCPenney. This shopping, entertainment and dining venue is home to premier stores and restaurants, including Barnes & Noble, Coach, Sephora, J. Crew, Accent on Image, Swarovski, the Cheesecake Factory, Cantina Laredo and Dave & Buster's. Kids enjoy playing in the Columbus Zoo play area or dancing in the outdoor fountain in Polaris's Lifestyle Center.
Polaris Fashion Place is open Monday through Thursday 10 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am to 9:30 pm, Sunday noon to 6 pm; restaurants and some department stores have extended hours. Call 846-1500 or visit polarisfashionplace.com.
Scioto Mile officially opened in July 2011 and connects the downtown area to the Scioto River. True to its name, the park is a mile-long stretch of lush greenery, complete with a riverside promenade stretching from Battelle Riverfront Park to the newly renovated Bicentennial Park. Tables for chess and card games line the promenade, along with benches, swings and interactive water features. Visitors can enjoy free Wi-Fi on the Mile and in Bicentennial Park; the latter also features an intimate performance space, casual dining cafe and a stunning fountain with nearly 1,000 jets of water. Visit sciotomile.com.
Short North Arts District
This vibrant neighborhood packed with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants is Columbus's version of New York's SoHo. Home to the funky, exotic and trendy, the Short North is located just north of downtown and includes numerous independent art galleries, popular bars and restaurants and one-of-a-kind home furnishings, clothing and antiques stores. If you're looking for the hip and sophisticated face of Columbus, the Short North is the place to start. High Street sidewalks are jammed on the first Saturday evening of every month during Gallery Hop, when galleries, shops and eateries stay open late for a combination sale and party that brings out artists, patrons and revelers in full force. Visit shortnorth.org.
The Cap at Union Station over the I-670 freeway is lined with restaurants and provides a pedestrian link between the Short North and downtown, including the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the bustling North Market.
Wexner Center for the Arts
This eye-catching structure, situated at the main entrance to the OSU campus at 15th Avenue and High Street, houses contemporary art exhibitions; the best in new dance, theater and music from around the globe; eclectic film series, including free outdoor films in the summer, and a store and cafe.
When it opened in 1989, the Wexner Center appeared in every major architecture magazine. With its distinctive gridwork, split brick turrets and dizzying floor plan, the building itself-designed by architect Peter Eisenman-has been described as a work of art. The Wex has earned national recognition for its exhibits and can always be counted on to bring cutting-edge works to town.
The galleries are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11 am to 6 pm, Thursday through Saturday until 8 pm; closed Monday. The Wexner Center Store, which sells books, jewelry and great little artsy tidbits, is open Monday through Wednesday 10 am to 6 pm, Thursday and Friday until 8 pm, Saturday 11 am to8 pm and Sunday 11 am to 6 pm. Abbondanza is a casual cafe on the lower level, open Monday through Friday 8 am to 4 pm; visit wexarts.org/cafe for the menu. Gallery admission is $5; free for everyone the first Sunday of every month and every Thursday from
4 to 8 pm. Tickets to performing arts events vary; films typically are $7. Call 292-3535 or visit wexarts.org.
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Designed by renowned architect Peter Eisenman, this SMG-managed multipurpose convention facility is located four blocks north of the Statehouse on the east side of High Street. The building's newer portion-five sinuous rectangular shapes painted in a variety of colors-reflects the site's history as the home of Union Station, the city's major railroad terminal. The
1.7 million-square-foot venue includes 410,000 square feet of exhibition space, three ballrooms (including the new Battelle Grand, the largest multipurpose ballroom in Ohio), 65 meeting rooms and the Food Court & Shops. Call 827-2500 or visit columbusconventions.com.
Four beautifully restored historic theaters in downtown Columbus provide performance space for local arts organizations and guest artists; they're operated by the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (better known by its acronym, CAPA). The Ohio Theatre, perhaps the most impressive restoration project with its Spanish-Baroque design, is a former movie palace at39 E. State St., just south of the Statehouse. The Palace Theatre is on Broad Street just west of High Street; its design is comparably impressive. The smaller, exquisite Victorian-era Southern Theatre on East Main Street is the oldest standing theater in Central Ohio. The historic Lincoln Theatre, located at 769 E. Long St. on the east side of downtown, is one of the few remnants of the African-American downtown community, which built and lived in the area during the 1930s and '40s. This recently renovated Egyptian Revival-style theater first opened in 1928 and now serves as a state-of-the-art urban performing arts and education center. For more information, call 469-1045 or visit capa.com/columbus.
Ohio Judicial Center
Overlooking the Scioto River at 65 S. Front St., this renovated 71-year-old structure is home to the Ohio Supreme Court. The building is known for its fine Art Deco interior details, including mosaics and murals. Visitors may observe proceedings from the gallery when the court is in session, usually Tuesday and Wednesday mornings beginning at 9 am. A Civic-Education Center offers free scheduled tours for groups of eight or more Monday through Friday 9 am to 4 pm; self-guided tours also are available. (Visitors must present photo IDs.) Call 387-9223 or go to supremecourtofohio.gov.
Directly north of the Statehouse at 30 E. Broad St., the Rhodes State Office Tower rises 41 stories above the city. Guided building tours to the 40th floor, which on a clear day offers a 40-mile view, are available Monday through Friday 9 am to 4 pm; call 728-5405 to schedule. A changing display of works by Ohio artists is featured in the tower's five-story lobby.
On High Street just west of the Capitol, the 31-story Riffe Center for Government and the Arts houses state departments, offices for the governor and members of the Ohio House of Representatives, the Ohio Arts Council's Riffe Gallery and four performing arts spaces, including the Capitol Theatre. Half-hour tours of the building are available weekdays for groups of at least 10 people. Appointments are necessary; call 728-5405.
This full-scale replica of one of Christopher Columbus's three ships is berthed on the Scioto River at Battelle Riverfront Park on Marconi Boulevard, just a block north of Broad Street downtown. The ship serves as a history museum and offers guided tours. The 2011 season runs April through October, with the ship open Wednesday through Sunday. Tours are $4, senior citizens $3.50, children 5 to 17 $2.50. Call 645-8760 or visit santamaria.org.
This unique attraction at Town Street and Washington Avenue, at the eastern edge of downtown, reproduces Georges Seurat's postimpressionist painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" in topiary figures, some as tall as 12 feet. The only such re-creation in the world, the park includes 54 shrubbery representations of people, eight boats, three dogs, a cat and a monkey. A visitor center and store is open April through November on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm. The park is open dawn to dusk and is free. Call 645-0197 or visit www.topiarypark.org.
Kelton House Museum & Garden
This Greek Revival/Italianate-style building at 586 E. Town St. was the home of a prominent Columbus merchant family-including nationally known interior designer Grace Bird Kelton-from 1852 to 1975. The house, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, now is restored with Victorian furnishings. Open for drop-in visits Sunday 1 to 4 pm, except holidays. Tours for groups of six or more are available Monday through Friday with reservations. Admission is $6, senior citizens $4, children $2, children under 6 free. Call 464-2022 or go to keltonhouse.com.
King Arts Complex
This African-American cultural and performing arts center is located just east of downtown at 867 Mount Vernon Ave., in a neighborhood established in the 1920s as a center for African-American culture. The complex-now listed on the National Register of Historic Places-originally was built as the Pythian Temple by African-American architect Samuel Plato, and was renovated in 1989. Throughout its history, artists such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Roberta Flack have performed in the space. The center hosts a full schedule of arts events, including regular performance series. Call 645-5464 or visit thekingartscomplex.com.
Scioto Audubon Metro Park
Located along the Whittier Peninsula only a shortstroll from downtown, the city's newest Metro Park-and the largest in the state-includes hiking trails, fishingspots, a dog park, a 35-footclimbing wall and the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, an education center run by Audubon Ohio that features hands-on conservation and nature-based learning. Designated an Important Bird Area, the park's observation decks help visitors spot thousands of birds migrating from Central and South America at this Scioto River stopover. Admission is free (donations are appreciated). The center is open Tuesday through Sunday; call 545-5475 or visit grangeinsuranceauduboncenter.org.
While attending OSU, author, humorist and New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber lived at 77 Jefferson Ave., about two miles east of High Street downtown. The home was restored to the style of the early 1900s and since 1984 has served as a literary center with writing programs, workshops for children and adults and readings by noted writers. Thurber House is a living museum of Thurber memorabilia and is open daily 1 to 4 pm for self-guided tours. Guided tours are available; the cost is $4 for adults, $2 for students and seniors. Call 464-1032 or visit thurberhouse.org.
Victorian Village/Italian Village
These two residential neighborhoods flank the Short North commercial district on the west and east, respectively. Some of the finest homes in turn-of-the-century Columbus-many now elegantly restored-can be seen along Buttles and Neil avenues in Victorian Village. Young urbanites and families can be found walking dogs, jogging and relaxing in the community's Goodale Park, one of the oldest urban green spaces in the country.
AROUND CENTRAL OHIO
Alum Creek State Park
This facility, popular in summer, is as close as Central Ohio comes to having its own seashore. Visitors will find water skiing, boat ramps, crowded beaches, campsites and other outdoor activities. Call (740) 548-4631.
A popular attraction for Civil War buffs, Camp Chase is located along Sullivant Avenue on the city's west side. It was a Union military training camp and one of the largest prisoner-of-war camps in the North. The cemetery holds the graves of more than 2,000 Confederate soldiers who died at the camp. Every year, the Camp Chase Confederate Memorial Service is held to honor those who died. The 2011 service on June 12 at 3 pm honors the families of Col. William H. Knauss and Henry and Louisiana Briggs. Call the Hilltop Historical Society at 274-8962.
On St. Rt. 13 about 35 miles east of Columbus, this horticultural center, founded in 1929, features more than 15,000 living plants, including a peaceful Japanese garden, conifer glen and cypress swamp. The arboretum covers nearly 1,800 acres and includes eight miles of hiking trails. It is open 7 am to dusk year-round, except New Year's, Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Self-guided walking and driving tours are available, and admission is free. The Visitors Center is open Monday through Saturday 8 am to 5 pm, Sunday and holidays 10 am to 5 pm. Tours of the Daweswood House Museum are offered Saturdays and Sundays at 3:15 pm; admission is $2, children 12 and under $1. Call (740) 323-2355 or (800) 443-2937 or visit dawesarb.org.
A popular Central Ohio hiking spot is Old Man's Cave, located in Hocking Hills State Park onSt. Rt. 664, about 45 miles southeast of Columbus. The magnificently scenic area has gorges, cliffs, waterfalls, lakes and rivers that are accessible to hikers, as well as a dining lodge, cabins, campgrounds and picnic sites. A well-traveled six-mile trail connects Old Man's Cave to nearby Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. Call (740) 385-6842.
Inniswood Metro Gardens
This garden on South Hempstead Road in Westerville, about 15 miles northeast of downtown Columbus, once was a private estate and now offers more than 120 acres of forest and stream, as well as cultivated gardens featuring more than 2,000 species of plants. The 33-acre nature preserve features an extensive fern collection. The gardens can be visited daily for free from 7 am to dusk; free tours for groups of 15 or more can be scheduled with two weeks' notice. Call 895-6216 or visit inniswood.org.
There are 16 Metro Parks in the Central Ohio area offering more than 26,000 acres of land and water and more than 200 miles of trails. The numerous nature opportunities include hiking, biking and rollerblading trails as well as picnicking, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Each park offers its own unique attractions. Slate Run Living Historical Farm, for example, depicts life on a working family farm of the 1880s, and Pickerington Ponds is a rescued wetlands area that has turned into a bird-watcher's paradise with more than 260 species. All parks are free and open year-round. Call 891-0700 or visit metroparks.net.
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum
At the headquarters of the American Motorcyclist Association at 13515 Yarmouth Dr. in Pickerington, about 15 miles east of downtown Columbus, you'll find classic cycles from the late 19th century to the present, plus changing special exhibits. Hours are 9 am to 5 pm daily. Admission is $10, senior citizens $8, children 12 to 17 $3, children under 12 free. Call 856-2222.
Ohio Expo Center
The huge Ohio Expo Center-located just north of downtown off I-71-offers a diverse year-round calendar of events, with more than 150 annual shows, competitions and expos ranging from antiques sales to circuses to horse shows. Among the largest events in the 360-acre complex are the Ohio State Fair, July 27 through Aug. 7 in 2011, and the All American Quarter Horse Congress, Oct. 7 through 30. For event information, call 644-3247 or visit ohioexpocenter.com.
Ohio Historical Center
Just off the 17th Avenue exit from I-71, north of the fairgrounds, is the Ohio Historical Center. The unique cantilevered building offers exhibits on the history and geography of Ohio and houses the state's archives and a major research library with extensive genealogical records. Adjacent to the center is Ohio Village, which re-creates a small 19th-century Ohio town; it is open for special events.
The museum and library are open Thursdays 10 am to 7 pm and Fridays and Saturdays until 5 pm; closed on holidays. Museum admission is $8, children ages 6 to 12 $4, children 5 and under free; parking $4. Admission to the library is free. Call 297-2300 or visit ohiohistory.org/ohs.
Olentangy Indian Caverns
These triple-level caverns, located six miles north of I-270 off Rt. 23, offer a glimpse of life during the time the Wyandot Indians inhabited Central Ohio. The site includes gem mining, miniature golf and a petting zoo. The caverns are open April through October, 9:30 am to 5 pm daily. Admission is $8.50 for self-guided tours, $9 for guided tours, children 7 to 16 $5, under 7 free. Call (740) 548-7917 or visit olentangyindiancaverns.com.
Park of Roses
Tucked in the middle of Whetstone Park at 3901 N. High St., about four miles north of downtown Columbus, the Park of Roses displays around 11,000 rose bushes of more than 350 varieties, including a heritage rose garden featuring antique varieties. The park attracts dedicated rosarians as well as strollers who enjoy the beauty and fragrance of the garden. Call 645-3217.
This conservation, science and education center, located about 70 miles east of Columbus offSt. Rt. 146, is home to rare and endangered animals from around the world-including reticulated giraffes, southern white rhinos and Hartmann's mountain zebras-living in open-range habitats. Guests can take a guided safari tour through wildlife areas and visit the butterfly habitat, birding station, gift market and Mid-Sized Carnivore Conservation Center, with cheetahs and African wild dogs. The Wilds is open May through October; hours, tour times and prices vary. Call (740) 638-5030 or go to thewilds.org for details.