The sun is out. The party's on.

Summer weather brings us outdoors, where everything is shared—from the smoky smell of the barbecue to the soaring sounds of an open-air concert. New greenspaces, an ever-expanding fleet of food trucks, thriving local music and arts scenes and a growing array of craft breweries and distilleries make each Columbus summer better than the last. Summer is Columbus’ social season; come out and join the party.


46,750 pounds of fireworks can make a whole lot of sight and sound—and that’s what draws the crowds to Bicentennial Park and the surrounding areas each year for Red, White & Boom, Ohio’s biggest display of fireworks. Independence-Day revelers don’t wait for dark; with the daylong party spread throughout the Arena District and Downtown, there will be plenty of ways for the whole family to spend the day celebrating America’s birth. Free. July 3.

The annual Doo Dah Parade celebrates “the liberty and lunacy of freedom of speech” with crazy costumes and sassy satire. This year’s “less-than-grand” marshal is local television, stage and film personality Johnny DiLoretto. Get your groove on by claiming a spot along the route of the Short North parade, which starts at Park Street at 1 p.m. Free. July 4.

Whether your automotive tastes run to a classic roadster’s sophisticated curves or a hot rod’s stripped-down architecture, you’ll find much to appreciate at the Goodguys PPG Nationals at the Ohio Expo Center. A general admission ticket includes access to the car show, exhibits, a swap meet and more. Explore the cars, then take in the cone-dodging fun at one of the weekend’s many autocross events. $15–$20. July 6–8.

Last year’s first-ever Picktown Palooza, celebrating all things Pickerington, got off to a rocky start when torrential flooding washed out the festival’s first two days. The community rose to the occasion in Pickerington pioneer style, and this year the festival will be located in the town’s historic downtown district. Night Ranger, playing Friday night, will headline four days of live entertainment. But there also will be carnival rides, games, food vendors, a 5K and fun run, and a car and bike show. $5–$20 includes all live entertainment; rides ticketed separately. July 11–14.

Harness racing, a truck pull and a demolition derby are just some of the events that liven up the traditional farm exhibition fare when the Franklin County Fair takes over the county fairgrounds in Hilliard for eight days of “Farm, Family, Food and Fun.” $7. July 14–21.

The most lucrative prize at the first Ohio State Fair, held in 1850, was awarded to the author of the best essay on improving soil. 168 years later, the fair still puts a spotlight on excellence in farming. But there’s oh-so-much more, from butter sculpture to drone racing. Skip the midway and enter the tattoo competition—then head to a performance: This year’s lineup includes Reba McEntire, The Commodores and superstar ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. $6–$25, children under 5 free. Concerts ticketed separately. July 25–Aug. 5.


The Drexel Theatre’s “America’s Greatest Films” series continues through the summer with free classic movies followed by a Q & A on the first Tuesday of each month. This summer’s offerings will be “To Kill a Mockingbird” (June 5), “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (July 3) and “American Graffiti” (Aug. 7). Free. June 5–Aug. 7.

Reading outside is one of the pleasures of summer, so why not go a step further and talk about books outside as well? For 32 years, Thurber House Summer Literary Picnics have drawn book lovers to the lawn of James Thurber’s former Jefferson Avenue home for readings and talks by local authors as well as tours of the house. This summer, poet Scott Woods will read works from the Harlem Renaissance as part of the “I, Too Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100” citywide event (July 11); Jessica Strawser, Dan Gearino and Karen Harper are just a few of the other writers featured. Boxed dinners are available, or you can bring your own. June 13–Aug. 22.

The CAPA Summer Movie Series returns the Ohio Theatre to its original role as a grand movie house, with 25 classic films screened over eight weeks. As in days of yore, pre-show and intermission entertainment are provided on the theater’s “Mighty Morton” organ, and the series includes live organ accompaniment at select silent films. This year’s flicks include “Some Like It Hot,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” a morning of cartoon capers and a special presentation of “Fright Night” with local legend Fritz the Nite Owl. $5 per screening. Strips of 10 tickets available for $30. June 15–Aug. 4.

If you’re looking for a chance to revisit the debate about which is better, the book or the movie, you’ll have a wealth of opportunities this summer as the Columbus Metropolitan Library partners with the Gateway Film Center to present the Book to Film Outdoor Movie Series in the Columbus Topiary Park. Films start at dusk on June 30 (“Marley and Me”), July 28 (“Howl’s Moving Castle”) and August 25 (“Arrival”). But there’s more: the Gateway is offering a movie inspired by a book at the theater every day from May 25 to Aug. 23. Admission is free with a library card.;

What better place to see a midsummer performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” than at your neighborhood library? Columbus Metropolitan Library is partnering with the Franklinton Playhouse for four performances of a modernized version of Shakespeare’s popular, chaotic brew of love triangles, love potions and woodland sprites and fairies. Free. All performances 6–7 p.m. June 27, Franklinton Branch; June 28, Main Library Children’s Area; July 18, Whitehall Branch; July 19, South High Branch.

A group called “For the Common Good” wants to turn the Hilltop from an “art desert” into an art oasis, and Summer Jam West is part of the plan. The theme of this year’s music and art festival at Westgate Park is “Hilltop Rising,” referencing a new phoenix-shaped sculpture that will be installed this summer at the Hilltop’s highest point. The festival itself will feature local artists and musicians and six professional chalk artists making their fleeting beauty. Free. July 14.

The Westerville Music & Arts Festival is in its 45th year, and its presenting sponsor—the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce—is turning 50. A special Saturday evening family concert with Shucking Bubba will mark the occasion, while the festival continues its tradition by presenting the works of 150 artists in an outdoor juried show, accompanied by music from more than 30 local performers. Heritage Park, Westerville. $1 for the whole weekend. July 14–15.

“Dusk” is when the movies start at the Wex Drive-In series—generally around 9 p.m.—but you’re invited to come to the Wexner Center Plaza any time after 8 p.m. to lay out a blanket or set up a lawn chair (despite the name, your vehicle is not invited). This summer’s series offers two takes on the timeless battle between good and evil: “Batman” (July 19) and “The Fifth Element” (Aug. 14) Free.

Beer and food trucks make everything better, and the German Village Art Crawl is no exception. The annual art party turns Macon Alley into a unique exhibition, which this year will expand its offerings to include a programmed stage, performance artists in the alley, emerging and differently abled artists and a VIP option, as well as expanded sales space for local artists (see Event Spotlight on Page 62). Oh yes, and food trucks and local brews. $10–$25. July 21, 4–9 p.m.


Polo is one of very few events where spectators are expected to dress nicely, then come onto the field and stamp out the divots left by horses’ hooves after the match (Note to self: Don’t wear heels). It’s all part of the fun for attendees of Polo at Bryn Du, where games are played on the Great Lawn of the historic Granville mansion from 3–5 p.m. the first and third Sundays of each month from June through Oct. 2. Free. 537 Jones Rd., Granville.

Columbus Crew SC fans may look at this season as a last opportunity to see their beloved team play in Mapfre Stadium, as team owner Anthony Precourt continues to investigate the hotly debated possibility of uprooting the Crew for Austin’s warmer clime. You can show your fanatical fandom in the Nordekke or seek out a calmer seat location to watch the Crew at home on June 2, 9, 13 and 30, July 21, Aug. 11 and Sept. 1.

As a 10th-anniversary gift this year, the Columbus Clippers’ Huntington Park received a new scoreboard and turf. Baseball fans, too, will get a special gift: both the Triple-A All-Star Game (July 11) and the Triple-A National Championship Game (Sept. 18) will be held at the Clippers’ Downtown ballpark. The All-Star Game will culminate a three-day fanfest that includes a home run derby, fireworks and a street party on Nationwide Boulevard. July 9–11.

Everybody’s a winner at the 2018 Color Run, aka “the happiest 5K on the planet,” where runners line up at the start wearing white and finish decked in a rainbow, thanks to bursts of colored dust at each kilometer. The event also features bubbles, “super zones” with double color, and plenty of inflatables (See Event Spotlight on Page 66). $15–$45. July 21.

Ninety laps on a varied, narrow, windy track in the heat of summer—that’s the Honda Indy 200, and fans flock to Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to watch. The 2017 winner, Josef Newgarden, returns to defend his victory but New Albany native Graham Rahal will be back as well, seeking to reprise his memorable win in 2015. $55–$85. July 27–29.


Locavores will appreciate the options at the North Market Ohio Wine Festival, where 20 Ohio vintners will present their offerings. Try a taste and buy a bottle to take home while enjoying live entertainment throughout the weekend and a farmers market on Saturday. Festival tickets are good for both days and include a $5 food voucher, tastings and a souvenir glass. $25–$30. July 13–14.

The title of this festival’s website—hotribscooljazz—says it all. The combination of wall-to-wall live outdoor jazz performances and a diet-busting array of barbecued ribs, chicken and anything else that improves with grilling makes the three-day Jazz & Rib Fest on the banks of the Scioto one of Columbus Monthly readers’ most popular summer events. Free. July 20–22.

If you prefer your ribs with smoky blues music, check out the Canal Winchester Blues & Ribfest, held near High and Waterloo streets in downtown Canal Winchester. There will be plenty of music, children’s activities and fan-cooled outdoor eating areas to enjoy your sizzling slab. Free. July 27–28.


Bicentennial Park is one of Columbus’ sweetest spots to enjoy the transition from day to evening, and the only thing that could make it better is a free performance on the stage. The Rhythm on the River concert series will open June 1 with a 7:30 p.m. bluegrass pairing: Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers and Flatt Lonesome. The season will end Aug. 31 with an 8 p.m. performance by BalletMet, previewing the company’s fall season. June 1–Aug. 31. Free.

Every Friday evening throughout the summer, you can hear live music at the Grove City Summer Sizzle Concert Series in George Edge Music Park. Each week offers something different: a community wind ensemble, a touch of Zydeco, a little country-rock, and a whole lot of cover bands playing music from different eras. June 1–Aug. 17.

From the two-day Summer614 R&B and hip-hop festival (June 2) to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s Picnic with the Pops series, the stage at Columbus Commons will be alive all summer long with a range of free and ticketed performances. Shadowbox Live offers free tributes to Pink Floyd (May 27) and David Bowie and Prince (Sept. 2). The Harmony Project will take you back to 1968 at a free (tickets required) performance June 7. And McGuffey Lane brings its familiar brand of country-rock to a free concert Aug. 31.

In an event that brings together literary and musical performing arts as well as crafts, all packaged as a fun outdoor picnic, the PBJ & Jazz summer concert series at Topiary Park has a little something for everyone. Start with a storytime and craft activity in the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s main branch, then take your blanket and picnic lunch out to the Topiary Park for an hourlong interactive concert designed to introduce kids to jazz and American music. Free. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 9, July 14 and Aug. 11.

Bring a lawn chair or blanket to the outdoor amphitheater at Scioto Park in Dublin for this series of free Sunday evening concerts, now in its 35th year. The 2018 lineup for Sundays at Scioto includes funk, Americana, rock, Celtic folk-pop and other genres with local and national acts such as Hadden Sayers, ARKFOO with Kirstie Kraus, the HooDoo Soul Band and tribute band The McCartney Project. Free. 7 p.m. June 10–July 29.

You’ll know it’s summer when the folks at Express Live turn the stage to face the grassy knoll. Kick off June with a visit from Incubus (June 1), headed for Bunbury the following day. There’s a full lineup throughout the summer at this indoor/outdoor venue, with acts that will appeal to everyone from the youthful followers of Five Seconds of Summer (June 19) to those who remember when the Gin Blossoms (July 11) were new. Price varies.

Take a break from shopping and take in some music at the Polaris Live outdoor concert series, Thursday nights from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Polaris Lifestyle Center next to The Cheesecake Factory. Performers include The Reaganomics, MojoFlo, Rockhouse and SWAGG. Free. June 21–Aug. 23.!

It takes a big act to fill a 104,944-seat stadium, and we’ve got two coming this summer. Well, actually three. Taylor Swift takes the stage at Ohio Stadium July 7, with Camila Cabello and Charli XCX getting the party started. Jay-Z and Beyonce will drop by Aug. 16 as part of their On the Run tour. If anyone besides the Buckeyes can sell out the ’Shoe, it’s this supernova married duo and their combined fan base. $80–$1,100.

In a concert series aimed at bringing out your wild side, JazZoo brings the Columbus Jazz Orchestra to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for four concerts at the Water’s Edge Events Park beside the O’Shaughnessy Reservoir. Soloists will include Carmen Bradford (July 13) and pianist Bobby Floyd with bassist Milton Ruffin (July 20). Bring a picnic (but no alcohol) and make a day of it; your ticket includes admission to the zoo. $30–$100. July 13–Aug. 10.

For 35 years, bluegrass lovers have gathered at the Hoover YMCA Park for a festival that brings together some of the genre’s biggest names. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage and the Lonesome River Band are just a few of the dozens of acts that will take the stage at the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Music Festival, which in its 35 years has raised over $1 million for childhood cancer research. Grab a campsite and stay all four days. $40–$120. July 18–21.

The 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival will be in a new location for its fourth year, but the format won’t change: a main stage featuring performances by well-known artists like Skyzoo and Apollo Brown as well as rising hip-hop acts, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of breakdancing competitions, DJ and MC battles and live graffiti demonstrations as well as kids activities, food trucks and beer. $10–$15, kids under 15 free. 3440 W. Broad St. July 28.


In the spirit of encouraging healthy habits, those with all levels of fitness are invited to join the Darby Creek Trail Run 2018, sponsored by FLIP, an organization that aims to encourage cancer prevention through lifestyle changes. The day includes a 5K or 10K run/walk through Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park; be aware that the 10K ends with a challenging stair climb. $25–$30. July 21.

It’s summer camp without the homesick letters home. Gahanna’s Great Outdoors Annual Summer Park & Rec Party in Friendship Park includes canoeing and kayaking on Big Walnut Creek, interactive games, dress-up karaoke, food trucks and, of course, a camp fire with s’mores. The day finishes off with an evening outdoors screening of “Coco.” Free. July 20.