Swapping spaces: Kid-friendly spots around Columbus

Renee Casteel Cook

There's a scene in “Sweet Home Alabama” where Reese Witherspoon's character is shocked to see an old friend sporting a Baby Björn inside a local watering hole. Oh, the naïveté: She obviously hadn't been to Columbus lately.

In a city full of young families, a more inclusive attitude means little ones are increasingly invited to join their parents at places like art galleries, arcade lounges and taprooms. And, at the same time, the young at heart can enjoy spots traditionally geared toward kids, with a 21-and-over spin.

So grab your kids (or get a sitter) and check out a few of our favorite playgrounds around town.

“You have a baby … in a bar?”

Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse

3055 Indianola Ave., Clintonville, 614-262-7505,

Grandview Theater & Drafthouse

1247 Grandview Ave., Grandview, 614-670-4102, Grandview,

Studio 35 Cinema on Indianola Avenue combined the idea of a bar and movie theater to great success, and owner Eric Brembeck has duplicated the setup at Grandview Theater & Drafthouse. Fitting nicely into the family-centric makeup of both neighborhoods, the theaters' “Bring Your Own Baby to the Bar” (or BYOBB) event happened naturally, as the staff recognized that parents would sometimes bring their kids to the safe, no-judgement environment (and for the freshly made popcorn sprinkled with M&Ms).

To further engage the kids, the theaters show cartoons and/or a kid-friendly movie from 3:30 p.m. until about 7 p.m. during the monthly event (the first Wednesday in Clintonville; the second Wednesday in Grandview). The turnout typically fluctuates between 20 and 50 people, and though all ages are welcome, most kids are 5 years old or younger, including some toddlers.

16-Bit Bar + Arcade

254 S. Fourth St., Downtown,


16-Bit Bar + Arcade: Conceived as a place where Gen Xers can rediscover their childhood by playing video games from the '80s and '90s in an adult setting, 16-Bit is a 21-and-over arcade bar, except on the third Sunday of each month. Owner Troy Allen says “Bring Your Shorty Day” started as customers wanted to introduce their kids to the games they grew up with. The event welcomes all ages from noon until 5 p.m. and features a kid-appropriate mocktail menu with offerings named for familiar characters, including Lisa Simpson and the Little Mermaid. The latter combines orange and pineapple juices with grenadine, served in a keepsake cup.

Parents' Night Out

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

4850 W. Powell Rd., Powell,


Lions, tigers and beers—oh yeah! “Craft Brew at the Zoo” offers an adults-only evening featuring local craft beer, food trucks and live music. Pass by the flamingos on your way to the Water's Edge Events Park, where VIP admission offers a secluded location and specialty beer offerings to sample.

Also for the 21-and-over group, “Zoo Clue” is a mystery dinner theater event in October, where guests venture onto zoo grounds to search for clues.


333 W. Broad St., Downtown, 614-228-2674,

The Center of Science and Industry is a favorite among the younger set for field trips and youth camps. But Joe Wood, manager of audience development, and his team realized that many adults who enjoy taking their kids to COSI used to love going in their youth. COSI leaders decided to “reconnect with this audience and break that perception,” Wood says.

Celebrating three years this April, “COSI After Dark” kicks out the kiddos so adults “can push buttons without feeling bad about taking the experience from a child,” Wood says. Held the first Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 10 p.m., “After Dark” transforms COSI into an adult playground, complete with full bar and small plates tied into that month's theme, such as April's “COSI-no Royale” and May's “Star Wars” celebration, “May the Fourth Be with You.”

Honorable Mentions

For even more family-friendly programming, be sure to check out:

Ohio Taproom: Keep and eye out for “Beer & Babies,” an event featuring free food and “baby bouncers” to ensure kids can't escape the enclosed patio; pets also are welcome.

Brothers Drake Meadery: The Short North meadery hosted a toy swap last fall and offers kid-friendly tours on Saturdays.

Pizzuti Collection: “Family Day,” which includes docent-led children's tours, scavenger hunts and themed storytimes, takes place on the first Saturday of each month.