Find Family-Friendly Fun at the Columbus Arts Festival

Nicholas Youngblood
A child paints a paper-plate flower at the Hands-On Art Activities Village at the 2018 Columbus Arts Festival.

This weekend, the Columbus Arts Festival brings art, live music and delicious food back to the Scioto Riverfront for its 58th year. And there’s plenty on tap for Central Ohio families.

In addition to hosting nearly 270 local artists, hundreds of performers and dozens of local eateries, there will be plenty to entice young attendees, such as live demonstrations, a Hands-On Art Activities Village and the popular Children’s Gallery. The free festival takes place June 7-9, centered along Rich and Main streets in Downtown Columbus.

The new Big Local Art Village, replacing the arts tent of previous years, will feature demonstrations on leathercrafting, clay throwing, blacksmithing and more, plus make-and-take stations where festival-goers can create something of their very own.

The Hands-On Art Activities Village on the west side of COSI will offer opportunities throughout the weekend for kids to create their own art, music and choreography. There also will be a performance stage showcasing the Musicologie Band.

Nearby at the Children’s Gallery, open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. June 8 and 9, kids can start their art collection with pieces in various mediums donated by festival artists, all priced at $5 or less. The gallery is strictly “no parents allowed,” to ensure that aspiring collectors pick pieces that speak to their personal tastes—not Mom’s or Dad’s. “You get to see kids go in there and be autonomous and just find this love of art,” says Melanie Dancy, a coordinator of the Children’s Gallery. “Some parents are so proud to see kids come out with a piece of art they love.”

Kids also get information on where to find the artists so they can thank them and talk about what inspired their creation. Pro tip: Make sure to get there early for the best selection.

And what visit to the Columbus Arts Festival would be complete without meeting the Art Shark? Catch everyone’s favorite creative chondrichthyan at the following times and locations:

  • 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday and 3-5 p.m. Saturday at the fountain in Bicentennial Park
  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Hands-On Art Activities Village

Other kid-friendly attractions include a Mythic Creatures Scavenger Hunt, the Virtual Reality Tent, Columbus Children’s Theatre performances on the Dance and Theater Stage and presentations of “Alice in Wonderland” by the Grass Patch Performers in Dorrian Green Park in front of COSI.

Parents should look out for the Family Safety & Care Station—found near the Hands-On Art Activities Village—which offers a private, air-conditioned place for diaper changes, nursing and relaxation.

For more information, go to