Top 8 Hidden Gems of Columbus

Columbus, Ohio.


I was born and bred in this city and while traveling and discovering the vast corners of the world is my passion, it can be just as fun to explore a little closer to home. Today I’m going to bring you some of the top 8 hidden gems this wonderful city has to offer. 


1. Scioto Mile


3. National Veterans Memorial and Museum

4. Ohio and Palace Theatres

5. Columbus Museum of Art

6. Ohio Statehouse

7. Columbus Commons

8. Nightlife


Now let's get into the fun details!


If you’re looking for a bit of exercise with fantastic views of downtown to boot, you can’t beat a stroll along the Scioto Mile, consisting of 33 acres of green space and 1.5 miles of multi-use trails. Scenic and peaceful, it hosts multiple festivals throughout the year, including Rhythm on the River and the Jazz & Rib Fest. Even better, it will lead you right into the heart of the city as it is within walking distance of destinations to suit whatever might tickle your fancy. 


A quick trip over Discovery Bridge will lead you directly to COSI (Center of Science and Industry). Here you can explore outer space, drive a mars rover, test your astronaut skills, or take a walk through the stars. Perhaps the Life exhibit is more your speed. The human body is a fascinating machine and here you can discover the way it grows and adapts from birth to death and the many facets in between. Test your mind and body then head over to peek at a real laboratory conducting research. Or take a dive into the ocean with a tour through this exhibit. Power your own mini submarine or initiate a wicked water war as you uncover the properties of water and the world under the sea. 


The possibilities for science and learning are endless here! 


Right across the street from COSI is the National Veterans Memorial and Museum which is the only museum in the country dedicated to honoring, connecting, inspiring, and educating people on the brave service and sacrifice of American veterans. It has a unique architectural design that symbolizes the strength and resilience of those that have served. The museum offers free admission for Veterans, active-duty military and Gold Star families and is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Wednesday thru Sunday. 

Bridge along Scioto Mile

View of downtown Columbus, Ohio from Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile

Bicentennial Park

COSI - Center of Science and Industry

National Veterans Memorial and Museum

For the art and theater lovers out there, both the Palace and Ohio Theatres are just a short walk from the Scioto Greenway along the Scioto Mile and Columbus has some amazing performance line ups all year round. The Broadway in Columbus series is a particular favorite of mine and you can purchase tickets for traveling productions of classics such as Wicked and Hairspray to more recent musicals to the likes of Hadestown and Six! I’m constantly going to as many shows as I can as I love live theater and supporting the arts!


A short five minute drive or under twenty minutes walk away you’ll find the Columbus Museum of Art! With a beautiful Chihuly glass sculpture to welcome you as you enter the museum before wandering through the many galleries displaying a variety of artworks and topics you are sure to be inspired! There’s no better way to get the creative juices flowing than admiring others' art. As a bonus admission to the museum is free for all on Sundays!

The historic Ohio Theatre

The Palace Theatre

Just across the way from Columbus’ two primary theatres are a few other local staples. First up, the Ohio Statehouse at the heart of the city. The Greek Revival style building’s construction originally began in 1839 and was completed in 1861 and has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. It currently houses both the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate. Guided tours are available every day apart from state holidays and walk-in tours are also offered 10:00am to 3:00pm weekdays and 12:00pm to 3:00pm weekends. Don’t forget to stop in to the Museum Education Center while there also!


Now one of my favorite parts of downtown Columbus is actually the Columbus Commons! Not only is this a lovely green space near the center of the city home to free group fitness classes, festivals, and concert series (including the popular Picnic with the Pops during summer months) but it is also rich with history! It was built upon the former site of the City Center Mall which was home to the flagship Lazarus store.  Though the mall met its eventual demise, the efforts of Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) & Capitol South to turn this space into a center of community for the city has been wildly successful. It is a must see spot in Columbus!

Ohio Statehouse Entrance

View of Ohio Statehouse

Entrance to Columbus Commons

Nightlife downtown offers some great options to enhance your trip to Columbus or even if you’re a local looking for a fun night out or something new to try. If it’s a cocktail to kick off your evening or before setting off for other adventures, then you can’t miss The Goat. These drinks never disappoint (I’d recommend the blueberry mule) and their food is delicious as well. Perfect for dinner before an evening at the Ohio or Palace Theatre. 


Located just around the corner from Columbus Commons is Condado, an upbeat, create your own taco restaurant that is a vibrant favorite of Columbus residents. Make sure to try the chorizo queso or pineapple guacamole! For the arcade lovers of the bunch, just a short five minute walk away you will find 16-Bit Bar + Arcade that offers classic free arcade games such as Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat, and many more! They also offer amazing pop culture themed cocktails you don’t want to miss. I mean,  there’s a Lisa Frank one, what could possibly be cooler than that?! 


After playing a few arcade rounds and surely working up an appetite, right next door you will find two local Columbus eateries that always serve up delicious, satisfying, and mouth watering grub! Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace has any sort of wiener you could imagine and has been featured on the popular show Man v. Food. You can also never go wrong with a classic… pizza! Mikey’s Late Night Slice is famous for their “Unicorn Sauce” (a must have addition to any slice in my opinion) and a community favorite as far as pizza joints go. 


The gaming and dining fun doesn’t stop there! Hop a little farther north and you will find PINS Mechanical Company which offers duckpin bowling, foosball, ping pong and patio pong for your enjoyment! And if you’re looking for a nice family activity, kids bowl for free every Sunday! 


As you can see there are some truly wonderful hidden gems scattered throughout the central part of downtown Columbus that offer something for all ages and interests. These 7 examples are just a starting point and I’d love to offer you more recommendations if you are interested. Don’t miss out on experiencing any of these for yourself and if you’ve already been to any of them I’d love to hear which ones in the comments! 


Happy exploring!