Downtown Columbus, Ohio: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Want to discover the beating heart of Ohio’s capital city? Make your way to Downtown Columbus, OH, where you’ll find it all! Fondly known as “everybody’s neighborhood,” this vibrant urban center offers locals and visitors alike beautiful architecture, historic theaters, tranquil parks, and innovative restaurants.

Anchored by the Greek Revival-style Ohio Statehouse on Capitol Square, Downtown Colombus encompasses the Arena District, Discovery District, and Uptown. Urban oases, like Bicentennial Park and Battelle Riverfront Park, are tucked between some of the tallest buildings in the city.

Meander along the riverside Scioto Mile promenade and soak up spectacular city views. Browse renowned works at the Columbus Museum of Art and catch the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets in action at the Nationwide Arena.

Ready for an unforgettable Ohioan adventure? Plan it all out with this top-notch guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Downtown Columbus, Ohio!

Why Treksplorer? Founded in 2011 by Ryan O’Rourke, Treksplorer provides travel recommendations and advice to millions of readers every year. Our content is rooted in our writers’ firsthand experiences, in-depth research, and/or collaborations with other experts and locals. Read more about our editorial policy.

What to see & do

Ohio Statehouse

Standing sentry in Capitol Square in the heart of Downtown Columbus is the grand Ohio Statehouse. You can’t miss this beautiful Greek Revival-style building with impressive columns and a majestic golden dome that glints in the sunlight.

Built in 1861, the Ohio Statehouse is home to Ohio’s state government, where important decisions that impact the Buckeye State are made. Take a guided tour of the building to explore an interior filled with historical significance and charm. Admire captivating artwork and statues that adorn the rotunda walls and the larger-than-life figure of President Abraham Lincoln standing sentry in the middle.

Ohio Statehouse

If you’re interested in Ohio’s history, pop into the Statehouse Museum. Discover a treasure trove of artifacts and displays that chronicle the state’s rich heritage, from exhibits on Native American tribes to the industrial revolution.

You can also attend public hearings and observe firsthand how laws are discussed and shaped. Witness democracy in action and see how decisions are made that affect the lives of Ohioans.

Bicentennial Park

Spend a few hours away from the city, relaxing with a picnic or enjoying a paddle on the river in the beautiful Bicentennial Park. Stretching along the Scioto River in Downtown Columbus, this park is a hub of recreational activities and a perfect place to unwind.

Bicentennial Park was established in 2011 to honor Columbus’s rich history and, today, is a beloved community gathering place. The magnificent Scioto Mile Fountain stands at the center of the park and is a popular spot to cool off on a hot day.

Bicentennial Park

As you explore Bicentennial Park, you’ll find beautiful gardens and lush green spaces, perfect for picnics, leisurely walks, or a peaceful spot to read a book. If you want to get active, there’s plenty to do, too. Rent a paddleboat or a kayak and take to the Scioto River to see Columbus from a new angle.

As you wander the park, check out the vibrant outdoor art installations. If you’re feeling peckish, grab a table at the Milestone 229 restaurant and enjoy lunch with scenic river views.

Scioto Mile Promenade

Stroll down the Scioto Mile Promenade, a charming, picturesque waterfront walkway with beautiful views and many top-rated Columbus attractions. Stretching along the banks of the Scioto River, this scenic spot offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and recreational activities.

The Scioto Mile Promenade begins in the vibrant Arena District and winds its way to the beautiful Whittier Peninsula. This urban oasis boasts over 175 acres of lush parklands, boulevards, bikeways, and pedestrian paths. Rent a bike or leisurely walk along the riverside trail, enjoying the scenic views.

Scioto Mile Promenade

Take time to admire the funky sculptures, murals, and interactive exhibits dotting the promenade. From sculptures and murals to interactive exhibits, these artistic pieces add a touch of creativity and cultural richness to the surroundings. Watch for the rotating art displays that bring new and exciting experiences to the promenade.

Watch the mesmerizing water show at the spectacular 15,000-square-foot Scioto Mile Fountain, where synchronized water jets, colorful lighting, and music combine to create a splashy spectacle.

Head to one of the many restaurants for a bite to eat and keep an eye out for live concerts and cultural celebrations – there’s always something happening at the Scioto Mile Promenade!

Columbus Museum of Art

Step into a world of creativity and unleash your imagination at the Columbus Museum of Art. Situated on East Broad Street in Downtown’s Discovery District, this treasure trove of artistic wonders houses a diverse collection of art and engaging exhibitions and is one of Columbus’s must-see museums for art lovers.

Founded in 1878, the Columbus Museum of Art has evolved, expanding its collection and mission to celebrate and showcase art from various periods and cultures. Today, the museum features remarkable pieces from renowned artists, from Picasso to Rockwell.

Columbus Museum of Art

Enjoy a self-guided exploration of the museum or join a guided tour through carefully curated displays offering immersive and thought-provoking experiences. Stroll through the Sculpture Garden, a tranquil oasis dotted with elegant sculptures in a harmonious blend of nature and art.

When it’s time to refuel, head to the museum café for a cup of coffee and a sweet treat.

Art lovers should also carve out time to visit the Pizzutti Collection, an offshoot of the main art museum. Located in the Short North Arts District, the Pizzutti Collection features an array of thought-provoking contemporary art designed to explore the complexities of the modern world.

Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

Unleash your inner scientist as you delve into the wonders of the natural world and the mysteries of the universe at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI). Located on West Broad Street, COSI is a captivating science center offering interactive exhibits, engaging activities, and educational experiences.

From hands-on experiments to mind-blowing demonstrations, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Center of Science and Industry. Explore topics like astronomy, biology, and physics through interactive displays and immersive experiences. Walk among life-sized dinosaur replicas, discovehttps://cosi.org/r the human body’s inner workings, or simulate a space mission in themed exhibition areas.

Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

Enjoy various live shows, presentations, and demonstrations that bring science to life, from awe-inspiring planetarium shows to electrifying science experiments. COSI also features a state-of-the-art movie theater where you can catch educational films and documentaries on the big screen.

Don’t miss the outdoor Big Science Park, where you explore concepts like energy, weather, and motion in a fun and engaging way!

Palace Theatre

Harken back to the days of old with a performance at the magnificent Palace Theatre. This historic gem on West Broad Street has captivated audiences for decades with live performances, concerts, and theatrical experiences.

Opened in 1926, this beautiful Spanish Baroque-style theater is an architectural masterpiece with ornate ceilings, a grand lobby adorned in marble, and elegant chandeliers. Take a moment to admire the grandeur of the surroundings before venturing further into the theater.

Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre has a diverse lineup of yearly performances, including Broadway shows, concerts, dance performances, and more. From beloved musicals to renowned artists, the theater brings various world-class talent to its stage.

Beyond its performances, the Palace Theatre hosts special events, film screenings, and community programs. It serves as a gathering place for the community, bringing people together to celebrate the arts.

Nationwide Arena

Catch the Columbus Blue Jackets National Hockey League team in action on home ground at the Nationwide Arena. Set on Nationwide Boulevard in the vibrant Arena District, this multi-purpose indoor arena is an iconic landmark within the community.

Nationwide Arena was designed by the renowned architectural firm HOK Sport, and can seat 18,500 spectators for hockey games and up to 20,000 for other events. If you aren’t lucky enough to see the Blue Jackets in action during the hockey season, you might also catch a college basketball game, a professional wrestling match, or a live concert!

Nationwide Arena

Inside Nationwide Arena, the seating layout promises an exceptional viewing experience with excellent sightlines from every angle. The arena also offers state-of-the-art amenities and facilities, including modern concourses, comfortable seating options, spacious suites, and premium hospitality areas.

Get into the spirit of the game with pre-event drinks at one of the buzzing bars in the surrounding Arena District. Filled with restaurants, bars, and shops, this vibrant entertainment area exudes a fantastic atmosphere for fans.

Battelle Riverfront Park

Another lovely urban oasis in which to escape the city for a few hours is the Battelle Riverfront Park. Stretching along the eastern bank of the Scioto River, this picturesque urban park is home to beautiful grounds, recreational activities, and community events.

Named in honor of Ohio industrialist Gordon Battelle, the 33-acre park boasts a network of scenic walking and biking trails that wind through lush greenery. Wander through the garden and enjoy tranquil views of the river and downtown skyline.

Battelle Riverfront Park

Admire the many memorials and sculptures that dot the park, like the City of Columbus Firefighters Memorial with its eternal flame and the Spanish American War Memorial. The James W. Barney Pickaweekee Story Grove features whimsical bronze statues by internationally renowned sculptor Jack Greaves amid the trees.

Keep an eye out for community events and festivals in the park throughout the year. From outdoor concerts and art exhibits to food festivals and cultural celebrations, Battelle Riverfront Park serves as a vibrant gathering space for the Columbus community.

Where to eat & drink

Downtown Columbus has a vibrant restaurant scene, and you’ll find a diverse range of culinary delights and enticing watering holes. From scenic riverfront dining to arcade gaming with a twist, Downtown Columbus has you covered.

Set within an industrial-style enclave, The Walrus is where it’s at if you’re looking for some seriously delicious comfort food. Think classic dishes with a creative twist, like the lobster mac ‘n cheese and slow-roasted short ribs. Pair your grub with one of their crisp craft beers or killer cocktails and kick back to live music.

If you’re looking for a hip spot with a laid-back ambiance and drool-worthy eats, head to Hadley’s Bar + Kitchen. Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, there’s always a crowd at this popular eatery. Pop in for a Benedict-centric brunch or tuck into towering burgers and craft brews over dinner. Try the Oreo Bonanza Boozy Shake for a knock-your-socks-off milkshake.

For mouthwatering South American-influenced, small-plate dishes with a Spanish flair, there’s no better spot than Sidebar Columbus. This laid-back neighborhood bar is the perfect spot to kick back over traditional tapas like tilapia fritters, meatballs, and eggplant parmesan. Sip craft brews and signature cocktails and enjoy the warm and welcoming vibes.

Restaurant in Downtown Columbus

Milestone 229 is where great food and breathtaking views meet! Overlooking the scenic Scioto River, this elegant eatery promises delectable upscale American cuisine with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and unfettered views.

Expect frothy draught microbrews, mean whiskey concoctions, and delicious comfort food at this tipsy downtown neighborhood bar. Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails is a fantastic spot to share drinks with the locals, listen to not-so-local music, and enjoy a game of pinball.

Unleash your inner child at 16-Bit Bar+Arcade! This retro-inspired spot combines classic arcade games with a super-cool bar. Play Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, or challenge your friends to a round of Street Fighter. Sip on a craft beer or a tasty cocktail while you let your inner child run wild. It’s a fun-filled blast from the past! 

Craving some Irish pub vibes? Head to Dempsey’s for traditional Irish fare that’ll hit the spot, like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Pair it with a pint of Guinness or a flight of whiskey, and you’ll feel like you’re in the heart of the Emerald Isle.

Calling all whiskey lovers! Buckeye Bourbon House is a haven for whiskey enthusiasts and cocktail lovers. With an extensive selection of bourbons, whiskies, and craft cocktails, this sophisticated bar is the perfect place to enjoy your favorite libations.

Where to stay

As it’s the heart of the city, Downtown is one of the most popular places to stay in Columbus, OH. The neighborhood is home to many of the city’s top hotels, with accommodation options to suit any budget.

Drury Inn & Suites Columbus Convention Center

Drury Inn & Suites Columbus Convention Center

Adjacent to the Great Columbus Convention Center, Drury Inn & Suites Columbus Convention Center is ideally located if you’re attending a conference next door. Comfortable rooms have coffeemakers, microwaves, and minifridges, and you can stay connected with free Wi-Fi. Tuck into a hot breakfast every morning and enjoy socials in the evenings. Pets are welcome!

Graduate Columbus

Graduate Columbus

Complimentary loaner bikes, a 24-hour fitness center, and a retro coffee shop are just some facilities at Graduate Columbus. Just two miles from the Ohio State University, this modern hotel has comfortable rooms with collegiate-themed décor and free Wi-Fi. Upgrade to a suite for separate living spaces.

Hilton Columbus Downtown

Hilton Columbus Downtown

Ideally located for exploring the area, Hilton Columbus Downtown has modern rooms and suites with custom-designed beds, spacious living areas, and modern amenities. Book a club-level room to access a private lounge and complimentary snacks. Enjoy easy access to the Greater Columbus Convention Center via a sky bridge from the hotel.

Hyatt Regency Columbus

Hyatt Regency Columbus

Situated within walking distance of the COSI Museum, Hyatt Regency Columbus features polished rooms with stylish décor, spacious bathrooms with showers, and iPod docking stations. Stay connected with free Wi-Fi and work out in the 24/7 fitness center. Toast the day with cocktails in the chic bar overlooking the city.

Hotel LeVeque

Hotel LeVeque, Autograph Collection

Set in a beautiful art deco building overlooking the Scioto River, Hotel LeVeque, Autograph Collection offers an elegant and stylish retreat. Expect plush rooms with vintage décor, marble bathrooms with rainfall showers, and modern amenities. Book a luxurious suite for extra space and enjoy an evening turndown service. Take a short walk to the Ohio Statehouse and the lively Scioto Mile promenade.

Treksplorer

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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