Our editor and her family discover that the historical town of Columbus makes a perfect fall getaway.
By Amanda Hayward
Published October 2022
Updated November 1, 2022
One interesting fact about me is that I run marathons, and The Columbus Marathon set in Columbus, Oh was said to be one of the best cities to experience every step of 26.2 miles. The rumors were true! I knew that if my family was coming along for the adventure, we should explore this town and make the best of our trip. On the agenda after the Columbus Marathon was fall fun including Boo at the Zoo, Legoland Discovery Center, tasty treats at Jeni’s Ice Cream and perhaps a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
It took every ounce of energy I had to squeeze in a visit to zoo, but I was so happy I did. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is like no zoo we have seen before with more than 9,000 animals representing 650 species from around the globe, plus a 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park (seasonal) and an 18-hole Safari Golf Club. Around this time, Boo at the Zoo was happening with loads of trick-or-treat stations, Halloween-themed decor and lots more fall-themed fun. The kids were adamant about hitting every station so we did in the little time we had.
Exploring the zoo and aquarium would take a whole day if not more, so we made a list of animals we definitely wanted to see before close: the aquarium animals including the manatees, sea lions and the sting rays at Sting Ray Bay; monkeys; world of amphibians; and a visit to one of the many continents. I loved how the Columbus Zoo separates its animals and species into continents so you can decide between Asia, Africa, North America, Australia and more. On your way to Columbus, be sure to stop by participating Central Ohio Wendy’s locations,to receive a special buy one get one admission coupon for Boo at the Zoo; must be purchased and redeemed online by October 30. Learn more at bit.ly/3Q1FSuA
The next day we ventured off to Legoland Discovery Center and checked out all of their pumpkin-themed activities. This wasn’t our first visit here, but we were due for a second visit, and we have never experienced Legoland in the fall. This year, they have an all-new Halloween Brick-or-Treat event happening through October 31! Included with admission was a Halloween bag to fill up at the brick stations throughout the discovery center. But you have to be on the lookout because the workers carry along with brick stations with them. You have to stop them and say “Brick or Treat!” Collect all of the Lego bricks and figure out what to build. This is a great non-candy option for all kiddos!
My big kids enjoyed the Lego ride, Kingdom Quest, in the beginning where the whole family can ride around with a laser gun and try to gain the most points by shooting at all of the targets – I kind of loved it, too. We moved on to Miniland, Lego Racers: Bulid and Test, a special Halloween-themed Lego building room and tons more. The kids loved the Build and Test station the best where they built a race car and tested it out! Climb up the steps to the top of the track and watch your car fly and ramp off! Right now, you can check out the all-new 4D Movie: The Great Monster Chase showing at vairies times throughout the day, themed games and activities, character visits, themed snacks in the coffee shop and more. Sundays – Fridays is brick or treating; and this Saturday is the last day for everyone to come wearing their best costume to participate in fun costume contest. Learn more at legolanddiscoverycenter.com.
We topped the day off with a visit to Jeni’s Ice Cream – Jeni’s has locations throughout the U.S. including Columbus and a newly opened shop in Cincinnati. I forgot how delicious this creamy goodness was. From ice cream classics and to create our own, flavors include limited time seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Cake Roll and Cranberry Crumble; to yummy classics including Dark Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, Green Mint Chip, Wedding Cake and tons more. The kids went crazy of the Cookies and Cream as they sat by the window and enjoyed their much-deserved treats after a long weekend of fun. Learn more about Jeni’s Ice Cream flavors, delivery options, holiday treats and more at jenis.com.
Time did not allow us to visit other must-sees in Columbus, but next year I am putting it on the fall bucket list. The Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Garden is currently holding their Pumpkin Aglow exhibit in the evenings where hundreds of hand-carved pumpkins illuminate the conservatory! New additions this year include singing jack-o-lanterns, dancing skeletons and so much more the family will enjoy. In the daytime, the conservatory has their fall exhibit Harvest Blooms with thousands of pumpkins, mums and more; larger-than-life autumnal decorations including two pumpkins houses and new this year, an overflowing decorative cornucopia and magnificent pumpkin tree. The last day to experience both exhibits is Sunday, October 30. Also note, during Pumkin Aglow, family-friendly activities occur every evening in the Pergola in the Grand Mallway like Spooky Sand Art ($3 per craft), Spider Spin Art ($2 per craft) and activities included with admission such as a Fortune Teller, Face Painter, Pumpkin Lawn Games and more. Learn more and grab your tickets at fpconservatory.org.
Another family-friendly activity to set some time aside for the is a visit to famous North Market in Downtown Columbus (59 Spruce St.) with lots of delicious food vendors. This 145-year-old public market located in downtown Columbus is a mix of more than 30 independently owned small businesses offering up a wide variety of fresh produce, meat, poultry, seafood, flowers, specialty food items, international prepared foods and distinctive gifts. The market’s final Farmer’s Market day is Saturday, October 29; and November 4 is The Taste of the Market Gala serving three-course tastes will take place the North Market Bridge Park! Learn more at northmarket.org.
I also recommend staying close to the city just to explore the tasty restaurants and history of Columbus along the cobblestone streets. We stayed inside the Greater Columbus Convention Center which has plenty of bites, shops and more. For more information on planning your family’s next trip to Columbus, upcoming holiday happenings and more, visit experiencecolumbus.com.
The Columbus Marathon is a Boston Marathon-qualifying race which makes it extra special. Looks like I am headed to Boston in 2024! These kids helped me quickly cross the finish line with a qualifying time of 3:33:04.
Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of three. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.