18 Cool and Unique Places To Go In Columbus, Ohio (2024)

cosi - columbus weird unique places

Columbus, Ohio was a city that really impressed me. It’s modern, youthful, trendy, quirky, and fun. Columbus has lots of unique things to do and see, so consider this just the tip of the iceberg.

From an awesome public market to a creative ice cream vendor to a massive bookstore (yes, they still exist), I found some cool stores and attractions in Ohio’s capital city during my recent visit.

If you’re seeking fun things to do in Columbus, interesting neighborhoods and local shops, and cool Columbus shopping options, read on for some of my top recommendations. (Updated 2024)

Quick Summary: The Top 6 Spots to Visit in Columbus
1 North Market
2 The Book Loft
3 Short North Gothic Mural
4 Columbus Segway Tour
5 Arnold Schwarzenegger Statue
6 Ohio State University campus

Cool and Unique Places to Shop and Visit in Columbus, Ohio

The Book Loft

Tucked away in the historic German Village neighborhood, the Book Loft has half a million books in 32 rooms on two levels.

book loft columbus shopping
The Book Loft is unquestionably one of the coolest places to go in Ohio’s capital city.

Pick up a map of the store to help you navigate. Or just wander around through the rooms of books about politics, music, humor, history, travel, and pretty much everything else you can think of.

The Book Loft is open late, so it’s easy to get lost in the world of print and spend the better part of an evening here. (Believe me, I know.)

The Book Loft is consistently voted the top bookstore in Columbus, and I’ll go so far as to say that it’s worth mentioning in the same breath as Portland’s famous Powell’s Books.

The North Market

north market unique places to visit in columbus

The term “indoor marketplace” doesn’t tell the full story of the North Market.

Part shopping mall, part food court, part town square, the North Market is a nice way to spend a couple of hours.


Food is a big part of the North Market, with all sorts of ethnic restaurants and various stands offering everything from barbecue to ice cream.

north market columbus food - fun things to do in columbus ohio

My favorite spot was an “Organic Greenfix” stand giving out free samples of an energy juice. Lately I’m all about the health benefits of juicing, so seeing how they made their juices (kale, spinach, dandelions, lettuce, apples and banana) was enlightening.

Short North Gothic Mural

The Short North Arts District has a number of fun art pieces. None better than the mural of the famous American Gothic painting, featuring a farming couple holding a pitchfork.

columbus gothic mural

This one is weird because it was depicts the wife drawn upside down. It was created by artists Steve Galgas and Mike Altman. Find it at 8 E. Lincoln Street.

There’s also a sideways Mona Lisa mural at 98 Bollinger Place!

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are among the best nature-related attractions in Columbus.

The Blooms & Butterflies exhibit is always popular during the spring and summer months. Explore Amazon rain forest and American southwest desert environments inside the greenhouses.

This garden not only has lots of flowers and plants, it also has art works from noted glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Columbus Segway Tour

segway tours of columbus

I found the Columbus Segway tour to be one of the best ways to experience the city. These tours take you to some of the coolest parts of town, offering great views of the skyline and river.

In just two hours, you can explore fun neighborhoods and get a history lesson as the guide provides lots of information about Columbus, past and present.

Plus, haven’t you always wanted to ride one of those strange devices? Here’s your chance!

Jeni’s Ice Creams

The best ice cream in Columbus comes from Jeni’s, which offers a slew of interesting flavors.

The pistachio & honey, whiskey & pecans, and wildberry lavender were tempting, but I went with a three-scoop cup of Ugandan vanilla bean, something peanut buttery, and “the milkiest chocolate in the world,” which just might have lived up to its name.

jenis ice cream unique things columbus

Jeni’s has scoop shops around the city, but I suggest checking out the one on High Street in the Short North, the coolest neighborhood (among many) in town.

The Jeni’s oatmeal cookie ice cream sandwich is the single-greatest frozen confection I’ve ever eaten!

Legoland Discovery Center

Here’s one for the kids. Legoland Discovery Center offers activities like the Kingdom Quest Ride and the Great Lego Race VR Experience.

Four times a year, Legoland holds “Adult Fans of Lego Nights,” which cater to the grown-ups with full access to the center, special activities, and a chance to talk with the Master Model Builder team.

You can grab a ticket to Legoland here.

Arnold Schwarzenegger statue

Until 2014, the Arnold Schwarzenegger statue sat outside the Veterans Memorial on Broad Street. But it has since been moved to the convention center in downtown Columbus.

Arnie came back to the city to be present for the re-unveiling of his likeness.

arnold schwarzenegger statue - fun things to do in columbus ohio

Eight feet tall, the bronze figure serves as a reminder of the annual Arnold Sports Festival in the city. The Schwarzenegger statue is conveniently located near some other popular sights.

After spending a few minutes posing with the Governator, check out the Cosi science center or walk along the banks of the Scioto River.

Otherworld: Immersive Art Experience

If you’re familiar with the immersive art experience Meow Wulf, which has installations in Las Vegas, Denver, Houston, and a few other cities, Otherworld in Columbus is sort of the same thing.

Otherworld has 32,000 square feet with more than 40 scenes of “mixed reality playgrounds.” Don’t let that description fool you — it’s designed for adults.

Explore secret passageways, marvel at the light displays, and take a boatload of pics for your social media. Otherworld is worth checking out if you’re looking for weird places in Columbus!

Ohio State University Campus

ohio state stadium

University campuses are always worth a look, especially one as large and famous as Ohio State.

Take a few minutes to walk around and see the really old buildings, especially the renowned Ohio Stadium, where the Buckeyes play before more than 100,000 on autumn Saturdays.

While at OSU, I also made a point to locate the most quirky and unique sight on campus: Annabelle the praying mantis. Find her sculpture at Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens.

annabelle praying mantis

Southern Theatre

The venerable Southern Theatre has been entertaining Columbus citizens since the Grover Cleveland administration.

Seriously, this place opened all the way back in 1896! That makes it one of Ohio’s oldest theaters.

This place has hosted all sorts of entertainment over the years, from silent films and vaudeville tours to movie and country music concerts.

These days, the venue mostly hosts jazz and classical music performances, with the occasional standup comedy or musical play performance.

Check their upcoming schedule to see if something suits your taste. Or just stroll by on Main Street to observe the historic exterior of the building.

Flower Child Vintage

flower child vintage
Shopping for vintage clothes and furnishings is one of the most fun things to do in Columbus.

While I miss the Rag-O-Rama thrift store in Columbus, I’m happy that another great thrift shop worth your time is still going strong.

Stop in to Flower Child, a vintage store in the Short North with some amazing retro furniture and clothing.

Best items for sale I saw here: a Kermit the Frog telephone from the ’70s, and a gloriously gaudy orange vinyl couch. Those are the sort of treasures you can only find in second-hand shops!

Harvest Pizzeria

harvest pizzeria

Located not far from the Book Loft, the Harvest Pizzeria is another German Village hotspot, a cozy restaurant with an attached bar.

They’re big on using locally-sourced ingredients, which makes a great place to dine to get a taste of Columbus.

I went with the Ohio double bacon pie with mozzarella, roasted red pepper and oregano. I loved those fluffy homemade crusts and enjoyed checking out a couple random selections from their beer list.

16-Bit Bar & Arcade

The 16-Bit Bar & Arcade is a chain that began here in downtown Columbus and has been rapidly expanding across the Midwest. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a bar that has arcade old-school games.

Patrons can get tipsy while they choose from 40+ classic arcade video games, including Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Frogger, Burgertime, and my all-time favorite, Paperboy.

There are also Elvis-, Metallica-, and Indiana Jones-themed pinball games.

Businesses like 16-Bit are why the Columbus city center has way more fun and unique places to go than the boring suburban shopping malls.

Ohio Statehouse

columbus state capitol building

Ohio’s state capitol building is unique and weird because it’s one of the few in the U.S. that doesn’t have the usual dome shape.

That cylindrical shape atop the building gives it some character!

The best part is you can take a free guided tour of the Ohio Statehouse every day. Or you can wander around on your own. See the Statehouse Museum Shop on the ground floor for gifts and souvenirs.

American Whistle Corporation

Did you know there’s only one manufacturer of metal whistles left in America? And that its headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio? And that you can tour the factory for free? Cool, cool, and cool!

The American Whistle Corporation was founded in 1956 and changed hands a few times before ending up in its current spot.

The company offers free 45-minute tours to guests on weekdays. You can go behind the scenes to see old and new machinery that makes the reliable brass whistles.

Touring a whistle factory is one of the most unique activities in Columbus for sure. It’s an especially good idea for families with curious kids. You’ll even learn how they get that little ball inside the whistle!


Zer0z will make you completely re-evaluate your life. Or at least your billfold.

Zer0z wallets unique stores columbus shopping

I’ve been known to possess a George Costanza wallet from time to time, but the folks at Zer0z have created sleek little wallets, just big enough for 10 cards and your bills. Perfect for a minimal lifestyle.

Look at the size of this Zer0z wallet compared to my old one. Finally, a wallet made for the pockets of tight pants!

wallet comparison best places to go

The wallets come in various colors and styles, and they stitch them on-site at the downtown store. 

People have been so drawn to the slim concept that they often leave their old wallets behind when they purchase one of these. This is a pile of actual discarded customer wallets. Amazing!

discarded wallets

For fans of unique shopping opportunities, Zer0z is one of the coolest stores in Columbus and it has a storefront located at 17 East Gay Street. You can also check out their website and make orders online.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park

If your idea of fun things to do in Columbus includes exploring a bit of nature, definitely stop by Scioto Audubon Metro Park. It’s located just south of downtown near the German Village.

The 120-acre green space along the river is great for kayaking, fishing, bird watching, or hanging out and eating lunch.

There’s a 10-mile bike trail here, as well as a challenging obstacle course and multiple bouldering and climbing walls that go as high as 35 feet.

Visiting Columbus: More Unique Places and Hotel Tips

Looking for other interesting places in Columbus? Check out the giant entrance arch from Union Station, the Columbus Museum of Art, COSI (the Center of Science and Industry), and Goodale Park, a fun spot in the Short North.

Another fun option is catching a Columbus Clippers game to see the local AAA baseball team.

Don’t miss this photo essay of Columbus, with pics from all over the city. And if you’re up for a short road trip, the heart of Amish Country in Berlin, Ohio is only two hours east.

As for Columbus lodging, there are lots of options. I always recommend using booking.com, because they do the best job of aggregating all the hotels and B&Bs around the city. Click here to search for Columbus lodging for the dates of your travel.

Which of these fun things to do in Columbus is your favorite?

Note: My visit to Columbus was made possible by Experience Columbus, with thanks to the Renaissance Hotel.