Spend a week in Columbus with a toddler

Christina from A Mommy Story is a friend we met at BlogHer years ago and a mom of two impish daughters, Cordy and Mira. And if that’s not enough, she’s also a nurse with a huge heart. She tells us how to spend the best week ever with a toddler in Columbus, OH.

Cordy and Mira
Cordy and Mira


Monday – The Columbus Zoo

The Columbus Zoo was recently declared to be the #1 zoo in America, and a visit to the zoo will prove why. You can’t possibly see it all in one day, so pick your favorite animals and oil the wheels on your stroller for a day of animal spotting. Don’t miss Asia Quest, where you can see the Amur tigers, and catch a glimpse of the new baby elephant. The African jungle area features the gorillas and bonobos and provides a nice indoor area to sit down and view the gorillas. (The indoor food court is also nearby.) Also be sure to check out North America where your little one can pet the goats in the petting zoo. End your day with a relaxing train ride next to the petting zoo. In the winter, come to the zoo in the evenings to see gorgeous light displays at the annual Wildlights event.

Tuesday – Easton Town Center

Easton Town Center is the mecca of shopping in Columbus. Unlike a traditional mall, this collection of shops resembles a small town, with a small interior mall in the center and streets full of shops surrounding it. Not only will you find stores that appeal to you, but there are several places to shop for your child, including Build-a-Bear/Friends 2B Made, Pottery Barn Kids, Gymboree, and the Discovery Channel Store. There’s also Color Your World, a paint-your-own pottery store. (If you’re just visiting the city, ask them about mailing your child’s masterpiece after the necessary days of firing the clay.) The sidewalks are wide and easy to maneuver a stroller, and parking is close and plentiful.

If you’re looking for a little fun while shopping, Game Works offers a wealth of arcade games. Or stop by the Barnes & Noble to see if there is a storytime being held that day. When hunger strikes, grab a meal at Max & Erma’s or the California Pizza Kitchen, or just grab a snack at Planet Smoothie or Emilee’s Italian Ice, a good choice for families with food allergies.

Wednesday – Columbus Metro Parks
The Columbus Metro Parks are located all around the county, preserving natural areas and providing walking/biking paths to enjoy Ohio’s wildlife. Most of the parks have at least one path that is stroller/new walker friendly. Inniswood Metro Gardens is one of my personal favorites because of the wealth of paved paths and open grassland to wander. Be sure to check the monthly schedules for each park — there are several programs designed to introduce nature to older infants and toddlers.

Thursday – COSI
One of the best places to take a curious baby or toddler on a rainy or cold day is COSI. The Center of Science and Industry, the #1 Science center in the country, is full of fun and engaging activities designed to teach your child about science in a way that they don’t even realize they’re learning! While COSI features several regular exhibit areas, with topics ranging from Space to the Body to the Ocean, the real hit for the under five set is Little Kidspace.

Splashing at COSI, photo by mama Christina
Splashing at COSI, photo by mama Christina

Little Kidspace is full of hands-on activities designed for babies and toddlers – older kids aren’t allowed in to play, reducing the chances of your new crawler getting stepped on. Specific activities in Little Kidspace are designed specifically for babies, including a seated water play table (with raincoats!) and several other sensory activities. There is also a changing station, a nursing room, and snack area in Little Kidspace to meet your every need. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more laid back while baby sleeps, you can catch a film on the Extreme Screen theater.

Friday – Columbus Metropolitan Library
Your child has his own library card by now, right? No? The Columbus Metropolitan Library will happily give out library cards to children of any age so they can begin browsing the shelves of the bright and colorful children’s library found in this grand, historic building. Sit under the large painted tree in the middle of the children’s area and read a book together, or come for one of their many story times. The library not only has regular story times, but they also have frequent guest appearances by musicians, magicians and other children’s performers.

Saturday – Ballantrae Water Park
If you’re looking to get wet without the large body of water, try one of the local parks that has a play fountain. Our favorite is Ballantrae Park in Dublin. Ballantrae’s fountains are a lot of fun for little ones to play in – you never know when the next burst of water will be! On warm summer days, kids can run through the water-play area (complete with waterfall!) or climb the hill to get an up-close view of the statue of three dancing hares. (Look closely at the statue and see if you can find the several everyday household objects hidden in the bronze!) One tip: there’s no shade in sight, so bring your own umbrella and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Indoor option: Weather cold and gloomy? Enjoy lunch at the North Market, where you can sample foods of all kinds: organic, ethnic, exotic, homemade, and downright indulgent. During the growing season, Saturdays are also when local farmers bring their fresh-picked produce to the market — get there early for the best selection!

Sunday – Franklin Park Conservatory
In the summer the outdoor areas of the Franklin Park Conservatory are filled with gorgeous flowers and lots of green everywhere. But even in bad weather, Franklin Park Conservatory still has plenty to do on the inside. Tropical flowers bloom year round indoors, and in the spring the indoor areas transform into a butterfly haven for the Blooms and Butterflies exhibit. On gloomy days, close your eyes in one of the warm, humid rooms and forget, for just a moment, the dreary weather outside.

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Thanks a ton to Christina for sharing her great ideas for fun in Columbus. Next time I have some time to kill in Cleveland with the boys, I think I’ll pay her a visit.

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RookieMoms co-founder & mom to 3 boys in Berkeley, CA. Bossy big sister and project manager turned blogger helping moms enjoy their first years of motherhood. Find me on my other site on 510families.com or hiding in my minivan eating dark chocolate.

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