I know. It’s a totally random place to go on a vacation. But hear me out on this one…
Everyone goes to the beach, right? That’s probably one of – if not the most common vacation spots?
There’s a reason for that. Beach = sand – fun – sun – ocean. Why wouldn’t you want to go?
But what if you’re looking for something a little different this time?
If you measure fun by giggles and “Oooooh’s” … if you’re searching for a place that has stimulating attractions geared towards curious, growing little brains -then you may want to look at what the parent blogs and magazines are saying about certain cities not near the sea.
And I think I found one.
Columbus started percolating to the top of my thoughts after I slowly began to realize there was a big chunk of our country – right next door – that I’ve never seen before. It seemed criminal, to be so close and never visit.
Let me pause now and say that life has changed a little a lot since having a kid – travel wise – especially now that she needs her own seat ($$) on an airplane. The far-flung, exotic destinations still hold their allure, but ease and convenience often win out over islands, jungles or snowy peaks.
Besides, if I’m being honest with myself, those trips I took with my tot while she was still free (to fly, that is) were probably less interesting for her than they were for me.
And will she really remember the views in St. Thomas or the beach in St. John?
Will San Diego’s zoo stand out to her as one of her favorite ones?
Would she feel moved from her visits to Montana or Washington when reflecting back at 5 – 7 – 10 years-old?
Probably . . . not.
But I do remain hopeful that little snippets stored away somewhere in her memory will continue to build, constructing amazing life experiences and a positive worldview.
While researching fun things for toddlers to do, I kept hearing about Columbus Ohio.
Brilliant! This coincides perfectly with my new-found Midwestern curiosity. Ohio is especially interesting because lots of people seem to live there in all of these urban clusters.
Yet it remained so abstract to me; a postcard picture from some distant land: a farmer in a hat, a windmill mid-spin, a chipped fence in the distance surrounding aimless cattle . . .
So, what, then is all the hype about?
Here are 5 reasons you should skip the annual beach trip and take your kids to Columbus:
Have you heard of Jack Hanna? You probably have.
I nodded knowingly when friends mentioned him as I talked about our plans to visit the zoo.
Then I ran home and immediately Googled him.
Ahh! Yes! I do know who Jungle Jack Hanna is! (Just didn’t recognize the name.) Two + Two makes Four. OK.
The Columbus Zoo, while not making some of the most recent top 10 lists – like Fodor’s (here)- was actually ranked the #1 zoo in America in 2009 by USA Travel Guide. Check out the adorable (short) Broadway musical style video the zoo created to celebrate here.
These top 10 lists are a little finicky, since they are so subjective.
All you really need to know is that The Columbus Zoo is state of the art, beautifully landscaped, conservation-focused, and thoroughly entertaining. Top of its class.
There are swimming polar bears, fun & interactive play areas, cheetah racing, trains, PIRATES (yes, pirates), gorillas, an aquarium . . . and the list goes on!
There is even an attached waterpark, Zoombezi Bay, open during the summer.
Check back here next week for a whole post dedicated to this fabulous zoo!
Parent Magazine rated Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry as the best science center in the country. So, naturally, we had to check it out.
As soon as we pushed our stroller through the double automatic doors and saw the unicycle tightrope above our heads, my daughter let out a long “Oooooooh!”
And BOOM- right there – the 6+ hour drive from Nashville was totally worth it.
I can’t say enough about this place. It seriously blew me away. Originally opening in 1964, it moved to the current 320,000 square foot compound in 1999. Designed by internationally renowned architect Arata Isozaki, the massive, space stationesque building seems like it could house an entire colony on Mars.
There are gadgets and gizmos a plenty. There are whozits and whatzits galore…
With 300-plus exhibits in distinct thematic areas, there’s plenty to keep any family busy for a full day (and probably two or more!)
Stay tuned for a full post about our trip to COSI!
3) Walkable, family-friendly downtown
When I think of cities to visit with my toddler, I take a few things in to account. Safety, pollution, side walks/walkability, park access, and kid-friendly activities are at the top of the list.
When we first arrived in Columbus, it felt immediately approachable. On an early Monday evening, there weren’t crowds or traffic, no sign of smog, and there seemed to be plenty of green spaces along the river to enjoy.
4) North Market
When I took a quick poll in a travel blogger community, North Market continuously surfaced (as well as in my research for things to do in Columbus) as a popular spot to visit.
When we arrived, the market had just closed for the day, but we were able to stop in before heading out of town to grab some tasty Vietnamese, Jeni’s ice cream, and a few macaroons (which my daughter loved as much as I did, claiming “Mmm, this macaroni is good!” Adorable.)
For some reason, I was expecting something incredibly grand, like the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. While very impressive, it reminded me more of the Farmer’s Market in Nashville, with perhaps a teeny bit more flair.
You could easily spend a couple of hours here and find something for any taste.
While there, make sure you visit the very first Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream shop!! We’re big fans!
5) Easy Access
OK. So really, I just needed a number 5. But Columbus is pretty central to many other U.S. cities. I guess.
But, all-in-all, the city seems to have so much for both children and adults to enjoy.
We were thoroughly impressed. I know you would be, too. Give it a whirlwind and let me know what you think!