Free (& Nearly Free) Places To Go In Columbus

Phew! Is it just me, or is summer just flying by? I've been slacking on getting posts up here, mostly due to a lot of big changes & simply navigating the summertime buzz that is my social life right now. Ya girl is pretty tired over here, but embracing the chaos! 

Now, for those of you who know me personally, you know that I love me some freebies. This summer I've made it my mission to spend as little money as possible while still doing what I enjoy (ie. I've visited a lot of parks), and I've compiled a list of my favorite free (& nearly free) places to go in Columbus, during summer or otherwise.

Get out there and get exploring!

 

Inniswood Metro Gardens

This little gem in the suburb of Westerville is full of stunning landscapes, flowers, and art, and is one of my favorite parks in Columbus. Bonus points: it's dog-friendly!

Within the park itself there are several "themed" gardens to wander through, all of which have their own quirks and surprises. I particularly like the Sister Garden for the fact that it has a tree house (and since I'm actually 5 years old and can't say no to a tree house), as well as the Herb Garden, Fern Garden, Woodland Rock Garden. All of the gardens are beautiful, though, and even though the park isn't very large, there's plenty to see. It makes the list because it is absolutely free to go!

 
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The Columbus Museum of Art has always been one of my favorite "rainy day" spots in town. I cherish it more so probably considering my Grandma would take me here frequently as a kid, and I've loved seeing it grow over the years.

Besides the steady, impressive art collection housed within their walls, the museum offers a ton of regularly cycled exhibitions that fall usually within range of contemporary art. They also host a ton of really neat events within their museum and outside of the city, and offer a full floor of kid-centered arts and activities (which actually are fun for adults, too, if you like crafting in any capacity).

This museum makes the list due to its free Sunday admission - can't beat that! 

 

North Market

If you like farmer's markets, cultural diversity, food, shopping, and more food, the North Market is the place for you. This indoor public market hosts 35 vendors, consisting of produce, meats & fish, baked goods, bars, restaurants, and gift shops, and has something for just about anyone. On an open afternoon, my favorite thing is to walk through here and grab a bite to eat for lunch, maybe pick up a bouquet of flowers or a specialty baked good to take home, and enjoy people watching at the bar (don't pretend you don't).

North Market makes the list because while nothing is truly "free" at the market, it's only as expensive as you make it, and truthfully it's not necessary to spend a ton to have a good time here.

Bonus points: parking can be validated with any of the vendors after a purchase, which will save you money!

 


This magical park is exactly how it sounds; chock full of roses (and other flowers) of every variety, color, and size. If you've ever dreamed of strolling through an English rose garden outside a stone castle while reading poetry and drinking tea, this is (almost) your dream come true.

Spring and Summer months are obviously the best times to go, June being when the roses are at their peak bloom. Talk about a beautiful sight! The park itself runs along Olentangy Trail and Whetstone Park, so it makes it a great starting or ending place for any other walking or biking adventures, and it makes the list because it's 100% free to go. Win-win.

Bonus points: it's dog-friendly!




 

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Huntington Park: Clippers Stadium

What's better than a ball game, beer, and hot dogs on a summer evening?

Even if baseball isn't really your thing these games are a ton of fun. Take it from a girl who doesn't ever pay attention to the actual game while there. The stadium is designed to be very open, airy, and inclusive, and tickets are sold as low as $7 (and I'm not talking nose-bleeds). My personal favorite is hanging out at the bar/restaurant on the upper level and watching the game from there while dining or grabbing a drink - it's gorgeous view of the city, and a fun, inexpensive way to spend an evening in Columbus! 

 
 


I am in love with this bookstore in all honesty. It has an unmistakable charm about it that I have yet to see in all the bookstores I've wandered into so far - really, the only thing they're missing is a resident cat that sleeps on the cashier's counter. If you're a book lover, you'll understand what I mean.

It's incredibly easy to spend an afternoon wandering the 32 rooms of this store (I mean, there are 32 rooms...it's sort of expected), and since this shop is located in the heart of German Village, it's a great launching point to all of the other wonderful places within the neighborhood.

When I'm feeling a bit blue or maybe just bored, I come here to escape and get lost in the maze of rooms. I never leave empty-handed, and while the books aren't exactly free, they're fairly priced and often marked down (they have an entire room of clearance books!). And hey, it's free to read while you're there.

 

Highbanks Metro Park

If you don't feel like driving an hour away to hike Hocking Hills, Highbanks is a great alternative. It's nestled right between Polaris and Powell, but once you're there you instantly feel like you've been transported far outside the city. There are tons of beautiful trails for hiking or mountain biking, and some that allow pets (Coyote Run Trail is a great choice for pups!) One of the most popular trails is the Overlook Trail that winds you through about 2 miles of woods before dropping you at a stunning overlook spot (didn't see that coming, right?) above the Olentangy River. 

You guessed it, the park is free. Hike away!

 


The Conservatory is another cherished spot of mine thanks to my Grandma's frequent trips here with me as a kid. I find this place incredibly enchanting, and it's a favorite on my list of, you guessed it, rainy day spots. 

The indoor spaces are climate controlled year-round, and are amazing replicas of other climates and landscapes (ie. it's humid, guys). Between March and September the Pacific Island Water Garden room becomes home to hundreds of freely flying butterflies, and let me tell ya, it's magical. 
 

Though the conservatory building itself is filled to the brim with nature and art (did I mention the Chihuly glass art collection they have?), the Botanical Gardens also offer an overwhelming amount of beauty in their large outdoor space. The expertly manicured gardens and park are the only admissions-free part of the conservatory as a whole, but I'm lumping the whole damn place onto the list because it's a must-see for anyone visiting or living in Columbus. 

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16-Bit Bar+Arcade

Hey, I wasn't going to make a list including my favorite places in the city and not include a bar...

While bars are not free in nature (could you imagine, though?), this bar in particular is special due to the fact that it's filled with old-school arcade games that are 100% free to play as long as you buy a drink! Everything from Galga, Pac-Man, Mario Bros, to Mortal Combat, they have it. There's even a couple Nintendo gaming stations set up that house literally every Nintendo game (probably) ever.

And while they're not free, the drinks are half of the fun - they have a huge beer selection on tap and a truly unique cocktail menu (I recommend the Kevin Bacon, the Patrick Swayze, or the Uma Thurman). 

Weekends are obviously the busiest (and most crowded), but their weekday calendar is always full of fun tournaments, special games, and discounts. It's definitely a must-see spot. 

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FREE (OR NEARLY FREE) SPOT IN COLUMBUS? IF YOU'VE BEEN TO ANY OF THE PLACES ABOVE, LEAVE A COMMENT AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THOUGHT!