View of the landmark signage of COSI, one of the best museums in Columbus

15 Best Museums in Columbus (By a Local)

The capital city of Ohio is full of rich history and culture, which can be experienced at the many amazing museums in Columbus.

I’m an Ohio local who’s spent a lot of time in Columbus. I’m here to tell you all about the best Columbus museums, and why they are some of the best attractions in Columbus.

The Columbus Museum of Art and COSI are the best-known museums. But there are Columbus museums for all interests! From art to history, science, and more.

Let’s start exploring!

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15 Museums in Columbus

Columbus Museum of Art

Discover local and international artwork at this downtown historical landmark.

Exterior view of the Columbus Museum of Art from the distance
The exterior of the CMA (photo: Eric Glenn / Shutterstock) 

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $18 for adults; $9 for students, seniors, and kids ages 4-17; free for children under 4 | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, 10 am – 9 pm Thursdays, Closed Mondays

The Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) is the largest museum of its kind in Columbus, Ohio. It’s been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1992. CMA features contemporary artwork, European and American masterpieces from the turn of the 20th century, and more.

The Columbus Museum of Art is home to the world’s largest display of works by acclaimed Columbus artists. Artists include Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Elijah Pierce, and George Bellows. You can also see the work of other renowned artists such as Rockwell, Picasso, and Monet.

During my last visit, my favorite part was getting to go to the Wonder Room and create my own artwork to put on display!

👉 Pro Tip: Enjoy free admission on Sundays! 

Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

A place where science class turns into a fun day for the whole family!

View of the tree-like art piece outside Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
(photo: aceshot1 / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $25 for adults, $23 for seniors (60+), $20 for children ages 2-12, free for children under 2 | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily

The Center of Science and Industry, or “COSI,” is one of the most popular Columbus museums. It’s also my personal favorite on this list! COSI has over 300 interactive exhibits as well as a fun gift shop.

Have fun with exhibits featuring dinosaurs, outer space, aquatic ecosystems, and many other areas of science. The planetarium is extremely popular. It provides a dazzling starry show and an opportunity to learn about astronomy.

The High Wire Unicycle is an amazing experience for people who don’t have a fear of heights. On it, you can ride a unicycle on a thin wire two stories off the ground. The electrostatic generator is another cool experience, where you touch the generator with one hand to make all your hair stand on end!

📚 Need a Hotel? Check out my guide to the best places to stay in Columbus.

The Wexner Center for the Arts

Home to an art gallery and a performance venue on a huge college campus.

View of the architectural structure of The Wexner Center for the Arts
The Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University (photo: aceshot1 / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: free | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Sundays, Tuesdays, & Wednesdays; 11 am – 8 pm Thursday-Saturday; Closed Sundays

The Wexner Center for the Arts is a part of Ohio State University. It is located on High Street. Approximately 3,000 works of contemporary art are featured in the Wexner Center, which belongs to the University Gallery.

Additionally, the Wexner Center for the Arts is commonly used as a performance venue. It is used for art exhibitions as well as live events like artist talks and film screenings. The programs at Wexner Center aim to inspire interest in art as well as educate.

👉 Pro Tip: Enjoy free admission to the gallery every Thursday afternoon!

Kelton House Museum & Garden

A historical home that was once part of the Underground Railroad.

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (ages 55+), $3 for students | Hours: 12 pm – 4 pm Thursday-Sunday, Closed Monday-Wednesday

The Kelton House Museum & Garden is a historic Italian and Greek-style building that gives you a rare glimpse into Victorian life. It was a part of the Underground Railroad, owned by Fernando Kelton, a local merchant in the 1800s. He and his wife were strong abolitionists and helped many fugitive slaves on their way to freedom.

The Town St. property stayed in the family for generations, but it was eventually left to the Columbus Foundation. People can now take tours of the home. It also houses occasional special events.

During a trip to the Kelton House Museum & Garden, you can learn about the Kelton family. Most of the furniture in the home was owned by the Keltons themselves! You can also learn valuable snippets of 19th-century Columbus history.

The Motts Military Museum

A fascinating collection of military artifacts and stories.

A patch of the USA flag on the soldiers uniform and the lined soldiers in the background
The Motts Military Museum honors military personnel

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (ages 62+), $5 for students, free for children under 5 | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm Tuesday-Saturday; 1 pm – 5 pm Sundays; Closed Mondays

Motts Military Museum is one of the best military museums in the country. It is a non-profit museum that provides insights into each major conflict in American history. It also honors the military history of America.

You can see numerous exhibits with artifacts from every major American conflict. Each one is so chock full of information that you could spend an entire afternoon here! There are also personal stories of people who have served in the United States military. 

If you want to experience machinery from the war up close, you can see impressive aircraft and other vehicles. The most impressive is a Higgins Boat from World War II, which looks massive up close!

Jack Nicklaus Museum

A museum celebrating the career and life of Jack Nicklaus, the “Golden Bear” of golf.

View at the entrance of Jack Nicklaus Museum
Entrance to the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, OH (photo: Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for students | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm, Tuesday-Saturday, Closed Sundays & Mondays

The Jack Nicklaus Museum is an important destination for any golf enthusiast. As the name implies, it honors the life and career of Jack Nicklaus, who was a golf legend from Columbus, OH.

Located on the Ohio State University campus, the Jack Nicklaus Museum houses multiple galleries with over 2,000 artifacts. These include diverse golf memorabilia. Taped footage gives you a live view of his games in many of the museum rooms. The Legends of Golf gallery exhibit is also informative and covers the history and origins of golf.

You can also learn about Nicklaus’ childhood and personal life, in addition to his impressive golf career. You can even enjoy a game at the golf course dedicated to the “Golden Bear” at the Muirfield Village Golf Club.

National Veterans Memorial and Museum

A national museum honoring United States military veterans.

View of the architectural structure of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum and the USA flag on the pole outside
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum, with patriotic flags flying (photo: Eric Glenn / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $18 for adults (ages 18-64), $16 for seniors (ages 65+), $11 for kids ages 5-17, free for kids under 5 | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, Closed Tuesdays

The National Veterans Memorial and Museum is a relatively recent addition to Columbus, OH.

The beautiful museum features both permanent and rotating exhibits. You can see various forms of media, photos, and letters. These provide a great deal of insight into what veterans and their families had to go through during times of combat. There are also featured stories from veterans suffering from PTSD, which aim to raise awareness of this condition.

The peaceful Memorial Grove and rooftop sanctuary are great places to honor these individuals. You can reflect on their sacrifices here. Many people have reported that these exhibits are very powerful, evoking strong emotions in some cases.

Orton Geological Museum

Learn about natural history from a collection of geologically preserved specimens.

Exterior view of the Orton Geological Museum and the fall foliage outside
Orton Hall, a historic landmark and home to the Orton Geological Museum (photo: Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: free | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm Monday-Friday, Closed Saturdays & Sundays

The Orton Geological Museum is a hidden gem among museums in Columbus. It is located on the Oval Mall of the OSU campus. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about natural history. Plus, admission is free!

The over 54,000 specimens at this geological preservation facility present an amazing display. You can see preserved earth minerals, dinosaur relics, a meteorite that landed in Ohio, and even real mastodon and mammoth teeth!

There’s also an imposing 24-foot-long replica of Cryolophosaurus Ellioti, an early Jurassic dinosaur. This is very likely to catch your attention here!

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Everything you ever wanted to know about your favorite cartoons.

An artist's hands drawing a cartoon storyboard with a pencil
Learn all about the art of cartoons! (photo: Tutatamafilm / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: free | Hours: 1 pm – 5 pm Tuesday-Sunday, Closed Mondays

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is an important destination for any cartoon enthusiast. This small museum has the largest collection of comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, archives, and related newspapers on the planet. It’s another great museum located on the Ohio State University campus.

One visit here will barely scratch the surface of everything this museum has to offer. There are over 200,000 original cartoons. This museum dedicates itself to research, preservation, and education.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is home to millions of newspaper clippings and riveting permanent collections. There are also thousands of underground comic books. Guided tours are available. You can enjoy rotating exhibits and events as well.

Wagner Hagans Auto Museum

A hidden treasure where you can learn about the history of cars and the road!

View of the colorful vintage cars' bumpers
Learn all about cars at the Wagner Hagans Auto Museum!

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: free | Hours: tours by appointment only

The Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum is a must-visit for car enthusiasts. You can learn all about the history of automobiles in Ohio and browse auto-related memorabilia. However, the Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum is unique because it doesn’t have regular hours. Instead, visits are by appointment only. 

The museum’s curator and owner, Steve Wagner, is a car enthusiast who loves to share his passion for automobiles with visitors. The galleries feature all sorts of cool things.

You can see old-style gas pumps, neon signs from roads, and an unusual license plate collection. The license plate collection contains plates from all over the world and Ohio plates from every year. There are also 28 vintage cars to admire. Military buffs can appreciate the weapons carrier and pre-war military jeeps.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

A stunning museum full of greenery, butterflies, and Dale Chihuly artwork.

View of the lush greenery inside the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Gorgeous greenery on the interior of the Franklin Park Conservatory (photo: fsendek / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $23 for adults, $19 for seniors (ages 60+), $15.50 for children under 13 | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are just east of downtown Columbus. It possesses some of the most beautiful scenery in Columbus, OH. There are over 400 plant species in the indoor and outdoor areas. They come from all over the world, including the rainforest, tropical areas, and deserts.

Although the greenery at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is lovely, it’s not the only reason to visit. The stunning Dale Chihuly glass artwork makes the scenery even more beautiful.

The indoor butterfly garden can also provide an unforgettable experience. The Conservatory has butterfly pupae imported from all over the globe. Visitors can watch them break free of their cocoons!

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens also offer classes in glass blowing, cooking, and painting.

Ohio Craft Museum

A unique collection of locally made crafts to admire and purchase.

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: free | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Monday-Friday, 11 am – 4 pm Saturdays, Closed Sundays

The Ohio Craft Museum is seen by many as more of a gift shop than a museum. However, there are interesting exhibits to explore. These exhibits change up pretty regularly, so you can visit multiple times and always discover something new.

Different types of artwork populate this contemporary art collection. This includes wood, glass, ceramic, jewelry, and fiber. The permanent collections include creative jewelry and clay sculptures. There are also rotating exhibits that educate visitors on different craft mediums.

There are three gift shops representing different craft mediums. You can get some gorgeous souvenirs here. In addition, you can take classes on different crafts and improve your own skills!

Central Ohio Fire Museum

A collection of firefighting artifacts, with an emphasis on fire safety education.

A firetruck driving on the highway
Learn about fire engines and more!

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for children | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm Tuesday-Saturday, Closed Sundays & Mondays

The Central Ohio Fire Museum is a restored firehouse from 1908. It contains early fire trucks, some with primitive motors and some even horse-drawn. You can also see early examples of fire protection, including equipment and old-style helmets.

The guided tours at the Central Ohio Fire Museum are informative, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. I found the Burned Items Display particularly interesting. Here, you can see artifacts that were taken out of house fires, some with a surprising amount of damage.

The Central Ohio Fire Museum also offers fire safety education classes. There’s a 911 simulator so that people can get more insight into how these calls work. There’s even a play area for the kids, as well as a gift shop where you can get cool souvenirs.

Ohio History Center

A creative place to immerse yourself in the history of Ohio.

View of the Ohio state flags waving along the wind
The Ohio state flag waving in the wind

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: $13 for adults, $11 for seniors (ages 60+), $11 for students (with ID), $7 for kids ages 4-12, free for kids 3 and under | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Wednesday-Sunday, Closed Mondays & Tuesdays

Learn everything you would want to know about Ohio at the Ohio History Center. It features a variety of interactive exhibits from inventions to pop culture at different times to sports history.

Here, there are Ohio history exhibits that go as far back as the Ice Age. You can learn about different eras in history, including times of war.

Go outside to the Ohio Village if you want a truly immersive experience of Ohio in the late 1800s. You can spend an afternoon playing a character of this time period—wearing a vintage costume, giving a speech from a 19th-century script, and more! 

Many hands-on activities at the Ohio History Center will make your experience memorable.

📚 Related Reading: 17 Facts About Columbus, Ohio

German Village Visitors Center

Immerse yourself in German culture before venturing into a historic neighborhood.

Exterior view of The Book Loft at German Village
The exterior of a popular shop in the German Village (photo: aceshot1 / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Museum Website | Cost: free | Hours: 9 am – 4 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays, 12 pm – 3 pm Sundays

The German Village Visitors Center is a great place to go if you’re interested in exploring this neighborhood. It is staffed by multiple volunteers who are very familiar with the neighborhood and can provide you with guidance.

You can learn a lot about German American culture at the German Village Visitors Center. There are many exhibits about the neighborhood through many historic eras. 

I recommend enjoying the views of the lovely 19th-century architecture while walking on the brick streets. Then, relax with a cold beer at a German brewery or grab a bite at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus.

The Village is the site of a variety of special exhibits and concerts as well. You can enjoy picnic areas and gardens in Schiller Park.

👉 Read Next: Best Destinations to Visit in Ohio

FAQs About Columbus Museums

How much does it cost to get into the Columbus Art Museum?

It costs $18 to get into the Columbus Art Museum for an adult. It costs $9 for children aged 4 to 17 and seniors (age 60+). Tickets are free for children ages 3 and under. Veterans and active military personnel can get in for free.

Is the Columbus Museum of Art still free on Sundays?

The Columbus Museum of Art is still free on Sundays. Visitors can enjoy every regular exhibition at no cost, as well as the Big Idea Gallery and Center for Creativity. There may be fees for special exhibitions. 

Even though admission is free, visitors must reserve admission tickets ahead of time.

How much is a COSI ticket?

A COSI ticket is $25 for an adult. Children aged 2-12 can get tickets for $20, and children under the age of 2 can enter for free. Seniors (age 60+) pay $23 for a ticket.

How many hours do you spend at COSI?

You can spend at least four hours at COSI to see all the exhibits. However, you can probably condense your visit to 2-3 hours if COSI is just one of many things on your Columbus itinerary.


I hope you enjoyed my guide to the best museums in Columbus! Be sure to also check out my guide to Cleveland Museums if you’re traveling around Ohio!

(Featured Image Credit: Eric Glenn / Shutterstock)

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