Whether spectating or participating, central Ohio offers families lots of ways to get their sports fix. Below are some of our favorites:
Editor’s note: For the most up-to-date version of this list, go to columbusparent.com/spectatorsports.
Whether spectating or participating, central Ohio offers families many ways to get their sports fix. Below are some of our favorites:
All American Quarter Horse Congress (Ohio Expo Center, 717 E. 17th Ave., Columbus 43211; oqha.com) It's only the world's largest single-breed horse show. For most of the month of October each year, about 20,000 horses and more than 650,000 people descend upon the Ohio Expo Center for days and days of quarter horse competitions, sales and more.
Arnold Sports Festival (Arena District; arnoldsportsfestival.com) It's a little difficult to describe this sprawling event because every year it adds onto and edits itself. Generally taking place over the first weekend in March, the event started in 1989 as "just" a bodybuilding competition, thanks to its founder and champion bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is now an Olympic-style multi-sport festival and fitness expo that attracts nearly 20,000 athletes and 200,000 fans to Columbus.
Columbus Blue Jackets (Nationwide Arena; bluejackets.nhl.com) The Blue Jackets are a National Hockey League team. The team debuted in 2000. Since then, the team has appeared twice in post-season play and its fans have distinguished themselves as some of the most loyal in the NHL. Games are very family-friendly with well-priced ticket packages (that often include food, drink and a skate on the Ice Haus rink in the arena), the IGS Energy Zone play area for kids, visits from team mascot Stinger, plus lots of giveaways and promotions during the games. Check out our story on great tips for taking the family to a Blue Jackets game.
Columbus Clippers (Huntington Park; clippersbaseball.com) The Clippers' baseball team is a AAA minor-league team, currently affiliated with the Cleveland Indians' organization. They moved into their home at Huntington Park in the Arena District in 2009. The classically designed park offers seating for up to 10,000 spectators, but still retains a cozy feel. The family lawn and bleachers are popular places to watch the games. The Kids Club program offers a wide range of benefits to kids 12 and younger, including a special seating area, player meet-and-greets, swag and more.
Columbus Crew SC (Mapfre Stadium; columbuscrewsc.com) Crew Stadium, now known as Mapfre Stadium, is the first sports stadium in the U.S. built for soccer (though it also hosts a variety of other events, including music concerts). The Crew soccer team is part of Major League Soccer and was founded in 1996. They won the MLS Cup in 2008 and are perennial contenders for top honors in the MLS. Pre-game activities outside the stadium are always a draw for families.
The New Albany Classic (on the grounds of the Wexner home in New Albany; thenewalbanyclassic.com) Begun in 1998 by local philanthropist Abigail Wexner, the New Albany Classic is an international equestrian competition combined with lots and lots of family fun and entertainment. Generally taking place on the third Sunday in September, the event features a music concert with up-and-coming pop stars, world-class horse-riding competition, and a sprawling family-fun area. The proceeds benefit The Center for Family Safety and Healing, an organization dedicated to ending family violence.
Ohio Roller Girls (Ohio Building at the Ohio Expo Center, 717 E. 17th Ave., Columbus 43211; ohiorollergirls.com) This competitive league for female roller-derby athletes has been around since 2005 and offers a fun and fast-paced alternative to mainstream sports every March through August. The team (whose players sport great pseudonyms like The Smacktivist and Eektra Magneto) are also very active in the community, helping a variety of charitable organizations and causes.
Ohio State University sports (ohiostatebuckeyes.com) Before there were professional sports teams in Columbus, there was - and always will be - The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Best known of course for its winning football and basketball (both men's and women's) teams, the university also fields many other winning teams and NCAA championship events.