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Commentary: Find cheap entertainment in museums, hiking tours, antiquing beyond OSU campus borders

I am a cheap person, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love a deal almost as much as I love atypical diversions. So when I’m looking for something fun to do, I generally try to find the least expensive option.
While there’s usually something free happening on campus, variety is the spice of life and there’s so much more happening in Columbus than dinner and a movie. These are my go-to ways to have fun on the cheap. For my purposes, I’m defining cheap as free to $10 (per person). I also always take my student ID (or military ID if you have one) and ask for a discount if there isn’t one advertised.
First on the list of things fun and free is exploring the outdoors. Even when it’s cold, one my favorite ways to see more of the capital city is the Metro Parks Winter Hikes Series. Offered every Saturday and many Sundays in January and February, the hike series is free. It covers parks in the greater Columbus area, and there are a variety of trails and hike lengths to choose from.
When I’d rather just pretend to be in the great outdoors, I head over to the Franklin Park Conservatory. Located at 1777 E. Broad St., the conservatory is an indoor garden showcasing a variety of climates and plants from desert to tropical conditions as well as art. Admission is $9 with a student ID, and student membership is $30, which can save you money if you plan to go several times. The Ohio Union also offers discounted tickets for $3.
Columbus has a number of diverse museums and tours that are often free or discounted. If you don’t enjoy traditional art museums, the Ohio Craft Museum in Grandview is free and displays crafts more intricate than any macaroni collage I’ve ever seen. Ranging from quilts to pottery, the exhibits rotate throughout the year. The Ohio Craft Museum, located at 1665 W. Fifth Ave., is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., according to its website.
If you’re looking for an adventure more off the beaten path, I recommend a tour of the American Whistle Corporation, located at 6540 Huntley Road in North Columbus. Tours are by appointment only, and for $4 you can find out how whistles are made and get a shiny new whistle at the end. Tours run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to its website.
Sometimes I need to do something “high-cultured” and get my classy side on. The best program I’ve found to indulge my more refined tastes is the PNC Arts Alive All Access program. The program offers a variety of arts events for $5 (for students 13 to 25 years old), including plays, symphonies and ballets. Check out www.gofor5.com for event information and tickets.
Antiquing is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to waste a rainy weekend. The best place I’ve been in Columbus is the Greater Columbus Antique Mall on 1045 S. High St. near German Village. It has three floors of awesome junk with a variety of vendors and a wide-ranging selection. This sport is free unless you decide to spring for some kitschy salt and pepper shakers to add to your collection (and I recommend you do).
Whether your tastes are eclectic or traditional, it’s easy to find fun things to do without breaking the bank off campus.

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