The Ohio State University

student union ohio state university

The State of Ohio is home to 137 four year colleges, as well as a number of junior and community colleges. Each campus has a unique history and a story to tell. This is the first in a series of articles touring college campuses in the Buckeye State. 

The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University in Columbus is where we begin our journey. At 1665 acres you can spend an easily spend an entire day on campus; exploring the grounds, learning the history, and living the traditions. Touring campuses, especially one this large, is an inexpensive or even free way to adventure in Ohio. 

Currently tours of the campus are suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions. Ordinarily you can take a guided tour around campus. Currently, you can click through to their website for a printable, self-guided walking tour .

Since tours were not available, we chose to visit on a Sunday afternoon. Not many of the buildings are open on the weekends, but we had our pup with us and were looking for some outdoor time. 

Parking was not the nightmare I remembered from my student days. We easily found a spot in one of the lots at St. John Arena. The meters there take either coins or credit cards and you need only enter your license plate. 

Bus Service is Free for Visitors

If you or someone you are visiting with has trouble with walking the campus, CABS (Campus Area Bus Service) is available for getting around campus. As a visitor, you will want to make use of either the CLN (Campus Loop North) or CLS (Campus Loop South) circulators. They travel around the main campus area. The transport is available for free and you just hop on and off at any campus bus stop. 

Dog Friendly Campus

OSU is a fairly dog friendly campus and it looks as if dogs are welcome on-leash in all or most outdoor spaces. It was a sunny day and we saw several students out walking with their dogs as well. Just make sure to clean up after your pup. 

Our pup, Pumpkin, relaxing on The Oval with 5th President William Oxley Thompson

The Shoe

Our first stop was Ohio Stadium, better known as “The Shoe.” The stadium was built in 1922 with one end open, giving it a horseshoe appearance that resulted in its nickname. Initially, the stadium had a seating capacity of 66,210. Currently the stadium holds 104,944 fans making it the largest on-campus stadium in the state and the third largest, by capacity, in the United States. Though the primary focus of the stadium is to house OSU football games, the stadium is also used for spring commencement and as a major concert venue.

In front of The Shoe is Jesse Owens Memorial Plaza which houses a sculpture in his honor. Owens was a sprinter and long jumper at Ohio State prior to winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. While a Buckeye, the Cleveland raised Owens set three world records and tied one during the 1935 Big Ten track meet. 

Recreation and Physical Activity Center

We crossed Annie & John Glenn Avenue in front of the Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC). The building, which replaced the old Larkins Hall facility, was completed in 2007. The facility houses physical activity space, including an aquatic center for students. 

Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC) and the Scarlet Skyway

Mirror Lake

Our next stop was to rest for a few moments on one of the park benches surrounding Mirror Lake. Surrounded by trees, the lake is a peaceful spot on campus. Even though campus was officially closed, there were several students relaxing lake side. I remember taking my children on campus visits when they were young. Their favorite things were riding the circulator buses and feeding the ducks at Mirror Lake. 

Mirror Lake is a great place to relax, have a picnic, or read a book.


For years, it was tradition for students to gather and jump in Mirror Lake during the annual OSU-Michigan football week. While the University never endorsed the jump, as numbers grew they tried to bring the event under control. For the 2019 rivalry week, Mirror Lake was drained to stop the event. 

Ohio Union

After Mirror Lake we emerged at the South Oval. Surrounded by university buildings, the Ohio Union (in featured picture) is at the far end. There are several restaurants inside, including the Buckeye-themed Sloopy’s Diner and Woody’s Tavern. the student union also houses shopping opportunities, university offices, meeting spaces, classrooms, and a Brutus Buckeye photo opp. 

The Oval and Main Library

Cutting between two buildings on our left, we enter The Oval. The Oval is anchored on one end by the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library and the other end by the Wexner Center for the Arts. The library had an extensive renovation in 2006 and I am excited to return for a look inside when campus re-opens. 

The Oval is bustling with students. Some are busy flipping a frisbee back and forth, there are roller bladers, bikers, and even a couple flying a kite. There are numerous towels and blankets spread about with sunbathers. This is a great place to have a picnic lunch. In addition to being a great location for people watching, the Orton Hall chimes ring on the half hour. If you’re an alumni or you’ve seen an OSU commercial, you’ll recognize the tune.

Wrapping Up Our Visit

With our pup starting to tire, we decided to head back to the car. We cross Woody Hayes Drive, take a quick picture with Brutus in front of the ROTC building, and arrive in the parking lot of St. John Arena. All together we’ve walked about three miles on the Ohio State University campus. 

We’ve spent about three hours on campus and really just touched the tip of the iceberg. If you would like to plan a visit to OSU, you could easily make a day of it. When the buildings are open, you can visit the university libraries, see amazing works of art at the Wexner Center for the Arts, purchase a visitor pass and enjoy the facilities at RPAC, take a tour, and peruse the shops on High Street. There are plenty of interesting places to eat on campus and nearby, or you could bring your own picnic lunch. 

I am looking forward to checking out the renovations to the main library and also plan a visit to RPAC. If tours resume before this fall, my daughter and I plan on returning for the annual ghost tour around Halloween. That is one tour that has been on my Ohio bucket list for a few years. 

Plan a Visit

If you have time and are in the Columbus area, visit The Ohio State University. Spend a few hours or even an entire day. If you don’t have time for that, take a drive through campus. Chances are good you’ll plan to return.

Thanks for FindingOhio with us! What campus should we explore next? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Looking for more Ohio ideas? Visit Day Trips and follow along with our adventures. And, as always, we appreciate you sharing our content on social media!

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