Columbus Ohio is much more than the state capital and home of Ohio State. Judy Antell, TravelingMom with Pets, discovered a vibrant city with new museums, food and fashion. Read on for fun things to do in Columbus Ohio.
Columbus, Ohio, used to be a somewhat overlooked city. In fact, in over 30 years of visiting my in-laws in nearby Cincinnati, I had never been. But due to the gallery walks and breweries in Short North arts district and foodie destinations in German Village, Columbus now commands attention.
Not only that, the museum scene continues to grow. The new National Veterans Memorial and Museum just opened. COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, has a partnership with the American Museum of Natural History.
In a whirlwind couple of days, I explored Columbus and toured the Franklin Park Conservatory and The Columbus Museum of Art.
Fun Things to Do in Columbus Ohio
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum is so new, the cafe still hasn’t opened. The museum has videos of veterans and interactive activities like trying on a uniform and lifting a heavy backpack. Word to the wise, the boot camp you take at a gym is apparently nothing like a military boot camp. It was particularly moving to watch one of John McCain’s last interviews.
Walk across the street to COSI. The Center of Science and Industry museum has a planetarium, interactive exhibits and shows. I saw a special exhibit about poison from the American Museum of Natural History.
COSI has dino replicas from AMNH in a dinosaur gallery. There is just enough information to whet the appetite for more dinosaurs and a trip to NYC.
The Franklin Park Conservatory has a new outdoor children’s garden. The indoor botanical gardens are great for exploring on a cold or wet day. For the holidays, Franklin Park Conservatory has a holiday light show, Conservatory Aglow. There is also a gingerbread competition. The Conservatory has several Dale Chihuly pieces, great for this fan girl.
The Columbus Museum of Art focuses on late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American and European art. There are a number of Impressionist paintings and Warhols. On Thursdays evenings and Sunday afternoons, you can hear live music. The museum has a wonderful place for lunch, Schokko Cafe.
Eating well in Columbus, Ohio
I ate very well, starting with North Market. North Market, a public market downtown, has international food stands, a spice market, and a branch of Jeni’s Splendid ice cream. You can buy local produce, artisan bread, local cheese, and meat. I found a delicious vegetarian bahn mi at a Vietnamese stand.
That night, I ate at Service Bar, in the Short North arts district. The restaurant is attached to a distillery. We had the vegetarian tasting menu. The parade of inventive dishes included a Caesar salad with puffed buckwheat and tahini, fried and pickled broccoli with a caramelized tomato glaze and watermelon radishes, and a healthy (and delicious) take on Taco Bell tacos, with Bengali fry bread and sweet potatoes.
High Street, the main street in Short North, is lined with boutiques, cafes and bars. Most stores had water bowls outside for dogs. Despite the freezing rain, most people were walking their dogs throughout the dog, and bringing them into gift shops, clothing stores and bookstores.
If you head all the way through Short North from downtown Columbus, you run into the Ohio State University campus.
The adorable German Village has a new branch of a local coffee shop, The Fox in the Snow. Across Schiller Park, which has a large playground, is The Book Loft. The Book Loft has 32 rooms of books and enough reading material to see you through any flight delay. I got a heavily discounted paperback copy of Bel Canto.
Where to stay in Columbus Ohio
Fans of Beaux Arts architecture should head to Hotel LeVeque. This historic building in downtown Columbus became a boutique hotel and luxury condos recently. Hotel LeVeque, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, has a grand lobby and luxurious touches. My room had a huge modern bathroom with gigantic glass shower, a sitting area, and a comfortable king sized bed.
The room had a plush robe, mini refrigerator, Keurig coffee machine and an umbrella. Turn down service included chocolates.
When I was delayed by bad weather, the super friendly concierge bought me a drink.
Hotel LeVeque has a Starbucks in the lobby, a gym, and a restaurant and bar, The Keep. The Keep showcases local distilleries and breweries. And it has delicious food. I sat at the chef’s table, where I watched cooks prepare my Brussels Sprouts with grapes and Lentils & Legumes. The vegetarian dish had chickpea, smoked mushrooms, tamarind and labneh.
Columbus: A Walkable City – and a Smart City
From downtown Columbus you can walk to COSI and the Short North arts district. There is a bike share program and Bird e-scooters. Columbus recently got a huge grant to develop connected cars and an electric vehicle network. A free interactive gallery, Smart Columbus Experience Center, offers test drives in electric vehicles.
Not only that, COTA, the local transit authority, runs a free bus from Brewery District through downtown to the Short North. And a bus from the airport to downtown, stopping at the Convention Center and most downtown hotels, is just $2.75. (The airport is in need of an upgrade, though. Very few food options, especially if you are stuck for hours, like I was, the day after a storm. There isn’t even a Delta lounge.)
Note: Experience Columbus covered my travel expenses. Wonder and delight at all Columbus had to offer were all my own.