29 Reasons to Explore Columbus, Ohio | Midwest Living
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29 Reasons to Explore Columbus, Ohio

Ohio's biggest city boasts plenty of top-tier attractions, but lesser-known neighborhoods truly reveal the town's charm.
Photo Courtesy of Randall Lee Schieber

Exploring Columbus: Culture

Columbus Museum of Art A comprehensive collection of American and European modern art (left) is complemented by traveling exhibits. Free admission Sundays (614/221-6801; columbusmuseum.org).

Franklin Park Conservatory As the only public garden with a collection of Dale Chihuly glass, the conservatory offers a colorful blend of art and plants. Admission charged (614/645-8733; fpconservatory.org).

Ohio Historical Center The Ohio Historical Society museum explores natural history and ecology. In summer, the Ohio Village Muffins and Diamonds vintage baseball teams play. Open Saturdays only; admission charged (800/686-6124; www.ohiohistory.org).

Short North: Eclectic fun

In the 1980s, artists began to convert the dilapidated buildings north of downtown into Bohemian studios and galleries. Stylish shops and restaurants followed. This vibrant arts district successfully gentrified itself without sanitizing away all the urban grit. A Family Dollar store stands right by the high-end boutiques.

Click to the next slide for highlights of the Short North neighborhood.

Short North

Short North: What to do

Collier West Browse Collier West's gorgeous displays of antiquey dishes, plush bedding and other high-end accessories, including the world's most dreamy chandeliers (614/294-9378; collierwest.com).

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams A three-scoop sampler dish lets fickle folks choose three of the dazzling flavors, which change seasonally. Our favorite combo: salty caramel, bourbon buttered pecan and tangy apricot fro-yo (614/488-3224; jenisicecreams.com).

On Paper This lovely, stylish stationery store (pictured at left) is a must-see for anyone who loves to write letters the old-fashioned way. Many products, including personalized stationery, are available online (800/286-6617; onpaper.com).

Studios on High This sunny artist cooperative is one of nearly 20 Short North galleries and shows a variety of work from local artists (614/461-6487; studiosonhigh.com).

Tasi Cafe Tucked in an alley behind High Street, Tasi is open all day but serves an especially memorable breakfast, thanks to European-style breads (614/222-0788; tasicafe.com).

Tigertree This fun hipster boutique has a carefully curated mix of clothes, jewelry and knickknacks (614/299-2660; shoptigertree.com).

Downtown: Cool stops

Office towers cluster around Ohio's squat statehouse (left) like lanky kids posing with their grandfather. Even though downtown is more workaday than touristy, you'll find some cool stops here during back-and-forth drives along High Street between Short North and German Village (866/397-2657).

Click to the next slide for highlights of downtown.

Experience Columbus

Downtown: What to do

Deaf School Park (Pictured at left) At this whimsical topiary tribute to George Seurat's La Grande Jatte, you can stand by a bronze easel and see the scene as it appears in the painting -- or walk among the figures, as though stepping into a work of art (614/645-3300; columbusrecparks.com)

Due Amici This sleek Italian restaurant serves a wonderful sausage ravioli, with banana peppers, spinach and a lemon-Parmesan broth (614/224-9373; due-amici.com).

The Lofts This newly updated boutique hotel near Short North has modern furniture in brick-walled rooms. From $150 (800/735-6387; 55lofts.com).

North Market In addition to a seasonal, outdoor farmers market, 35 vendors run indoor shops. Spots are highly competitive, so the quality is top-notch--artisan breads, cheeses, chocolate and more (614/463-9664; northmarket.com).

Riffe Gallery This cool state-run gallery across from the capitol shows works from state museums and contemporary Ohio artists. Free (614/644-9624; riffegallery.org).

Statehouse The rotunda's roof is flat, as if its dome had been sliced off, but that was the design in 1839. Though it's meant more for kids on field trips, adults will learn a lot at the interactive Ohio Statehouse Museum. Free (888/644-6123; ohiostatehouse.org).

German Village: Picturesque enclave

A preservation effort begun in the 1960s restored this 2-mile-long wedge of brick alleys and 19th-century cottages, making it one of the country's largest privately funded historic districts. Businesses thrive amid tidy homes, flowers bloom in pocket gardens, and cars squeeze past each other on narrow streets. Unlike Short North, which has a well-defined business district, German Village begs for aimless wandering.

Click to the next slide for highlights of German Village.

German Village

German Village: What to do

Barcelona Try to snag a patio table at this hip tapas spot. The $30 weekly tasting menu includes seven dishes (614/443-3699; barcelona columbus.com). 

The Book Loft A maze of shelves invites wandering through 32 rooms of bargain books--plus a courtyard for overflow (614/464-1774; bookloft.com).

German Village Guest House You'll feel more like a lucky house-sitter than a paying guest at this chic five-room inn. From $165 (866/587-2738; gvguesthouse.com).

Katzinger's Delicatessen This funky deli serves delicious (though pricey) sandwiches, plus classic Jewish sides like matzo ball soup (614/228-3354; katzingers.com).

Pistacia Vera This gorgeous French bakery (left) makes exquisite pastries, including humble but heavenly bitter almond cookies (614/220-9070; pistaciavera.com).

Yosick's Artisan Chocolates No surprise to find elegant truffles in a chocolaterie... but pizza? Empty-nester Kristy Yosick's homey, hand-crafted lunch fare is just as good as her sweets (877/277-9575; yosicks.com).

Columbus' top draws

Looking to do more than just explore neighborhoods while you're in Columbus? The next slides are your pocket guide to the city's main attractions, such as the Franklin Park Conservatory (left). Some destinations are within minutes of the High Street neighborhoods; others require a road trip.

Exploring Columbus: Culture

Columbus Museum of Art A comprehensive collection of American and European modern art (left) is complemented by traveling exhibits. Free admission Sundays (614/221-6801; columbusmuseum.org).

Franklin Park Conservatory As the only public garden with a collection of Dale Chihuly glass, the conservatory offers a colorful blend of art and plants. Admission charged (614/645-8733; fpconservatory.org).

Ohio Historical Center The Ohio Historical Society museum explores natural history and ecology. In summer, the Ohio Village Muffins and Diamonds vintage baseball teams play. Open Saturdays only; admission charged (800/686-6124; www.ohiohistory.org).

Exploring Columbus: Family

Center of Science and Industry (COSI) COSI fuses playground and museum (left), with more than 300 interactive exhibits and a movie theater. Admission charged (614/228-2674; cosi.org).

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium More than 700 species reside at this top-ranked zoo; the new Polar Frontier brings polar bears here for the first time since 1994. Zoombezi Bay water park and Safari Golf Club fund the zoo's conservation efforts. Admission charged (800/666-5397; columbuszoo.org).

The Wilds Rhinos, giraffes and other exotic animals roam a 10,000- acre nature preserve 70 miles east of Columbus in Cumberland. Safari tours and overnight stays available; admission charged (740/638-5030; thewilds.org).

Exploring Columbus: Sports

Ohio Stadium All year long, fans can set up stadium tours Mondays--Thursdays. A 90-minute tour for up to 10 people costs $40 and includes the sidelines and press box (614/292-7687; ohiostatebuckeyes.com).

Columbus Clippers The Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate plays in the new $65 million Huntington Park; its open design offers sparkling views of the Columbus skyline. Check out the memorabilia and photos in The Hall of Fame Bar on the second level of the Left Field Building. Admission charged (614/462-5250; huntingtonparkcolumbus.com).

Jack Nicklaus Museum The Golden Bear, a Columbus native, has an honorary Ohio State degree. A campus museum celebrates his contributions to golf. Admission charged (614/247-5959; nicklausmuseum.org). 

Pictured: Ohio Stadium.

Exploring Columbus: Shopping

Easton Town Center Nearly 200 shops and restaurants fill a posh outdoor shopping and entertainment district (left) in northeast Columbus (614/337-2200; eastontowncenter.com).

Prime Outlets-Jeffersonville Ohio's largest outlet mall (40 miles south of Columbus) has 100 stores and plenty of discounts (740/948-9090; primeoutlets.com).

A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® May/June 2010.)

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