36 Hours in Columbus, Ohio | Midwest Living
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36 Hours in Columbus, Ohio

The challenge: Getting to know Columbus in just a weekend. Our guide to dining, shopping, exploring and soaking up some history will show you how to do it by visiting hidden gardens, hip hangouts, historic enclaves and a great big dinosaur den.

Columbus may be best known as a center for government—it’s Ohio’s state capital—and as home of The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!). But to really know Columbus, get out and explore its revitalized downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. Take the bike and pedestrian pathways along the scenic Scioto River, walk the red-brick streets of meticulously restored 19th century German Village, and experience the trendsetter vibe of the shops, restaurants and galleries in eclectic Short North.

FRIDAY

Celestial check-in @ 4 p.m.

The 2017 opening of Hotel LeVeque rejuvenated an iconic 1927 Art Deco skyscraper in downtown Columbus. The boutique hotel’s 149 rooms feature plush furnishings in keeping with the feel of 1920s glamour found throughout the renovated space, while a celestial decorating theme will have you seeing stars at every turn—even over your bed!  

Hotel LeVeque

Photo courtesy of Hotel LeVeque

Stroll the Short North @ 4:30 p.m.

Head north on High Street, Columbus’ main thoroughfare, and wander into the neighborhood known as the Short North, where fashion-forward boutiques sit next to cutting-edge art galleries, trendy restaurants and high-energy cocktail lounges. Among the treasure trove of shops: Rowe Boutique for contemporary women’s clothes, Samson for classic menswear, Flower Child for vintage finds from the mid-20th century, and Chunky Armadillo with home goods of “urban/rustic” design.

Art gave the Short North neighborhood its emerging identity back in the 1980s, and galleries continue to be a big part of the scene here today. Two that have honed their reputations for quality exhibits over the years, Sherrie Gallerie and ROY G BIV, are always worth a stop. 

Short North Arts District

Short North 

Danish Modern drinks @ 6 p.m.

Kick off the evening with drinks at Denmark, a dimly-lit, Ikea-inspired space where the bartenders craft cocktails using housemade bitters, fresh juices and local spirits. One example: the Pear-a-Dise made with local OYO honey vanilla bean vodka, ginger liqueur, pear preserves and honey lemon foam. Large windows across the front of the second-floor space provide great views of the action up and down High Street.

Dine on High @ 7 p.m.

High Street is home to a number of great dinner options, but it’s hard to beat The Pearl, with its industrial-chic ambience, unpretentious menu and impressive line-up of craft beers, many of them local. Dishes like roasted chicken and Lake Erie fish and chips perfectly fit the restaurant’s gastropub label. But don’t overlook the oyster bar —this place is named The Pearl for a reason. 

A Splendid cone @ 9 p.m.

What better way to end your Short North tour than with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream? Now a nationwide brand, Jeni’s was born in Columbus when Jeni Britton Bauer helped pioneer the artisan ice cream trend back in 2002. Expect unexpected flavors like sweet potato with torched marshmallows or goat cheese with red cherries. And don’t be put off by the line out the door; it moves quickly and will be there until the shop closes at 11 p.m.  

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

SATURDAY

Breakfast at The Keep @ 9 a.m.

Head to the LeVeque’s mezzanine for a French-inspired breakfast at The Keep, the hotel’s brasserie-styled restaurant. Coffee served in large or small French presses and breakfast fare such as crepes, quiche and pain perdue (brioche and roasted bananas in a caramel sauce) will have you feeling bright-eyed and saying “bonjour” in no time. 

 Walk The Mile @ 10:30 a.m.

A block from Hotel LeVeque is The Scioto Mile, a paved path running beside the Scioto River and spanning most of Columbus’ downtown. Walk, jog or rent a CoGo Bike (there are 46 stations throughout downtown where you can grab a bike for an $8 day pass) to traverse The Mile and take in the scenery. Be sure to stop at the Bicentennial Park interactive fountains where water shoots, twirls, sprays and loops in tandem with lights. At the southernmost point is the Scioto Audubon Park and Nature Center, where you can tackle one of the nation’s largest (35 feet) free climbing walls, play sand volleyball, or join a guided bird hike (every Saturday at 10 a.m.).

Scioto Mile

Bicentennial Park. Photo courtesy of Rod Berry/Ohio Stock Photography

North Market nosh @ noon

A public market since 1867, the North Market (adjacent to the Arena District) still hosts vendors selling flowers, fish, fresh produce and prepared foods. The abundant lunch choices include Nashville-style hot chicken and creamy mac ‘n’ cheese at Hot Chicken Takeover; momos— Himalayan dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables— from Momo Ghar Market; and veggie-centric “scoops” created by Little Eater. Pick up a pretzel with sweet or savory toppings from Brezel on your way out.

Get prehistoric at COSI @ 2 p.m.

At the Center of Science and Industry, commonly known as COSI, grown-ups have just as much fun as kids. COSI recently debuted Dinosaur Gallery, an innovative exhibit created in tandem with New York City’s American Museum of Natural History that traces the evolution of dinosaurs into the birds we know today. You’ll also find the largest planetarium in Ohio as well as tech-enhanced 3-D movies at the National Geographic Giant Screen Theater.

Dinosaur Gallery

Dinosaur Gallery. Photo courtesy of COSI.

Beer break @ 4:30 p.m.

While on the Scioto Peninsula, wander south into the up-and-coming Franklinton neighborhood for a stop at one of Columbus’ celebrated craft breweries, Land Grant. A sports theme prevails, extending to the names of the beers, but the renovated old factory’s taproom is far from a man-cave; the open space is filled with natural light. And if the weather permits, a patio lets you enjoy your Stiff-Arm IPA or Son of a Mudder brown ale al fresco.

High-concept small plates @ 6:30 p.m.

When Chef Josh Dalton moved his highly-regarded Veritas from small town Delaware to downtown Columbus, the city gained a dining experience to rival bigger foodie meccas. Known for crafting “elevated small plates” with unusual flavor combos, Chef Dalton changes his carefully curated menu weekly and sometimes daily. One dish that has been a constant, however, is his clever take on breakfast—bacon risotto with a 62½° egg and a delicate little biscuit. Equally refined is the cocktail menu with a changing line-up using house-made mixers and local spirits.

One more sip @ 8:30 p.m.

After dinner, pop into Buckeye Bourbon House for an after-dinner drink. Housed on the first floor of an artfully renovated 19th-century bank building, BBH features over 50 bourbons, many of which are rare or difficult to find. Order a tasting flight, a single on the rocks or an expertly blended cocktail like The Paper Pusher: local Watershed bourbon, lemon, Clément Créole shrub, Amaro Nonino and orange bitters.

Fun and games @ 10 p.m.

Get your game on at Pins Mechanical, where you can choose from duck pin bowling, pinball, foosball, ping pong or shuffleboard. A vast selection of draft beer and cocktails is available at a bar that anchors one side of the warehouse-like space, while a rotating line-up of food trucks provides sustenance for the late-night crowd.

SUNDAY

Garden art @ 9 a.m.

Before leaving downtown, swing by Topiary Park to view the horticultural reproduction of the Georges Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte. This oasis of greenery in the city center is said to be the only topiary garden in the world based on a work of art.

Topiary Park

Topiary Park

Late breakfast in German Village @ 10 a.m.

The village's Fox in the Snow retains all the charm of the sunny, plant-filled original (in Italian Village) as well as the attention to quality pastries and perfectly poured coffees. The baked goods generally include scones, Danish, muffins, cookies and brownies. Pro tip: If the frangipane (brioche covered with almond-honey glaze, sliced almonds and sea salt) is available, you’d be wise to snag one! Or try the egg soufflé sandwich with bacon, Swiss cheese and a honey mustard spread on a ciabatta-like bread.

Fox in the Snow

Fox in the Snow

Red bricks and gaslights @ 11:30 a.m.

In German Village, one of the city’s first neighborhoods, red-brick homes, shops and restaurants line narrow brick-paved streets. Settled by German immigrants in the early 1800s, the area feels as if history comes to life around every gaslight-illuminated corner. To get the most out of a visit, pick up an Art Walk map at the German Village Society & Meeting Haus or download an audio tour for iPod or MP3 player at the columbus.gov website. Another option is to sign on for a guided tour with Columbus City Adventures, whose 1-hour-and-45-minute German Village tour runs every Sunday at 2 p.m.  

If you choose to go it alone, don’t miss Schiller Park, a 23.5-acre jewel created in 1867 and named for German poet Friedrich von Schiller, whose statue keeps a watchful eye over all who visit here. The Book Loft is a must-visit spot as well: 32 rooms filled with “bargain-priced” books, one of the few independent bookstores remaining in Columbus.

Lunch with a German accent @ 1:30 p.m.

While in German Village... why not eat German, too? Schmidt’s Restaurant & Sausage Haus has roots in German Village that date to 1886, the year the Schmidt family founded its still-operating meat business. The food and friendly service keeps locals dining elbow-to-elbow with tourists who come by the busload. The signature Bahama Mama, a slightly spicy beef-and-pork smoked sausage, pairs well with one of several German imports or German-style beers on tap. But it’s the half-pound cream puffs that really leave an impression—decadent and completely delicious. And if your timing’s right, you’ll be serenaded by an accordion and tuba band!

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