As Ohio’s capital city, Columbus has the expected lineup of great museums, a zoo and botanical gardens. But its downtown neighborhoods—the eclectic Short North Arts District and the 19th-century German Village—take it out of the realm of typical. Check out our trip guide for what to do, where to eat and where to stay.

By The editors of
Updated May 20, 2020

Due to possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.


Bicentennial Park Kids splash in a 200-foot-long series of fountains that shoot water 75 feet in the air. The riverside park also hosts free dance, music and theater performances at an outdoor pavilion.

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum The impressive collection of Ohio State-owned materials includes rare and historical comic strips, graphic novels and editorial cartoons.

Capitol tours The flat rotunda roof of the 1861 Ohio Statehouse distinguishes this building from other capitols. Take free hour-long tours.

State Capitol

Center of Science and Industry A dinosaur gallery encourages interactivity with exhibits, such as a climbable, full-scale model of an Oviraptor nest. Other areas of the museum cover themes such as space and energy.

Columbus Food Adventures Hungry explorers go on a progressive meal at several restaurants. Themes include taco trucks, desserts, or an Alt Eats tour of the cuisines of Somalia or Vietnam.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium See more than 600 species at this top-ranked zoo, or journey 95 miles east to Cumberland to explore The Wilds, the zoo’s conservation center and safari park.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Herb gardens, a canopy walk, play structures and a Hocking Hills-inspired splash area—waterfall and all—cover the new 2-acre Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden.

German Village A few blocks south of downtown, bakeries, bookshops, delis and gift stores line the narrow brick streets of this charming enclave of 19th-century European-style brick buildings.

Huntington Park Home of the Triple-A team the Clippers, this Minor League Baseball park sells hot dogs for 10 cents during select games. Enjoy drinks and skyline views from the Hall of Fame Bar.

National Veterans Memorial and Museum Late astronaut and Ohio senator John Glenn helped spearhead the $82 million museum. Exhibits include video interviews and letters from soldiers.

North Bank Park Kids splash in an interactive fountain along the Scioto River. Signs share the city's history.

North Market Visitors shop among 35 merchants selling fresh produce, flowers and prepared food at this year-round indoor market. Some days bring special events, such as live music.

Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art Highlights from the contemporary art collection of Ron and Ann Pizzuti are showcased in a refurbished office building.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park Scale one of the nation’s largest free outdoor climbing walls at this 120-acre adventure park that also contains an obstacle course, sand volleyball courts and recreation fields.

Short North Arts District The district has morphed into a 20-block mosaic of fashion boutiques, restaurants, bars, murals and new faces. Last summer, $500 million of investment added more storefronts and lofts.

Short North Arts District

Topiary Garden Park Sculpted evergreens re-create the scene from Georges Seurat’s pointillist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.

The Topiary Park


Barcelona Snag a patio table at this tapas spot in German Village. The $60 tasting menu includes six dishes, each created by a different chef.

Basi Italia A New York-trained chef brings his skills to a house in the heart of Victorian Village, serving creations such as creamy sweet crab and corn risotto.

Brassica Hop in the cafeteria-style line at this popular Mediterranean spot in Short North to assemble a bowl or pita wrap with your choice of rice, lentils, creamy hummus, vegetables and proteins.

Columbus Coffee Trail This string of coffee destinations was charted to educate. At One Line, learn how brewing style affects flavor. Fox in the Snow forgoes Wi-Fi—and a business phone—to promote interaction in its sunny garage-turned-cafe.

Denmark on High Try seasonal cocktails and savory apps in the bar and lounge over High Street.

Fox in the Snow Cafe, a coffee shop on the Columbus Coffee Trail

G. Michael's Bistro and Bar White tablecloths add a formal touch to this historical stable. Low-country dishes (shrimp and grits with ham) impress guests.

The Happy Greek Guests eat Greek favorites (tzatziki, gyros, kabobs, desserts and, yes, flaming cheese) in Short North.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams Creative flavors like Boston Cream, Gooey Butter Cake and Brambleberry Crisp join more typical (but equally tasty) choices like The Milkiest Chocolate.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Katalina's The former gas station pumps out baskets of golden pancake balls filled with berry preserves, Nutella, dulce de leche or pumpkin-apple butter.

Little Eater Cara Mangini, author of the award-winning cookbook The Vegetable Butcher, stays true to her veggie-centric roots at the North Market spot. Try the four-scoop flight of seasonal vegetable creations.

Middle West Spirits Service Bar Enjoy distillery tours and tastings, plus flavor-packed meals, such as Cheesy Brisket Crunch or Lamb Dumplings, from chef Avishar Barua.

Northstar Cafe Staff serve items containing sustainably sourced ingredients, such as the beets and squash in the roasted root salad.

The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro Upscale American and French cuisine shines in a 19th-century building that used to serve as a church. Music nights with live jazz, opera or chamber music performances make a visit even more special.

Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus Americanized German foods star at the German Village spot. Try the Autobahn buffet.

Skillet More than 40 regional farms, gardens and dairies supply ingredients for dishes such as Cheese Blintzes or smoked sausage.

The Thurman Cafe The ¾-pound Thurman Burger—with ham, cheese, sauteed onions and ’shrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, pickles, and mayo—warrants the sometimes two-hour wait.

Watershed Kitchen and Bar A four-course tasting menu lets you sample a variety of chef Jack Moore’s creations, such as beet salad with feta and fried chicken with whipped pig butter. Also on the menu: spirits from Watershed Distillery.


DogHouse Columbus Scotland-based BrewDog opened what is billed as the world’s first beer hotel, with 32 guest rooms (each equipped with a BrewDog tap) next to a state-of-the-art sour brewery and taproom.

Graduate Columbus Decor in this new-in-2019 hotel reflects the scarlet and gray of Ohio State University as well as influences from state luminaries like John Glenn and Ohio’s eight presidents.

German Village Guest House This 1800s guest house is now a chic five-room hotel. The hands-off owner sets out a light breakfast. Guests cozy up by an outdoor fireplace in the evenings.

German Village Guest House

Hilton Columbus Downtown Showcasing more than 225 works by 100 area artists, including prints on guest-room ceilings, this hotel has the cachet of an art gallery. A 12-story-high atrium lights public spaces.

Hotel LeVeque A star machine and telescope in every room reflect the celestial-theme decorating in the hotel, on the lower floors of a 1927 Art Deco tower. A recent $27 million renovation also created a restaurant and bar, The Keep, which serves French brasserie fare.

Hotel LeVeque. Photo courtesy of hotel.

Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph In the heart of Short North Arts District, 135 rooms and suites contain sleek wooden accents crafted in Ohio. The hotel’s special-occasion Guild House restaurant plates entrees such as chicken roulade with sweet corn puree.

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