What are the best things to do in Columbus?

Erin Norris

There is no shortage of things to see and do in Columbus — even longtime residents have yet to discover the hidden gems in their own backyards. Parks, markets, and festivals come and go with the seasons, but there are a sacred few monuments of Columbus culture that stand the test of time. Here are five that we recommend:
 
1. Ohio Stadium. Commonly referred to as “The Shoe,” the monumental stadium at Ohio State University is the fourth-largest football stadium in the country and the seventh-largest non-racing stadium in the world. It is guaranteed to impress football enthusiasts, but even non-fans can appreciate the striking architecture and sheer magnitude.
 
2. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is often ranked among the best in the world. Most exhibits are free of bars and cages, so the animals can roam around in areas that resemble natural habitats. While it is best to visit during the warmer months, the stunning light show that runs from November through January makes it a favorite holiday destination, too.
 
3. The Ohio Statehouse and Capitol Square. For history lovers and politically savvy travelers, a visit to the capitol building is essential. Located in downtown Columbus, the 19th-century building is an integral part of the state’s long and fascinating narrative.  Free tours are offered year-round.
 
4. Columbus Park of Roses. Although it is a bit off the beaten path, the Park of Roses is the city’s most striking park. The garden hits its aesthetic peak during the summer, when its 13 acres abound with 11,500 roses in more than 400 varieties. During the spring and fall, it is home to a number of blooming trees and other seasonal plants.
 
5. The Book Loft of German Village. Of all the fun to be had in historic German Village, The Book Loft is an especially unique experience. One of the nation’s largest bookstores, it spans an entire block and features a labyrinth of 32 rooms. Pre-Civil War, the building was once occupied by saloons, cinemas and general stores.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    Where is the best place to go for live music in Columbus?

    You don’t need to plan ahead to find live music in Columbus. Every night, the city is teeming with tunes of every genre. The Big Bang, located in the Arena District, is a lively dueling piano bar. Within walking distance of most downtown hotels, it is usually packed with a diverse crowd of young people and out-of-towners. Also close to downtown is The Bluestone, a music hall and former turn-of-the-century church that features local and national acts. If you’re in the area around the Ohio State University campus, visit Dick’s Den, where jazz and bluegrass groups play most nights of the week. Also on campus is Rumba Café, a favorite venue for folk musicians and touring bands. Ask your server, bartender or host or hotel clerk where you can find your favorite music — there are great spots in every neighborhood.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    What is the best thing to bring home from Columbus?

    The best thing to bring home from Columbus is a little team pride. Fans of any sports team can pick up a T-shirt from Homage, a clothing store that represents just about every team in the country. For those who enjoy the finer things, snag a bottle of Brothers Drake mead, a wine made from honey. Located in between the University and Short North districts, Brothers Drake Meadery makes a product you are unlikely to find anywhere else, making it a unique – and tasty – souvenir.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    What are the best Columbus food experiences?

    There are some unique and celebrated food experiences that are quintessentially Columbus. Here are the places and dishes that best represent the city:
     
    1. German food. The early 19th century marked a period of mass German immigration to Columbus. Today, you can visit the well-preserved area to dine at authentic German restaurants like Juergen’s Traditional Bavarian Bakery and Restaurant and Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, which serves knockwurst and jumbo cream puffs.
     
    2. Taco trucks. Taco trucks started popping up around Columbus a few years ago, and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. While food critics and regulars often have different opinions about their favorite truck, Junior’s Tacos is frequently cited as the best. Parked by Dairy Family, a convenience store in the University District, Junior’s features an inexpensive and flavorful selection of authentic Mexican food. A favorite of regulars is the lengua, or beef tongue.
     
    3. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Founder and flavor genius Jeni Britton Bauer uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and local dairy to create wholly unique flavors such as wildberry lavender, riesling poached pear and salty caramel. She is gaining national recognition for her creativity, and cities across the country are now stocking her products.
     
    4. Local farmers’ markets. Columbus started off as an agricultural town, and although it is now the largest city in Ohio, the culture is still deeply rooted in farming. During the spring and summer, farmers flock to the city to sell their goods. The freshest and best herbs, produce, dairy and baked goods can always be found at one of the many open-air markets, the largest of which is the Clintonville Farmers’ Market. Visiting in the winter? The indoor North Market is open year-round.
     
    5. Tailgating. The only thing that people in Columbus love as much as college football is pre-game tailgating. During football season, lots, alleys and otherwise public spaces transform into tailgating parties. In the hours before a big game at Ohio Stadium, the smoky scent of a thousand grills wafts through the city. Even visitors who don’t care about football can enjoy this tradition, which is so ubiquitous that it’s almost impossible not to.
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    Where is the best nightlife in Columbus?

    While many noteworthy bars are scattered around Columbus, the best nightlife is definitely in the Short North neighborhood. On the first Saturday of every month, the neighborhood’s many galleries open their doors to the public for the Short North Arts District Gallery Hop. It’s a chance for residents and visitors to become familiar with local artists, while also enjoying the bars in the city’s most lively neighborhood. This is a great way to experience the center of Columbus nightlife (if you don’t mind a crowd). For a more laid-back experience, try one of the city’s many microbreweries, such as Barley’s Brewing Company, Columbus Brewing Company or the historic Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus. Younger crowds flock to the Arena District for drink specials, live music and dancing.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    What is the best way to see Columbus in one day?

    There are many ways to see Columbus in one day, and most of them do not require extensive planning. North Market, located between the Short North neighborhood and downtown, is a great place to begin. With 35 vendors and farmers to choose from, as well as indoor and outdoor seating, it is a casual and lively place to enjoy fresh local food and coffee. If you’re traveling with kids, head to COSI (formerly known as the Center of Science and Industry) for interactive exhibits on space, gadgets and the ocean.
     
    You can also relive your college days by stopping by Ohio State University. While on campus, be sure to visit the massive Ohio Stadium and The Wexner Center for the Arts. Next, order lunch from one of the city’s many food trucks. They can be found just about anywhere, and menu items range from tacos to crepes to barbecue. Craft brew fans should belly up to the bars at Barley’s Brewing Company, Columbus Brewing Company and the beautiful Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus — all are within walking distance of each other in the Short North area and downtown. These microbreweries make for a good low-key night out, but if you’re looking for more exciting atmosphere, you can hit up other bars in Short North or the Arena District. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend The Big Bang, a bar in which talented musicians go head-to-head in piano duels.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    Where is the best shopping in Columbus?

    Columbus is home to a wealth of locally owned boutiques and shops. While each neighborhood has its distinctive storefronts, the Short North Arts District is the city’s most celebrated shopping destination. Local designers, artists and entrepreneurs have long populated this strip of High Street with clothing boutiques, antique shops and contemporary home-furnishing stores — each offering a unique piece of Columbus. 

    Located in the heart of this stretch is Homage, a clothing store gaining national recognition for its humorous and eccentric sports and pop culture memorabilia. While much of its inventory reflects Midwestern sports fervor, teams and personalities from all over the country are represented on the floor.

    Grandview Mercantile Co., also in Short North, is a sprawling antique marketplace that features dealers from all over Ohio. Stocked with vintage jewelry, housewares and art, this shop is the destination for one-of-a-kind goods.

    A favorite of local chefs and food enthusiasts, Cookware Sorcerer is the main supplier of premium cooking tools and accessories. Located in Italian Village — a short walk from the Short North strip — the store a popular place for gift registries due to its rotating stock of rare kitchen toys. Many of the products sold are not available online, and the knowledgeable staff makes a visit worthwhile.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    What are the best things to do with kids in Columbus?

    Columbus is considered one of the best cities to raise a family — which is no surprise, considering its world-renowned zoo and endless list of seasonal activities for kids. Here are our picks for what to do with kids in this Ohio city:
     
    1. COSI. When it comes to entertaining kids, nothing beats COSI (formerly known as the Center of Science and Industry). Overlooking the Scioto River, the museum is nationally recognized for its interactive exhibits. Visitors can explore the depths of the oceans, take the wheel of a Mars rover and balance a unicycle on a high wire that spans 84 feet.
     
    2. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Zoombezi Bay. Ranked among the world’s best, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is an ideal destination for families. The facility is divided into multiple exhibits that feature thousands of animals in their native habitats. Meanwhile, the neighboring waterpark, Zoombezi Bay, provides a fun way to cool off. The kid-friendly park has a wave pool, a lazy river and several towering slides.
     
    3. Huntington Park. Home to the Columbus Clippers, a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, Huntington Park is an inexpensive way to experience all of the excitement of Major League Baseball. On Tuesdays, the park hosts its famous “Dime a Dog” nights, indisputably the cheapest way to enjoy a ballpark frank. Tickets sell quickly, but lawn seating is almost always available.
     
    4. Columbus Commons. This nine-acre park in the heart of downtown Columbus boasts a carousel, a concert pavilion and a children’s outdoor reading room sponsored by the Columbus Library. Every Friday during the summer, Commons for Kids hosts Ohio State University athletes and coaches to participate in story time and book giveaways.
     
    5. Nationwide Arena. Hockey fans would be remiss if they passed up a chance to see The Columbus Blue Jackets play in this 800,000-square-foot arena. The bulk of this colossal structure is underground, just below the bustling Arena District.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Erin Norris answered the question: Erin Norris

    What are the best things to do in Columbus?

    There is no shortage of things to see and do in Columbus — even longtime residents have yet to discover the hidden gems in their own backyards. Parks, markets, and festivals come and go with the seasons, but there are a sacred few monuments of Columbus culture that stand the test of time. Here are five that we recommend:
     
    1. Ohio Stadium. Commonly referred to as “The Shoe,” the monumental stadium at Ohio State University is the fourth-largest football stadium in the country and the seventh-largest non-racing stadium in the world. It is guaranteed to impress football enthusiasts, but even non-fans can appreciate the striking architecture and sheer magnitude.
     
    2. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
    The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is often ranked among the best in the world. Most exhibits are free of bars and cages, so the animals can roam around in areas that resemble natural habitats. While it is best to visit during the warmer months, the stunning light show that runs from November through January makes it a favorite holiday destination, too.
     
    3. The Ohio Statehouse and Capitol Square. For history lovers and politically savvy travelers, a visit to the capitol building is essential. Located in downtown Columbus, the 19th-century building is an integral part of the state’s long and fascinating narrative.  Free tours are offered year-round.
     
    4. Columbus Park of Roses. Although it is a bit off the beaten path, the Park of Roses is the city’s most striking park. The garden hits its aesthetic peak during the summer, when its 13 acres abound with 11,500 roses in more than 400 varieties. During the spring and fall, it is home to a number of blooming trees and other seasonal plants.
     
    5. The Book Loft of German Village. Of all the fun to be had in historic German Village, The Book Loft is an especially unique experience. One of the nation’s largest bookstores, it spans an entire block and features a labyrinth of 32 rooms. Pre-Civil War, the building was once occupied by saloons, cinemas and general stores.