Travel Guide: Can’t-Miss Columbus
The New York Times just named Columbus one of 52 Places to Go in 2019 – here’s what to see and do in the Midwest’s fastest-growing city.
Millennials are flocking to Columbus for job opportunities and a more affordable cost of living. In fact, the Ohio capital is the fastest growing city in the Midwest and the fourth fastest-growing city in the country, according to the 2018 U.S. census, and home to headquarters of major companies like Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, Express, Bath & Body Works, Wendy’s, Bob Evans and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
But it’s the small mom-and-pop businesses that are the heartbeat of the city, and make Columbus feel so welcoming to all. Whether you’re here for a conference, to see an Ohio State football game or considering moving, here are some favorite spots to check out.
Where To Stay
$: Hampton Inn and Suites is just steps from the trendy Short North Arts District and next to North Market. The location is perfect for exploring Columbus by foot and the exterior of the 179-room property includes bricks from the original historic warehouse. Bellman Clifford Steward is a gem, too, known for going above and beyond for all guests. He has more than 100 compliments on Trip Advisor!
$$: Hotel LeVeque is a boutique property in the historic Art Deco LeVeque Tower. They’re all about local collaborations and support Columbus small businesses, including uniforms designed by Elizabeth Bourgeois, soap and bath amenities by Cliff Original and custom-blended bergamot and lavender-scented candles by The Candle Lab.
$$$: Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph is the most luxurious and artsy hotel in town, adorned with the private collection of owners Ron and Ann Pizzuti. Hotel guests receive complimentary admission to the contemporary Pizzuti Collection across the street and the limited-edition prints by local artists in all 135 guestrooms are available for purchase. The Joseph is the only hotel in Columbus with spa services, in two spacious private spa suites.
What To Do
Shoppers will love wandering up and down High Street, filled with independent boutiques, galleries and coffee shops. For gifts that give back, check out the international selection of fair trade goods from Global Gifts and quirky crafts made from repurposed materials at Glean. There are beautiful Ohio-crafted leather handbags at Fount, menswear at Samson Men’s Emporium, and women’s wear at Rowe and Thread, with a great collection of contemporary American designers like Snider, David Lerner and Columbus’ own Pluma Jewelry.
Mix and match between 120 different scents to create your own candle or scrub at The Candle Lab. This crafty project is simple enough for anyone to do – the hardest part was drawing the label – and your finished candle is ready to pick up in just a couple of hours.
German Village is another must-explore neighborhood, with the most brick-lined streets and sidewalks in Columbus. The elegant 19th-century homes are a favorite among young families. Stroll across Schiller Park’s 23 acres of paths, meandering around ponds and under majestic old growth trees. The amphitheater often features free shows in the summer.
Columbus’ newest attraction is The National Veterans Memorial & Museum, an all-encompassing tribute sharing stories of our veterans across all branches of service and all eras of conflict. The exhibition moves beyond war and combat, connecting military service with the broader idea of public service. The Memorial Grove and pool surrounding the museum offer a place for reflection.
Where To Eat
Start your day with coffee and pastries at Pistacia Vera or MMELO Boutique Confections. The chocolate chip pistachio cookies and éclairs at the former – and jewel-like chocolate teacakes at the latter – are worth the blood sugar spike.
Balance out the sugar rush with a healthy lunch at Little Eater, where you can choose from more than a half-dozen salad scoops. Stick to a rainbow of vegetables or add soup, a sandwich, or an addictive Swiss chard crostata with fennel seed-olive oil crust.
Kickstart your evening with a cocktail under the old vaulted bank ceilings at The Citizens Trust, the sexiest cocktail bar in town. Or opt for a glass of sparkling wine at Veritas downstairs. Happy hour from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. means half-off all bubbles, including Dom Pérignon. If you stay for dinner, enjoy a five- or eight-course tasting menu with dishes like honey mussels in a sweet and spicy Thai chili coconut broth, and coconut ice cream topped with a dollop of caviar. This is the most ambitious fine dining restaurant in the city right now.
Columbus is also known for its breweries and distilleries, and you can get a taste of both while out. Order a flight of beer to pair with dinner at the communal tables of Wolf’s Ridge Brewing or visit Service Bar and be delightfully surprised by how effortlessly cocktails are paired with food. The restaurant and bar is attached to Middle West Spirits, a distillery where Executive Chef Avishar Barua’s menu is all over the place – in a good way – and features everything from pork rinds with pimento dip to dairy-free red cabbage Caesar salad with shio kombu and tahini.
The seasonal baking, cooking and floral classes at Flowers & Bread are so much fun for locals and visitors alike. There are several options each week and you can’t go wrong, whether it’s wood-fired oven pizza and holiday pies, or making your own centerpiece or floral crown. Munch on fresh-baked scones and cookies from the café next door while snipping baby blue eucalyptus and sweet wormwood for a fragrant everlasting wreath. Co-Founders Tricia Wheeler and Sarah Lagrotteria are bad-ass chefs, moms and entrepreneurs.
Amber is a permanent gypsy, traveling the world 350+ days each year. She’s flown a plane to the Grand Canyon, spearfished in Mexico and had dinner with Francis Mallmann at his home in Uruguay, all in the name of work. She studied journalism at Northwestern University and, in addition to serving as the RUBY Travel Expert, her work also appears in Forbes, Saveur, Hemispheres, Departures, American Way, Four Seasons Magazine, Spafinder and USA Today. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.