A lively student city, Ohio's cultural center, and full of surprises, Columbus is a tourist gem in America's heartland.
It's the kind of town that caters to everyone. If you want to watch College Sports, catch gigs from cutting-edge bands, or party all night, Columbus delivers. But with the Ohio Theater downtown, the art galleries of Short North and the sedate restaurants and boutiques in the German Village, Ohio's capital is ideal for all visitors.
Columbus is also a great host, staging events all year-round, like the ebullient Festival Latino, the RPG-themed Origins Game Fair, and Red, White and BOOM, one of the biggest 4th of July celebrations around.
Columbus is an entertainment hub. Visitors to the city can take in touring plays at the Ohio Theater, gallery hop in hip Short North, see works by Picasso, Ingres and Degas at the Columbus Museum of Art, or enjoy a concert at Newport Music Hall.
Columbus isn't short on museums either. The Arata Isozaki-designed Center of Science and Industry is a highlight, as is Kelton House Museum and Garden - once a major stop on the Underground Railroad that spirited slaves out of the antebellum South. The home of humorist James Thurber is another great attraction for literary fans.
Ohio's state capital is also a great family destination. You can take your kids to informative attractions like Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, catch a baseball match featuring the Clippers or an MLS game featuring the Columbus Crew, or enjoy the rides at Magic Mountain Fun Center.
Columbus is also one of the best American cities for history lovers. You can take fascinating guided tours around neighborhoods like the German Village, see the Ohio State House, climb aboard a meticulously recreated version of Christopher Columbus' Santa Maria, or take a trip to see Native American burial mounds that are thousands of years old.
Columbus has a great German-American gastronomic heritage, and there aren't many better cities to tuck into wurst or German cream puffs. Check out authentic eateries like Schmidt's, beer halls like Plank's, or make a date to attend the city's lively Oktoberfest celebrations.
This vast Botanical Garden is home to over 400 plant species from all over the globe, blooming with alluring color on 90 acres of parkland. At the heart of hte complex, the conservatory is lush year-round thanks to incredible biomes; these glass gardens can recreate any climate and successfully emulate the Himalayan Mountains, the Desert and the Tropical Rainforest, to name a few. The buildings themselves are incredible constructions and the space is complemented by world-class art pieces, including Dale Chihuly's glassworks.
At the heart of Columbus, along the Scioto River, a waterside paradise has sprung up in recent years. Recreation of all kinds beckons visitors from far and wide: climb the largest free outdoor climbing wall in America: admire the flora and fauna of the Audubon Center, or ogle the massive fountain centerpiece. This constellation of parks, gardens, bike paths and riverwalks is the ultimate leisure destination in Columbus, lit up beautifully at night.
This museum and research center is an interactive wonderland for visitors of all ages, featuring a Planetarium, the National Geographic Giant Screen, and over 300 unique exhibitions. Gallery spaces are dedicated to Space, Oceans, Gadgets, Life and more, all thematically immersive and educational from tip to toe. The massive fun-filled building sits invitingly on the river, with the waterside Genoa Park on its doorstep.
This popular public market has been a staple of Columbus for over a century, and it continues to be the hub for local grub of the highest quality. From organic meats to homemade cheeses to heavenly confections, there is no end to the tasty options that will have your mouth watering. Besides being a haven for prepared foods and epic groceries, the ultimate fresh vegetables and fruits are available seasonally at the Farmers Market, adding to the fun.
This lovely little park celebrates a marriage of art and nature, dotted with over 60 topiary bushes groomed in the shapes of lounging park-goers, adorable animals and pristine plants. The stoic scene is based on the famous Georges Seurat painting "Sunday on the Island of la Grande Jatte," which depicts a community coming together for a lazy day in the park. The result is a unique, meta outdoor experience that cannot be missed.
Summer is the best season to walk around the city center and neighborhoods like Short North or German Village (and the 4th of July celebrations are not to be missed if you are in town). However, there events all year round, so there's hardly a bad time to visit.
John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) has excellent connections with almost every part of the United States and it's easy to get from there to the city center. Take COTA bus number 92 ($2.75) or arrange a taxi, which should cost around $25.
Columbus can be easily reached by road from every part of the United States. If you are coming from Eastern Seaboard cities, take I-70. I-71 links the city with Cleveland, while those coming from Chicago will need to take I-65, then I-70 eastbound. If you are coming from the South, I-55 is a good road to take, but you'll need to switch to I-70 in St Louis.
Columbus has good bus connections to almost every part of the country, and is served by both Greyhound and Megabus (both of which stop right at the center of town).
Downtown Columbus is full of excellent hotels, including the Sheraton Columbus Hotel and the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel, but it might be more fun to stay in more atmospheric neighborhoods. The German Village Inn is a no-frills option, while Le Meridien's The Joseph is near Short North and would suit art fans. Good choices near OSU include the Blackwell and the reliable Fairfield Inn.
Downtown Columbus - the city's business center and the political focal point for the whole state of Ohio, Downtown Columbus, it has plenty to offer, with NHL action at the Nationwide Arena, the excellent Museum of Art and of course, the Ohio Statehouse.
German Village/the Brewery District - Columbus accepted huge numbers of German immigrants in the 19th century, and most settled around German Village. Beautifully preserved, the area is now a joy to walk around and is full of great restaurants and bars. The neighboring Brewery District is also the hippest part of town for live music and craft ale pubs.
Short North - Columbus' arts and entertainment center, Short North is clustered around N High Street, between Downtown and Ohio State University. If you love small art galleries, boutiques, fine dining, quirky bars, and independent stores, it's the place to be, and a great base from which to explore the city.
COTA operates an extensive and reliable public bus network, which should take you anywhere you need to go. Single fares cost either $2.75 (for express buses) or $2 (for crosstown buses) and day passes are available for $4.50.
Columbus has a competitive taxi market, so rates tend to be fairly cheap by midwestern standards. For example, a journey from Downtown to OSU will cost between $15 and $20. Uber can offer even cheaper fares, with a meter drop of $0.50 and a charge of $1.10 per mile after that.
Columbus is a big city, with sprawling suburbs and out-of-town attractions (not to mention small towns like Chillicothe that are worth a visit). This makes having your own car an excellent transport option, and with rental companies like Budget, Avis, and Hertz in the city, finding a vehicle is simple. Expect to pay as little as $20 per day for the cheapest packages.
If you want to shop at small independent boutiques, Short North is the place to go, where stores like Tigertree, Happy Go Lucky Her, Il Moda, and Ladybird rub shoulders with major brands like American Apparel. You can also pick up beautiful artworks at galleries like Pizzuti and Hammond Harkins. For a more conventional mall-style shopping experience, try Easton Town Center or Polaris Fashion Place in the northern suburbs.
There are plenty of great places to buy food and other groceries in Columbus, including supermarkets like Kroger and Giant Eagle. However, try to find time to visit North Market as well, where you'll find fresh produce, cheese, fine wines, and artisan foods from all over the world. In general, groceries should be fairly affordable. Expect to pay about $2.70 for a gallon of milk and $2 for a pound of apples.
Columbus is a fantastic place to eat, with a huge array of different culinary options. If you love sauerkraut and bratwurst, head to German eateries like Schmidt's or Hofbräuhaus Columbus. Portia's Cafe and Dosa Corner are superb vegetarian restaurants, Kihachi is a gourmet Japanese option, and Lindey's serves up traditional, perfectly cooked American fare. Prices vary, but a sit down meal will usually cost around $15-25.