Columbus, OH

Destination Location

  • 39.961176, -82.998794:primary
  • 39.9969444, -82.8921667:secondary

Overview

Designed in 1812 as the state capital, Columbus is centrally located in the state of Ohio. Its location has made it an important meeting point for history, culture and commerce in the United States. Columbus' identity also reflects its role as a crossroads; visitors will appreciate the variety that the city offers.

Friendly to business and tourists, it was voted by both Forbes and BusinessWeek as a top spot to do business in the U.S. and often cited as a city of the future for technology and growth. Columbus sits at the pivot point between the region's other large cities: Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis. Its diversified economy helps it fare comparatively better than other areas during times of financial turmoil, making it a large migration point from other American states. This influx of workers from varying backgrounds has helped shape Columbus over the years.

Columbus' cultural flare also draws from its neighbours. Bordering regions include Appalachia, the Bible Belt, the Farm Belt and the Rust Belt. Visitors can find entertainment at sporting events, ethnic and musical festivals, or by wandering through historic limestone buildings and marble landmarks. Downtown Columbus features several museums and a lively performing arts scene.

Columbus is also a hot spot rich in Americana. The Ohio State Fair, held at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, is one of the country's largest agricultural and cultural events. In addition to the State Fair, the Expo Center holds many other events over the course of the year ranging from antique markets to midget-horse racing.

Columbus' brewing tradition stretches back to the area's early German settlers. Nowadays, the downtown area is home to several microbreweries that can be viewed by guided tours. Classic-car shows and factory tours tap into time-honoured American traditions and highlight Columbus' past as a transportation and manufacturing hub; while contrasting how much the city has changed and grown.

Columbus takes from the surrounding areas and from those that pass through – visitors just might leave a bit of themselves behind. WestJet can help you leave your own mark on Columbus with flights from great Canadian destinations via our airline partners.

Destination basics

Columbus enjoys four distinct seasons without uncomfortable extremes. Winter temperatures are generally mild, hovering above freezing. The springtime sees increased levels of precipitation. Summer temperatures range from warm to hot and humid. The fall is seen by some as the most desirable time to visit Columbus with the drop in temperature bringing a dramatic shift in the autumn foliage.

Weather can change more than once over the course of a day, regardless of the season, so it is best to be well prepared.

When it comes to dining and drinking, Columbus is without a doubt a world-class city. There's a solution to every craving, from traditional to cutting edge and everything in between.

Downtown
Downtown's Arena District is a great place to start, as it's got a bit of everything within a few square blocks. There's North Market, where dozens upon dozens of food and drink possibilities are loaded into one big exhibition space. It's raucous and casual, and you'll likely eat standing up or sitting on a bench outside, but it's a genuine experience. Between German Village and the Brewery District, one would think the southern end of town had a monopoly on German beer in Columbus. Such is not the case. The Columbus branch of California-based Gordon Biersch is located right here in the Arena District. They specialize in German-style lagers and hearty meals.

For pub fare with a strictly American slant in the heart of Downtown, Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails is everything tip top about modern pub fare squeezed into a speakeasy-like space that is positively retro. The cardinal figurines perched on shelving above rows and rows of bourbon are almost as cute as the eggplant fries are delicious. Do opt for the eggplant fries. They're a couple bucks extra, but well worth every single penny.

If you've got many more extra bucks to spare, celebrity chef Cameron Mitchell's M might be the answer. As contemporary as any hotspot in New York or LA, the cuisine will not disappoint, and the sleek decor is sure to impress. Also sure to impress are the river views to be had at Confluence Park Restaurant. The contemporary American cuisine is particularly good when consumed on the restaurant's spacious patio.

German Village
If you take the time to seek them out, hidden among the humble houses in German Village are a few humble dining and drinking options. Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant just might be the neighborhood's unofficial official eatery, with its many nods to German tradition, from imported lagers and live German music to the sauerkraut, apple sauce and German potato salad on every sausage platter. Their signature sausage is a spicy mix of pork and beef known as the Bahama Mama.

A couple short blocks away is the Old Mohawk, a neighborhood bar and grill serving honest folk since 1933. Their Turtle Soup is legendary. For German-style pastries, Juergen's Bäckerei & Konditorei is sure to please. Choose from strudels, macaroons, crescents, creampuffs, pretzels and lots of tortes! They also offer a full menu, from breakfast pancakes to heartier sandwiches and goulash options.

Though Barcelona Restaurant & Bar is without a doubt the least German element of German Village, it nevertheless shares its neighboring establishments' authentic neighborhood feel, tucked away on a cute little street corner, full of happy diners. Here, they're consuming tapas and paella instead of schnitzels and spaetzle.

Short North
Short North is the arts district, which means it must cater to the funky tastes of the artists, as well as the upscale demands of the art buyers. In terms of restaurants, the district has both in spades. Look for off-the-beaten-path secrets like Bono Pizza.

Looking for something in between? North Star Cafe caters to all with an innovative yet reasonably priced menu heavy on reimagined classics and exciting vegetarian options, plus ample patio seating.

For dessert, Jeni's Ice Creams is sure to please. All product is freshly made and responsibly sourced, and flavors range from summery Mango Lassi to wintry Maker's Mark (with whole pecans).

Surly Girl Saloon on the Short North serves modern takes on classic home cookin', but it's the specialty cocktails and range of microbrews that keep spirits high.

University
Catering to the collegiate set, this district is home to fast-food chains and typical cafes galore, but if you venture just a couple blocks north of campus, there's a world of goodness. Las Cazuelas Grill represents the south-of-the-border contingent and Blue Nile bats cleanup with the cuisine of Ethiopia. Just south of campus, Ugly Tuna Saloona brings it all back home to America, with seafood and grilled items in a party-hearty atmosphere that's sure to please.

Care to get in on a sly student dodge? Kitty corner from the university's northeastern tip, there's a saloon called The Library. So when your mom calls to check up, you can say, "Gee, Ma, I'm at the Library, hard at work." Hard at work slamming tequila shots, that is!

Columbus's various neighborhoods tell the story of a classic city, one built in peace and tested in war, and every inch a tribute to the innovations and aspirations of generations past and still to come. Columbus is a city of many districts, but the best of them are linked by one convenient boulevard, High Street. High runs north to south and for all intents and purposes dictates where is the action is.

Downtown
Its downtown makes abundantly clear that Columbus is a capital city. Skyscrapers young and old surround the imposing Ohio Statehouse, as hotels surround the nearby Greater Columbus Convention Center. Interspersed among it all are great places to eat, drink and play.

Within Downtown, there are a couple of important sub-districts. The Arena District is the first, encompassing the series of blocks adjacent to Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets. While the hockey fans in your party watch hockey, the rest can hit up North Market, an epic indoor food market home to vendors offering everything from mango lassi to fresh seafood.

The Discovery District (known in some circles as "The Disco") is a rare locale not located on or adjacent to High Street. It is home to a number of museums and historic places, from the Columbus College of Art and Design to the Columbus Metro Library. The Columbus Topiary Garden at Old Deaf School Park is a wonder to behold, though one wonders how it is that the sculpted shrubbery remain untouched by the hands of creative vandals looking to make a statement. Perhaps Ohio is just that idyllic.

If you head east to the Scioto River, you can spend hours enjoying the Columbus riverfront. Battelle Riverfront Park hosts a floating replica of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria, and across the bridge is COSI, a colossal facility devoted to science and learning. Anywhere along the way would make a nice picnic spot.

German Village
German Village is preserved history at its best. Absent is the cutesy sugar coating seen elsewhere, and nothing is roped off or under glass. It is an old neighborhood still vibrant thanks to new generations and new endeavors, but the cobblestones and petite residences and community gardens remain. German culture is very much alive at bakeries like Juergen's and sausage houses like Schmidt's, though contemporary elements have crept in, in the form of galleries, tapas joints and coffee shops.

Wandering the avenues and alleyways here could keep one occupied for hours, what with every single house being adorable in its own special way, and surprises lurking around each corner (a restaurant here, a neighborhood bar there). That said, take some time to sit back and relax awhile at Schiller Park. It's got playgrounds, rolling hills and colorful flowerbeds galore.

Short North
This is the arts district responsible for Columbus's being known as "The Arch City." Fine steel arches span High Street at intervals, providing light at night and old-Americana charm always. Pubs, bistros and galleries line the walk, though there's a White Castle too if one is looking to mix in a little lowbrow.

Just off the main drag is the very inviting Goodale Park, with paths and ducks and a lily-padded lake.

Ohio State University
Also located right along High Street, the university area aggregates a special mix of attractions. Businesses and dining here are largely aimed at students, so expect to see a gaggle of record stores and an endless parade of bars and cheap eateries. Countering that is the Wexner Center for the Arts, a bastion of art and culture located on the campus itself. And of course, there's Ohio Stadium, site of so many past (and hopefully future) football glories.

Outlying Areas
Even when you get far enough north that Downtown Columbus is a distant memory, most everything good is still on High Street. Little townships like Clintonville and Worthington have personalities all their own, with shops and restaurants worthy of the trek up from town.  

That being said, it must be noted that life off High Street does in fact exist. West of town is the largely residential Grandview Heights, home to one of a pair of Drexel Movie Theatres, so beloved by fans of independent and foreign cinema. East of town, past Franklin Park and its lively conservatory, is Bexley, home of the other Drexel and a slew of charming neighborhood diners and shops. Past Bexley is Whitehall, site of perhaps the world's first major shopping center. Due north is Easton Town Center, a shopping center so major it has three big-name hotels lining its perimeter.

Columbus is everything entertainment. From gorillas and toucans to goals and touchdowns, this city will surely meet your expectations. 

Sports
Ohioans make great sports fans. They know their stuff and they aren't afraid to share their enthusiasm, so it's a good thing Columbus offers plenty of outlets through which to channel that energy. The Blue Jackets are Columbus's NHL hockey team, and they help anchor the bustling Arena District at Nationwide Arena.

Major League Soccer is alive and well in Columbus too. The Columbus Crew play some good ball at Columbus Crew Stadium.

Finally, if you time your trip right, you just might get to catch the pride of Columbus, the Ohio State Buckeyes. That infectious Ohioan spirit will overcome, and have you shouting "Go Bucks!" in no time flat. The Bucks do their thing at Ohio Stadium.

Music
The biggest of the big come to Columbus regularly, and when they do, they play at Nationwide Arena or Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, also known as "The LC." International superstars like U2 make proper use of the venues' central locations and serious sizes. Midrange touring acts tend not to frequent Columbus quite as often, but given the opportunity, they take the stage at the Wexner Center for the Arts, located on the Ohio State University campus. The Basement is a somewhat dank alternative, but they do host their share of choice performers.

Rumba Café is a popular live-music venue, hosting mostly local and regional groups playing everything from jazz and salsa to rock and pop. For something slightly seedier, Cafe Bourbon Street is the place. Punk bands rule the school here, so come prepared to pogo.

Shopping
Retail is another area in which Columbus has the best of multiple worlds. North of town is a super-mall known as Easton. It houses nothing more than the traditional mall shops and department-store anchors, but the location itself was engineered to be much more than average. Using Walt Disney's theme-park principles and a dash of forced perspective, Easton's creators put together what appears to be a small town with boulevards, buildings, businesses, and a town square complete with an epic fountain. The AMC Movie Theater is made up to look like some fantastical version of Grand Central Station, and you can even purchase a copy of this morning's Financial Times at the newsstand -- and then go over to Foot Locker across the way.

Traditional shopping options abound as well. Milk Bar is a trendy boutique full of high-end denim, designer t-shirts ("Surf Ohio" was a memorable gag slogan emblazoned across the chest of one such tee), and an enthusiastic staff. Project Runway fan favorite Kelli Martin comes from Columbus, and she has her own little shop on High Street called Black Market. Look for sweet vintage and designer finds, a few choice hand-made articles and accessories, and the Ramones on the radio.

Speaking of music, this being a college town, there is no shortage of top-notch record stores. Magnolia Thunderpussy is somewhere near the top of the heap. It was started by a San Francisco transplant in the wake of the '60s, and the prime directive seems to have been staffing the place with true-blue music aficionados who are eager to share their knowledge. Used Kids Records, located right across from the Ohio State campus, is a fun one too.

Downtown, head for the Monk's Copy Shop. They probably make great copies, but they're also notable for the charming handmade pottery for sale in their front windows. Each piece is made by a father-son team, one of whom also helps out with the copy making.

If books are your vice, you're in luck. German Village is home to the Book Loft, a thrilling multi-level maze of bargain-priced books. It's almost as fun navigating through all the different rooms as it is stumbling upon a great deal on that Louis L'Amour paperback you've been looking for.

Art & History
One of the most visually striking images in all of Columbus is the towering "ART" sculpture trumpeting the location of the Columbus College of Art & Design, where student exhibitions rival those of "proper" art museums like the nearby Columbus Museum of Art.

Say "art" to anyone in Columbus and they'll point you toward the monthly Short North Gallery Hop in the Short North Arts District, where on every first Saturday, the whole strip comes alive with activity into the wee hours. Galleries open their doors and celebrate new openings, restaurants and bars get jam packed and energy fills the air.

For history, Kelton House Museum & Garden should be your first stop. It was a major stop for many escaped slaves during the days of the Underground Railroad, and its history is palpable. The edifice is also said to be haunted, so aspiring ghost hunters take note. The Ohio Statehouse is a fine place to sink one's teeth into a slice of history as well. The awe-inspiring building is open to the public, and while wandering aimlessly through its hallowed halls can be fun and rewarding, free guided tours depart hourly.

A short distance outside the city, hog buffs can get a sense of their own history at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, a celebration of all things two-wheeled and powered by grit.

Science & Nature
One of the Midwest's most famous sons is surely Mr. David Letterman, and while he hails from Indiana, one of his most frequent and memorable guests makes a living right here in Ohio. Jungle Jack Hanna is his name, and he's Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, a world-famous sanctuary for wild beasts of every stripe -- or spot! The zoo has an aquarium on the premises, as well as a number of thrill rides and interactive exhibits, ensuring that even your most short-attention-spanned youngsters will remain engaged throughout the day.

A 2008 independent review named COSI the foremost youth-geared interactive science museum in the country, besting even San Francisco's renowned Exploratorium. At COSI, children of all ages are invited to dig their heels into the hindquarters of physics and biology. The building itself is a striking hangar-like temple of learning perched on the western bank of the Scioto River.

Columbus

State: Ohio

Country: United States

Columbus by the Numbers

Population: 747,755
Average January temperature: 28 degrees F/ 2.2 degrees C Average July temperature: 74.5 degrees F/ 23.6 degrees C Annual Precipitation: 37.8 in/ 96 cm
Annual Snowfall: 27.6 in/ 70.1 cm
Number of families: 327,175
Number of sister cities: 10 (including Genoa, Italy and Seville, Spain)

 

Quick Facts
Time Zone: GMT-4, Eastern Standard Time (EST) Electricity: 110 volts AC, 50Hz; round two-pin plugs are standard. Country Dialing Code: 1

Did You Know?
50% of the population of the United States lives within 500 miles of Columbus.

The ice-cream split was created in Columbus.

 

The history of Columbus reads like that of many others, but it's in the details that you'll find the city's heart and soul.

Creating Columbus
Until 1812, Columbus did not exist. Various Indian tribes inhabited the land, and early Americans recognized the good fortune to be had by settling at the confluence of the two nearby rivers. But they best they did was a small village on the wrong side of the river called Franklinton. Ohio's statehood was established in the early 1800s, at which point an intrastate scuffle broke out. Chillicothe wanted to be capital; Zanesville wanted to be capital. Both had prominent names backing their causes, and the resulting animosity threatened to shake this newborn state to its very foundations. The solution was simple: Neither would be capital. Instead, an entirely new city would be forged from nothing. Enter Columbus.

Boom!
By the 1830s, the city was on its way to stardom. A veritable interstate highway connected Columbus to such far-flung locales as Baltimore, and its link to the Ohio and Erie Canal acted as a link to shipping channels worldwide. All of this translated to an influx of people and investment. German immigrants flooded the south side, creating what would become the German Village neighborhood. Rail came to Columbus in 1850, affording bright new avenues for trade and growth. The Underground Railroad came to Columbus as well, with now-historic Kelton House providing freedom seekers with a place to stay. Columbus grew steadily.

Columbus and the Civil War
Civil War buffs know Camp Chase was a key Union base in many ways. Twenty-six thousand troops called it home, and an additional 9,000 called it a prisoner-of-war camp. In fact, of all the Confederacy's many cemeteries, the one at Camp Chase is definitely one of the biggest in the North, with more than 2,000 buried. And, of course, Camp Chase was in Columbus.

Steel, Buggies, Beer
Despite the horrors of war, the economy in Columbus managed to flourish. Samuel P. Bush, progenitor of the current Bush Dynasty, solidified his fortune running a steel company headquartered here. One Mr. Firestone solidified a fortune of his own building buggies, though the competition was stiff. More than 20 buggy factories thrived in Columbus at one time, earning the city the nickname, "Buggy Capital of the World." So even at an early age, it could be argued that Columbus was truly a world-class city. The significant German population led to great advances in brewing in Columbus, with promising breweries rising to regional prominence over a period of years. Unfortunately, the forces that would eventually push for prohibition kept brewing from becoming a meaningful staple of the Columbus economy.

Catastrophes and Progress
In March of 1913, flood waters ran rampant. Dozens were killed and thousands were displaced, and the people of Columbus had a reason to reimagine their city. The river itself was widened, majestic new bridges bridging its expanse, an ornate stone retaining wall walling it off from downtown. These elaborate safety measures were just the beginning. In their wake came a Civic Center, theaters, and Ohio Stadium. Then came the actual Interstate Highway System. Suburbs grew around the city and developed booming economies of their own. By the end of the 20th century, Columbus had become the largest and most populous city in Ohio, and the birthplace of two of everyone's favorite women: Wendy and Victoria (of Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers and Victoria's Secret, respectively).

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