Columbus is not just the place to catch Ohio State’s Buckeyes football team in action. The capital city has a lot to offer for an exciting getaway, including delicious food with international flare, historic districts, a thriving arts scene, and breathtaking gardens. While the city was voted one of the smartest in the world by The Intelligent Communities Forum, you’ll also find some of the kindest people, who’ll no doubt make your experience that much more memorable. Here’s a day’s itinerary in the best destination you’ve probably never considered.
Walk the Scioto Mile (Free)
Start the morning with a refreshing stroll along the Scioto River. The urban parkland of Scioto Mile offers stunning views of the cityscape and the sparkling river, connecting to miles of trails stretching from Bicentennial Plaza to North Bank Park. It offers some of the city’s most prominent features: a 15,000 square-foot, interactive fountain that sprays 75 feet into the air, the country’s largest outdoor climbing wall (free!), and the Scioto Audubon wildlife oasis, which attracts birds such as the hooded merganser, the great horned owl, and the golden eagle. Take a break at the Columbus Commons with a warm beverage from Hemingway’s Coffee Nook.
Breakfast at Katalina’s ($12.25)
Head over to this eclectic Mexican-influenced venue housed in a 100-year-old gas station for a wholesome, homemade breakfast made from local ingredients. Katalina’s is famous for its Original Pancake Balls -- yummy sugary rounds filled with dulce de leche, Nutella, or strawberry jam -- that fill you up with warm goodness. Vegetarians can enjoy Biscuits & Veggie Sausage Gravy. No wonder C-Bus is called the breakfast mecca!
Be a Kid at COSI ($20- $25)
Within walking distance from Scioto Mile is the country’s top science museum. COSI (Center of Science and Industry) features more than 300 interactive exhibits, spanning outer space to the deep sea, where visitors are encouraged to get involved. Ride a unicycle two stories high, drive a Mars rover, take apart old machines to see how they work, and make high-tech industrial robots disco dance. There’s fun for the whole family, including a dinosaur exhibit in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, a 60-foot diameter, 220-seat planetarium, and the National Geographic Giant Screen theater (the largest in Ohio).
Lunch at North Market ($13)
North Market historic shopping center/farmers market has everything a foodie’s heart desires, from ethnic cuisine to local cheeses, hot sauces, and wine. The vibrant indoor two-level space has a maze of shops selling unique gifts and cookware, food offerings from around the world, and a large seating area on the second level to enjoy your treats. Don’t miss the mouth-watering Jhol Momo (Nepalese dumplings) from Momo Ghar, filled with chicken or vegetables, served in a spicy sauce ($7.95). For a sweet tooth, seasonally inspired ice cream flavors like The Matterhorn: wildflower honey ice cream with white chocolate ganache and smoked almonds from Columbus-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream spot, is the best in the city (starting at $5).
Enjoy Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens ($7- $14)
If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the beautiful glass creations of Dale Chihuly, you’re in luck as the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has a permanent collection. Even better, watch local artists create blown-glass works in the Conservatory Hot Shop, open from April through December. Built in 1895, the Conservatory is on the National Register of Historic Places, and showcases exotic plant collections from various climate zones. No matter the season, the gardens are sure to delight everyone with their vibrant displays. Admission is $14 for adults, $11 for seniors and students, $7 for children ages 3 to 17.
Visit The German Village (Free)
Wander the brick-paved streets of the historic German Village, a neighborhood built by 19th-century immigrants just a few blocks from the state capitol building downtown. No structure is more than three-stories high, and the preserved buildings date back to the 1840s-1890s. Shop at business offering German staples, such as kraut pork and nutcrackers. While the area maintains its heritage with popular places like Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, it’s also home to Pistacia Vera, a French patisserie known for their delectable macarons.
Dinner and Drinks at The Keep (starting at $50)
Located in the prominent art deco building in Downtown Columbus that houses the recently opened Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel LeVeque, The Keep is the place to treat yourself for a night out. The Keep is a modern French brasserie/speakeasy where you can sip and savor your cocktail of choice or craft beer in style, and order from its unique menu offering French-influenced cuisine, including Louisiana, Southeast Asia, and North Africa. Don’t miss the pan-seared scallops served with green tea noodles.
Gallery Hop in Short North (Free)
In the trendy Short North district directly north of downtown Columbus, you’ll be greeted with illuminated metal arches over High Street reminiscent of the early 1900s and colorful wall murals. High Street is full of art galleries, local boutiques, hip restaurants and bars. Every first Saturday of the month from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., on the Gallery Hop, take in new exhibitions, street performers, special events, food, and drinks. Don’t forget to bring home a souvenir from local vendors selling their handcrafted one-of-a-kind items.