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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Experience Columbus. The opinions and text are all mine.
Columbus, Ohio is the 15th largest city in the United States. According to reports, the city is a great place to live. It’s smart, hip and growing. With an easy to navigate major international airport and located within a day’s drive (500-miles) of half of the population of the U.S., it’s also a great place to visit. There are so many fun things to do in Columbus.
For much of my life, I’ve lived within an hour driving distance of Columbus, Ohio’s capital city. I’ve visited too many times to count.
When my kids were young, my husband and I often purchased family memberships to COSI, one of my favorite science museums in the country, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. We’ve toured the American Whistle Corporation, the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the United States, taken tasty field trips at the Anthony Thomas Candy Company, makers of fine gourmet chocolates, and toured the architecturally stunning Statehouse and learned about our Ohio government system and history during our homeschooling years.
My husband often works in Columbus and I frequently visit him on the job. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what the city offered. I quickly realized that all I’d experienced in the past was the tip of the iceberg.
In Columbus, you’ll find one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores, the only topiary park in the world that is modeled after a work of art, and the world’s largest gavel, which definitely appeals to the side of me that loves all things fun and unique.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to explore the city with my husband to revisit some of these attractions and to see some new sites around the city. Spending a weekend in Columbus had been on my bucket list for ages. I quickly realized that it was going to be impossible to see everything that was on my list in one weekend.
I had my heart set on exploring the artsy side of the city, but my husband preferred to seek out some great places to eat. We compromised and the result was a good mix of artistic expression and culinary cuisine.
Food Trucks Convene at Columbus Commons
This 6-acre park is the former site of City Center Mall in downtown Columbus. Now a premiere recreation hub, this park boasts a performance stage, hand-carved carousel, large lawn for play (or to relax) and outdoor cafes. During the summer and early fall months, visitors can visit the park every Thursday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. for a tasty food truck court.
I was especially eager to sample my way through the food trucks, but after eating a deliciously toasted grilled cheese with Applewood Bacon, Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions on wheat and a side of Tater Tots from The Cheesy Truck, I barely had room in my belly to share a scoop of Jeni’s Lemon-Blueberry Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt with my husband.
Exploring the Historic German Village
Tip: Begin your time in the German Village in the Meeting Haus and pick up a self-guided tour book.
With full bellies, my husband and I set out to navigate the brick paved streets of the German Village on foot, the best way to explore.
With structures dating to the 1840’s, this historic village has a timeless appeal. At one time one-third of Columbus’ population was German, and they mostly lived and prospered in what was known as the South Side or Old South End. WWI started and, Prohibition hit the American-Germans hard. These families who had settled in the Midwest and thrived now found it unpopular to be German. Many businesses closed, the streets were renamed.
The cottages and homes that now line the streets remain as an effort by citizens to restore and preserve the culture and history of the area. Private homes are interspersed with commercial properties that display simple signs, beckoning visitors to step inside.
We began our visit at the Meeting Haus where we were warmly welcomed in the comfortable air conditioned office. Enjoying the cool air, we sat down long enough to watch a 9-minute video that provided an overview of the village. As we exited, we picked up a walking tour guide. You’ll find slate roofs, Italianate Vernacular architecture with Dutch and Queen Anne elements throughout the German Village.
Not one to pass up a favorite store of mine, we made our way to the Book Loft of the German Village. This 32-room structure features shelves packed with books and twists and turns to keep visitors on their toes. Signs mark the way to the exit for those who get turned around. With thousands of titles on the shelves, you’ll find it difficult to leave empty handed. I certainly didn’t.
I was lured into Caterina Ltd, by the beautiful place settings I saw displayed in the window, but quickly discovered that this three-storied building full of European housewares and gifts also housed an art gallery which highlights the works of local artists.
I could have strolled all day through the 220-acre village that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, full of eateries, bakeries, coffee shops and boutiques that are original to Columbus, but my husband was starting to get hungry. We found ourselves at Schmidt’s Famous Sausage Haus which originated from a Packing Haus that processed a well-known line of meat products over 120 years ago. Wednesday to Saturday, you’ll find live entertainment in this tavern style restaurant where the walls are dotted with original artwork, including a large painting titled “Der Wiener Chemiker” that is part of an old plaster wall from the packing haus office that was painted during the prohibition.
TIP: If you’re not sure what to order, you can’t go wrong with the German Autobahn Buffet which allows you to sample many of the restaurants specialties.
After dinner, we continued our stroll to Schiller Park to admire the statue of Johann Christian Friedrich Schiller, a German poet, and the Umbrella Girl Statue. We found people walking, fishing and lounging in lawn chairs and blankets while enjoying a performance of Othello in the Schiller Amphitheatre. Until Labor Day, residents and guests to the area can enjoy free outdoor performances of Shakespeare in the Park on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
I could have chosen a property in the German Village to spend the night, but I’d opted to book a suite at The Lofts in the Arena District. The boutique style hotel was once a wallpaper warehouse. Transformed into a comfortable and luxurious space, our suite consisted of a large seating area separated by doors into the bedroom with a wall of windows and brick exposed walls that soared to the ceiling. The walls in our suite and throughout the hotel were decorated with prints of enlarged photos of old buildings in Columbus. Though I’ve spent time in the Arena District for concerts and sporting events, this time my focus was on exploring the art of the Short North.
The Artsy Short North has Surprises around every Corner
The North Market was established in 1876 and features more than 30 merchants that offer anything from flowers, to baked goods, to fresh, locally grown and raised produce and meat. Unable to make it to Pistacia Vera in German Village, I was excited to find they occupied a booth at the North Market.
Tip: Visit the North Market early in the day and during the week to avoid crowds.
I purchased macarons and an Orange Brioche before heading to A Taste of Belgium for a latte and Banana Nutella Waffle. My husband opted for donuts from Destination Donuts which we ate upstairs overlooking the sales floor. I was intrigued to find artwork, including some pieces that are offered for sale along the walls.
Nineteen buildings in the Short North currently display an art collection thoughtfully curated by Tyler Cann, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Columbus Museum of Art. The collection, known as BLANK SPACES, is intended to be photographed and enjoyed by visitors to the Short North. You can’t miss these art pieces when you’re driving through the Short North, but they’re best appreciated on foot.
Across from Goodale Park in Victorian Village, you’ll find the Pizzuti Collection. Housed in an historic building that has been renovated into galleries, the 18,000-square-foot space contains pieces from the private Pizzuti family collection. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enjoy a quick tour of the property, but I did enjoy a quick walk through the courtyard which holds several interesting sculptures.
Downtown Columbus features Gardens, Architecture and Roadside Americana
The Topiary Park is the only topiary park in the world modeled after a work of art. This free park offers a walking path, picnic tables and benches. Modeled after Georges Seurat’s impressionist painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte, the topiaries are a continuous work in progress. We left our truck parked on the street and continued on foot to the Kelton House and Gardens located a block down the street.
The Kelton House is a lovely Greek Revival and Italianate structure located in the Town Street Historic District. While the home houses original furnishings from the Victorian era, the most remarkable aspect of the home is what happened beyond the fancy décor. The Kelton’s were staunch supporters of the abolitionist movement and did all they could to further the cause. They sheltered a young slave woman for ten years and it’s believed they helped other slaves to safety as well.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is home to Origami in Nature, a fascinating traveling art exhibit that is interwoven into the displays in the park. Visitors catch site of the pieces as they travel throughout the various biomes, the Himalaya Mountains, rainforest, desert and Pacific Island Water Garden.
A video explains the process the artist takes to create the pieces, though it’s located just off the café and was difficult to hear above the noise of lunching middle schoolers.
Visitors will also notice that several pieces remain of the Chihuly exhibit that was hosted at the conservatory several years ago.
The Residence Inn Downtown caught my eye because it was a former bank and many interesting architectural elements remain intact. This all-suite hotel serves breakfast in the vault, while historic touches are framed and displayed on the walls. The property is conveniently located one block north of the Statehouse. My husband and I took an evening walk to admire the surrounding architecture.
At the suggestion of the front desk attendant we ordered food from the Ringside Café, one of the oldest restaurants and bars in Columbus.
Founded in the late 1800’s, this small, interesting property features a menu influenced by men who are well-known in the world of boxing. My husband ordered an Ali burger, while I had the Oscar de la Hoya, a cheeseburger with Latin flair. Both burgers were delicious and huge, neither my husband nor myself were able to finish our sandwiches.
On the short walk back to the hotel, we discovered more art in the alley and a parklet, which featured artwork, benches and other seating. A neat spot to sit back and relax a few minutes.
I’d be slacking if I didn’t find at least one roadside attraction during my visit. Listed on the Roadside America website, the world’s largest gavel is displayed on the grounds of Supreme Court. It’s located in a shaded courtyard that is the perfect place to stop and rest during a walk downtown.
Make Plans now to Visit the 2017 Columbus Arts Festival
My stay in Columbus coincided with the 55th Annual Columbus Arts Festival which was held along the Scioto Mile. I actually enjoyed visiting the festival both days of my visit, even if the first was dampened with quite a bit of rain.
With over 300 vendors from around the world, you’ll find it hard to walk away empty handed. In addition to art for sale, there were food vendors, musicians, chalk artists, kid’s activities and more. This family-friendly festival is definitely on my list to return to next year and only one of many fun things to do in Columbus.
So much to see, so little time
There was so much more I had planned to do during my stay.
The Columbus Idea Foundry is the nation’s largest makerspace with classes ranging from knifemaking to woodworking to circuitry.
Franklinton, founded in 1797, is Columbus’ oldest neighborhood and the city’s newest up and coming district.
The Picasso exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art opened this week and will be on display until September 11th.
The lobby of Le Meridien Joseph Hotel features the Pizzuti Art Collection. The location in the Short North makes this pet friendly hotel ideal for my next visit to Columbus.
The Columbus Coffee Trail showcases local coffee shops and I didn’t visit any of them! I’m planning to visit with my daughter in a few weeks. Armed with our cameras and walking shoes, we’ll explore areas of the coffee trail while we collect stamps from each coffee shop we visit. Once we have four, we’ll receive a free t-shirt from one of the three Columbus Visitors Centers located in the city.
Columbus has a vibrant art scene. From museums and galleries, to street art, to architecture to performances in the park, you’ll be hard pressed to not find an art venue.
Plan your Visit to Columbus
From Red, White and Boom to the Ohio State Fair to the Food Truck Festival, 2016 promises to be a busy year for this booming Midwest city. View upcoming events and festivals on the events page of the Experience Columbus website. You’ll also find tools to help you plan your visit to Columbus, from city guides, to restaurant recommendations to hotel packages. Make sure you follow Experience Columbus on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for more information and ideas on what to do in the area.
To help with your visit, I’m offering a $100 Dine Originals Gift Card that can be used at over 40 independently owned and operated restaurants in Columbus. Simply follow the directions on the Rafflecopter and interact with Experience Columbus on their social media channels. One winner will be selected on September 1st, 2016.
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Experience Columbus. The opinions and text are all mine.