by Janie Blank
I have written some guides on shopping and staying in Chicago (www.travguides.com/2006/08/chicago-small-shops-on-michigan-avenue.html, www.travguides.com/2006/08/where-to-stay-for-shopping-in-chicago.html, www.travguides.com/2006/08/chicago-department-store-shopping-on.html) because Chicago is a great travel destination and a lot of people go there to shop. But I will bet a lot of you have not thought of taking a trip to Columbus, Ohio as a travel destination.
Columbus is a great city with a metropolitan area of almost one and a half million people located in the center of Ohio at the crossroads of Interstate 70 and Interstate 71. It is about equidistant between Chicago and New York City as well as half way between Cleveland and Cincinnati. The actual city limits of Columbus are larger than either of these two cities, making it the largest city, if not metropolitan area, in the state. The airport, Port Columbus (CMH), is conveniently located just fifteen minutes from downtown.
Columbus is the Capital City of Ohio with state government located here. The State House is a beautiful example of Greek Revival architecture with a fabulous cupola and rotunda. The building is made of limestone quarried from the Scioto River that runs through downtown. It is open to the public with a restaurant for lunch and a nice gift shop. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbus,_Ohio). The map room features an inlaid stone map on the floor representing the eighty-eight Ohio counties. On the Third Street or East side of the Capitol square is an area called Veterans Plaza honoring the Ohio soldiers who have served in the various wars. Letters written home to loved ones during wartime were solicited from families and excerpts are etched on limestone walls at each end of the plaza. American flags flank the walls. The letters are very poignant so be forewarned that tears will flow. This is a great reminder of the sacrifice our veterans have made and is well worth the time. It has a lot of the same impact as the Viet Nam Wall in Washington, DC.
Columbus is a great sports city and is the home of The Ohio State University (Buckeyes), The Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL), The Columbus Crew (MLS), and The Columbus Clippers (Triple A farm team for the New York Yankees). Columbus also has an Arena Football League team, the Destroyers.
Columbus is headquarters a number well known companies probably the best known being Wendys and The Limited. Other restaurant chains based in Columbus are White castle, Max & Ermas, Donatos Pizza & Bob Evans. Major businesses such as Cardinal Health and Nationwide Insurance are also based here. Well known research think tanks Batelle is based in Columbus as is Chemical Abstracts Service on whose lawn the Columbus Symphony Orchestra has performed its Picnic With the Pops series for over twenty years.
Columbus has some great neighborhoods for shopping, dining and architecture. The best known is German Village. This area just South of downtown began renovation in the 1960s and today is one of the premier examples of German architecture to be found in the United States. The area is populated with brick streets full of beautiful homes and gardens, restaurants and shops. (http://www.travguides.com/2006/09/german-village-columbus-ohio.html)
Directly North of downtown is the Short North. The Short North contains the neighborhoods of Victorian Village and Italian Village. Neil Avenue and Goodale Park contain blocks of renovated mansions and beautiful Victorian homes. Italian Village is still in the process of being renovated. The Short North is the home of numerous art galleries, shops and restaurants. For well over fifteen years the city flocks to the Short North on the first Saturday night of the month for Gallery Hop where galleries and shops hosting artists works open to the public often serving refreshments.
Within downtown is contained an area now called the Arena District because it contains the Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets. This just a couple of blocks from the Columbus Convention Center and will soon be home to the Columbus Clippers new stadium. Both of these are located at the site of the old Columbus Penitentiary along the Scioto River. The arena district is full of nightlife, bars, and restaurants. It also is home to the historic North Market.
Columbus Shopping is outstanding. Columbus can boast a Nordstrom and a Crate and Barrel at its Easton Town Center. Those and just about every other store you can think of populate this first of its kind town center concept. For more details on Easton you can check out the website listed here. (http://www.travguides.com/2006/09/shopping-at-easton-town-center.html). In addition Columbus also has a more traditional mall on the citys north side called Polaris. Polaris Mall can boast a Saks Fifth Avenue, a Von Maur and The Great Indoors not found at any other Columbus Locations.
With Columbus shopping alone you will have enough to do to spend a week or a weekend. But if you are making a trip to Columbus, you might also want to consider visiting some of our other great area attractions such as The Columbus Zoo, (of Jack Hanna fame), COSI (our well-known center of science and industry), The Franklin Park Conservatory (home to an incredible Chihuly glass collection), and The Columbus Museum of Art.
Something else Columbus has that is totally unique is their Topiary Park that has a remarkable display of topiary that form the Georges Seurat painting A Sunday On The Island Of La Grande Jatte. When you enter the park, walk to the rise overlooking the topiaries and you will see a bronze picture of the actual painting that will help you to orient yourself and know what you are viewing as you tour the garden. It is located just a block from the art museum. The website offers a virtual tour that permits you to click on each piece of topiary in the landscape and blow it up for careful viewing. This is a living, growing painting and you will not want to miss it. Each years growth adds to the beauty. (www.topiarygarden.org/)
Columbus is also home to The Ohio State University, one of the two largest universities with over 50,000 students. The university is located just north of downtown. It was founded in 1870 and still has many original buildings surrounding it famous Oval. Other colleges and universities include Franklin University, Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD), and Columbus State Community College all located downtown. On the citys east side are Capital University and Ohio Dominican. Surrounding area colleges include Otterbein, Ohio Wesleyan, and Dennison.
Columbus is proud of its three historic theatres that have been meticulously renovated: the Ohio Theatre the Palace and the Great Southern. All are located just a few blocks apart with the Ohio located right n Capitol Square. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra is at home in the Ohio, Also on Capitol Square is the Riffe Theatre complex located in the Riffe State Office Tower. BalletMet, a professional ballet company, shares it performances between the Ohio and the Riffe, while Opera Columbus is at home in the Palace. Columbus also has a professional theatre, Contemporary American Theatre Company (CATCO) that performs in the Riffe.
Columbus has some of the finest restaurants in the Midwest. In addition to chain offerings, of which most every one is found in Columbus, the city has more unique restaurants than in almost any city its size. The neighborhoods mentioned above have dozens to choose from.
Columbus also has a large number of live music venues three of which can hold close to 20,000 concertgoers: Germain Ampitheatre, Nationwide and Schottenstein Arenas. Smaller concert are held at Veterans Memorial which hold about 3000 or the Ohio or Palace holding between 2000 and 3000. PromoWest Pavilion in the Arena District is now a popular live music site as in the Newport Music Hall near Ohio State campus.
Depending on your focus, Columbus is full of fine hotels. It is one of just a handful of cities with two Hyatt hotels, one a Hyatt Regency connected to the convention center and the other located on Capitol Square. In addition downtown Columbus has the Great Southern Westin Hotel, a Marriott Courtyard and the Columbus Renaissance, also a Marriott, a Doubletree, and a Holiday Inn Crown Plaza. Easton has a beautiful Hilton Hotel along with smaller chains located right at the town center. There are many hotels clustered at Port Columbus as well as an area north of the city called Crosswoods.
Regardless of driving or flying, shopping or site seeing, dining or enjoying the performing arts or taking in a sporting event, Columbus will not disappoint!