Columbus is not only the capital city of the state of Ohio, but also one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The city is unique in the fact that it offers a little bit of everything: Vibrant nightlife, college and professional sports, family-friendly neighborhoods, and outdoors experiences in various parks and gardens. Due to the diversity of the city, Columbus is known for having an open attitude where musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs, and travelers can coexist and enjoy all that the city has to offer.
Must See in Columbus
Any visitor to Columbus, especially those with a love of animals, should make a point to visit the gorillas, manatees, giraffes, and many other animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which has consistently been ranked as one of the best zoos in the country and is known worldwide for its conservation efforts.
The best educational experience in Columbus is offered at COSI (the Center of Science and Industry) where visitors of all ages have the opportunity to interact with various hands-on exhibits in a museum that has been ranked as America's best science museum and is considered to be one of the most family-friendly destinations in the city.
Another must-see in Columbus is the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which is known for its gardens and floral displays and was also the first conservatory in the nation to host a seasonal butterfly exhibition in 1994, called the Blooms and Butterflies exhibition, which now attracts thousands of people to visit the conservatory each year.
Where to Stay in Columbus
For those traveling to Columbus with young children, the Polaris neighborhood is the ideal place to stay. The area is home to a variety of kid-friendly locations, such as the Polaris Fashion Place, which contains several stores geared toward children, including a Disney Store, and also has a Columbus Zoo themed play place inside.
Those hoping to experience some of Columbus's nightlife should definitely stay in the Arena District. The Arena District is known as the best entertainment district in the city, with a variety of clubs and bars for visitors to pick from, including the A&R Music Bar and Callahan's Irish Tavern. For music lovers, the Arena District regularly hosts concerts at Lifestyles Communities Pavilion, bringing in famous performers such as Fall Out Boy and Counting Crows.
The ideal Columbus-area neighborhood to stay in for the best hotel deals is Worthington. The Worthington area contains multiple brand-name hotels whose rates run under $100 per night. There are also a few hotels in the area with rates slightly above $100 per night, but nothing over $200. With the money saved on hotel costs, those who stay in Worthington should treat themselves to one of the neighborhood's many steakhouses, including J. Alexander's and J. Gilbert's Wood-Fired Steaks and Seafood.
Best and Worst Time to Go to Columbus
The best time to visit Columbus is from May-September, since many of Columbus's must-see attractions, such as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, are fully or partially outside, and therefore are more enjoyable when the weather is warmer. That being said, a lot of road construction typically occurs in the Columbus area during this period as well, but as long as visitors follow the posted detour signs they should have no difficulty in arriving at their destinations.
The worst time to visit Columbus is from December-early April, because that is the period when the weather is at its worst, and heavy snowfall is typical. Not only do these weather conditions make it hard to enjoy some of Columbus's outdoor locations, but road conditions can be hazardous and flights out of Port Columbus International Airport are delayed and canceled on a regular basis during this period.
Where to Get Lost in Columbus
Although there are many neighborhoods that surround downtown Columbus, the one neighborhood that visitors should absolutely make an effort to visit is German Village, known for its old-time charm and brick-paved streets. The neighbored is also home to Schmidt's restaurant, an authentic German restaurant that is nationally famous for its sausages and half pound cream puffs.
The Best Deal in Columbus
While in Columbus, visitors should make a point to tour the Ohio Statehouse, since it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Columbus and all tours are free. These free, guided tours of the statehouse and the entire Capitol Square complex are offered Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and on Saturday-Sunday from noon-3 p.m.
Transportation in Columbus
There is no shortage of public transportation in Columbus; the city has its own busing system, called the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), and there are also a range of taxi services to choose from. Travel by COTA bus is the most affordable option, with the price of one-way fare ranging from $2-$2.75 and the cost of a day pass is less than $5.
For those who choose to stay in one of the neighborhoods outside of downtown Columbus, it may be beneficial to rent or travel by private car, but the COTA bus system does run lines out to some of the surrounding neighborhoods, including Worthington, Polaris, and Dublin.
Getting in from Port Columbus International Airport
The city of Columbus has two airports: Port Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker International Airport. Between the two airports, Port Columbus is more centrally located and is only ten minutes from downtown.
If visitors do not want to rent a car at Port Columbus, they can travel to their destination on one of the COTA buses that run routes out of the airport.
Local Tip for Visitors to Columbus
Columbus is well known as the home of The Ohio State University and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Not everyone, but many Columbus locals and Ohioans are passionate Buckeye fans. As a result, any time there is a home sporting event for the Buckeyes, especially a football game, travelers should expect heavy traffic, higher hotel rates, and long restaurant waits.
Those who want to avoid all of this commotion may want to check the game schedules for the Buckeyes and plan their trip accordingly.
But for those who enjoy sports, or happen to be Buckeye fans themselves, the Ohio Stadium and the Schottenstein Center should be at the top of their list of things to see in Columbus.
Author's bio: Miranda Roehler grew up in Northwest Ohio. She studied Creative Writing and History at The University of Findlay and has been published in multiple international journals.