In the weeks leading up to the 2007 NHL draft, the Columbus Dispatch ran weekly profiles of some of the top prospects (Jakub Voracek, the player picked by the CBJ, not among them). One of the questions they asked of the 18-year-olds was “What do you know about Columbus?” The answers:
Not much, actually, but I’m looking forward to going there. — Kyle Turris
I know the Blue Jackets play there. And it’s big country music town. — Sam Gagner
I was going to ask you about Columbus, because the only thing I know is Ohio State. I like the football and basketball teams. — Keaton Ellerby
I know … let’s see, I don’t want to sound too dumb here, but Ohio State is there, right? — James van Riemsdyk
To be honest, I don’t know much at all — just that it gets really hot and humid there, and that Gilbert Brule plays for the Blue Jackets. — Karl Alzner
Nothing. — Angelo Esposito
Not much, actually. I know about the Blue Jackets. — Patrick Kane
The purpose in rehearsing these quotations is not to embarrass the young athletes in question (except for Sam Gagner, who thinks we’re Nashville). But rather it’s to drive home the point that Columbus is a city that remains fairly unknown outside of the 614 area code. Sure, OSU gets us some notice, and well, we got some notoriety in recent years thanks to the Alrosa Villa shootings, the I-270 shooter, and being Ground Zero for frantic campaigning before the 2004 election and endless controversy afterwards. But for the most part, when Columbus gets mentioned in the national media, it always has the modifier “Ohio” attached to it, because otherwise, it could easily be confused with Columbus, Indiana (pop. 39,059) or Columbus, Georgia (pop. 186,291).
Which irritates local residents no end, as this is a city of over 700,000 residents (and a metro area of 1.7 million), the 15th largest city in the country, in fact. As they will tell you. Whether or not you ask.
Okay, so the local inferiority complex isn’t the most appealing trait, even if it is often understandable.
But this is a city that really does have a lot going for it that most people who don’t live here don’t know much about. It has some great neighborhoods, great restaurants, fun festivals and special events, and of course, NHL hockey. It’s a great place to live — I’ve been here for 3 1/2 years now, and don’t want to leave. Friends who have come to visit me here seem to enjoy themselves, so I have to think it’s not a bad place to visit, either. Come for a weekend and check it out for yourself (note: I’m not offering my futon for that weekend…)
Getting your bearings
Compared to a city like Cincinnati, Columbus is relatively simple to find your way around. It’s laid out on somewhat of a grid. Because it’s so flat, you can see the downtown skyline from much of the city, and use that to orient yourself.
High St. (US 23 for much of its run through the city) is the main drag and divides the city into east and west. Broad St. (US 40 in most places) does the same north and south. Yup, the street that runs the length of the city is High St and the street that runs the width is Broad St. We’re nothing if not utilitarian in our street-naming here…well, okay, sometimes we’re just spectacularly stupid.
The expressways make it pretty easy (some would say too easy) to get from one place to another quickly. I live more or less downtown, and can be virtually any place in Franklin County inside of 20 minutes. I-70 runs west-east through the city, and will take you to Dayton, Indianapolis, St. Louis and beyond, or to Pittsburgh in the other direction. I-71 runs SW-NE and connects Columbus to Cincinnati and Cleveland. I-270 (“the Outerbelt”) is the circle freeway. I-670 is a spur that runs from the Airport in the Northeast, through downtown, and then connects with I-70 just west of Grandview. OH 315 goes N-S a few miles west of 71. OH 104 runs east from 71 in the southern part of the city, then reverts to being a regular street when it becomes Refugee Rd. Traffic is generally not that bad compared to many larger cities, although the clusterfuck where 71 and 70 run together south of downtown should be avoided if possible.
Unlike most of the other large cities in Ohio, which peaked some time around or before the mid-20th century (mid-19th century for my home town of Cincinnati) and have been treading water or declining ever since, Columbus has had its greatest growth since WW2, nearly doubling in (city) population since 1950. Of course, much of this growth has come in the form of suburban sprawl. With lots of flat, open land upon which to build, the strip mall became characteristic of much of the built environment of Columbus and environs. As is typical with that form of development, this is a very car-centered city. Some of the urban neighborhoods (more below) are walkable, but to get from one neighborhood to another, you generally require a car. COTA tries, but public transportation isn’t especially great here for much besides getting into and out of downtown on a commuter schedule. There’s been a lot of talk about streetcars recently, and these may yet come to pass, but right now it’s all still talk.
Columbus for Tourists
Erm, I’m the wrong person to ask for this. I tend to steer clear of most large tourist attractions. For example, I’ve been to COSI once, in 1987, on a school field trip. I mostly remember all the flags in Columbus being at half-mast because Woody Hayes had just died, and all my classmates being excited because COSI was across the street from the original Wendy’s. Well, COSI has since decamped to the other side of the Scioto, the original Wendy’s closed last winter, and Woody Hayes is still dead. That’s all I can tell you.
If you’re looking for advice on museums and zoos and theme parks and that sort of thing, I am certain that the folks at Experience Columbus can help you. You should check them out.
What follows here, then, is a discussion of some of the things that I think make Columbus a pretty cool city. And of course, since I’m a hockey fan, I’m going to start with hockey.
Coming for a Blue Jackets game
What better reason to come to Columbus than to watch the
men of the neon bug men of the Ohio flag wrapped around a star? Yes, there have been a lot of losses, and yes, some of the games last season pushed my patience to the limit (I actually left an NHL game early for the first time ever last season, so disgusted was I with the pathetic effort being put forth). But this is a fresh start in Columbus, with a new GM and a full season of Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. And now higher ticket prices to boot. Woo-hoo!
Seriously, if you lack emotional attachment to the CBJ, and don’t get stressed out and run down by the losing, Nationwide is a pretty fun place to watch a hockey game. It really is a beautiful building, lets in lots of natural light, nice wide concourses make it easy to get around before, after, and between periods, and it’s the anchor of a revitalized corner of downtown with lots of pre- and post-game options. And I’ve sat in pretty much every place you can sit for a hockey game, from the glass right back to the last row of the upper bowl, and none of the seats are really bad. And then there’s that “#1 fan experience” stuff they can’t shut up about, even though it’s really just a sop to the public to avoid talking about, you know, the on-ice performance.
But I drift off onto a rant again…onto more practical matters.
Jackets tickets tend to be easy to come by. The first couple years, they frequently sold out, but the sell-outs have dwindled as the years have gone on. These days, the home opener seems to be the only guaranteed sell-out, and even some of the Wings games (which attract large numbers of Wing coughbandwagoncough fans) failed to sell out last year. That said, Columbus tends to be a front-running sports city, so should the CBJ start winning consistently, I’d expect tickets to get tougher to come by.
But for now, it’s generally fairly easy to get tickets at the Nationwide box office or via Ticketmaster, without having to do it as soon as they go on sale (Sept. 15 this year, I believe). Before going to Ticketmaster, I’d recommend hitting the promotions page on the Jackets’ website. They frequently have special packages throughout the season, particularly for mid-week games, where you can get tickets, a t-shirt or some other tchotchke, food or drinks, tickets to concerts or movies, etc. for a pretty reasonable price — usually less than the face value of just the individual ticket, so even if you don’t care about the rest of the stuff, it’s a deal. They also periodically do sales during the season which you generally have to go to the box office to get — half-price tickets, $10 tickets to selected games, etc. If you sign up for their e-newsletter, you will get notice of such deals.
The past couple of seasons, the Jackets have also partnered with Huntington Bank to provide $10 “Green Seats.” These seats are in the top rows of the arena, and go on sale only at the box office, two hours before puck drop. I’ve only bought them for preseason games…in the regular season, they do tend to go quickly, and on weekends in particular, fans start lining up early to get their hands on them.
There’s also a secondary market for tickets. The scalpers are out before every game, and the word is, you can get some deeply discounted tickets from them if you’re willing to wait until almost puck drop, or even miss part of the first. I’m not big into haggling, so I don’t buy tickets this way (although I do often buy them off STH friends), but friends of mine do, and it is an option.
Parking and all that
I almost never pay to park for Jackets’ games. If you’re willing to walk a little, there is free/cheap parking available. I don’t want to give up the secret entirely, but along G—— and P— Streets, the meters stop running at six. Be sure to check the meter, though, as closer in, some run ’til eight. And watch for spaces claimed by the valet parking asshats on weekend evenings; they’ll be marked with signs.
If I do get there late and can’t find a place on the street, I usually park in the Convention Center garage at Front and Vine, which is a $7 flat rate on game nights. There are also some lots further down Vine and Spruce that are $5. Closer to the Arena, parking will run $10-$15.
If you’re cheap like me, you’ll want to eat or drink before the game to avoid the high prices inside the arena. Thankfully, there are outlets for both cheap eating and cheap drinking nearby. There is a Chipotle on Front St., some kind of wrap place next to it, and also a Starbucks right outside the arena. For cheap drinks, it’s got to be the R Bar. They’re located down the alley across Nationwide Blvd. from the Blue Line, and are a true hockey bar. They have Center Ice on the televisions, a Canadian dish now for TSN, and drink specials before games. This is where the real hockey fans hang out before and after games. It’s not a bad spot for watching away games on TV, either. The only down side is that they don’t have a kitchen, so if you want to combine your eating with drinking, you’ll have to bring in food from elsewhere. If you don’t want to do that, but do want some beers and bar food before the game, I recommend Gibby’s on Vine, which has some pretty good wings, sandwiches, etc.
Ohio State Hockey
The CBJs are kings of the hockey world in C-Bus, but the men’s hockey Buckeyes shouldn’t be forgotten. They put on a good hockey game for reasonable prices out at the Schott. They play in the CCHA along with teams like Michigan, last year’s NCAA champs Michigan State, Notre Dame, in-state rivals Miami and Bowling Green, among others. Endless tiresome threads on the uscho.com boards describe in great detail how the CCHA is nothing compared to the mighty WCHA, but people who find their self-worth in what college hockey conference they choose to follow really need to get a different hobby (of course I say that; I’m an ECAC fan…). And what matters is that it’s generally decent hockey to watch.
As a team, OSU has progressed from the days of being consistent bottom-feeders, and they’ve even made it to the NCAA tournament on a few occasions, but they’re far from the powerhouse Ohio State boasts in other sports. Still, in most recent years you’re way more likely to see a home team win at the Schott than at Nationwide…
Ah, the Schott. It’s a modern 17,000+ seat building. It doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles of most modern pro arenas, but it’s generally a nice and comfortable arena. Unfortunately, the hockey Bucks don’t generally come anywhere near filling it. Michigan games sell out, and Miami and BGSU can bring out 10,000, but most games are in the 4-6,000 range with the upper bowl not open. Which tends to mean the crowd gets lost in the gaping space and there’s just not the atmosphere you’d have at a smaller, full rink. And on top of that, OSU hockey tends to draw a largely family-oriented, cheap night out with the kids crowd. Nothing wrong with that, but it does tend to create an atmosphere lacking in the entertaining chants and vulgarity that make college hockey so much fun. The OSU band is there for most games, which makes up for some of the lack of passion on the part of the crowd (you haven’t heard “The Final Countdown” by Europe until you’ve heard it played by a marching band. Really.), and occasionally they do “Script Ohio” on ice, which is fun to see.
So yes, the atmosphere is slightly anodyne, but the tickets are cheap — around $12, but often with special discounts and sales that can make them as little as $4. Parking is free. On busier nights, it can be quite a hike from the nether reaches of the Schott lot. For games like Michigan or when the Frozen Four was there, I park in the Vet School lot across Lane Ave., which allows for easy egress after the game and no waiting in traffic. It’s not strictly speaking legal, but I haven’t known them to enforce the parking restrictions yet…
There’s not a lot right around the Schott for pre- and post-game revelry. My friends and I usually just go to the Rusty Bucket down Lane in Upper Arlington, which also seems to be a favorite of the Buckeyes coaching staff. It’s a competent sports bar; nothing exceptional.
As far as during-game revelry, beer is sold at the Schott, but you’re only supposed to be allowed to drink it in club level. Given the sparsity of most crowds, it’s generally possible to find empty seats in Club if you wish to imbibe. Or to pour beer into a souvenir Coke cup and sneak it downstairs. But you certainly didn’t hear that from me.
Ohio State also boasts a D1 women’s hockey team. I’ll admit that I’ve been remiss in making it out to their games. I’ve only been to one, when they faced off against my alma mater, Wilfrid Laurier U. last fall. But it was an entertaining game, and you can’t beat the prices (free admission). The Lady Bucks play out of the OSU Ice Rink, which only seats about 1,000, and is located on the main campus, near the football stadium.
And now I must put in a plug for the other pathetic pro team that plays out of Columbus, the Crew of the MLS. They’ve looked a bit better this season, in flashes at least. May even qualify for the playoffs. The frustration factor can still be high, though. At least it keeps me in shape for the despair that is following the CBJ.
Despite that rousing endorsement, Crew games are pretty fun to attend. Although sellouts have been far and few between in recent years (the visit of Beckham will probably be the only one this year), there’s usually not a bad crowd. There are three organized supporters groups: Local 103, Hudson Street Hooligans, and La Turbina, who contribute a lot to the atmosphere. Sometimes the opposing team’s fans show up in numbers as well, which can add to the atmosphere. Occasionally some isolated problems, but for the most part, it’s all in good fun.
The quality of the soccer in MLS is not on the same level as the top international leagues, so Eurosnobs may disapprove. But it’s the best we get to see in person in Columbus. And it still has its moments of beauty and skill and thrills and excitement, so it’s worth watching for me.
Crew Stadium, which was the pioneer of the new MLS soccer-specific stadiums, is located adjacent to the Ohio State Fairgrounds, next to I-71. There’s not a lot to do nearby, and the surrounding neighborhood is somewhat sketchy. So Crew fans have made a tradition of pregame tailgating in the parking lot. Open containers are permitted during tailgating. So it’s not a bad way to while away a couple hours on a summer evening, and then go watch some soccer. $7 to park on the dirt lot, $10 for concrete. Some people do park on the surrounding streets and walk.
Tickets are pretty easy to come by, unless it’s something like the Galaxy/Beckham game. I’d say for any other game this year, you’d be safe buying day of the game at the ticket window. There’s a bit of a secondary market in the parking lot before games, but it seems much more limited than at Jackets games. The Crew website also frequently does special deals where you get a free t-shirt or scarf or something along with game tickets.
Special Events in Columbus
Columbus has a number of fun events that are worth visiting.
Comfest is an annual favorite of mine, and people who came for the NHL Draft this past summer got to experience it, as it took place the same weekend. This is a three-day music and arts festival which takes place in Goodale Park, a hop, skip and jump from Nationwide Arena. They have multiple stages with different bands going at once — it’s primarily local music, but covers a fairly diverse spectrum of genres, from rock to jazz, blues, folk, spoken word, etc. There are multiple booths set up with different vendors selling all sorts of stuff; you can usually find some neat little art and craft type things (look for the Short North magnets, mirrors, etc for a unique local souvenir). There are also multiple food vendors, ranging from standard fair food (deep fried anything!) to local favorites like Jeni’s Ice Cream and Dragonfly neo-vegan cuisine. And of course, there’s the beer. To cut down on waste involved with disposable cups, you should buy one of the brightly colored large plastic Comfest mugs and refill it. All in all, it’s fun to kill a couple hours wandering around, listening to some music, having some good food and beer, and people-watching. I will say, though, that Comfest is not everyone’s cup of tea. The politics of it skew pretty left, so if that isn’t your scene, you may not enjoy it. Oh, and, to a lot of people it is a very big deal that women can legally go topless in Columbus, but for some reason they only seem to do it during Comfest. Which is to say that there will be topless women wandering around Comfest, so if you’re bothered by that or have young kids you don’t want seeing it, you may want to steer clear.
On the second day of Comfest every year, they also hold Columbus Pride, which includes a parade starting at Goodale Park and working its way downtown on High St, where I believe there is a big festival in and of itself south of downtown. This is reputed to be one of the largest gay pride parades between the coasts, and attracts a pretty big crowd in and of itself, so get there early and stake out a spot if you want a good vantage point for the parade.
Comfest attracts thousands of folks down to the neighborhood each year, and as such, parking is always in short supply. If you’re staying outside of downtown, you should see if COTA can get you where you need to be, although unfortunately Columbus has a pretty inadequate transit system, so if you’re not staying right on High St somewhere, that may not work. So be patient, and please, be considerate of those of us who live in the neighborhood.
Comfest is fun, but this is probably my favorite Columbus event. It takes place each year on July 4 (rain date: July 3) and celebrates America’s birthday in an irreverent fashion. All are welcome to participate (one year I am going to come up with something) and there is a wide array of fun, silliness, political commentary, cross-dressing nuns, and, well, it really just needs to be experienced.
The parade takes place in Victorian Village and the Short North.
Red White & Boom
Fourth of July fireworks, which never actually occur on the Fourth of July. They have various events downtown all day, although honestly I’ve never gone to any, because I can see the fireworks from my house, so jockeying for position with 500,000 of my fellow Central Ohioans just isn’t a high priority.
This street painting festival originally took place in Goodale Park. Local artists would do chalk paintings on the pavement of Goodale and Park Streets, and there would be music and food. All in all a real nice, low-key event.
Unfortunately, there were some issues that resulted in Via Colori not happening in 2006, and almost not happening in 2007, but the North Market picked up the ball and hosted it along Spruce Street. The weather was uncooperative this year, but hopefully Via Colori will be back for a good long run at its new home.
OSU Football Saturdays
I’ve yet to get closer to Ohio Stadium on a game day than watching the planes with banners and the Goodyear Blimp circling over it from my back windows. Someday, someday…
But there is a real special event atmosphere in Columbus on game day. If you drive around town before game time, you’ll see numerous cookouts and house parties underway, and everyone all kitted out in their scarlet & gray.
Does it cross over into obsession? Dude, the Buckeye Corner is a chain. There are something like six of them. So yeah, a little crazy. But it’s still fun. At least until the first couch gets lit up…
(Please send all complaints about the previous paragraph to K. Holbrook, Longboat Key, FL….)
Of course, special events only come around every so often, as do sporting events. But even when nothing special is going on in Columbus, there are lots of neighborhoods worth visiting.
Short North/Victorian Village/Harrison West
The Short North is the neighborhood along High St headed north from downtown towards the OSU campus. There are numerous galleries, shops, restaurants, etc along High St. There is a monthly Gallery Hop that brings in big crowds the first Saturday of each month. The southern end of the neighborhood is beginning to become more dominated by restaurants and clothing stores and some would say is a little less “edgy” than it once was. Starbucks has even set up shop in the Yukon Lofts Building. Some of my favorite places on the southern end of the Short North — Betty’s Food and Spirits for fun drinks and good food, The Coffee Table, a locally owned neighborhood coffeehouse, The Burgundy Room for wine and tapas (they also have a location in Dublin if you’re staying out that way), Posh Pets Boutique, for dressing your pooch up like Paris Hilton, and the North Star Cafe, which has excellent food with an emphasis on local and healthy ingredients (they have also recently opened up a branch in Clintonville).
Of late there’s been more development further north along High — where even a few years ago, it got kind of sketchy beyond say First, there’s now all sorts of development going all the way up to Fifth. And some of the worthwhile stops are up at the northern end of the neighborhood — Magnolia Thunderpussy, the best indie record store in town for new releases, What the Rock? for all your Ramones onesies needs, and of course The Surly Girl Saloon, which is quite possibly the best bar in Columbus (and despite the name, no it is not a lesbian bar) if not the world. It’s also the sister bar to Betty’s.
West of High Street is Victorian Village, a neighborhood of old homes, most of which have been restored in recent decades. It’s generally pleasant just to walk around the neighborhood looking at the houses.
West of Neil Av. over to the Olentangy River is Harrison West, another neighborhood of older restored homes. You can walk through the new development at Harrison Park and look at houses I covet but can’t afford. Or you can stop by Caffe Apropos, a nice neighborhood coffeehouse/wine store at Third and Michigan.
Closer in to the arena, you should certainly stop by the North Market, which has numerous vendors and places to buy lunch or a snack.
Downtown Columbus itself doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend it. It’s the typical central business district of a mid-sized American city; office towers and lunchtime crowds, with not much going on after 5PM. They’re trying to improve it by encouraging more people to move downtown, but it’s a slow process, so don’t expect too much. And please stay out of City Center. It is a completely dead mall and pretty embarrassing to have at the heart of downtown. I would recommend that you swing by downtown for lunch at El Arepazo, which is the only Venezuelan restaurant in Columbus and very tasty. It’s located in Pearl Alley between Gay St and Broad St, which also hosts a farmer’s market on Tuesdays and Fridays. E. Gay St. is also home to the Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails, the newest addition to the Betty’s/Surly Girl family, which I highly recommend.
And just to recommend something kind of weird that relatively few people know about — for cheap, bad food with a spectacular view, the cafeteria in the Franklin County Courthouse Complex on S. High offers those amenities. You do have to go through a metal detector to get there. Although I can say from personal experience that a Swiss Army Knife is apparently no barrier to entry. Eep.
The Arena District
Nationwide Arena is the anchor of the Arena District, a new-ish neighborhood of entertainment, housing, and commercial space on the northern edge of downtown Columbus. It’s got kind of the hip see-and-be-seen pickup bar scene right now in Columbus for post-frat and sorority twenty-somethings. Honestly, aside from the places I’ve mentioned already, I’d rather have my fingernails pulled out one by one than spend an evening out in the Arena District (or the associated scene on Park Street, which I guess qualifies as a different “district”). But if it is your particular scene, there it is for you.
South of downtown you find German Village, one of the first neighborhoods in Columbus to gentrify. As with Victorian Village, it can be fun just to walk around and look at the old houses that have been restored. German Village is also home to The Book Loft, a big bookstore that will keep bibliophiles busy for awhile. And if you’re parched after looking at books, there’s a location of local coffee chain Cup O’Joe next door (other Cup O’ Joes can be found at Lennox Town Center, in Clintonville, Bexley, Pickerington, on the I-670 cap in the Short North, at Easton Town Center, and at the airport. Stauf’s, which is the one that started it all, is located in Grandview, about which more in a second).
Grandview Heights/Upper Arlington
A bit northwest of downtown Columbus is Grandview Heights, a separate municipality (although part of what’s known in local parlance as “Grandview” is actually in the city of Columbus) with a fairly diverse and thriving business district along Grandview Ave. Here you will find Stauf’s coffeehouse, the granddaddy of the Cup O’ Joes, a Jeni’s ice cream store, Shoku for sushi, Figlio for gourmet pizza, and an arthouse theatre. I’ll also put in a plug for the Grandview Cafe, which was recently bought by one of my hockey buddies and will be going through some changes. You should also check out the area around First and Northwest in Grandview. There is a little shopping plaza there with an Old Bag of Nails and also Marshall’s, which has good burgers and cheap beer.
To the north and west of Grandview, Upper Arlington sprawls across much of the NW side, from Grandview all the way to Dublin. It’s an affluent suburb — some Jackets players past and present have resided there. Lots of interesting big houses to see, but it’s so spread out that it’s more of a driving tour than walking. The Shops on Lane Avenue Mall (which is, interestingly enough, located on Lane Ave) is home to the Rusty Bucket, a pub that has a good selection of beer and halfway decent food, and is a frequent pregame stop before Ohio State hockey games (the Schott is just up the street a bit). Nearby on Lane is the largest local Half Price Books store (others can be found at Sawmill and Bethel, Brice and Tussing, Westerville and Clintonville). For good sandwiches, salads, and pasta, Zuppa at Northwest and Zollinger is a favorite lunch stop of mine (they also have locations downtown and in the Arena District, and their catering operation supplies packaged sandwiches and salads to many local coffeehouses, including the Cups O’ Joe)
The main campus of Ohio State runs along the Olentangy River between King and Lane and over east to High St. Many students live on the streets off of High east and north of the campus proper, and along High St. you’ll find the expected collection of head shops, Buckeye tchotchke merchants, fast food joints, and dive bars that you’d expect to spring up in the vicinity of students. I mainly go to the campus area for three things: Used Kids Records, which is a great place to find obscure music for not much money, Bento Go-Go for takeout sushi (I’ve never actually been to the sake bar upstairs), and Kafe Kerouac, which is a comfy little coffeehouse and a good place to sit and read or do work for a couple hours.
After a spate of bad crime stories involving students, OSU decided to get more proactive about cleaning up the campus area, part of which involved the bulldozing of a number of dive bars on High St and the creation of the South Campus Gateway. This shiny new complex has a bunch of restaurants and bars that cater to the collegiate set, a Drexel theatre, a large Barnes & Noble/Long’s Bookstore, and some other stores. Not my scene, but if it is yours, check it out.
Further north along High St. you’ll cross into Clintonville, which is a large middle class neighborhood which is less hipsterish than SN/VV etc., but still a pretty cool part of town. I’ll confess to not knowing Clintonville especially well myself, despite being descended from grandparents who grew up there. I am now playing in a softball league that plays at Whetstone Park, which does appear to be a very nice park.
If you keep going up High St beyond Clintonville, you will cross into the city of Worthington. This is an affluent suburb (Doug MacLean lived there) that has a very pleasant old town square — err, Village Green, I think they call it. And if you keep going from there, you’ll cross into Delaware County and eventually you’ll wind up in Toledo. So I recommend against that.
Easton Town Center is a large shopping and entertainment complex on the NE side of town done up in faux main street style. I go there mainly for Trader Joe’s, Crate & Barrel, soccer games at Fado, and The Container Store, but my out-of-town guests do seem to like the place, so you may want to go check it out as well. Be warned that it is a bitch to find parking there on the weekends.
Columbus is known for being the home of fast/comfort food giants like Wendy’s, White Castle, Bob Evans, and Max & Erma’s. But as the city’s population has grown more diverse, so have the eating choices. And sometimes some pretty interesting places to eat can be found in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect them. A few faves:
- The Starliner Diner serves Caribbean-type fusion cuisine and great breakfasts in an unassuming strip mall on Cemetery Rd. in Hilliard. I have never had a bad meal here. Ever.
- My two favorite Thai restaurants in the city can be found on a rather grim stretch of Refugee Rd on the Southeast side. Bangkok looks like just a grocery store from the outside, but is in fact a full size restaurant with excellent meals. Further east, Pad Thai serves up its namesake dish and other tasty treats from a strip mall named the McThai Center (really).
- Udipi Cafe is an all-vegetarian south Indian restaurant in a strip mall on Dublin-Granville Rd (OH 161) on the NE Side. It’s quite different from the usual Indian food we commonly find in the US, and they have a very good lunch buffet.
- Taste of Bali is the only Indonesian restaurant I have ever been to, so I can’t compare it to anything else. But I will say that I like it. It can be found at the Carriage Place shopping center at the corner of Bethel and Sawmill. This shopping center is also home to a Half Price Books and a discount movie theatre.
- A few blocks further east on Bethel, Cafe Shish Kebab serves up very nice Turkish dishes. And their shopping center is also home to The Hockey Stop
- Lindo’s on Sullivant in the Hilltop is definitely the only Mexican/Cambodian restaurant in Columbus. And possibly anywhere. Good prices, good food.
More information about Columbus can be found on the Internet
This is the end of my guide to Columbus. Obviously, it’s been shaped by my likes and dislikes and obsessions and prejudices, so it’s by no means comprehensive. If you’re still looking for things to do in Cowtown, here’s where to turn for more advice:
- My blogroll. Seriously, check out the “local links” section. Lots of local bloggers writing about this city.
- The Other Paper is the local free alt-weekly, and they will have listings of what is up in town that weekend.
- Their news coverage was eliminated when the Dispatch bought them, but seeing as you’re from out of town, you probably don’t care. So Columbus Alive, which is also free and available around town, can be a resource for finding what’s up in C-Bus.
- Columbus Underground is a great local messageboard. It skews towards youngish urbanites with a particular interest in downtown redevelopment, but it’s an incredibly valuable resource for finding out about new restaurants, clubs, etc., as well as news around town. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, post a question and someone’s sure to have an answer for you.
On that note, this wraps up my Columbus visitors guide. Hope it was helpful, and hope you enjoy your visit!