Being a leader is nothing new to Columbus. It’s Ohio’s capital, home to bunches of nationally known corporations as well as the state’s largest university, Ohio State.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Columbus has continued to be a leader, taking safety seriously. Its mask mandate came early and is more stringent than the state’s. Almost 200 businesses — including restaurants, tourist attractions and hotels — have signed the Live Forward pledge, a commitment to follow all local, state and federal health and safety guidelines regarding the pandemic. More businesses are signing up by the day.
John Glenn Columbus International Airport is one of three airports in the world to earn Global Cleanliness Accreditation, a cleaning industry accreditation achieved by taking aggressive measures to prevent outbreaks and pandemics. The Greater Columbus Convention Center, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and several popular hotels are also working toward accreditation.
So Columbus makes good sense for travelers. Its emphasis on safety, easy driving distance from other Ohio cities and bordering states and a broad lineup of attractions make it a safe and fun bet.
Outdoors is in
Spring is always about getting out, and it’s likely that being outdoors will be more popular than ever in 2021.
Something new at the zoo
In July, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium opened Adventure Cove, a 60-foot-long acrylic tunnel that makes visitors feel like they are underwater with the zoo’s playful California sea lions. It is the first time in nearly 50 years that the zoo has had a sea lions on display. Next year, animal shows are expected to take the stage in a new 200-seat open-air amphitheater.
Groups can also visit a rotating lineup of exotic animals in the new Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters exhibit. They’ll see some of the creatures that have accompanied Hanna, the zoo’s director emeritus, on the late-night TV talk show circuit, which he’s done for decades to the delight of television viewers.
Head for the Wilds
For an even more exotic adventure, groups might opt to travel 80 miles east to The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center that is affiliated with the zoo. Giraffes, cheetahs, white rhinos and other rare species live in a natural, open-range setting, and groups can travel among them, viewing the animals safely from open-air safari buses.
A garden spot
Two miles from downtown, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a way to unwind in lush gardens and see what’s growing in a four-acre community garden and an 1895 glass conservatory. The Conservatory displays the world’s largest collection of Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork in a botanical garden and can be found throughout the grounds.
Down on the farm
About 30 minutes north of Columbus, groups can spread out at the family-run Glass Rooster Cannery. In September, a group of 17 on a four-day tour through Ohio dined in the farm’s spacious barn. Because the farm hosts only one group at a time, the visitors had the place safely to themselves.
A springtime stroll
Spring is also a nice time for a stroll through German Village, one of historic preservation’s success stories. Neighborhood walking tours were offered for groups of 10 or fewer this fall; larger groups were split and sent in different directions–some on an architectural exploration, others to the Book Loft, where 32 rooms are stuffed with books and staff regulate the number of shoppers to prevent overcrowding. Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus, a group favorite in German Village, has opened for indoor dining, with social distancing measures. Other Columbus restaurants are spreading tables onto sidewalks and other outdoor spaces.
Follow the taco trail
Columbus Food Adventures brought back its popular Taco Truck Tour in the fall, with modifications–all stops were outdoors and groups (limited to 10) followed the guide’s vehicle from stop to stop. By spring, the food tour company plans to have more tours to choose from.
Outdoors and in at museums
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) and the Columbus Museum of Art have beautiful outdoor areas, and both are also welcoming visitors indoors, keeping them safe through a timed ticketing reservation system. NVMM, celebrating its second year, works well for social distancing with exhibits along a chronological, one-way route and a separate entrance for groups.
Turn to Experience Columbus for assistance
No doubt, trip planning will be different in coming months, which makes the services offered by Experience Columbus even more valuable. Roger Dudley, director, tourism sales, is in constant contact with attractions and businesses as they adjust and revise their protocols and procedures. Dudley can keep planners updated and informed about reservation requirements, maximum group sizes, business hours and staff changes as he assists with tour planning.
Beyond regular business hours, a new chatbot at experiencecolumbus.com can answer planners’ questions; the new Live Forward Live podcast, also available on the website and through streaming services, can pique travelers’ interest through its lively interviews with zookeepers, musicians and other locals.
For more information contact: