A stay in Columbus has a lot in common with a stop at a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream shop, the Columbus-based but nationally famous ice cream maker. Like Jeni’s, Columbus appeals to everyone, with unexpected flavor and, best of all, a sense of fun and spirit of adventure.
Art’s all around
The only way to visit Columbus and not enjoy art is to keep your eyes closed. There’s a profusion of public art in the Ohio capital.
For example, at the Columbus Museum of Art, art lives indoors and out. It’s nice to stroll around the sculptures on the grounds and learn about the museum garden’s sustainable design and water conservation measures. Appetite aroused, the on-site Schokko Café features farm-to-table dining indoors and on its patio. In the galleries, visitors can admire works by local artists like Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson and George Bellows. The museum’s always a value, but free admission makes Sundays an even better deal.
Go where art lives
It’s equally fun to turn groups loose to explore art on their own in two downtown neighborhoods. Short North stands tall as the city’s best-known art district. Beyond the art in more than a dozen galleries are murals on walls all around, splashy backdrops for group photos and selfies. And art isn’t Short North’s only allure. Foodies can slide in to an Asian supper club, an American diner or a soul food find. Shoppers can splurge in 20 boutiques and clothing stores as well as specialty shops that sell everything from wine and cigars to garden supplies and guitars.
Franklinton, the newest artsy district, is also the city’s oldest neighborhood. It was downtrodden before a floodwall put an end to frequent flooding and a new flood poured in — artists enamored of its industrial buildings and low rent. They and other entrepreneurs have injected new life in the neighborhood, adjacent to the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum. In addition to artists, local restaurants and breweries including Land-Grant Brewing and BrewDog Franklinton, with a sunny rooftop patio, do a brisk business.
An uncommon theater for the common man
Franklinton’s grit is sharp contrast to the Ohio Theatre’s glint. Built as a “movie palace for the common man,” this glam theater, where everything but the flame-red seats seems dipped in gold, drops the jaws of rich, poor and middle class. It’s a busy place, hosting 100 performances a year, but its not too busy to be shown off to visitors who want to take a tour. On tours, they might learn to no surprise, that more was spent to decorate and furnish the theater than to build it. A highlight, pun intended, is the 2.5-ton chandelier, lit by 340 light bulbs. It’s massive, 21 feet tall and 11 feet wide, and cleaning every other year is quite a production requiring half a dozen staff to safely lower it with a cable wench, dust it off and replace bulbs. Its ornamentation includes flying horses–and there’s a story about them too.
Among the theater’s offerings are Broadway shows on tour, performances of the Columbus Symphony and in the summertime, old movies — from Murder on the Orient Express and Friday the 13th to The King and I and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Modest ticket prices make for an inexpensive few hours spent enjoying an old film in a fabulous old theater.
Sea lions settle in
The pandemic did not stop some new residents from moving to Columbus. Ten California sea lions and four harbor seals arrived last year and dove in to Adventure Cove, a new 4-acre, $40 million exhibit at the Columbus Zoo. It probably feels like home to them, what with its Northwest coast design and three tanks brimming with 375,000 gallons of water. The sea lions are settling in and already, three new babies have arrived, giving visitors more to see.
Adventure Cove can be an easy way to get a taste of the zoo when time it tight. The exhibit is right inside the zoo’s entrance, so the walk is short, and if it’s timed right, they can also slide into the 250-seat amphitheater to hear a trainer talk about how sea lions learn and maybe even see a few of their new tricks. Otherwise, visitors can wander through a 60-foot acrylic tunnel where they can watch the sea lions swim above, below and beside them.
Savor Columbus’s flavors
One way to relish the flavor of a place is through food. Columbus’s 145-year-old North Market is a good place to start, with a tour that includes small bites from the more than 30 vendors who do business there. They offer up everything from Bavarian glazed roasted almonds to grilled Ohio beef burgers, and coffee from Stauf’s, the city’s first coffee café, opened more than 30 years ago. The foods are far from expected Midwestern fare — Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, Polish, Mexican, French–it’s a United Nations of noshing. A tour bonus is a gift card that can be used toward purchases at the market.
For a more focused food stop, try Mozart’s in North Columbus, opened in 1995 by the Saha family, immigrants who worked as chefs in Vienna’s restaurants and hotels. Housed since 2013 in a 1934 Mission-style building, Mozart’s has a broad menu of lunch dishes like Hungarian goulash and chicken Schnitzel as well as a lengthy list of sandwiches and salads. Afternoon tea is an option, with scones, canapés and truffles for dessert. Given its name, it probably comes as no surprise that there’s often a pianist playing in the dining room, a pleasing note to end a busy day in Columbus.
For more information contact:
Roger Dudley or Marie Kuess