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OnSite in Columbus

Experience Columbus once, and you’ll likely want to do it again.

That’s what 17 tour operator and travel planner readers of The Group Travel Leader discovered during a four-day familiarization trip to the Ohio capital city in August. Hosted by Experience Columbus, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, the trip included both Columbus proper and numerous smaller communities nearby that offer distinctive experiences for groups traveling in the region.

During the trip, participants took part in numerous interactive experiences that have become hallmarks of Columbus’ group tour offerings. Highlights included holding baby animals at the Columbus Zoo, creating personalized scent blends at the Worthington Candle Lab and an immersive planetarium show at the COSI Planetarium.

Follow along on this itinerary to experience Columbus for yourself.

Day 1

Arrival in Columbus

Columbus City Adventures Tour

Dinner at the Boathouse at Confluence Park

Overnight at Holiday Inn Columbus Downtown Capitol Square

Guests traveled from throughout the Northeast and Midwest to arrive in Columbus, a city in central Ohio that is one of the state’s most thriving urban centers. After checking into their accommodations at the Holiday Inn Columbus Downtown Capitol Square, the group met in the lobby and boarded a motorcoach for an overview tour of the city.

On this 90-minute introduction to the city led by Columbus City Adventures, the group saw the state Capitol, the campus of Ohio State University, the Short North dining and entertainment area, and the downtown Arena District while learning details about the city’s founding, history and modern culture.

The city tour ended at the Boathouse at Confluence Park, a favorite Columbus venue that sits at the scenic confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. An evening event there featured drinks and dinner accompanied by live music from a local Columbus duo.

Day 2

Nordstrom: What’s In Fashion Experience

Easton Town Center

Ohio Herb Education Center: Preserving the Harvest

Lunch in Gahanna at 101 Beer Kitchen

Franklin Park Conservatory: Butterfly Immersion

Eldorado Scioto Downs

Ohio History Center’s Red Herring Dinner Theater

Overnight at Holiday Inn Columbus Downtown Capitol Square

The second day of the FAM began with a trip to Easton Town Center, Columbus’ premier shopping and entertainment development, for a breakfast and fashion experience at Nordstrom. From there the group went to nearby Gahanna, a charming small town, for an herbal experience at the Ohio Herb Education Center and lunch at 101 Beer Kitchen. The afternoon brought the tour back to Columbus, where the group explored the beautiful Franklin Park Conservatory. After a quick refresh at the hotel, the group left for Eldorado Scioto Downs to enjoy live horseracing, the Brew Brothers bar and a reception at the on-site Hampton Inn and Suites. The evening concluded with an engaging murder-mystery dinner theater performance from the Ohio History Center.

Nordstrom: What’s In Fashion Experience

The FAM group arrived early at Nordstrom, one of the anchor stores at Easton Town Center, and enjoyed a full breakfast at the in-store cafe. There, they were joined by several of Nordstrom’s personal fashion consultants, who presented an overview of current fashion trends for men and women. After breakfast, participants enjoyed some free time for private consultation and shopping before the store opened to the public.

Easton Town Center

After the shopping experience at Nordstrom, the group took a walk through Easton Town Center, a beautiful retail and entertainment development with more than 240 shops and restaurants that attracts some 25 million visitors a year. In addition to the shops, the travel planners experienced the fountains, squares, public plazas and other touches that make Easton a memorable place to spend a day.

Ohio Herb Education Center: Preserving the Harvest

A short drive from Easton brought the group to Gahanna, a quaint Columbus suburb that bills itself the Herb Capital of Ohio. There, they visited the Ohio Herb Education Center, housed in a historic 1855 home. The center offers numerous culinary and craft workshops. For this tour, the center presented the “Preserving the Harvest” program, which included a lecture and a hands-on experience making sage-infused honey.

Franklin Park Conservatory: Butterfly Immersion

The group arrived after lunch at the Franklin Park Conservatory, a large indoor botanical garden and one of the city’s signature attractions. In addition to a guided tour through the various habitats under the conservatory’s glass roof and a look at the numerous pieces of Dale Chihuly glass art interspersed throughout, the FAM group took part in the Butterfly Immersion experience. Each participant got to release an exotic butterfly into the conservatory’s “Blooms and Butterflies” exhibit.

El Dorado Scioto Downs

For an exciting evening, the group headed to Eldorado Scioto Downs, Columbus’ live horseracing and casino gaming venue. Participants enjoyed gaming credit at the casino and a cocktail hour at the Brew Brothers bar and restaurant, followed by a site inspection at the new Hampton Inn and Suites Scioto Downs, which is attached to the casino.

Ohio History Center’s Red Herring Dinner Theater

The evening wrapped up with a private dinner at the casino, where a troupe of actors from the Ohio History Center performed the “Red Herring Dinner Theater,” a murder mystery built around the death of a prominent politician during the Red Scare of the 1950s. The show included plenty of opportunities for group members to participate and enjoy a few laughs.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.