Because it is primarily a political city, many of Columbus's major points of interest are concentrated in neighborhoods that touch or are adjacent to Downtown. You'll find hotels, restaurants, government buildings, and corporate headquarters of the likes of Limited Brands, Nationwide Insurance; right in downtown, you'll find Ohio State University, As for the neighborhoods that abut downtown, there's the bar-and-club heavy German Village/Brewery District to the south; the Arena District, which is a planned development area located north of downtown that contains National Arena, restaurants, and clubs; and Short North, situated just north of Arena District, populated with art galleries, restaurants, gay bars, retail and coffee shops.
Inside Historic Downtown Columbus--As the state capitol and the county seat of Davidson County, many of Columbus's points of interest are historic in nature or otherwise unique to the city. The city has undergone a revitalization in recent years that has resulted in the preservation and presentation of its gems.
Because every trip should begin with a short but fun history lesson, head up by toward the Ohio State University campus and tour Ohio Historical Center and Ohio Village, 1982 Velma Ave. (tel. 614/297-2300; www.ohiohistory.org). The center, operated by the Ohio Historical Society, has over a million items in collection, including a variety of exhibits devoted to Ohio archaeology and history from the Ice Age to current day. It's a modern 25,000 square foot-facility with an archive of both the society and the entire state of Ohio. Exhibits include an examination of the first Ohioans, with artifacts such as prehistoric Native American art, woven goods, pipes, and another focusing on the natural world of Ohio: its plants, animals, climate, geology and geography. Ohio Village, the other part of the complex, is a recreation of a typical county seat town in Ohio during the mid-19th century, open to the public during specific events, which are seasonal and ongoing, such as a vintage baseball festival and a history lesson on ice cream, complete with an old-fashioned ice cream social. Recent exhibits include a look back at controversial Presidential elections-Ohio is a key state during campaign season-and a horticulturally-oriented exhibit that looks at the history of gardening, landscape, and landowning. For those interested in the history of the Underground Railroad, the Center provides information to other sites and historic private homes that were stops for African-Americans escaping slavery. Plan on spending a half-day here. Admission is $7 adults, $6 seniors, and those with AAA membership cards, $3 for children 6 and up; free for children 5 and under. There is a $4 parking fee. Open every day except Mondays and national holidays.
From the Historical Center, head back to Capitol Square to tour the historic Ohio Statehouse, Statehouse Education/Visitors Center, Broad and High Sts. Ave. N. (tel. 614/728-2695; www.statehouse.state.oh.us/), a masterpiece of 19th century Greek Revival architecture. The Statehouse was completed in 1861-using prison labor for the foundation and ground floor-and went through a renovation in 1996. During the renovation, prisoner graffiti was uncovered, and as was common during those days, masons and laborers would sign their names. Research at the archives at the Historical Society found the man to be Ephram Badger, who had been imprisoned for burglary but was later pardoned, thanks to his "service to the state." The building was designed by renowned statehouse architect Nathan Kelly and features many fine details, including hand cut marble from Portugal that makes up the floor of the Rotunda and its 29-foot-wide skylight. On the ground floor, you will find a cafe, museum shop, and the Ohio Government Telecommunications studio, which shows gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the House and Senate and provides educational programming. Free, guided tours begin daily on the ground floor at the education and visitors center, which features the popular map room with an oversize marble map of Ohio. The Statehouse grounds are frequently the site of Civil War reenactments, including an encampment. There is a parking garage open 24 hours underneath the Statehouse. Closed on national holidays.
Walk from one architectural marvel to view many more just south of downtown, in German Village Society, 588 S. Third St. (tel. 614/221-8888; www.germanvillage.com). Here you will find some of the most beautifully restored historic 19th century homes, shops, and restaurants in Columbus. Stop at the visitors' center for a walking tour that highlights how this working class neighborhood grew in the 19th century and became reinvigorated in the late 20th century. For a closer look, opt for the deluxe tour, which takes you through two private homes, or one that goes through the Brewery District, just west of the village. Most of the buildings, whether quaint cottages or ornately detailed Queen Anne Victorians, have limestone foundations. Tours are available for individuals or groups, last between one and three hours, and range from $2-$12 per person. In the fall, Oktoberfest takes over the neighborhood; spring feature a Haus und Garten Tour. The 223-acre neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spend some time in Schiller Park, with its Huntington Garden Promenade, is the frequent site of festivals, special events, and outdoor theater productions.
Head back up to downtown, experiences the sights and smells by strolling through North Market, an historic market dating back to 1876, 59 Spruce St. (614/463-9664; www.northmarket.com) Open daily, the open-air market features over thirty unique merchants, fresh and prepared foods you can eat there or take to go, and a producer/farmers market during growing season on Saturdays. Throughout its history, fishmongers, farmers, butchers and bakers have sold their goods here, and it is the only one of four original public markets remaining in Columbus. In 1992 it moved to its current space. It's a culinary smorgasbord: Grab a bratwurst, falafel, or spring rolls, or simply sample the season's freshest produce. Situated just one block north of Nationwide Arena and one block west of the Convention Center. Open Tuesday-Friday, 9am-7pm; Saturday 8am-5pm; Sunday Noon-5pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.