Traveling in the Midwest in the middle of winter offers a different kind of adventure! At the invitation of a great friend to attend his long-anticipated wedding, we had the great opportunity to explore Columbus, Ohio, tour some interesting businesses and locales, and capture more stock photos of this secret gem.
Columbus was ranked one of “The 6 Best Big Cities” by Money Magazine in 2016, and in 2012, it was ranked in BusinessWeek’s 50 best cities in America. Slated as the No. 1 up-and-coming tech city in the nation by Forbes in 2008, the city is an active and bustling capitol with loads to offer.
An Iconic Hotel
As we landed at the airport on a crisp wintry day, we made our way to the intimate Hotel LeVeque – @hotellevequecbus. Situated since 1927 inside the iconic LeVeque Tower in the heart of downtown, we were welcomed by a warm and friendly staff who made it their mission to ensure we knew where to go and what to do. Everyone was gracious and friendly!
The hotel’s décor includes the building’s original art deco architecture sprinkled with a celestial-inspired interior design and technology-friendly amenities, tempered with art deco-styled furnishings in brilliant golds and handsome grays. The location is great, as it offers a central spot to make excursions, close proximity to the Palace and Ohio Theatres, and is only a block from the picturesque Scioto Greenway Trail – a 12.2-mile multiuse path that hugs the banks of the Scioto River, connecting several parks and downtown Columbus – offering views and activities for walkers, joggers, and romantic strolls.
This also makes the ground floor restaurant and bar – The Keep Liquor Bar- a welcome and hopping spot, and very much in demand for the before- and after-show crowds. We were lucky enough to enjoy some tasty drinks and a delicious meal, which boasts French-inspired dishes using locally-sourced ingredients, a raw bar, and specialty, handcrafted cocktails. A must-taste experience for all!
A Guiding Light
LeVeque Tower formerly served as an aerial lighthouse for Amelia Earhart. The light atop the tower remains lit, from sunrise to sunrise.
Places to Eat
For the wedding, we headed over to The Kitchen, a rustic-style restaurant with exposed brick and hardwood beams, tucked away in Columbus’s historic German Village – @thekitchencolumbus. Held in the restaurant’s great room open floor plan, the event began with served and buffet-style hors d’oeuvres. Rows of tables lined the room as we celebrated Chris and Rachel’s marriage and witnessed them taking their marriage vows under an indoor-built arch sprinkled in lights. This was immediately followed up with a multi-course plated meal that was both simple and exceptional in taste. Divine, tasteful and lovely!
Live music topped it off with Columbus legend, singer/songwriter/musician Harold “Happy” Chichester, formerly of Royal Crescent Mob and The Afghan Whigs.
Since we were there for a special event, we were fortunate enough to share some notable local spots. This includes a hearty lunch at Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, a regional chain offering smokehouse & barbecue dishes in an easygoing bar setting.
Another great local spot is the Northstar Cafe – @northstarcafe – a locally-owned business that focuses on sustainable, healthy foods grown locally. The menu offers a good mix of organic salads, organic burgers and sandwiches, and some artisan thin crust pizzas. We ate a fab lunch at this busy spot downtown, and finished every bite. It’s not often you get to eat well AND do good by the environment at the same time.
The café takes its food seriously, not only serving some delicious and unique foods (as well as a good selection of unique wine, beers and cocktails), but the owners have chosen to make conscious decisions about the whole spectrum of sustainable sourcing – ranging from organic foods and the producers it partners with to the locations they choose, the way the restaurants are built, and the operating supplies they purchase. There’s a reason it’s popular and growing. With five locations to choose from in Columbus, it’s a place you have to try more than once!
A Bustling Metropolis
Columbus is the most populous city in Ohio, the 14th-most populous city in the United States, the 3rd-most populous state capital in the United States, and the second-most populous city in the Midwestern United States, after Chicago.
Sites & Sounds
Named for explorer Christopher Columbus, the city was founded in 1812 at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. If you’re adventurous, we’d recommend some interesting cultural spots to check out.
Nothing prepares a man better for a wedding than an old fashioned straight razor shave at Turner’s Barber Shop & Shaving Parlor – @barberturners. Visiting there is a trip to the past and a lesson in taxidermy. They offer full-service with a facial steam, shave, and a haircut in antique barber chairs. The friendly, hip shop guys make it feel cool and retro all at the same time. Check it out.
And since we had to stop and do some pre-wedding shopping, we hit the Easton Town Center, where we found (surprise!) another Northstar Café and stumbled into Fado Irish Pub and Restaurant. The cozy pub was bustling with crowds, but we really loved the décor. Word has it they offer an all-day breakfast. Can’t go wrong there.
One of our brave team (@mcsundance) took the opportunity to go for a run along the scenic Scioto River Trail all the way to Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Despite the cold temperatures, the icy rain, and the frozen river, the snow-covered trail was charming and pretty. So if anyone is up for an exhilarating stroll or jog, this is a top trail to explore.
And a night out wouldn’t be complete without hitting the Arena District, where you can find local hangouts like the Three-Legged Mare and the R Bar Arena. Word has it that the whole area is up for a serious gutting and renovation, so check it out soon, or wait for the new relaunch, which should be pretty exciting!
Outdoors: The Zoo That Got Away
Because it was in the dead of winter, we couldn’t hit all the outdoor fun, but locals suggested a stop at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Rated no. 1 in 2009 by USA Travel Guide, no doubt it’s worth a look if you have the time! We’ll hit that next time.
The Midwest boasts hidden gems and Columbus is certainly one of those. From Battelle Riverfront Park (pose with the statues planted on the grassy lawn!) to the Scioto River Trail to its historic hotels, diverse nightlife and crafty eateries, there’s a little something for everyone!
Plan a visit to Columbus starting with some of these and you can’t go wrong. And if you’ve already been there, let us know in the comments what you liked the best!
Writer: Maria Collette Sundeen