Roy’s Central Ohio, Part I: The Heart of Buckeye Heritage and Beauty is Columbus – Columbus, Ohio

This grand arch, located in the Arena District, dates back to 1899, when it was part of the old Union Station Depot
This grand arch, located in the Arena District, dates back to 1899, when it was part of the old Union Station Depot
When people think of Ohio, some of the first things that come to mind are WKRP in Cincinnati, the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and M*A*S*H’s Corporal Klinger of Toledo fame. Yet Central Ohio is one place that often gets lost in the shuffle of the deck to its corner regions. Central Ohio embodies the best of what is great in America, with its hard-working farmers who help put food on the tables of this globe, and metropolitan Columbus, the less nationally-publicized center (compared to Cleveland and Cincinnati). The whole region is a great smorgasbord of natural beauty that’s incorporated with tradition. I want to share some of these places in Central Ohio that illustrate just how much the Creative Force (or whatever you want to call it) expresses itself in this region. Part One features the beauty, vitality, and heritage of Columbus, which at over 700,000 people, is Ohio’s largest city and its state capital. Columbus has achieved many recent national honors, including America’s 4th Cleanest City, 12th Best Walking City in America, and 2nd Best City in the USA for Singles.

While Columbus is named after the great 15th century explorer, you can do what he never was able to do himself: see just how many great natural and historical discoveries lie in Columbus. One of the first things a traveler will notice when in downtown Columbus is that the city emanates the look and feel of a modern European city, especially with its wide sidewalks and streets. They allow more of the sky to dominate overhead, rather than just the skyscrapers. Many of the buildings here make use of revolving doors, so as to help conserve energy in keeping the buildings cooler in summer and warmer in the winter-time.

When you choose Columbus as your next holiday, don’t forget to put the following on your To Do List:

The Arena District: Piccadilly Circus, Columbus-Style
The Arena District lies in the west-central section of downtown Columbus. This 95-acre spread is the cool, happenin’ spot for the city’s singles and professionals. Revitalization in this area has been going on since 1998 to bring in more tourist and convention business as well as apartments and condos for Columbus’ residents. A 31 foot by 18 foot outdoor screen for corporate advertising beacons visitors to this area to enjoy the array of clubs, indoor/outdoor concerts, and fine dining. Take in a movie at Arena Grand Theater, where a 450-seat “Grand” auditorium exists with a full balcony and extra-wide leather seating. The Nationwide Arena is the conspicuous centerpiece for the Arena District, whose NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, play their home games.

The Red Star Tavern is a great atmosphere for sports fans, casual diners, and Ohio State University co-eds alike. Their fine selection of pub grub includes the Red Star’s “Sweet Fries”, which are sprinkled with sugar, and loaded with great taste. I am an avid brownie eater, so I feasted on their dessert called the Warm Brownie Sundae, which has a big scoop of ice cream served over a hot tasty, gooey brownie that’s glazed in caramel and chocolate and served on a small meat-sized platter. I give this dessert an A+!!! As for draft beers, I would advise travelers of legal drinking age to order a pint of their “Blue Moon” draft, which is a wheaty-style brew chased with smooth citrus flavoring.

Arena Grand Theater: 175 W. Nationwide Blvd. 614.470.9900. Admission charge for movies.

Red Star Tavern: 191 W. Nationwide Blvd. 614.228.0055.

Enjoy Great Buckeye Food From North Market
North Market is more than a city fruit and vegetable stand. It was built over an old cemetery in 1876, but now only lively fresh fruit, produce, and vegetable merchants “haunt” the venue on a daily basis to the delight of over one million visitors a year. North Market also features goods for sale from soy candles and lotions to honey that tastes like the scent of wildflowers. Ethnic cuisine ranging from sushi bars to a taste of India can be savored here. To show its true farmer’s market roots, the oldest business at North Market happens to be Dorothy Gatterdam’s Eggs, whose eggs are truly JUMBO, and have been making breakfasts very hearty since 1916. The congenial Bill Thompson, one of Ohio State football’s biggest fans, will tell you anything you want to know about eggs, but can tell you even more about vacuum cleaners, a field he spent decades of his working life in. Other merchants include Pure Imagination Chocolatier, whose handmade confections are so artfully created, you may want to display them rather than eat them! I had the best-tasting popcorn in my life here at a stand called Pam’s Market Popcorn. I’m talking about her Chicago Style Cheddar Popcorn, doused perfectly in cheddar flavor.

North Market: 59 Spruce St. 614-463-9664. Free admission. North Market Vendors’ information can be accessed at: www.northmarket.com.

Franklin Park and its Conservatory
Franklin Park is Columbus’ grand centrally-located venue for picnics, romantic walks, and contains an awesome display of plant life. General Sherman gave his famous “War is Hell” speech at this venue in 1880. Franklin Park is packed with 88 acres of eye pleasing greenery and flowers. The park’s showpiece is its conservatory, which contains 57,000 square feet of greenhouses and classrooms. This conservatory is so serious about plants, that during the Christmas season, it proudly displays some 100-plus varieties of Poinsettias. Visitors can walk through different virtual geographical environments like the Himalayas, a desert, and a tropical rainforest. In this “jungle”, visitors just may hear the strange and bizarre sounds of real blue and gold macaws, which are a part of the parrot family. My favorite section of the conservatory was the Garden Railway, where scale models of trains are laid out to run through the landscapes that make up the state of Ohio. Oh yeah, did I tell you that their cafeteria sells brownies that would make Betty Crocker green with envy?

Franklin Park Conservatory: 1777 E. Broad St. 800.214.PARK. Admission Charge, but the rest of the park grounds are free.

No Requirement to Speak Deutsch in Order to Enjoy The German Village

Vision for the eyes: The Franklin Park Conservatory
Vision for the eyes: The Franklin Park Conservatory
The German Village is a sprawling 233-acre neighborhood district just south of downtown Columbus. When the Germans arrived in droves in the early 1840s, hoping for a better life, they brought with them the ingredients to become an integral community for the city. Many breweries were established to the west of the residential areas that provided steady employment for many in Columbus. But then WWI came and changed everything. German Americans, of which the vast majority loved America dearly, literally became outcasts overnight due to political grandstanding, fear, and mistrust. Many moved out after threats and/or persecution, and with it, the soul of the neighborhood was deeply wounded. Prohibition and the Great Depression would follow, driving more people out. The end result was a virtual slum for this once great neighborhood.

It wouldn’t be until the 1950s that fortunes for the German Village would begin to change for the better. A visionary by the name of Frank Fetch saw a brighter future for this down, but not out, neighborhood. Fetch began organizing a conglomerate of private funding to buy up properties and restore the area to its former glory. Thanks to Fetch, the German Village is now made up of mom and pop shops, well-kept homes, and beautified yards. Many of the once cobble-stoned streets have been restored as well. As a matter of fact, each June, the renowned Haus and Garten Tour draws thousands of visitors to this one special day event. The architecture and gardens of homeowners can be enjoyed up close, as the area property owners open up their homes and gardens to the public.

The Visitors Center at the Meeting Haus on Third Street is a great place to begin your tour here. The center offers village information, group tour packages, including jaunts through the German Village and the Brewery District. One of the most popular shops in the village is The Book Loft, which contains some 32 rooms full of books and numerous gift items for anyone on your shopping list, many of which can be bought for just a few dollars. When your exploring at the German village is through, why not stop at another village icon for a great meal? Known as Katzinger’s Delicatessen, this eatery has served tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner items since 1984. President Bill Clinton visited here in 1994, and had a sandwich named after him, called “President Bill’s Day at the Deli”, which is still available. The Katzinger’s Rueben has become a legendary sandwich of choice in Columbus, but they offer dozens of tasty sandwiches, traditional Jewish fare, cheeses and spreads. As for desserts, I had another slice of brownie heaven when I ate a Katzinger’s Stealer, full of peanut butter and caramel!!!

German Village Society Meeting Haus/Visitors Center: 588 S. 3rd St. 614.221.8888.

The Book Loft: 631 S. 3rd St. 614.464.1774.

Katzinger’s Delicatessen: 475 S. 3rd St. 614.228.DELI

Great works of art in Columbus, Ohio? You bet your Buckeyes there are!!!
Since 1878, the Columbus Museum of Art has been giving the city a great place to enjoy a variety of art work. The “Renoir’s Women” Exhibition is creating quite a buzz in Columbus, as over thirty-five of the Impressionist’s works with women as the principal theme are on display until January 8, 2006. Other informational programs dealing with the work of Renoir will be featured during this notable exhibition.

Very noted works from George Bellows’ paintings and lithos to a sampling of Claude Monet’s masterpieces can be pondered and enjoyed here. Sculpture and art exhibitions are also featured, including artists like Gilda Edwards’ exhibition called “This is my last trip (I swear)”. The gallery’s specialties are American and European art from the late 1800s to the early 1900s via Impressionism, Cubism, and German Expressionism Folk art. The museum features interactive exhibits, too, for the whole family. One is called “Eye Spy: Adventures in Art”. The largest public collection of wood carvings by Elijah Pierce is to be viewed at this middle America art mecca.

Columbus Museum of Art: 480 E. Broad St. 614.221.6801. Admission charge.

To Begin Your Glorious Discovery of Colombus:

Getting To:
The main airport for flying into Columbus is the Port Columbus International Airport, of which all the major US carriers fly into as well as Air Canada. This airport offers free WIFI internet for travelers who have laptops! How many airports in this world can boast that?

For drivers, here’s a roadmap of the Columbus area.

Bedding Down in Ohio’s Capital City:

From Gilda Edwards' exhibition called
From Gilda Edwards’ exhibition called “This is my last trip (I swear)” at the Columbus Museum of Art
For all budgets and taste, www.Bootsnall.com is a great place to search for Columbus hotels. Staying in downtown Columbus may be a bit pricey for the budget-conscious traveler. Many properties charge at least $100 a night. Columbus hosts many conventions and events related to Ohio State University, so at times, getting a room in central Columbus may be quite a challenge anyway. But for travelers desiring to be close to the downtown action, they can check out the Hyatt Regency Columbus or the Crowne Plaza Columbus – Downtown for special package deals. Both these hotels are within easy walking distance to the Arena District and North Market.

Public Transport:
“The COTA (Central Ohio Transit Authority)” is the bus system that gets travelers and locals around the Columbus metropolitan area. For routes, schedules, and fares, go to www.cota.com.

Visitor Information on Columbus:
To make the most of your trip to Columbus, visit the city’s official website at www.experiencecolumbus.com or call 800.354.2657.

Part 2 of Roy’s Central Ohio will feature some great off the beaten destinations within a 100-mile radius of Columbus.


Roy A. Barnes is a freelance writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His other Bootsnall.com articles have centered on London, England, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. He’s worked in other travel-related industries, including the travel agent and airline fields. His travel works have also been published in mediums like Transitions Abroad, GoNOMAD.com, and Associated Content.

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