columbus oh city guide

Columbus, Ohio City Guide

Whether you’re new to Columbus or just happen to be visiting, I hope this lineup of my favorite places to eat, exercise, and play helps you make the most of your time in the city!

Good morning and thanks for stopping by the blog today!  Did you have a nice Christmas? Adam and I spent Christmas Eve with his grandma in Venice, Florida, then I flew home to Michigan yesterday morning.  I’m here for the rest of the week and looking forward to the extended break from work (assuming I can keep from obsessively checking emails) and heading to Traverse City with family friends for the New Year.

By the time I return to the office, I’ll have just three work trips to Columbus remaining.  I would say it hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’ve put in my notice, prepared to leave, and then been asked to stay on longer twice now, so.  In any case, I developed a fondness for this city with its tree-lined cobblestone streets and airport where you magically never have to wait in line.  So for today’s post, I’ve gathered a collection of great spots for eating, drinking, and recreation in Columbus.

City Map

Columbus, Ohio Map

Quick note: many of my go-to restaurants, coffee shops, and bars are in the Short North Arts District just north of Downtown.  I’ve also starred a few other key neighborhoods and attractions.  This map has no scale because I accidentally cut it off, but you can assume 1 inch = about 3 miles.

Favorite Coffee Shops

I could walk to this café from my last apartment in Italian Village, which borders the Short North to the north.  The squat green building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but I love the open interior and how natural light seems to pour through every window.  A patio surrounded by ivy-covered wooden fencing offers additional seating during the six weeks a year it’s actually comfortable to spend time outdoors.  Fox in the Snow doesn’t have wifi, making it a great place to focus on writing or catch up with friends.

One line coffee columbus

This coffee shop in the Short North (although One Line also operates a location in Capitol Square) has super-fast internet.  I love sitting in the window looking out onto High Street here while I pretend to get work done. You can order fancy independent-coffee-shop-type drinks if you like, but the employees are never snobby.

Adam and I almost always made a trip to Laughlin’s before heading out for the day when he visited.  This very insta-worthy bakery offers a mix of savory (my favorite: the cheddar dill scone) and sweet goods to pick up for breakfast as well as breads, cakes, and pies to take home.

Favorite Places to Exercise

sharon woods metro park

I loved living in the heart of downtown Columbus but realized shortly after moving into my apartment that I could only start runs from my front door in the early morning, before cars and pedestrians crowded the streets.  Luckily, I found Sharon Woods Metropark – its long, quiet trails with pretty scenery and a lack of bikers make it the perfect spot to pound out a few miles.

While it’s a national chain, I put Lifetime on the list because I’d recommend joining if you’re new to Columbus and looking for a gym membership.  If you take advantage of the group fitness classes, the schedule for which includes everything from barre to HIIT in addition to your normal yoga and spinning, the $75 per month for an individual is well worth it.  The Dublin location also has a couple of outdoor pools for the summertime.

hocking hills state park

Located an hour southeast of Columbus in Logan, Ohio, Hocking Hills State Park contains the only hills I’ve ever seen in Ohio.  Never one to pay attention to science: I looked up the natural features you can see here: cliffs, cascading waterfalls, recess caves, forestland, and gorges (check out more photos in this post).  I’d recommend hiking the trail at Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve – it offers beautiful views and fewer visitors than the main attractions at the park.

Favorite Restaurants

I love Harvest Pizza in German Village and Clintonville (near Ohio State’s campus) for its perfect crust (not too thin or too thick) and college-town charm.  Try the fennel sausage and roasted garlic pies and enjoy the cozy, candle-lit space.

northstar cafe easton

Some people complain that Northstar is overrated, but I have to disagree.  While you’ll pay roughly 1 1/2 times what you would at Panera, the difference in quality makes up for it.  Maybe you don’t get a baguette with your sandwich and your soup that also comes with a baguette, but every order I’ve received at Northstar has been fresh, hot, and flavorful.  I’d describe the menu as ‘American with a twist.’

The Pearl is a really fun date-night spot (not that Adam and I dress up and go on dates that often).  It features an oyster bar in addition to a regular bar, but there are plenty of options if you’re not into seafood – southern fried chicken, ricotta dumplings, and multiple steaks.  Or you could just drink a few of the gastropub’s creative cocktails – I’d recommend the gin fizz. 😉

Favorite Place to Shop

easton town center columbus

Easton, as those in the know call it, offers every shopping option you could possibly need, from Nordstrom to the Cheesecake Factory to a crowded-ass Apple store.  The collection of shops and restaurants is larger and slightly more upscale than Polaris Shopping Place  (more or less the only other game in town) and recently developed an area called Easton Gateway right across the street that houses an REI, a Dick’s Sporting Goods, and several bars and restaurants.

Favorite Happy Hours

condado tacos columbus

My favorite drink in terms of effectiveness would have to be a margarita, and Condado prices all their cool variations (I like the blood orange!) at 50% off during happy hour.  You can also build your own tacos by filling out one of those big menus with myriad options you normally see at sushi restaurants.  They have this hard shell smothered in a layer of hot, oozing queso and then wrapped in a soft shell that is my dream.

Bodega also has great happy hour deals ($1 grilled cheese!) and outdoor patio that sits right on High Street, but I realized I just put it on the list because the walk from my apartment is short and I’ve shared memorable times with friends there.  I didn’t originally plan this to be some sort of lame conclusion to the post, but now that I have, I’ll say that all of the funny, friendly people at A&F (no, I actually don’t associate with anyone outside of work) have helped shape my positive experience in Columbus.  So thanks, friends!

I’m linking up with Katie and Heather on this post.

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