Hipster Guide to Columbus, OH

Columbus, Ohio is one of those surprisingly hip midwestern cities. Being home to the 3rd largest university in America certainly helps with its hipster cred. Most university towns have their fair share of hipsters and Columbus is no different. Columbus has some of Ohio’s best arts & culinary experiences, annual events & festivals and diverse neighborhoods. There’s even an entire area of the capital city where university kids hang out and where it’s easy to discover local events.

Ohio’s capital is known for an open-minded attitude. The eclectic mix of neighborhoods (there’s even a German Village!) just adds to the creative and vibrant culture in Columbus.

If you’re looking for fun places in Columbus, restaurants or just a guide to all the most interesting things to do in Columbus, OH, then this travel guide is for you! For downloadable maps and walking guides for the city, Columbus produces a free app for iOS and Android which features neighborhood guides and art walks. It’s mostly targeted for Columbus citizens, but the maps are a great resource for travelers.

Cool Things To Do in Columbus, Ohio

Things to do and places to see in Columbus

  • Short North Arts District — The epicenter of hipstery things in C-town. The downtown area is basically a long stretch of shopping with plenty of art galleries, knick-knack shops, restaurants and bars. There’s also a healthy dose of street art and graffiti on the sides of many of the brick buildings, so much so that you can even download a map & audio guide to the Short North’s public art. — shortnorth.org
  • German Village — This is probably the second most hipster area of Columbus. An old neighborhood of criss-crossing, cobblestoned streets with restored Victorian homes, the German Village is home to some of the city’s best restaurants (see below) and one of the country’s most interesting book stores, the Book Loft. Many of the homes here have unique and interesting stories
  • Columbus Commons — A downtown park, the Commons is in a bit of a commercial wasteland, but it’s near most downtown businesses and commercial shopping. Most importantly, during the summer you can catch free Shakespeare in the Park at the Commons! — columbuscommons.org
  • North Market — Great food in here. Go for lunch or pick up some gifts. Try the apple salsa!
  • Columbus Zoo — Rated one of the top 10 zoos in America (for reals!) the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (@ColumbusZoo) is pretty spectacular. I visited one year over winter when they do their Christmas lights special, but it’s worth checking out any time of year. — colszoo.org

Art & things

  • Walk around the Short North district and spot the street art & graffiti
  • Wexner Center for the Arts (@wexarts) is an Ohio Statue University museum. It tends to get more interesting exhibits than the Columbus Museum of Art.
  • Goodale Park is a nice, little park with plenty of events and public art spaces — goodalepark.org
  • If flowers are your thing, the Franklin Park Conservatory is the place for you. The botanical gardens also host regular exhibitions and events about the environment — fpconservatory.org

Gay Columbus

Gay Columbus

Columbus has repeatedly been named a hip destination for LGBT travelers. In 2001, they won the designation as Logo’s Best “NewNowNext” city. The Columbus gayborhood is near the Short North where you can find plenty of gay bars and clubs, as well as LGBT-owned shops and restaurants. The Experience Columbus official tourism website has a page dedicated to LGBT tourism in Columbus—worth checking out.

You can also read about my gay weekend in C-town here.

restaurants

Food & drinks in Columbus

Ohio is surprisingly home to a handful of America’s top chefs and restaurants. Columbus, being the creative capital that it is, has more than its fair share of restaurants to cater to every type of traveler. Here were some of my favorite places to eat in Columbus.

  • Barcelona restaurant — tapas and cocktails. Try the calamari!
  • Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream — ice cream with unusual (and local) flavors. If you like sweet, go for the Froot Loops scoop.
  • Katzinger’s Deli — Jewish delicatessen with famous sandwiches. The rueben was a bit plain for me, but
  • Schmidt’s Restaurant and Sausage Haus – I had a Christmas dinner once at this German restaurant. Pretty much what you’d expect for a German restaurant—accordion players, sausage and plenty of beer. — schmidthaus.com
  • North Star Café – Vegan and vegetarian-friendly, this cafe serves up some good coffee and makes for a nicer-than-usual fast lunch. — thenorthstarcafe.com
  • Betty’s Fine Food & Spirits – one of a slew of restaurants by local restauranteur Liz Lessner, it’s a throw back to the original pin-up girls (classy, not trashy)! And they have great food. @thetravelchica recommends their Mac ‘n’ Cheese. —  bettyscolumbus.com
  • Skully’s music diner — Diverse crowd, plenty of musical acts and dancing and your basic (but tasty) pub foods. Check out Magnolia Thunderpussy record store next door — skullys.org

Drinking in Columbus

Nightlife in Columbus

Being a college town, you can expect to find plenty of ways to entertain yourself at night! Columbus also gets most indie music acts passing through. The biggest dance night for college-age hipsters is The Clampdown—a monthly rock & roll dance party that also pops up in Cleveland once a month.

Need more travel tips for Columbus?

Local Columbians love their town (as they should), so be sure to check the following for additional travel tips and suggestions.

22 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I totally agree I am from California and have visited on several occasions because my son attends college there. I saw the racism there on my first visit.

  2. Can you edit? C-town is Circleville….south of Columbus by about 20 miles. I’d love to see an authors edit to C-bus! It s always been C-bus! Good read!

  3. G Michaels blows all your food choices out of the water. Educate yourself foodie….

  4. Cbus visitors (and locals!) should check out Harvest Pizzeria and the speakeasy-themed bar Curio. The original location is in German Village, and they just opened a restaurant in Clintonville. Yum!

    http://harvestpizzeria.com/

  5. You gotta try Thurman’s!!! Best burgers ever. And the first Saturday of every month is Gallery Hop in the Short North. It’s pretty awesome.

    • Great tips, thank you Halle!

  6. Don’t forget the surrounding communities that have their own unique attraction. On our east side is Whitehall, which I was told has one of the very first shopping centers in Ohio if not the nation,

  7. Columbus is pretty cool, isn’t it?

  8. Columbus Ohio is a racist hick town that smells of pig shit. No place for minorities.

    • Thank-you for saying that!! I’m an African-American female that has lived in Columbus for the last 10 years and this city is racist, particularly in the ‘whites only’ hipster scene. Being a non-white person in this ‘scene’ I’ve experienced everything from ‘cool’ white people coming up to me and saying ‘What’s up my n***!’ or ‘Hey my homegirl!’ (I don’t use a lot of slang in my speech) I’ve been completely ignored and overlooked and literally pushed aside while trying to orders drinks at bars and I’ve had people literally come up behind me and put their hands in my hair and exclaim ‘I looooove your hair! Black people have the coolest hair! I wish I was Black!!’ The sad thing about all of this is that these are all fairly common experiences that should I decide to go out, I have to mentally prepare myself to have; otherwise, I get taken by surprise(because racism is something you never get used to no matter how long it has existed) and have a reaction to this ignorance that then warrants the comments that I’m an ‘Angry black girl’ or ‘That black girl has an attitude’ or better yet ‘Why do THOSE people have to come into OUR places and act GHETTO. Screw the Columbus hipster scene.

      • Hey KC, Wow – thank you for your detailed experience. I didn’t really know how to reply to Mikki’s comment above but I can definitely see where you’re coming from here now. I’ve read a few trend pieces online about hipster scenes and I think this is probably more common than is usually mentioned unfortunately. Thanks again for sharing your experience. Do you have any recommendations for cool places to hang out in Columbus? It can’t all be awful, can it??

  9. Columbus definitely has its hip side. I’ve lived here for more than a decade and the city is full of culture. Like one of the other commenters said it is a lot more than a college town. The fact that there 2 million people in the city should tip you off to the fact that you could completely miss OSU.

    Columbus and the surrounding suburbs have plenty of activity for every age group and every interest!

    • Glad to see that you agree. Two million people definitely makes for a large and diverse city. Can’t wait to visit again!

  10. I was kind of taken back by the “Ohio is the last place I would think of when I hear the word hip” comment. Also, I’ve been in Columbus most of my life and Its definitely is not a “college town”. Yes, we are home to one of the largest universities, but its located in a metro area (including suburbs) of roughly 2 million people. Columbus is bigger than most people think. Its not all cows and pastures here.

  11. Ohio is the last place I would think of when I hear the word hip, but Columbus looks pretty groovy. Might have to check it out!

    • Yeah, I think most people don’t realize all the cool things to do in Columbus…but it’s a big university town and pretty progressive.

  12. What a great roundup – My kids would go crazy for the Fruit Loops ice cream at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.

    • I treated my niece to the same ice cream and se loved it!

  13. I LOVE Columbus! There’s so much going on there – and if you can find the taqueria tour, you’re golden!

  14. now i know adam! if i ever go…. i’m so using this as my guide. good on you. gabi

  15. I’ve always had a hard time finding a true hipster scene in most college towns. (Those kids usually just aren’t sophisticated enough yet.) :) But I’ve heard good things about Columbus and I’m planning to go in April. Thanks for the suggestions!

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