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8 Places You HAVE to Visit in Columbus

Fall Break is finally here! Bags are packed, plane tickets are bought, papers are hastily turned in and Kenyon students are ready to go. While trips to exotic locations may seem a bit pricey and out of reach for such a short break, there’s another destination that can provide just as much excitement for a fun weekend off the hill. That’s right, Columbus, Ohio. Okay, maybe going to the 15th largest city in the US isn’t as cool as swimming with dolphins in Cancun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have tons of fun exploring a new place. I moved to the Columbus area nine years ago, and although I was initially skeptical, I quickly realized that the city has a lot to offer in terms of food, shopping, concert venues, quirky areas and more. To start your exploration of the Ohio capital, here are eight places you must visit.


1. North Market

You may not be able to jet around the world in a single day, but you can get dozens of exotic flavors in one meal just by visiting the North Market in downtown Columbus. With 33 vendors, you’re sure to find something you love whether that’s a frozen treat from the renowned Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a traditional Bavarian pretzel from Brezel or fresh pho from Lan Viet Market. As the selection can be overwhelming, I recommend getting a few friends to buy one thing from as many stalls as possible and then having a feast on the second floor of the open air market. After biting into delicious tacos, sipping bubble tea and finishing off with a chocolate donut, you’ll see why Forbes declared Columbus a secret foodie city and how I once managed to spend $20 on lunch. Oops.


2. The Book Loft

Book-lovers unite! The Book Loft is an independent bookstore that contains 32 rooms of literature organized by genre and most books are 15% off. The store is so labyrinthine that they actually provide visitors with maps to navigate the beloved Columbus establishment. The Book Loft is located in German Village, arguably the cutest area of the city, and sits next to my favorite coffee shop, Stauf’s. After snagging a copy of Robert Lowell’s collected works, stop in for a chai tea latte next door and consider taking a stroll through the brick streets of German Village.


3. The Columbus Museum of Art

With Middle Path’s recent construction, you might be too scarred to brave the current renovations taking place outside the CMA, but believe me when I say that it is well worth it. The Museum hosts a beautiful selection of work ranging from big names in the art world like Renoir and Wiley to lesser known artists beginning to make their mark. Be sure to check out Bodies @ Work: The Art of Ruben and Isabel Toledo and The Sun Placed in the Abyss, two exhibitions that are opening this weekend. Also, admission is free on Sundays! Can’t get enough art? Also, check out the Cultural Arts Center and the Wexner Center.


4. Short North

This section of High Street in downtown Columbus contains a stretch of shops, restaurants, bars, art galleries and entertainment venues that could keep you busy for days. On just one block, you can get fresh juice at Native, make your own candle at Candle Lab, browse vintage and modern clothes at Tiger Tree and catch a drag show at Axis Night Club. It’s like a mini version of Portlandia. My favorite part about the Short North is that there’s always something new to see even for locals. Just last year my friend introduced me to Kingmaker’s, a board game parlor where employees can set up and teach you how to play any of their 500 available games. Whatever you choose to do, the Short North has something for everyone.


5. Franklin Park Conservatory

As much as I love this time of year, fall also brings with it the loss of greenery and plant life. If you’re missing the vivacity of spring and summer, look no further than Franklin Park Conservatory. The beautiful glass building, which is illuminated by colorful lights each night, houses plants from all over the world. You can go from the tropical rainforests of the Amazon to the sparse scenery of the Himalayas in a matter of minutes, all while breathing in the fresh scent of flowers. It’s a great place to relax with a mug of tea and the outdoor grounds are just as lovely. Come back in the summer to see butterflies flit around in the conservatory.


6. Newport Music Hall

I envy OSU students for their proximity to this concert venue. While its acoustics are not as good as the LC Pavilion, the atmosphere alone makes Newport Music Hall one of my favorite venues in Columbus. According to their website, Newport is America’s Longest Continually Running Rock Club and its appearance hasn’t changed much since its founding, giving it a grungy vibe that suits the alternative and rock groups that come through. The area around Newport also contains Used Kids, my favorite record shop, which is a must-visit for music lovers.


7. Drexel Theatre

I’m going to cheat a little bit with this one and recommend a place that’s technically in a suburb of Columbus, but it’s only ten minutes from downtown where most of the other places on this list are. The Drexel Theatre is a movie theater that has been showing independent films since its opening in 1937. The theater has retained its original art-deco style, making you feel like you’ve stepped into another era. In addition to catching awesome indie films, the theater is fairly small, so if you go for a 10 pm show, you and your crew will likely be the only people there. It’s like having a personal theater!


8. Haunted Hoochie

Buzzfeed included this seasonal favorite on its list of “19 Terrifying Haunted Houses You Should Experience Before You Die,” and for good reason. In this extreme haunted house, all types of horror from gore to jump scares follow visitors throughout the Haunted Hoochie at Dead Acres. Personally, I have been too afraid to go in past years, but I’m hoping I can muster the courage this October. Or, I may just watch Halloweentown for the 46th time.


This article barely scratches the surface of all the things that the city offers, but it’s a good place to start. Columbus is easily one of my favorite cities in the country, and I hope it will become yours too. Let me know if you try any of these places, especially the Haunted Hoochie, and also what you discover around the capital city.


Image credits: Vahni Kurra, Curvemag, Flickr.com, AOLCDN

Vahni is a sophomore English major and writer for Her Campus Kenyon. She is an associate at Gund Gallery, junior editor at Hika literary magazine and an intern at the Kenyon Review. Vahni grew up in Muncie, Indiana and Columbus, Ohio, so she is a good corn-fed gal. When she is not singing the praises of Beyoncé and Zadie Smith, she is attempting to write fiction, watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and exploring book stores with her friends and family.
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