John’s note: The Local’s Take is a series where I interview some of my favorite travel bloggers and turn the tables, asking them to share their hometowns with us. After all, what better way is there to learn about a destination than from a travel writer who calls it home? So join along and learn how to make the most of a visit to Columbus, Ohio with Stephanie of The Travel Chica.
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Website: The Travel Chica
About: At the age of 29, Stephanie decided to live one of her dreams, traveling slow through Latin America for a year. She simplified her life, quit a great job, and jumped on a flight to South America. Stephanie celebrated both her 30th birthday and her one-year travel anniversary in Argentina…and is still going.
Tell us about Columbus, Ohio: Columbus is a great city to live, but I also think it is a fun city to visit…if you are in the know. It is a big city with one of the largest universities in the country, so there is always lots to see and do. If you like sports, boutique shopping, historic neighborhoods, the arts, live music, excellent restaurants, fun bars, and festivals, Columbus has it.
What can visitors do to make the most out of a visit there? If your travel dates are flexible, determine what activities are most interesting to you and then plan your trip. Do you like sports? For example, Columbus is known for epic tailgating and one of the most exciting college football stadiums in the country at The Ohio State University. Or if you enjoy festivals, check out this events calendar. Do a little research, and enjoy some of the events that make this city great.
Stay in the downtown area, which is close to the majority of activities and good bars and restaurants. Must-see neighborhoods all in the downtown area are: Short North Arts District, Victorian Village, German Village, and the Arena District. The Ohio State University campus is also quite impressive and beautiful.
Columbus also has great restaurants. Whether you want pizza, hamburgers, gourmet Italian, ice cream, a scotch egg, steak, or a huge beer selection, locals will know the best place to send you. So ask!
Another great way to make the best out of your visit is to actually stay with a local. Try CouchSurfing. Look for someone who lives in the downtown area or possibly Clintonville (just north of Ohio State campus) unless you plan to rent a car. Unfortunately, public transportation sucks.
Are there any unique festivals or celebrations? My three favorite festivals in Columbus all happen within a few weeks of each other and all in the downtown area.
- The Gay Pride Parade has grown to be so big that there is now a festival all weekend (mid-June). Great location downtown and a wonderful, celebratory atmosphere.
- Comfest (short for community festival) has been going on for many years and is the best weekend in Columbus in my humble opinion (mid to late June). Some people would call it a hippie festival, but who can argue with people that believe in community and collective activity and living in harmony with nature? In addition to having a set of principles, they know how to party. There are hundreds of bands that play over the weekend on multiple stages set up throughout the beautiful Goodale Park. There are hundreds of vendors selling unique art and other products. And lots of food of course!
- If you are looking for weird, the Doo Dah Parade is about the weirdest I’ve ever seen. Held on July 4th, it is a parade of humorous statements related to politics and pop culture. People just show up with a homemade float or maybe a weird outfit, and they get to participate. It is always amusing, and I am always impressed by the intelligence and effort put into the costumes and floats.
What is the local delicacy? Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has gotten national recognition over the last few years and has grown both within Columbus and beyond. She’s a genius and apparently a kick-ass business woman. They have the most creative flavors using fresh, seasonal ingredients. And the best part is that they encourage sampling before you choose.
Another famous place is Thurman’s. Located in my favorite neighborhood German Village, this place is known for its hamburgers, and I believe it was featured on Man vs Food (or one of those food travel shows). On weekends, this place has a line out the door, so you want to arrive during non-prime lunch and dinner hours.
What is the best restaurant/food experience? This is hard for me because there are many restaurants I love in Columbus. I’ll narrow it down to three.
If you want something casual, I love Tip Top downtown. They have a huge menu and a cool atmosphere. The pot roast sandwich on a pretzel bun is my go-to order, but I hear from my dining partners that everything is delicious. Their sweet potato fries are perfection.
If I want to splurge a little and enjoy a nice evening out, I go to Basi Italia in Victorian Village (near downtown). Gourmet, modern Italian using fresh seasonal ingredients and a bit of creativity. The best gnocchi I have ever had. Their staff also makes great wine suggestions.
For pizza, my favorite is Plank’s Bier Garten (also in German Village). They have other things on the menu, but I always order the pizza. Thin crust, perfectly sweet sauce, and I love their pepperoni. This is the only restaurant I actually have programmed into my cell phone. They have an outdoor patio, televisions for sports fans, and good beer on tap.
My mouth is watering just thinking about the places I am going to eat when I get home!
Where is the best place to grab a pint/cocktail/glass of wine? Bodega in the Short North is one of my favorites if I’m with people who like good beer. They have over 100 beers on tap. They also have good food, including the largest and most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with a layer of fresh-cut strawberries) I have ever seen.
If I’m going for comfort, my favorite dive bar is Char Bar downtown. They don’t have the best selection of draft beers, but they do have good bottles. They are known for their delicious, ginormous, and ridiculously strong Long Island Iced Tea. The pool table, dart boards, jukebox, and historical building all help me overlook the scariness of the basement.
For a cocktail or glass of wine, I like the bar at Martini downtown. It’s a little more upscale. It’s the perfect location to start the evening and head to the Arena District or the Short North for nightlife afterwards.
Thanks again to Stephanie for her participation in the The Local’s Take. If you’re a travel writer and are interested in participating in a future edition of The Local’s Take, get in touch!