Ohio’s capital city is fast emerging as an effervescent hub for travelers. Visitors seeking to truly immerse themselves in the city’s edgy, diverse creative community will find even more opportunity to do so after dark, when Columbus’ lively lineup of nightly happenings spark to life.
Unlike anything travelers will find in other cities, Kingmakers board game parlor offers more than 500 titles of games in a convivial atmosphere that’s a total departure from the typical bar scene. Kingmakers’ board game sommeliers offer guidance on picking games and rules, as well as lessons for first timers. Fine wines, craft beers on tap, domestic brews in cans and specialty sodas are served, along with favorite local snacks like Rogue Bakery cookies, Krema Nuts and Darista Dips and OH Chips.
Lively dance parties at Damn Girl!, O-Gee and The Clamp Down, just to name a few, are held monthly and draw a vibrant crowd of revelers who rave that the parties offer the most entertaining nightlife in the city. For a more irreverent, old-school vibe, Columbus’ 16 Bit Bar + Arcade boasts more than 40 classic arcade games; play with a drink purchase. Pacman, Centipede, Battlezone, Frogger and other timeless favorites take travelers back to the days of their carefree youth. For added amusement, guests can belly up to the bar for any of a dozen tongue-in-cheek cocktails, like the Bill Nye, Punky Brewster, Ice T or the Kevin Bacon.
Fueled by local grains and honey, Columbus distilleries Middlewest Spirits, Watershed Distillery and Brothers Drake Meadery are getting rave reviews and garnering national and international accolades. These hometown spirits take center stage in the city’s effervescent cocktail scene, where wildly talented mixologists take the helm at an inspiring list of uber-interesting cocktail bars. Travelers are impressed by the city’s serious culinary approach to mixed drinks where even the lowly ice cube, humble herbs and basic bar-made bitters are elevated to star status.
For those who love exploring on foot, Gay Street’s Moonlight Market outdoor street festival showcases more than 150 vendors peddling loads of locally crafted food and goods, from handmade button rings and knitted caps to vintage Ts and up-cycled messenger bags. Juggling unicyclists amaze while indie rockers entertain and shoppers imbibe specialties from nearby watering holes. The market runs every second Saturday, April-October. Just a few blocks north, in the Short North Arts District, Gallery Hop has been attracting locals and visitors alike for more than three decades. On the first Saturday of every month, miles of galleries, independent boutiques, restaurants and salons stay open late, showcasing art exhibition openings and browse-worthy wares free of charge.
Columbus, home to drag queen extraordinaire Nina West, is well-known for its bustling LGBT scene. West regularly performs in venues throughout the city, but a favorite hotspot is dance club Axis, a gay-friendly multilevel dance club featuring renowned DJs and an electrifying vibe. Nearby Skully’s Music Diner’s Thursday night Ladies 80’s lures those with a late-night craving for delectable beats and juicy burgers. Drawn by free admission for ladies and only $5 for men, clubbers are swept away into the wee hours of morning by the retro rock of Bon Jovi and Cyndi Lauper.
Launched just last September as an upscale underground music venue, Notes is fast making a name for itself with serious music lovers. Tucked below restaurant Copious, Notes’ grotto setting draws live jazz, bluegrass, blues, opera and cabaret performers from the incredible depth of Columbus’ local music scene. Unmatched acoustics and a comfortable ambiance team with exceptional food to rank this as one of the Midwest’s best spots to hear a big band or a solo performer. Live music fans will also want to plan a pilgrimage to Worthington’s intimate Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, where every table offers a front-row view and crusty, hand-crafted pies are served up with white-hot jazz, blues and acoustic greats or Grandview’s Woodlands Tavern for nightly performances of Americana music.
Unlike anything on the planet, Shadowbox Live blends pounding, live rock ‘n’ roll with hilarious original sketch comedy and great writing for a vaudeville-style night out that’s pure Columbus. From bold edgy shows like Best of Burlesque, to mesmerizing tributes to Pink Floyd or Joe Cocker — or an original Woodstock musical documentary — the multi-talented troupe at Shadowbox Live has been packing the house for more than two decades.
Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus’ uncommon blend of neighborhoods, arts and culinary experiences, events, attractions and accommodations are made unforgettable by its diversity of outgoing locals who warmly welcome visitors. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at www.ExperienceColumbus.com or 866.397.2657(866.EXP.COLS). Visitor information is also available on Facebook: facebook.com/ExperienceColumbus andfacebook.com/ColumbusFoodScene, Twitter: @ExpCols and Pinterest.