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ESCAPE PLAN: Columbus, Ohio

by Keith langston
Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio

The AC Hotel has its own rooftop bar and restaurant, Lumin. To your right, the stunning Columbus skyline, and to your left, miles upon miles of endless tree-lined horizon.

Here’s our escape plan, with the best things to eat, drink, do, and experience in Columbus, Ohio.

It’s safe to say that Columbus is an odd city. It’s a college town (home to Ohio State University), as well as a major center of business and finance for the state, with an ever-growing downtown. Many might not realize that it’s also the state capital. So, what happens when politicians, businessmen, and college kids all mingle in the same city? You end up with a destination that’s just as diverse as its residents, offering everything for everyone. Here’s our escape plan, with the best things to eat, drink, do, and experience in Columbus, Ohio.

Barcelona Paella in Columbus, Ohio

Barcelona Paella
Photo: Barcelona

EAT
Everyone is looking to be healthier these days, but no one wants to sacrifice taste and flavor. Fortunately, TownHall (Townhallohiocity.com) helps make eating better a lot easier, thanks to their absolutely delicious food. The restaurant is 100% GMO-free and mostly organic. They’re also known for their zero-toxin coffee, which is completely organic and free of mycotoxins, which is a toxin created by mold that’s regularly found in numerous coffee brands due to poor handling. At TownHall, diners can enjoy delicious dishes like poke bowls with wild rice, New Zealand grass-fed strip streak, and even keto Buckeye bites, which is a local dessert in Ohio, consisting of chocolate-covered peanut butter made to look like the buckeye nut.

For a relaxed weekend brunch or romantic dinner, a visit to Barcelona (Barcelonacolumbus.com) is a must. Inside, an eclectic menagerie of artwork, bold colors, and elaborate light fixtures greet diners who come from across the state to eat what’s considered some of Ohio’s best Spanish food. For those who prefer to dine outside, Barcelona has a gorgeous courtyard filled with lush plants, festive lighting, and even a koi pond. Be sure to order some of the restaurant’s famous tapas plates, like the Calamares Fritos, which is fried calamari with an outstanding house-made apricot sauce, or the Queso Halloumi Frito, which is fried halloumi cheese in a honey sherry reduction, accompanied by fresh jalapenos and toasted caraway seeds. For entrees, their paella is an absolute must! Be sure to ask if Christina is working, she’s one of the most joyous and delightful severs I’ve ever had.

Hotel Leveque Lobby in Columbus, Ohio

Hotel Leveque Lobby

SLEEP
For an elegant stay, make a reservation at the Hotel LeVeque (Hotellevequecolumbus.com), which is housed in the historic LeVeque tower. The 47-story building dates back to 1927 and was the tallest building in Columbus for decades. Now, the upscale Hotel LeVeque has revitalized the building to its original glory and the art deco interiors have all been meticulously restored. With great views, stately accommodations, and a convenient location in the downtown core, it’s perfect for business travelers and architecture buffs.

For those who like to be in the center of the action, check-in to the newly opened AC Hotel (Marriot.com), located in the arena district. This new hotel is a Marriot brand and bills itself as providing everything you need, and not wasting time on things you don’t. This hotel offers a sleek, comfortable, and modern stay that is perfect for both singles and couples who want to experience the best of Columbus.

DO

The Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio

The Book Loft in German Village

The best thing to do in Columbus is simply to wander. The historic German Village is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. The tree-lined streets are filled with historic Victorian and Colonial-style houses and shops, many of which have been refurbished. Some of the side streets are even still made of brick! Along your journey, stop by the Book Loft (bookloft.com), a quaint local bookshop that’s been built into several old houses. Also in the village is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (jenis.com), serving up unique flavors like wildberry lavender, Boston cream pie, and more.

Another walkable district is the Short North, which bridges the gap between downtown and the OSU campus. Short North’s High Street is lined with eateries, art galleries, and shops. For anyone with a sweet tooth, there’s the Macaron Bar (macaron-bar.com). Made fresh daily, their macarons are some of the best out there, coming in flavors like Earl Grey, Salted Caramel, and Red Velvet. You can even book a macaron baking class! Other neighborhood highlights include the Zen Cha Tea Salon (zen-cha.com), which brews made-to- order cups of tea from all over the world, and the galleries on Lincoln Street, like the Marcia Evans Gallery (Marciaevansgallery. com) and Emergent Art + Craft (Emergentartcraft.com), and more.

DRINK
The AC Hotel has its own rooftop bar and restaurant, Lumin (Luminskybar.com). To your right, the stunning Columbus skyline, and to your left, miles upon miles of endless tree-lined horizon. Lumin has become quite the staple in Columbus’ nightlife, so a stay at AC puts you directly in the middle of the hottest place in town. At Lumin, shareable plates are combined with mixologist-designed cocktails like the Blinded by the Light (vodka, combined with ginger, lemon, Aperol, and pineapple), and the Edison Old Fashioned (whiskey, bitters, demerara, and citrus). Lumin is the perfect spot to enjoy a great drink and a fantastic sunset.

Lumin Rooftop Bar and Restaruant at The AC Hotel in Columbus, Ohio

Lumin Rooftop Bar and Restaruant at The AC Hotel
Photo: Courtesy of AC Hotel

Another great place for drinks is Del Mar Kitchen (Delmarcolumbus.com). Though Del Mar is more of a restaurant than a bar, their drink menu is outstanding. An extremely diverse wine list is paired with house-made cocktails like the InstaFamous (Espolon Reposado, Aperol, Illegal Mezcal, Dry Curaçao, Ruby Red Grapefruit) and the Aloe- Lujah (Cucumber & Mint Botanical Vodka, Lillet Blanc, Chareau Aloe Liquor, Fresh Lemon). And if you get hungry, why not grab some of Del Mar’s shareable plates like fried oysters or roasted shishito peppers?

Macaron Bar, Short North District in Columbus, Ohio

Macaron Bar, Short North District
Photo: Keith Langston

UNWIND
The best place to unwind in Columbus isn’t a spa, but instead, the city’s famous Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (fpconservatory.org). Inside the conservatory, travel from room to room, experiencing different biomes. One features desert plants like cacti and aloe, another is home to palm trees from around the world, and the Himalayan Mountain room even has a cave and waterfall. Outside, manicured gardens are met with an unexpected guest: trains. Running through mid-January 2022, a miniature railway has been built, along with numerous sceneries. Watch as trains travel from the Old West to Fairytale Land and more. Carved wooden facades blend with living plants to create stunning scenes for the trains to traverse through. Why not take a break from the city and enjoy the rejuvenating power of plants?

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