Columbus: Recreation


At the center of Columbus's downtown is the State Capitol Building, an example of Greek Doric architecture. Several blocks south of the Capitol, German Village, one of the city's major attractions, is a restored community in a 230-acre area settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800s. The largest privately funded restoration in the United States, the district features German bakeries, outdoor beer gardens, restaurants, and homes.

The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) maintains hands-on exhibits in health, history, science, and technology for all ages. COSI's 300,000 square foot building consists of a modern style element joined to the existing historic building. The facility features a curved facade, a large atrium, a host of Learning Worlds, and two unique theaters, the Space Theater, and the IWERKS Theater. The Space Theater boasts all new DIGISTAR 3-D technology; the IWERKS Theater, a six-story plus, multimillion-dollar theater, seats 400 people and presents nationally known films.

The Columbus Zoo displays animals in natural habitats and has gained a reputation for successfully breeding endangered species, including gorillas, cheetahs, snow leopards, polar bears, and eagles. The zoo houses the world's largest reptile collection and is the home of four generations of gorillas. The first phase of the zoo specializes in North American wildlife and features the Manatee Coast Exhibit; this is modeled after the 10,000 Island wildlife area in southwestern Florida, one of the few remaining untouched natural places in the United States. The zoo's second phase, the African Forest project, opened in June 2000. The African Forest outdoor gorilla exhibit features two large glass viewing areas and landscaping. Creative exhibits and a holding building reflect simple African forest architecture and offer indoor viewing of colobus monkeys and Congo gray parrots, as well as a mixed species aviary. The next phase, Gateway to Asia, began construction in March 2005 and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Garden Center cultivates tropical, subtropical, and desert plants. Columbus's Park of Roses, the world's largest municipal rose garden, displays 450 varieties of roses. Located seven minutes from downtown, the Ohio Historical Center and Ohio Village recreate a nineteenth-century Ohio town, where period dishes are served at the Colonel Crawford Inn. Costumed craftspeople add to the authenticity of the exhibits. The Mid-Ohio Historical Museum displays antique dolls and toys. Hanby House, a station on the Underground Railroad, is now a memorial to Ben Hanby, who composed "Darling Nelly Gray."

Arts and Culture

Columbus is a national leader in local government support of the arts. The Greater Columbus Arts Council distributes $2 million annually to support a more than $52 million cultural industry. One focus of cultural activities is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Complex, which showcases African American cultural events, while the Cultural Arts Center, located in a renovated arsenal, hosts visual and performing arts events classes.

Three elegant theaters are also the scene of cultural activity in Columbus. The Palace Theatre, opened in 1926, has been completely renovated and now houses Opera Columbus and presents Broadway touring musicals and plays, concerts, and films. The Ohio Theatre, a restored 1928 movie palace and the official theater for the state of Ohio, is the home of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, BalletMet, the new Broadway series, and presentations sponsored by the Columbus Association for Performing Arts. The 102-year-old Southern Theatre closed between 1979 and 1998 and then reopened after a $10 million restoration project.

The Reality Theatre, Contemporary American Theatre Company, Gallery Players, and the theater department at The Ohio State University stage live theater performances ranging from world premieres to revivals of classic plays.

The Columbus Museum of Art houses a sculpture garden and a permanent collection of European and American art works. The restored Thurber House, the home of James Thurber during his years as a student at Ohio State, is now a writers' center that displays Thurber memorabilia.

Festivals and Holidays

The first weekend of March marks the annual Arnold Fitness Weekend, a health and fitness convention headed by

The Columbus Museum of Art has a permanent collection of European and American art.
The Columbus Museum of Art has a permanent collection of European and American art.
actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at which bodybuilders and other athletes come together to socialize and compete. The Open Garden Tour, featuring both parks and private homes, is held in April. Music in the Air, sponsored by the city Recreation and Parks Department, is the country's largest free outdoor concert series; 200 concerts are presented at Columbus parks beginning in late May and concluding on Labor Day weekend. The Columbus Arts Festival, which draws 500,000 people to the city, begins the summer festival season in early June. The city's Red, White & Boom! Parade in early July is followed by one of the largest fireworks displays in the Midwest. The Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest draws participants to downtown locations the last weekend in July. A major event in Columbus is the Ohio State Fair; held in August, the fair features livestock shows, agricultural and arts exhibitions, horse shows, rides, and concessions. Columbus observes First Night Columbus on December 31 to bring family-friendly New Year's celebrations to the area.

Sports for the Spectator

Columbus is home to a Major League Soccer team, the Columbus Crew, who play in Columbus Crew Stadium. The stadium, opened in 1999, is the first specifically built for professional soccer in the United States and combines European soccer atmosphere with traditional American amenities to make it one of the premier soccer venues in the country. The Columbus Blue Jackets, a National Hockey League team, first played in 2000 at Nationwide Arena, a 20,000-seat, 685,000-square-foot, $150 million venue.

The Big Ten conference Ohio State Buckeyes, one of the nation's top college football teams, play a home schedule to sold-out crowds on fall Saturday afternoons in the 90,000-seat Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes also field men's and women's basketball teams that play home games at Jerome Schottenstein Center, a 20,000-seat arena that opened in October 1998. The Columbus Clippers, a Triple-A affiliate of baseball's professional New York Yankees, play a 70-game home schedule at 15,000-seat Cooper Stadium, and the city is finalizing funding to build a larger, newer stadium near the Nationwide Arena to replace the 1932 Cooper Stadium.

The Columbus Marathon, held each October, attracted 4,500 finishers in 2004, and the Capital City Half Marathon, first run in April 2004, is planned to be an annual event. Harness racing is on view at Scioto Downs, where more than a dozen world records have been set in a season that runs from early May to mid-September. The Little Brown Jug, the year's biggest harness race, is held at the Delaware County Fair-grounds. Columbus's most important golf event, Jack Memorial Tournament, is sometimes referred to as the "fifth major"; competitors tee-off in nearby Dublin at the Muirfield Village course that Jack Nicklaus designed.

Sports for the Participant

Columbus city parks number more than 165 on 5,400 acres; 10 metroparks cover an additional 9,400 acres. Water sports can be enjoyed on two major rivers and three lakes in the city; among the area's popular activities are fishing, boating, sailing, water skiing, and paddleboating. The city maintains municipal tennis courts; indoor tennis and racquetball courts are available at private clubs. The city's scenic commuter routes are popular among joggers and cyclists. Year-round recreational programs for all age groups are available at the city parks.

Shopping and Dining

One of the largest shopping showcases in Columbus is the innovative outdoor shopping and entertainment district called Easton, said to be a larger complex than Minnesota's Mall of America. Easton features nearly 120 shops, a luxury Hilton Hotel and Easton Town Center, anchored by the world's first Planet Movies by AMC, a 6,200 seat, and a 30-screen megaplex movie theater. In addition, Easton includes a mall with a Nordstrom's and other national retailers.

Columbus City Center downtown offers 130 upscale stores and restaurants. Among the distinctive shopping districts in Columbus is German Village, where small shops and stores offer specialty items. Short North exhibits and sells the works of Columbus and national artists as well as clothing and home furnishings. High Street, the Main Street of the university district, offers eclectic shopping and dining options.

Diners in Columbus can choose from among a number of restaurants serving contemporary American, European, and ethnic cuisine. In 2005 Food and Wine magazine named Kahiki one of the world's five coolest bars. Several restaurants are housed in architecturally interesting buildings such as churches and firehouses. The renovated North Market features local produce and German, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Italian delicatessens. Columbus is also home base to both Wendy's and Bob Evans national restaurant chains.

Visitor Information: Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, telephone (614)221-6623; toll-free (800)354-2657