The coun­try’s 15th largest city, chock full of cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion thanks to an in­flux of youth­ful res­i­dents, gives up its se­crets

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY AN­DREA SACHS

The first in a monthly series high­light­ing the best va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tions you’ve prob­a­bly never con­sid­ered.

I have a ter­ri­ble confession: I never saw Ohio’s capi­tol. A week­end in Colum­bus and not even a glimpse of the ro­tunda. But I have a very good ex­cuse. I was lost in a 32-room book­store. Well, that’s not en­tirely true. I was also pre­oc­cu­pied with se­lect­ing a writ­ing uten­sil from a life­style store founded by a guy with a beard and an of­fice-sup­ply ob­ses­sion. And drink­ing hand-poured cof­fee from a cafe named af­ter a Belle and Se­bas­tian song. And siz­ing up turquoise bull­dog book­ends from a shop in an emerg­ing neigh­bor­hood. And watch­ing a diner stuff a sky­scraper-tall burger into his mouth.

And drink­ing more cof­fee, this time made of Fair Trade-cer­ti­fied beans from Gu­atemala. And I’m not even a cof­fee per­son; I drink tea, ex­cept when I am in Colum­bus.

Colum­bus kept me busy and sur­prised. Though I knew the facts — it ranks as the third-most fash­ion-for­ward city in the coun­try and has a lower me­dian age than the rest of the na­tion — I didn’t fully un­der­stand the bur­ble of cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion till I found my­self face-to-back­side with a man made of oven roast­ing tins. Based on my ex­pe­ri­ence, I ex­pect the new­est stylista ac­ces­sory will soon be a Colum­bus pride T-shirt. I will have to make room in my drawer, mov­ing my Austin and Nashville apparel to the side.


Lo­cal Faves

Ron and Ann Piz­zuti are shar­ers: The 1 Piz­zuti Col­lec­tion, open since 2013, or­ga­nizes ex­hibits based on the con­tem­po­rary art that the Colum­bus cou­ple has amassed over 40-plus years. “We like to think of the gallery as an ex­ten­sion of their living room,” said Mark Zuzik, its pro­grams co­or­di­na­tor. The Piz­zuti has a sculp­ture gar­den with per­ma­nent works, plus chang­ing ex­hibits, in­side the for­mer in­sur­ance build­ing.

The 2 Scioto Mile, a re­vi­tal­ized stretch of green-and-blue space along the river, of­fers a con­tin­ual flow of at­trac­tions. At the Bi­cen­ten­nial Park, a sum­mer­time foun­tain sprays wa­ter 75 feet into the air. Far­ther south, on a re­claimed in­dus­trial site, the Audubon Cen­ter pro­vides a bird check­list that is color-coded by sea­son. Keep your pen­cil ready for such win­ter res­i­dents as the hooded mer­ganser, the great horned owl and the golden ea­gle.

Guide­book Musts

3 COSI is so hands-on, you will get a shock — a buzzy les­son on elec­tric­ity. The na­tion­ally acclaimed sci­ence cen­ter, which cel­e­brates its 53rd birth­day this year, en­cour­ages ac­tive learn­ing. You can ride a uni­cy­cle on a high wire, sub­merge in a sub­ma­rine or cheer on bas­ket­ball-play­ing rats. You can also con­trib­ute to the body of sci­ence by par­tic­i­pat­ing in an Ohio State University re­search project on lan­guage sci­ence, the cil­iary eye mus­cle or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

At 4 North Mar­ket, founded in 1876, fol­low the ed­i­ble maze of more than two dozen ven­dors. Many of the pur­vey­ors tout lo­cal roots: You can taste the hometown pride at Jeni’s Splen­did Ice Creams, Katzinger’s Lit­tle Deli, Hot Chicken Takeover and Des­ti­na­tion Donuts, which of­ten in­cor­po­rates pro­duce from the sea­sonal farm­ers mar­ket held in out­door stalls.


Lo­cal Faves

Be­fore: You had to drive 20 miles to a horse farm to sam­ple the beers pro­duced by Rock­mill Brew­ery. Now: You can stay within city lim­its and pair any of the brew­ery’s 15 beers on tap with the

5 Rock­mill Tav­ern’s sea­sonal dishes, such as the dev­iled duck egg and the black truf­fle grilled cheese. The decor is haut-sta­ble, with wood in­te­ri­ors con­structed out of Michi­gan barns and ta­bles built out of trees har­vested from in­side the Colum­bus belt­way. A quick primer on 6 Fox in the

Snow, a bak­ery and cof­fee­house open since 2014: No WiFi, no gluten-free and no pres­sure to know the in­tri­ca­cies of the cof­fee in­dus­try. “Not ev­ery­one cares,” says man­ager Jack Morgan. But for those who do, the cof­fee comes from Cen­tral and South Amer­ica or Africa, is roasted in Port­land, Maine, and is hand-poured in plain view (the baris­tas can han­dle up to six or­ders at a time). In ad­di­tion, the sweet and sa­vory treats eschew a cur­rent food craze: “Ev­ery­thing has gluten in it,” Morgan noted.

Guide­book Musts

To eat at the 7 Thur­man Cafe, a third-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily op­er­a­tion in the Ger­man Vil­lage, you’ll need the wide jaw of a snake and the pro­tein crav­ings of Mr. Uni­verse. The ne plus ul­tra of burg­ers is the Thur­mana­tor, which the restau­rant cre­ated for com­pet­i­tive body­builders in the 1980s. A re­cent diner named Clarence Smith III ad­mit­ted that the like­li­hood of fin­ish­ing his meal was “zero,” but he plunged a fork into the tee­ter­ing stack like a true war­rior.

At the 8 Top, the old­est steak­house in Colum­bus (est. 1955), you won’t be judged for de­vour­ing a Flint­stone-size filet or dou­ble-scoop­ing from the sour cream bowl. Din­ers chew to a sym­phony of mar­tini shakes and lounge tunes fea­tur­ing a 90-yearold pi­anist, So­nia, and her side­kick, Justin, who can belt out Judy Gar­land with­out spilling his gin gim­let.


Lo­cal Faves At 9 Robert Mason Her­itage

Sup­ply, a life­style store that is barely a year old, pen concierge Henry Dolin ap­proached the Pen Bar and se­lected a Pa­per Mate InkJoy for a left-handed writer. She never smudged again. Writ­ing uten­sils are just one of the founder’s many fa­vorite things. Robert Grim­mett clearly hearts of­fice sup­plies and vin­tage-in­spired ac­ces­sories, such as his epony­mous line of can­vas car­ri­ers named af­ter fam­ily mem­bers; beard-groom­ing prod­ucts (good for women’s tresses, too); top­pers and watches; and can­dles that smell like a bar­ber­shop.

Dur­ing foot­ball sea­son, the Satur­day uni­form in Colum­bus is a T-shirt from 10 Homage, an apparel busi­ness founded by a guy who sold shirts from his par­ent’s base­ment. Af­ter 10 years, the gray top with the black “Ohio” let­ter­ing is still a clas­sic, any day of the week.

Guide­book Musts

The staff at He­len Win­nemore’s 11

con­tinue a tra­di­tion from 1938: sup­port­ing North Amer­i­can artists and of­fer­ing a hot bev­er­age to vis­i­tors. Each year, the two-story gallery fea­tures about 200 artists who de­sign clocks, jew­elry, greet­ing cards, wooden an­i­mal puz­zles, pottery, pil­lows, fin­ger­less gloves, leather satchels and even the mug hold­ing my cup of wel­come cof­fee.

With 32 rooms and up to a quar­ter-mil­lion books, be sure to grab a map of the 12 Book Loft at the front desk. In Room No. 26, I found two men­tions of the 40-year-old in­de­pen­dent book­seller in “100 Things to Do in Colum­bus Be­fore You Die.” And in Room No. 2, one of two spots for se­ri­ous bar­gains, I dis­cov­ered Jane Austen for $3.49 and Dave Eg­gers for $5.99.


Lo­cal Faves 13 Le Meri­dien Colum­bus, the

Joseph, the new­est ho­tel in the Short North neigh­bor­hood, acts as a satel­lite gallery for the Piz­zuti Col­lec­tion. (Present your room key for free ad­mis­sion to the nearby mu­seum.) Af­ter a craft cock­tail at Soul, re­pair to your room and browse the cat­a­logue of Ohio artists whose works ap­pear in the guest quar­ters and pub­lic spa­ces. The “I’ll Never Leave You” screen print by David Skeens, which adorned my bath­room, costs $250 — about the same price as the nightly rate.

Guide­book Musts

At the down­town 14 Westin Colum­bus, more than a cen­tury of overnight vis­i­tors have el­bow­shined the mar­ble front desk. The for­mer Great South­ern Ho­tel, which opened in 1897 with an ad­join­ing opera house, has re­tained many of its orig­i­nal charms, such as the au­gust lobby with the pink mar­ble wain­scot­ing. The ren­o­vated rooms, how­ever, have been Wes­tinized. And, yes, the beds are Heav­enly.


Lo­cal Faves

“We are not a shop­ping des­ti­na­tion, but we’re be­com­ing one,” said Katie Schultz, man­ager at Elm & Iron, a home fur­nish­ings store with a quirky vin­tage flair. In­deed,

15 Clin­tonville, which bor­ders the Ohio State University cam­pus, is on the cusp of a mo­ment. Many of the new ar­rivals — Flow­ers & Bread, Bare­burger, Vin­tage Toast, Lit­tle Eater and Whit’s Frozen Cus­tard — are sprout­ing up along High Street. They make nice with some of the older es­tab­lish­ments, such as the Global Gallery Cof­fee Shop and Wholly Craft. The two stores have been around for at least a decade, prov­ing that Fair Trade prod­ucts, lo­cal hand­i­crafts and the DIY spirit are al­ways au courant.

Guide­book Musts

The Ger­man Vil­lage So­ci­ety ex­plains the dra­matic arc of the 233acre 16 Ger­man Vil­lage, a neigh­bor­hood that was cre­ated by 19th­cen­tury im­mi­grants, strug­gled with anti-Ger­man sen­ti­ment dur­ing World War I and blos­somed dur­ing the preser­va­tion move­ment in the 1960s. To ex­pe­ri­ence the book­ends of time, wan­der the brick lanes lined with Ital­ianat­estyle homes and busi­nesses sell­ing such Ger­man sta­ples as kraut und pork and nut­crack­ers. The 23-acre Schiller Park, the city’s sec­ond-old­est park (dat­ing to 1857), main­tains its orig­i­nal pur­pose as a gath­er­ing place for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.


CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: In Colum­bus, Ohio, clas­sic state-pride T-shirts are on sale at Homage; the Thur­mana­tor at Thur­man Cafe is a stack of two 12-ounce burger pat­ties — among other de­lights; a mu­ral with a mes­sage on the side of a build­ing in the Franklin­ton neigh­bor­hood; from the Scioto Mile, a dusk view of the epony­mous river and the Colum­bus sky­line; the North Mar­ket, founded in 1876, has more than two dozen ven­dors, many of which tout lo­cal roots.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: Katie Dor­rian crafts a drink at Fox in the Snow, where all the cof­fee is hand-poured in the open; leather wal­lets are among the vin­tagein­spired ac­ces­sories at Robert Mason Her­itage Sup­ply; Kur­tis Bai­ley lights can­dles in the lobby of Le Meri­dien Colum­bus, the Joseph, in Short North.


Sports mem­o­ra­bilia and apparel store Homage had hum­ble be­gin­nings as a base­ment T-shirt busi­ness.

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