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  WINDY CITY TIMES

TRAVEL Columbus, Ohio: Sights and sites of change
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-07-05

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One of the undeniable constants of life is change—and nowhere was that more apparent than during a recent trip to Columbus, Ohio.

As with previous visits there, Columbus is a nestled delight, with intriguing neighborhoods ( Hello, German Village and Short North! ) and people. However, change is certainly afoot, especially with a population that expected to double in the next decade.

A "Made in CBus" excursion took a group of writers to some tried-and-true spots—but there was a lot of new things that reflected ( and welcomed ) an expanding populace.

The first sign of change was the place in which we stayed: The Hotel LeVeque: Autograph Collection Hotels ( 50 W. Broad St.; HotelLeVequeColumbus.com ), a stunning Art Deco spot that advertises itself as "a beacon of hospitality." Luxury is a hallmark of this hotel, from the fitness facility to the stars that they bring to your room ( so that people sleep under them ). In fact, there is a star motif throughout the hotel that's in a building steeped in history; it opened in 1927 and was 555 feet tall at the time, making it the tallest building between New York City and Chicago.

An experience that turned out to be new involved taking in the works of designer Celeste Malvar-Stewart ( MalvarStewart.com ), who specializes in a sustainable and ethical process to make her clothes—and who radiates more positivity and energy than almost anyone I've ever met. Although I missed meeting the animals at one of the fiber farms she utilizes, I did get to take part in starting a scarf made with alpaca fibers—and I can't wait to see the finished product.

Reflecting the increasing ( and increasingly diverse ) population in Columbus, the writers were fortunate enough to go on a progressive brunch tour with Bethia Woolf ( ColumbusFoodAdventures.com )—and being a food guide has to be one of the best jobs ever. Our tour took us to North Market ( think of a year-round Chicago farmers' market, with everything from seafood to cheeses ), Himalyan/Nepalese spot Mo Mo Ghar ( a place located in a supermarket ), Middle Eastern store/bakery Salam and Somalian eatery Hoyo's ( which sports a menu with items like vermicelli, revealing foreign culinary influences on the country ).

Something that Columbus hopes will draw many is the National Veterans Memorial and Museum ( NationalVMM.org ), which is expected to open in the summer of 2018. With more than 50,000 square feet, the museum will feature a Great Hall that provides views of the Scioto River as well as a space for gatherings and public events. ( As for the possibility of a separate section regarding the history of LGBT services, including "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the word so far has been rendered thusly: "[We] expect that honoring LGBT servicemembers will be part of the experience in some way, but cannot say for sure, as these things are still being decided." )

Columbus is also making its mark as a communal spot, and this is very apparent in Franklinton, an up-and-coming arts neighborhood. The Columbus Idea Foundry ( 421 W. State St.; IdeaFoundry.com ) is a community of makers, and classes are offered to all in areas such as leatherworking, 3-D printing, plasma cutting, marketing and blacksmithing. Feel free to check out the space; open tours are given on Saturdays and Mondays.

And just across the way is 400 W. Rich ( 400 W. Rich St.; 400WestRich.com )—a multi-functional arts complex within walking distance of downtown Columbus. Among the highlights are 101 artist studios, four music studios, 16 offices that are home to local start-ups and non-profits, and three galleries that constantly feature new exhibitions.

However, all the change in Columbus serves to enhance, not overtake, what is already there—and, thankfully, there are plenty of activities to keep one busy and entertained. Shopping is plentiful downtown, but definitely stop by such places as ZerOz wallets ( 17 E. Gay St.; www.zeroz.com/ ); Flying Gent ( 46 N. High St.; flyinggent.com/ ), which offers classic men's goods; Glenn Avenue Soap Company ( 1166 W. 5th Ave.; www.glennavesoap.com ); and the delightful Candle Lab ( www.thecandlelab.com ), which lets you make your own soy concoctions.

As the aforementioned food tour attests, Columbus is a place of culinary and spirit-related delights as well. Buckeye Bourbon House ( 36 E. Gay St.; BuckeyeBourbonHouse.com ) offers some well-known as rare bourbons and whiskeys as well as small plates. Basi Italia ( 811 Highland St.; Basi-Italia.com ) is an undisputed jewel, and Rockmill Tavern ( 503 S. Front St.; RockmillTavern.com ) will almost make you want to stay in Columbus permanently. Also, stop by The Land-Grant Brewing Company ( 424 W. Town St.; www.LandGrantBrewing.com ), a taproom/brewery that is surrounded by pennants from land-grant universities ( in alphabetical order ).

The Avenue Steak Tavern ( 1307 Grandview Ave.; TheAvenueSteakTavern.com ) has a very tasty shortrib grilled-cheese sandwich and, lastly, there's the incredibly charming Flowers & Bread ( 3870 N. High St.; FlowersAndBread.com ), which not only offers pastries, breakfast and lunch items but also has classes such as "All About Edible Flowers."

And for art lovers, there is The Topiary Park of Columbus ( 480 E. Town St.; TopiaryPark.org ). However, the Pizzuti Collection ( 632 N. Park St.; pizzuticollection.org ) is a must-see. The collection—presenting temporary exhibitions of contemporary art from the massive collection of Ron and Ann Pizzuti—has an ongoing sculpture garden as well as the stunning "Visions from India" exhibition that's being shown through Oct. 28.

I have heard people shy away from visiting Columbus, feeling there is nothing to do there. Hopefully, I have persuaded at least some of those people that this place has much more than The Ohio State University going for it. Even if they're not fans of the school, there's a lot happening—with more to do with each passing day.

Thanks go to Experience Columbus and Weirick Communications for arranging this trip.


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