Jul 20, 2012

Cool Columbus

At the 2012 Columbus Arts Festival, Sunday, June 3, 2012.  When Elijah saw this skyline vista of our fair city he said "Daddy, it's New York!", perhaps referencing the pictures I'd shown him of my recent trip to NYC with my 8th grade students.  Not quite, son. But it turns out Columbus is pretty cool in its own right.

Well, it's not that cool right now, as we are part of the heat wave/drought that is currently sweeping much of the nation.  However, I'm finding that Columbus, Ohio is turning out to be a pretty great place to live.

It's not a Big Name U.S. city.  We have no nationally-known iconic landmarks--no Golden Gate Bridge, no Hollywood sign, certainly nothing like New York with it's multitude of landmarks from the Statue of Liberty to Central Park to Times Square.  We have no NBA, NFL, or Major League Baseball teams (though we do have an NHL team, the Blue Jackets).   We have no big tourist draws or famed --no beaches, no Great Lakes, no Disney.  The suggestion to our friends from other parts of the country that they "drop by" Columbus on their way to New York seem a little silly--what else is there to see here besides, well, us?  We are not the site of major historical events in U.S. history.  No declarations were signed here, no battles were fought.  We have never had a famous TV show set in our city.  Even poor downtrodden Baltimore, MD has us beaten on that score (see The Wire).

Oh, look isn't that cute!  It's like our own little Times Square!  This is  on Broad  Street in the heart  of downtown Columbus.

As a result, Columbus is perhaps one of the nations great underrated cities.  Because, actually Columbus is pretty cool and hardly minor in national influence even if that influence often goes unnoticed.   We are home to one of the largest universities in the United States, the venerable Ohio State University.  With over 64,000 students enrolled it has the population of a small island.  We are the capital of the state of Ohio, a state that has produced more presidents than any other (save Virginia, depending on who you are talking to), and that is now one of a handful of crucial "swing" states in presidential elections.  Obama and Romney might as well buy second homes in Ohio, they're here so much.  And as long as they're buying they might consider Columbus the ideal place to make their headquarters.

We've only lived here for three years and with a toddler and a virtually non-existent pool of baby sitters I can't claim to know that much about the city. For us much of Columbus is largely undiscovered.  Still, in our short time and in our limited experience, I've discovered a few things of note about our fair city.

We have not one but two of the best ice cream shops in the nation.  For classic ice cream flavors nothing beats Graeter's, the family-owned 142 year old company based out of Cincinnati (but with shops in several Columbus locations).   And for delicious, whimsical flavors like sweet corn and blackberry, lime cardamom, and whiskey and pecans, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is simply unparalleled.

We also have the best metropolitan library system in the nation and the best science museum too.

We've got a vibrant downtown area that is growing only more vibrant with each passing year.  We love going down to the Short North, our city's arts district, and have enjoyed exploring German Village.

Getting around Columbus is a breeze, and with the 270 bypass belting the city getting from the suburbs of Groveport, Reynoldsburg, Gahanna, New Albany, Worthington, Dublin, Hilliard and others is a quick drive.

Walking on the Scioto Mile, part of a series of new parks along the river that are part of the ongoing  development of downtown Columbus.  This is a special year for our city--it's our bicentennial!  We're 200 years old!

Babs and I are still restaurant hunting.  We've found some good ones.  We particularly like Basil, a Thai place in the Short North, and North Star Cafe (with locations downtown and in Easton Towne Center), but I know we've only begun to scratch the surface. We've yet to find restaurants to rival the Best in the World, but Columbus has a rich culinary scene and I'm sure they're out there.  There's an exciting arts community here which we've also had little opportunity to explore--music, theater, visual arts--take your pick.  The Columbus Metro Parks sprinkled throughout the city are great for families too.  We go to Blendon Woods Metro Park most often because it's close to home, but I can attest to the beauty of Highbanks Metro Park and Glacier Ridge Metro Park as well from runs I've done there.

When I think about it, what I realize is that Columbus is the reverse of what you often hear about many more famous cities in the U.S.  It's a great place to live, even if you wouldn't think to visit there.

If you're a longtime Columbus area resident or native, I invite you to share your commentary and suggestions about what's cool in Columbus in the comments.


Bev said...

Wow Sean! Columbus sounds awesome! Especially the ice cream parlors! Do you still have a long commute to work? I can't believe its been 3 years since you moved back!

Sean said...

No, I only had to do that for seven months when we were living with Barbara's parents in Dayton. Now that we live here in Columbus my commute is about 12 minutes!

Mai said...

Colombus sounds neat! I should come visit sometime!! Of course, I'd mostly just be coming to visit you guys, but it would be cool to see some of the places you described!!!