It’s time for another guest post in our Great Dates in 50 States series. Please welcome to the stage Matt Wagner and his ideas for dates in the hometown of Origins Game Fair: Columbus, Ohio.
When people think of Ohio, it’s generally with a dismissal of “Flyover Country,” or perhaps thoughts of the Drew Carey show. If they get past that to think of Columbus, the next image that usually comes to mind is a horde of scarlet and grey clad OSU football fans, and that’s usually where people run out of gas. It’s a shame, but on the other hand, it also means that we get to keep some of the really good stuff to ourselves.
Because of Columbus’ status as a crossroads city, the state capital, and one of the fastest growing cities in the state, it’s almost easier to list what isn’t there than to list all of the different ways you can have fun here, but hopefully this will give you some ideas, and a chance to unlock more secrets on your own!
COSI – The Central Ohio Museum Of Science And Industry
The Central Ohio Museum Of Science And Industry, or COSI for short, is a fantastic geeky playground. Though part of the museum is kid and family oriented, many of the hands on science exhibits and demonstrations are just as interesting and engrossing for adults as well. In addition to dedicated exhibits on robotics, physics, space exploration, marine life, and gadgetry, the museum also hosts traveling exhibits such as The Science of Star Wars. COSI has also recently opened a new featured area called Adventure! –a 10,000 square foot exhibit that requires you (and your date!) to solve puzzles, hunt for clues, and navigate mazes as part of a quest for knowledge.
The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
In the mood to get in touch with your wild side? Or just looking for a nice way to get outside? The Zoo is a great way to spend an afternoon – or two – out. With exhibits featuring wildlife from all over the world, ask your date about their favorite bird, animal, or fish – you’ll probably be able to find it! In addition to the traditional attractions, the zoo also features a water park, Zoombezi Bay, that you can purchase admission for during the Spring and Summer. The rest of the zoo is open year round, and even features special events during the holiday season.
Jeni’s Ice Cream
Either as the finish to a nice evening together, or a great place to start, you can’t beat Jeni’s. A Columbus institution that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, Jeni’s ice cream features unique flavors with locally grown and specially sourced ingredients in unique combinations like goat cheese with tart cherries, apple butter, cherry limbic, salty caramel, and queen city cayenne. You can go for a cup, cone, or flavorful sundaes, and it never hurts to try a few different things so you have an excuse to share.
How about a date where you each get to take something unique home with you? Columbus features quite a few opportunities for fun and entertaining “maker dates”, ranging from creating a set of uniquely scented candles at The Candle Lab to laying down a batch of your own hand made wine at Camelot Cellars. If you’re in the mood to collaborate on another type of art project, Wild Goose Creative offers open creative space for local artists of all stripes, and features regular events that are easy to plan a date around.
Columbus features many excellent live performance groups, from the more traditional Columbus Symphony Orchestra to the avant-garde Available Light Theatre. For more lighthearted fare, try MadLab, or the Shadowbox Cabaret for an entertaining time out.
Columbus is a town that loves to eat, and there are an incredible amount of opportunities for a first date, romantic rendezvous, or a truly special occasion. For those looking for a bit of everything, the North Market downtown provides a wide selection of local food and ethnic cuisine at a low price, plus the second level dining area gives you a chance to relax and talk as you enjoy some people-watching. If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, restaurants like Skillet and Barcelona offer a fantastic intimate dining experience. Last but not least, if you’re in the mood for an adventure, check out the fantastic trio of local food blogs Alt.Eats.Columbus, Street Eats Columbus, and Taco Trucks Columbus for some fantastic “off the beaten path” ideas…or grab a pair of tickets on a Columbus Food Adventures tour to treat yourselves to an immersive experience!
The Book Loft
Bookstores can be a great place to wander through, particularly as a break between grabbing a bit to eat and some coffee or a cocktail later on. That gets even better when you’re looking at a bookstore the size of a city block! Featuring a unique and cozy atmosphere, The Book Loft is in the heart of the historic German Village downtown, and features 32 unique rooms with all the books your heart desires – the only danger about going here for a date is that the two of you may not want to leave!
The Arena District
Home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the Arena District was built around Nationwide Arena from the land that formerly housed the Ohio State Penitentiary. Home to restaurants, bars, and clubs, and all within easy walking distance of the arena and downtown, the AD is one of the better entertainment hotspots in the city, regardless of if the Blue Jackets are playing that day.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good con? Thanks to the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the city draws some of the premier geek events, including MarCon in the spring, Origins Game Fair in the summer, and the Mid-Ohio Comic Con in the fall. Cosplayer, steampunk enthusiast, filker, board gamer, role player, comic collector, or just generally in the mood to relax and be yourselves in a crowd of likeminded geeks? Just keep an eye on your calendars!
The Gallery Hop
Want to show your date a little of everything? Gallery Hop is the way to go. The first Saturday of each month, rain or shine, Columbus’ Short North turns itself into a giant art show and party, featuring live performances, local art exhibitions, and lots of opportunities to enjoy a drink, grab a small bite, and talk before walking to another gallery, shop, or restaurant, and repeating the process.
Matt Wagner is a guy who spent the first 18 years of his life desperately trying to leave Ohio, and the next five years realizing he desperately wanted to go back. IT guy by day and a foodie, gamer, and hockey nut by night, he can be found on twitter @BZArcher, or blogging about the Blue Jackets at The Cannon. He’d also politely note that as he is currently single, he’d love to show someone a few of these spots personally…along with a few others that he’s keeping up his sleeve.