It was September of last year when I was reintroduced to Columbus, Ohio, and it was all thanks to a drag queen. Columbus, Ohio Is Front And Center In West’s New Music Video & It’s Starting Some Conversations was the post I wrote after watching Nina West dance her way across her home town of Columbus. It reminded me that for the last couple decades I had only heard amazing things from so many people about “The Biggest Small Town in America” I knew then, I had to get myself to Columbus to check things out.
Mid November of last year found me taking a direct flight from sunny Fort Lauderdale to “Cbus”, where they had just experienced their first snowfall, mere inches that were all gone before I landed. Escaping the heat of Florida – CHECK!
A quick Uber ride to the Canopy Hotel (by Hilton) and I was starting my first evening in Ohio’s capital city. The hotel interior was rich with wood tones, the hallways were dark and warm, while the rooms were draped with greys, whites and black metal, and the subway tile accent wall all came together to create a relaxing, industrial, and luxurious atmosphere. Great place to rest my head and my other 2000 parts – CHECK!
After lounging in the room and decompressing from the travel, I had some time to seek out a small bite to eat and an adult beverage or 3. The Canopy and its guests are fortunate to be residing under one of the Buzzfeed’s 24 Hotel Bars In The US You’ll Want To Visit ASAP. Making my way up to the rooftop, I rounded the corner and entered Goodale Station. The love of wood and metal put together in a warm, grounded, and inviting way was a great yang to the yin of the rounded glass ceiling and open relationship the bar has with the rest of the city. Not sure if the station name was a play off of the feel of being in an old train station or not, but that was what I was feeling. Rooftop deck – CHECK!
Whenever I travel to a new city, I do seek out sporting events. I am sure The Ohio State University and Brutus Buckeye would want me to take in one of their sporting events, but this pro sports follower was very happy with the other option of attending a Columbus Blue Jackets game, which like just about everything in this city, was within walking distance of the Canopy, which was great for this hockey fan who usually hast to deal with a 20-mile drive and fighting with south Florida traffic. Hockey Game / Professional Sporting Event – CHECK!
After the game, it was time to search for some nightlife. If you can find High Street in Columbus, you are steps away from a gay bar. Among a stretch about 4 miles long, you’ll find about eleven of the fifteen or so LGBT/Gay/Rainbow/Fun bars that Columbus has to offer. We chose to walk up into the Short North, more formally known as the Short North Arts District. Find this area of town, book mark it, visit it, love it. No, it is not the end all of Columbus, Ohio at all, but it is a great place to get your teeth and other body parts wet when experiencing Cbus for the first time. Is it touristy? meh, the locals love it too so, yes, mark it down.
In the Short North, we met some great people to hang with. Throughout our visit there, we met with many transplants as well as life long inhabitants. Yes, it is true, mid-Westerners are some of the nicest people in our nation, until they tell you the long islands are to die for at Union Cafe and you have a couple or three after being at Goodale Station and a hockey game. Lesson learned. The fun in Columbus is contagious … and … sidewalks will take the skin off your nose, but that’s another story.
As always with any of our travel stories, we tell you where we went, but always double check to see the times of service, the seasonality of business, and especially now, with COVID, some of our places have been closed temporarily or permanently closed. Looking up Axis Nightclub as I write this, the place we went to before walking back to the hotel and before the skinning of the nose on the sidewalk, we see that it is temporarily closed.
There is one part of Columbus that is not within walking distance and it was kind of designed that way. Do not overlook Franklinton as many have in the past. The area of Franklinton was undesirable, much of it being the first part of the city to flood when the Scioto River would take on too much water. And therefore, no one wanted to live there, but since it was an undesirable place, housing was cheap and low income citizens were able to settle there.
Now, Franklinton is getting a new lease on life as an arts, bar, and restaurant hub with creativity at the forefront. We went on a Franklinton Walking Tour with Columbus Brew Adventures. The tour mixed the history of the area, behind the scenes access to the creative spaces and samples at four craft destinations that are putting Franklinton on the map. The area is still very much a work in progress, but it was great to see the older buildings being reimagined and reused for creativity, craft beers, and fun. Great Craft Bears and some history – CHECK!
Our second night in town, we wanted to get out of Short North once again and see what just a couple minutes from the heart of the city had to offer. We were told to check out the German Village part of Columbus and the grape vine also told us that the Tremont Lounge (gay bar) was having one of their packed karaoke nights so we decided to check that out before dinner. Able to sneak into the corner of the crowded venue, we had a great spot to notice the friendliness of the people, the warmth of the venue, and just the feeling of being very comfortable and welcomed was great.
Dinner that night was just around the corner and still in German Village. G Michael’s Bistro came highly recommended and reservations were made before we even landed in Columbus. What was a single family residence, the brick home was converted into a great venue for a meal, the lighting was minimal, setting the mood, and the food was far from par. Being told it was one of the finer dining experiences in the area, I expected grand prices and small portions, but the opposites were true. The portions and flavors were bountiful and the prices were much lower, like $10 to $20 less per plate than expected. No complaints here – great food – CHECK!
While walking from G Michael’s Bistro to the next location for the night, we had the opportunity to check out some of the homes around German Village and we were pleasantly surprised with the prices. I always pull up my Redfin or Realtor.com app and check out the going prices for properties when I travel, helping me to get a feel of the cost of living of an area. What I saw on these apps went along with what everyone was telling me, Columbus is a very great place to live with a nice and comfortable cost of living. Usually when visiting some great gay meccas in the US, pondering the possibilities of living there goes no further than that, because of the cost of living. But after some research and listening to inhabitants, Columbus keeps looking more and more enticing.
We finished the night out by visiting Club Diversity, which was very diverse indeed. Ages, genders, body sizes, skin colors were all present here. Another home conversion into a bar, they as well had people singing but in the form of a lounge act accompanied by drums and a piano. The next stop was Boscoe’s which was very lively with alternating drag performers and boys dancing in jock straps (see the pics at the end of this post). Yeah, we were here for a while. CHECK!
The visit to Columbus was a quick one but we packed in a great deal. The last day was left up to do some simple relaxation. Part of that relaxation was BRUNCH! Brunch at Forno was a treat. One of the hot spots for brunch on High Street in Short North, the options were mouth watering.
Brunch was great, but it was time to walk it off before the flight home. Hitting up some places in Short North was on the agenda, but the bigger activity was to take in the Columbus Museum of Art (CMOA). In a piece published in February of this year (Travel Thursday: Set Your Sights On Columbus As Historic LGBTQ Art Exhibition Finishes National Tour) we mentioned the great project CMOA gave our community and our nation.
Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, and organized by the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA), Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989 is a long-awaited and groundbreaking survey that features more than 200 works of art and related visual materials exploring the impact of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) liberation movement on the art world.
It was a great project that toured from New York City to Miami and then home to Columbus. But what CMOA already has there cannot be overshadowed. The Rodin exhibit was moving, the local art was inspiring, and they have one of the biggest and best children’s art and interactive sections I have seen. No kids here for me, but I can appreciate and admire what museums do to help the arts inspire the minds of our youth. Bravo and – CHECK!
I truly felt sad leaving Columbus for I knew that a city of roughly 800,000, a metro are of 2 million had a great deal more to offer, but what I saw would keep my impression of Columbus, Ohio high and proud for some time to come.
As you saw, I was checking off the boxes/events/doings that Columbus was providing me during my stay. I’m sold! But there is one more things that needs to be checked and that is the LGBT Community and Leadership. When I travel, I always try to meet up with LGBT leaders in a city to find out some of the politics, funding, health and well-being of the community. Our meeting was with the City Council President, Equitas Health representatives, Stonewall Columbus executive directors, president, and Pride Festival coordinators. The amount of coordinating and pride and programs coming out of the Stonewall Columbus Center was inspiring.
Shared with me were some amazing facts about what Columbus is experiencing now and what it will need to prepare for in the coming future.
Equitas Health – Established in 1984, Equitas Health is a regional nonprofit community healthcare system. A federally-designated Community Health Center, it is one of the largest LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS serving healthcare organizations in the United States. With 19 offices* in 13 cities*, Equitas Health serves tens of thousands of patients in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia each year through patient-centered, integrated, and cutting edge services, including primary and specialized medical care, pharmacy, dentistry, behavioral health, HIV/STI treatment and prevention, PrEP/PEP, Ryan White/HIV case management, care navigation, advocacy, and other community health initiatives. The Equitas Health Pharmacy is an integral and essential part of the health center’s comprehensive care and business models, reinvesting 100% of profits back into the organization’s programs and services. Equitas Health operates pharmacies serving patients in Ohio and Texas.
Stonewall Columbus Pride – An event that registers on the FBI’s list of massive events to aid in security is no small undertaking. The 2019 Pride Parade had 13,000 marchers and had over 850,000 people in attendance (remember, Columbus is 800,000 strong). With its central location and easy access from a great deal of the nation, this event could only get bigger and better. A big difference from their first pride parade in 1981 when 200 people attended, some with bags over their head to conceal their identities. (columbuspride.org)
Columbus Growth – With forecasting the growth of Columbus for the next 25 years to include 1 million more people moving into Cbus, this means an increase of about 400,000 jobs needed to be added to the workforce. Growth comes in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and LGBTness.
Final notes – I had originally wanted to publish this piece in late April as a preview of Columbus for I was planning on going to Columbus for Pride in 2020. With COVID, we as a magazine held off on promoting travel and tourism for some time, but we are returning to mention many great cities and destinations for these places may be a plane ride away from some, but for others, it could be a simple 1 to 3 hour drive in the car.
Per usual, at the end of my travel pieces, I will share some of the other pictures taken while on my excursions across my destination. Enjoy.