Last Updated on April 1, 2021 by Jim Ferri
By Jim Ferri
Columbus’s Short North typifies the American underdog. And if there’s one thing many Americans love more than rooting for the underdog, it’s when the underdog overcomes the odds and comes out on top. If you’re of that ilk, just say hello to Columbus, Ohio.
Long overlooked as a good travel destination, the city has made great strides in overcoming its image as a stodgy old rustbelt city where’s there’s nothing to do, and blossomed into an interesting Midwest destination in its own right. And that’s not just my opinion: In a recent article on the “Top Ten Best Fall Trips” National Geographic Traveler ranked Columbus #4 of all destinations in the world.
Columbus? Ohio? Of all destinations in the world? Yes, yes and yes.
I had to go to Columbus for a meeting last week, a fairly quick trip that only gave me a taste of the place. And even though I had read an article in the Chicago Tribune that proclaimed the city “a vibrant dining destination,“ I found the experience better than what I had expected.
Much of the “new” Columbus revolves around the Short North, an area filled with art galleries, shops and restaurants that just a few decades ago was filed with boarded-up buildings and rife with drugs and prostitution.
A walk along High Street, the area’s main artery that is capped with a series of historic arches, brings you past scores of restaurants ranging from classic Italian to Asian fusion. If you’re looking for something a bit more pedestrian you’ll also find Phillip’s Coney Island (“2 Coneys and fries for $5.55″) or, just a few blocks away, the popular and interesting North Market. The gastronomic bull’s eye of the city for decades, North Market has 35 different food vendors and purveyors, covering the spectrum of middle-American fare. It’s worth a visit for lunch, a quick dinner or just for browsing.
But it’s High Street that’s been the catalyst in catapulting Columbus to its new-found fame. A tree-lined thoroughfare perfect for ambling, it’s peppered with outdoors cafes, restaurants and shops outside of which scores of parking valets stand at the ready. The occasional jogger or bicyclist whizzes by you here, and information signs attached to lampposts point visitors in the right direction. The area – officially called the Short North Arts District – stretches for about a mile, beginning just north of the Greater Columbus Convention Center downtown.
Art abounds and it gives the street the visual vibrancy that draws you along. There are murals on the sides of buildings, and art for sale all over the place — even in the local dry cleaners and hair salon – and as you walk along you wonder just what you’ll find in the next doorway. I walked into Funky + Functional, whose sign advertised art, jewelry, vintage antique and furniture, among other things, and was greeted by an old-fashioned claw-foot bathtub filled with old globes for sale. The rear of the store was filled with old jewelry.
After dinner that evening, we set off for Jeni’s ice cream, which turned out to be another treat. A local institution, Jeni’s is becoming nationally renown among lovers of unique ice cream. I sampled 11 different flavors, including Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries, Parmesan & Zucchini Bread (with small chinks of zucchini bread in it) and Goat Cheese with Red Cherries.
My choice, however, was the Rockmill Golden Ale & Apricots made with a Belgian-style triple beer. It was, as my wife would have said had she been there, “to die for.”
If you go:
698 North High Street, Short North
Jeni’s Ice Cream
714 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43215
59 Spruce Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Funky + Functional
685 N. High St.
Columbus, OH 43215
Phillip’s Coney Island
747 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215