Fall for Columbus

Destination Journal

By Alona Abbady Martinez

It’s great to live in a climate where flip flops are de rigueur, but, let’s face it, sometimes it’s nice to put on proper shoes, pack up some long sleeve shirts, jeans and a stylish jacket and head to a place with a cooler climate. The fall season is particularly alluring as it is not too bone-cold and the leaves changing colors offer glorious hues never to grace our swaying palms. While New England may be the most recognized (and thus heavily visited) destination for fall, those seeking a more under-the-radar and vibrant location should look to the friendly Midwest city of Columbus, Ohio. For starters, Columbus got the memo on postcard-perfect fall foliage. Sitting smack in the center of the state, it boasts tree species from both northern and southern U.S. climate zones, translating to a veritable rainbow of vibrant color through the end of October. Weather is optimal this time of year, hovering comfortably in the upper 60s and dipping to the 40s in the evening, just enough of a chill to pull out the boots. 

Beyond spectacular fall foliage, Columbus is gaining a reputation as one of America’s up-and-coming culinary destinations. In fact, Food & Wine named Columbus one of its top cities to visit and eat in for 2019. And with farms, heritage livestock and artisan producers just minutes away, Columbus chefs have easy access to local ingredients from which to craft their menus. Here’s a sneak peek:

See The Fall Colors:

Highbanks Metro Park, named for its 100-foot-tall shale bluff overlooking the Olentangy State Scenic River, offers 1,200 acres filled with trails to explore. The Scioto River runs through Columbus and is framed by the Scioto Mile, a string of parks on both sides with an interactive fountain and trails. Just outside downtown, compact Hayden Run Falls Park is only two acres but has an authentic wilderness feel which includes a spectacular 35-foot waterfall. The Scioto Audubon Metro Park, is a lush and thriving home for wildlife and birds, and houses an urban Audubon center. 


Considered one of the 15 fastest growing cities in the U.S., Columbus is appealing to young professionals and families for its quality of life comprised of parks, restaurants, and museums. A weekend is not nearly enough to capture it all, but here’s a small list to get started on.

National Veterans Memorial and Museum

History buffs will want to visit this unique museum paying tribute to the over 20 million living veterans in the U.S. There are multimedia presentations and interactive exhibits that take visitors on a narrative journey of the veteran experience.

COSI (Center of Science and Industry)

This top-ranked family-friendly science museum recently partnered with the American Museum of Natural History to open a permanent dinosaur gallery and a special rotating exhibition. There’s something for everyone here, including a Jim Henson exhibit with original puppets like Kermit the Frog.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Home to more than 9,000 animals representing 650 species from around the globe, the zoo began in 1927 as a small zoological park. Today it is considered one of the top zoos in America and a recreation and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf. There’s also the Manatee Coast, one of a very select few facilities outside of Florida that provides care and rehabilitation to injured manatees. The zoo provides more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Originally built in 1895, the conservatory boasts over 400 plant species and biomes representing global climate zones from the Himalayan mountains to the tropical rainforest. Rotating exhibits include Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork (the largest Chihuly collection in a botanical garden), which runs through March 2020, and showcases how nature and art come together as one. 

German Village Food Tour 

This four-hour tour led by Columbus Food Adventures explores the historic and quaint neighborhood built by 19th century immigrants. Stops include Katzinger’s, featured on the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Schmidt’s, featured on Man v. Food for their giant cream puffs, weighing in at 1/2 a pound. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking about two miles and schedule time afterwards to return to places like The Book Loft, a one-of-a kind indie bookstore that feels more like a labyrinth consisting of 32 rooms. 

North Market

Columbus’ oldest remaining public market (running since 1876) has dozens of food vendors and produce stands. Make sure to visit North Market Spices, which offers a unique array of infused salts like “Chipotle Apple Pie” and house made rubs with fun names like “Truck Dust.”  

ZipZone Canopy Tour

What better way to enjoy the fall colors than to zip among the trees? ZipZone Outdoor Adventures’ professionally guided two-hour Canopy Tour offers a bird’s eye view to remember. Ages 7 and older.

Explore Gallery Hop in the Short North Arts District  

The first Saturday of every month, galleries along High Street in the trendy Short North Arts District open up their doors to showcase new exhibitions. Visitors celebrate art throughout the evening and there are plenty of street performers, special events, food, and drinks. Gallery Hop officially starts at 4 p.m. and runs until 10 p.m., with restaurants and bars staying open considerably later. 


Katalina’s Café (breakfast)

This miniscule, funky spot attached to a vintage gas station welcomes guests with an invitation to scribble a personal message on their heavily graffitied walls (they even provide the Sharpie pens). After guests have had their hoodlum fun, it’s time to focus on addictive dishes like pancake balls (choose filling of Nutella, dulce de leche, or apple butter) served with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup or their Mazatlan slow-roasted pork and egg sandwich made with their secret sauce, fried eggs, local Amish provolone, avocado, roasted red peppers and aioli. 

Ambrose and Eve (brunch)

Elevated comfort food offerings at Ambrose & Eve in Columbus, Ohio.

Set in the Brewery District, this newcomer has a homey touch down to the flowery wallpaper and pretty plates. Dishes you won’t want to miss include the French toast with cinnamon brioche and Ohio maple syrup, loaded hash brown with smoked salmon, fried pickled onion, capers, creme fraiche, and caviar and fried bologna sandwich with mortadella, milk bread, katsu sauce, and cabbage.

Wolf’s Ridge Brewery (brunch)

A large communal table framed by exposed brick wall sets the neighborly tone of this Downtown brunch favorite. Start with lemon poppy seed doughnuts with blueberry chantilly, then opt for the fried soft-shell crab eggs Benedict, which the waitress coined “a king’s breakfast.” You’ll be rewarded with perfectly-cooked crab which is crunchy and moist and serves as a clever upgrade to the classic. For those with a sweet tooth, bananas foster French toast—glazed bananas served between two thick slabs of banana bread pudding topped with chantilly cream—will hit the mark.

Milestone 229 (lunch)

The cylindrical glass space has plenty of indoor and outdoor dining, serving comfort food favorites like skillet mac and cheese, warm pretzel bread, and calamari with fried pickles. Set along Scioto Mile, it’s a great place to stop in for lunch and people-watch.

Watershed Distillery Kitchen & Bar (dinner)

Regularly packed, this eatery favors shareable small plates made with local, seasonal fare. Dishes included carrots with charred onion conserva, pistachio butter, orange, and malted barley; ruby spring succotash with smoked trout, pickled green tomatoes, fermented rhubarb and asparagus, and Saigon street duck with rice crepe, sprouts, and herbs. The swanky, industrial setting also serves as a distillery and is home to one of the city’s most popular bars, offering an extensive selection of cocktails like Field of Dreams (apple brandy, bourbon, sherry and curry bitters), Grandpa’s Sun Tea (Cynar, Averna, mezcal, citrus, and sugar) and Sage Advice (gin, sage, grapefruit, and effervescence).

The Guild House (dinner)

Set in Short North Arts District on High Street this upscale American restaurant serves globally-inspired dishes like steak tartare served with capers, egg yolk, dijon mustard, and olive toast, ricotta gnocchi with fava beans, roasted baby carrots, and forest mushrooms and chicken roulade with sweet corn puree, heirloom tomato, seared leeks, sliced truffles, and a madeira reduction.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (dessert)

Jeni Britton Bauer opened her first store in 2002, focusing on ice cream made with whole ingredients and dairy from grass-pastured cows. Today, there are multiple stores throughout the city serving up scoops such as Texas Sheet Cake, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, and Brandied Banana Brûlée. 

Where To Stay:

Hotel LeVeque 

This art deco-designed hotel was originally built in 1927. At the time, the LeVeque Tower was the tallest skyscraper between New York City and Chicago, and the fifth tallest building in the world. Overlooking the Scioto River, it is steps away from the vibrant Scioto Mile. The Autograph Collection property (part of Marriott International’s boutique collection) is thoughtful of the smallest details, down to the staff uniforms, designed by Columbus fashion designer Liz Bourgeois, promoting local talent while paying homage to the city’s reputation as a hub for fashion, which serves as headquarters to brands Victoria’s Secret and DSW. 

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