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The Buckeye State’s capital and largest city may not rival San Francisco or Sydney, but that’s exactly why we love it. Columbus offers a warm welcome with plenty of Midwestern charm and a relaxed, progressive vibe that celebrates diversity and creativity. Plus, it’s a great place to eat, shop and spend the night on the town.

In fact, the city is so dedicated to the queer community, that its tourist office offers a free, bi-monthly LGBTQ-focused e-newsletter highlighting events and activities, and includes special offers and discounts. Here are a few of the ways that Columbus makes LGBTQ travelers feel fabulous.

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Awesome nightlife

There are bars and clubs to suit nearly every taste in Columbus. Union Café, for example, is a polished, sophisticated bar and restaurant attracting a mix of LGBTQ night owls and their allies. Axis Nightclub, meanwhile, is the city’s largest dance club, featuring lively all-male revues and drag shows. For fun on a smaller scale, head to AWOL, located in the Olde Towne East district, where the outdoor patio is especially inviting during the warmer months. Slammer’s, located downtown, is a top choice for lesbian locals and visitors, while Tremont Lounge, one of the city’s oldest gay bars, serves up creative cocktails and live entertainment. For a robust schedule of drag, go-go boy and karaoke shows, Boscoe’s is the place.

Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph

Lovely hotels

When it comes to beautiful accommodations in a historic setting, it’s hard to beat Hotel LeVeque, an Autograph Collection hotel set in a gorgeously restored 1920s skyscraper. Set in what was once the city’s tallest building, the hotel is graced with modern touches as well as pristine art deco details. In the trendy Short North Arts District, stylish travelers check into Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph, while those who value proximity to Ohio State University should consider the Blackwell Inn and Pfahl Conference Center, which offers a free airport shuttle.

German Village is a popular neighborhood for the LGBTQ set. | Photo: Experience Columbus

Cool neighborhoods

In Summer 2018, Columbus debuted the Bird Rides scooter share program, providing a fresh option for exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods. Among the must-see areas for LGBTQ visitors is the Short North Arts District, where small galleries, independent boutiques, and eclectic dining and nightlife are top attractions. The Gallery Hop, which takes place on the first Saturday of every month, provides an enjoyable overview of the neighborhood’s offerings. Top shopping here includes TORSO, a men’s clothing store, Rowe Boutique, which specializes in stylish women’s wear, Global Gifts, a not-for-profit business that stocks fair trade products, and the Candle Lab, where hand-poured candles are the big find.

Also big on the LGBTQ map is German Village, a historic neighborhood settled in the early 19thcentury by German immigrants. An organization called the German Village Society offers a Gay Pioneers Tour, which highlights the important role that LGBTQ people played in the preservation and renaissance of the neighborhood.

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Destination Donuts is among the delicious stops at North Market. | Photo: Mark Chesnut

Yummy food scene

Columbus is heaven for foodies. A company called Columbus Food Adventures offers tasty walking tours of the Short North Arts District, with plenty of time to explore North Market, a public market that’s packed with a variety of noteworthy food vendors—including Nida’s Sushi + Thai, Hot Chicken Takeover and Destination Donuts.

In Victorian Village, near Short North, tiny Basi Italia is one of the best places in the city for Italian cuisine. And multiple upscale dining options come from Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, the Columbus-born company that operates a variety of worth-the-price venues, including The Avenue Steak Tavern, the Guild House and Martini Modern Italian.

For mouthwatering baked goods, one of the best options is Fox in the Snow, which recently opened a new location in German Village to complement its popular Italian Village venue.

The National Veterans Memorial & Museum is the newest big attraction in Columbus. PHOTO: Infinite Impact

An impressive arts calendar

The Wexner Center for the Arts, at Ohio State University, will likely draw a big share of LGBTQ travelers next year, when it opens “John Waters: Indecent Exposure,” an exhibit of more than 160 photographs, sculptures and videos that will be on display February 2–April 28, 2019. Art lovers should also check out the Columbus Museum of Art, which showcases a wide range of work, and the Pizzuti Collection, a nonprofit gallery that exhibits art from around the globe.

In October 2018, Columbus debuted its newest major attraction: the National Veterans Memorial & Museum, located near the Center of Science and Industry. The new museum features narrative and multimedia exhibits highlighting the personal stories of U.S. veterans since independence.

LGBTQ life is especially vibrant during the annual Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival, which attracts more than 500,000 participants and spectators every year.

Even the expansive Columbus Zoo and Aquarium can be a great destination for a festive outing; during warmer months, visitors can rent a cabana for the day at Zoombezi Bay, the waterpark, and use it as a base for exploring the entire attraction. The adults-only lazy river has its own bar, making it great for grownups, so you can create your own private “gay day” at the park.

Tagged: Destinations, Midwest

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Mark Chesnut
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and photographer. He's written for Fodor's, the Huffington Post, the Miami Herald, Travel Weekly, various inflight magazines and the New York Times best-seller "1,000 Places To See Before You Die." He also operates a travel blog, LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. Find more from Mark on Twitter @munderamedia and Instagram @mundera

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