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Don’t be surprised if you get a snarky, “Why, what’s there?” when telling someone you’re going on vacation to Columbus, Ohio.  Your friend is just showing how much they are out of the loop. Those in the know haven’t missed the buzz around Columbus. After all, it is one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. People are leaving both coasts in favor of calling Arch City home. Maybe it’s time for a trip to find out what all the fuss is about.

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Hangout by the riverfront

The fountains in Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus, OH.

The fountains in Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus

Start downtown. The Battelle Riverfront Park offers four acres of greenery with trails, monuments, memorials and special events such as the Columbus Food & Wine Festival. Then there’s Bicentennial Park and the Scioto Mile, with its walking and hiking trails that wind through green space on the riverfront. You’ll find the restaurant Milestone 229, an ideal spot to watch the sunset with a cocktail while kids play in the Scioto Mile Fountain. Nightfall ups the wow factor as the fountain lighting and fog effects come into play.

Soak up some culture

National-Veterans-Memorial-and-Museum-flickr-public-domain

National Veterans Memorial and Museum | Flickr CC: Public Domain

Late last year a new landmark was added to the downtown landscape, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. The building itself is a marvel. Construction required 28 million pounds of concrete, 500 tons of structural steel and over 1,100 tons of steel reinforcing. But more compelling is what’s inside: a veteran’s journey including leaving home, basic training, combat and coming back. The museum honors the more than 40 million Americans who served the nation since its founding. Along with giving honor where due, the museum’s goals are to connect, inspire and educate. It does that and more. It’s hard not to feel solemn as you walk through the exhibits, many of them interactive, including the Remembrance Gallery and Rooftop Sanctuary. Veterans are invited to share their story in a recording booth on the lower level.

Overall, when it comes to museums, Columbus isn’t too shabby. In addition to the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum, there’s the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Pizzutti Collection, which is now affiliated with the Columbus Museum of Art, as well as some smaller specialty museums.

Stay in style

Hotel LeVeque

Photo courtesy of Hotel LeVeque

One of the most popular places to stay is Hotel LeVeque in the heart of downtown. This historic, boutique art deco hotel is housed in the LeVeque Tower and stylishly combines the past with the present in its elegant design.

Explore interesting neighborhoods

North-Market-flickr-cc-TheeErin

North Market | Flickr CC: TheeErin

Much as downtown is hot diggity, Columbus is also about neighborhoods. One favorite is the Short North Arts District, which may as well be hip Williamsburg or Soho in New York. It’s cool like that. The main drag is High Street featuring blocks and blocks of restaurants, bars, coffee spots, galleries, boutiques with vintage goods and one-of-kind finds, bookstores, and places like The Candle Lab where you design your own scent and pour a personalized candle that’s all yours. Come thirsty: There’s a homegrown meadery, vintner and distillery. Chill out at Goodale, Poplar and Italian Village parks. You could never leave Short North and still have all you need for an awesome vacation.

On the edge of downtown and Short North is North Market. Spend time winding your way through 35 small businesses offering, arts and crafts, Bavarian pretzels, oils and vinegars, spices, cookware, flowers, ice cream, you name it. The ever-popular restaurant Hot Chicken Takeover is one of several eateries.

Just south of downtown is another gem, German Village. This is a must-see for architecture buffs. Make your way down Mohawk, Deshler and Beck Streets for some of the area’s stunning homes. You’ll get that German flavor at places like Schmidt’s Sausage Haus and there’s plenty of good eats elsewhere in the district like Barcelona, where the vibe is lively, service great, and the Spanish paella and tapas make you want to leave for Spain.

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Get close to nature

Ash Cave Waterfalls in Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

Ash Cave Waterfalls in Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

Get lost in Mother Nature at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens or drive about an hour for an overnighter in Hocking Hills. Hocking Hills State Park is home to Old Man’s and Ash Caves, waterfalls, trails and much natural beauty. Stargazers will fancy the John Glen Astronomy Park.

As for the person who asked why you’re going to Columbus, don’t even respond. Remember that proverb about not talking to fools?

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Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl is a writer and editor, specializing in travel, personal finance, business and career topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Money, DailyFinance.com, Forbes.com, ABCNews.com, Upscale Magazine, Essence, Black Enterprise and others.

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