It's a state capital with a huge university, scads of hip and gay-friendly restaurants and bars, a wealth of art galleries and funky boutiques, and a progressive and bustling gay scene. You might think I'm talking about Madison, Wis., or Austin, Texas, two much-hyped (deservingly so) destinations with strong gay followings. But in this case, I'm referring to Columbus, Ohio, which after having visited nearly every decent-size city in the country over the past decade, I consider to be one of the nation's most underrated gay cities.
What's to love about Columbus, which has a pleasant but admittedly prosaic setting on the Scioto River? Here are a few highlights:
- The Short North - This lively neighborhood just north of downtown is Columbus's gay epicenter, a hub of offbeat cafes and stylish restaurants, plus several gay bars and cool shops.
- German Village - Many gay residents live in this historic 233-acre district of cobblestone streets, redbrick houses, and colorful gardens, German Village is perfect for a stroll and has several inviting gay-friendly restaurants, including Barcelona and Katzinger's Deli.
- The Arena District - This bustling section of downtown is home to the fabulous lesbian bar, Wall Street, plus vintage warehouses and newer buildings that hold hotels, performance spaces, Nationwide Arena (which hosts sporting events and concerts), and North Market, which is packed with gourmet food stalls.
- And then there are such draws as Ohio State University with its superb Wexner Center for the Arts, the acclaimed Columbus Musuem of Art, and the leafy Franklin Park Conservatory.
It's hard to say why Columbus has a larger and more vibrant gay scene than any other city between Chicago and Washington, D.C., but somehow Ohio's most populous metropolis has earned this reputation. So the next time you're looking for an easy-to-reach, friendly, and relatively affordable weekend vacation, consider planning a gay Columbus getaway.