For starters, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (9990 Riverside Drive, 1-800-MONKEYS) has received national attention, thanks to director emeritus Jack Hanna's appearances with late-night television personalities Jay Leno and David Letterman. The zoo is home to more than 600 species and includes an African forest and sections devoted to North and South America, Asia and Australia. "Manatee Coast" is a massive aquarium and indoor habitat that spotlights the majestic and endangered aquatic mammals.
Located in downtown Columbus on the west bank of the Scioto River, COSI, the Center of Science and Industry (333 W. Broad St., 1-877-257-COSI), contains eight interactive exhibit worlds and currently features one of the world's most complete fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons. COSI's three theaters include a motion simulator that lets you move with the action and a planetarium tour of the starscape called "Summer Skies." Call 1-888-819-COSI to confirm show times.
Before your trip to Columbus is history, don't forget to stop at some of the city's museums and historical attractions. The Columbus Museum of Art (400 E. Broad St., 614-221-6801) houses an outstanding collection of works by impressionists, German expressionists, cubists and American modernists, as well as contemporary art. Special features include a sculpture garden, photography center. "Eye Spy: Adventures in Art," an interactive exhibition for children and families, gives kids hands-on access to art and information at the push of a button.
|For more getaway ideas, pick up the September issue of Cleveland Magazine for 24 trips guaranteed to amaze, delight and refresh.
Culture vultures can also take in a performance by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at the historic Ohio Theatre (55 E. State St., 614-228-9600). Now celebrating its 50th year, the orchestra, under music director Alessandro Siciliani, performs more than 130 concerts each season, with programs ranging from classical and symphonic pops to "Lollipops" concerts for young people and families. Upcoming concerts include The Mozart Festival at the Southern Theatre Sept. 7 through 9, the season opener with soprano Kathleen Battle Sept. 14, pianist Emanuel Ax Sept. 21 through 23, conductor and flutist James Galway Oct. 12 through 14 and trumpeter Doc Severinsen Nov. 2 and 3.
If you prefer sports or music that rocks a bit harder, the beautiful new Jerome Schottenstein Center (555 Borror Drive, 614-688-3939) is home turf for Ohio State University Buckeyes basketball and hockey games, as well as a venue for ice shows, concerts and touring productions. Upcoming concerts include The Electric Light Orchestra on Sept. 21, Neil Diamond Sept. 28 and The Guess Who with Joe Cocker on Oct. 5. Hockey and basketball begin in October and November, respectively.
But the OSU campus is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spectator sports in Columbus. The Columbus Blue Jackets are the newest member of the National Hockey League, with home games at Nationwide Arena (200 W. Nationwide Blvd., 1-800-NHL-COLS). The Blue Jackets open the season at home against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 4. For a season schedule, log on to the Web at www.bluejackets.com. The Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team takes the field in the first soccer-specific stadium in the country (1 Black and Gold Blvd., 614-447-CREW).
For those who prefer to participate rather than watch, hit the links at one of more than 70 golf courses located throughout the area. The city's recreation and parks department operates seven city courses, each with a resident instructional pro. This summer saw the grand opening of Jack Nicklaus Museum on the OSU campus (2355 Olentangy River Road, 614-247-5959). This educational facility features state-of-the-art displays honoring the history of golf and Nicklaus' stellar career.
History of another sort comes alive just six blocks south of the State Capitol in the restored 19th-century community known as German Village (588 S. Third St., 614-221-8888). The area contains beautifully renovated homes, shops and restaurants on 233 acres of cobblestone streets. Be sure to stop at Der Topf (614-224-1081), a Bavarian gift shop that sells German pottery and other crafts. Also worth visiting are Schmidt's Fudge Haus (614-444-2222) and the Franklin Art Glass Studio (614-221-2972). Both offer free tours.
Explore Ohio's archaeology and history at the Ohio Historical Center (1982 Velma Ave., 1-800-686-6124) and visit the adjacent Ohio Village, which takes visitors back to the Civil War era with costumed interpreters and period arts and crafts.
Get a feel for Columbus Christopher Columbus, that is by stepping aboard a replica of his flagship, the Santa Maria (Batelle Riverfront Park, 25 Marconi Blvd., 614-645-3319). Learn about life at sea as you explore this working 15th-century ship, which features costumed interpreters and presentations covering the daily chores of the crew.
For travel at a faster pace, rev up your engines for a visit to the A. D. Farrow Co. Harley-Davidson Museum, the nation's oldest Harley dealership, which includes a vintage ice-cream parlor (491 W. Broad St., 614-228-6353).
For another sweet treat, tour the Anthony-Thomas Candy Co. (1777 Arlington Lane, 614-272-9221), one of the largest family-owned candymaking facilities in the United States, and take your pick from the huge selection of chocolates, caramels and other assorted goodies. Or stop by Graeter's Ice Cream Factory (2555 Bethel Road, 614-442-0622) to learn the steps in ice-cream production.
Nationwide Arena (614-246-2000) is the centerpiece of Columbus' newest hot spot, the Arena District downtown. The arena also hosts a variety of concerts and cultural events, including the WWF "Raw Is War" show Sept. 24 and the "Professional Bullriders Tour" on Oct. 5 and 6.
Indoor lacrosse has been selling out in such cities as Toronto, Buffalo and Philadelphia, and Nationwide Arena has become a showplace for this hard-hitting sport. The Columbus Landsharks, the newest members of the National Lacrosse League, start their season in early December. For ticket information, call (614) 246-JAWS.
The Arena District is also home to several new brewpubs. Barley's Brewing Co. (467 N. High St., 614-228-ALES) brews its own British ales, Pilsners and stouts. O'Shaughnessy's Public House (401 N. Front St., 614-224-6767) is festooned with artifacts and décor shipped directly from Ireland. The menu features corned beef and cabbage, corned-beef hash and fish and chips, as well as American sandwiches, salads and appetizers.
You'll also find the Japanese Steak House (479 N. High St., 614-228-3030), where patrons can enjoy such dishes as filet mignon with special sauces and breaded chicken with rice prepared tableside on a hibachi-style grill. Tapatio Restaurant (491 N. Park St., 614-221-1085) cooks up Mexican, Caribbean and Latin American fare, including Caribbean jerk chicken, spinach salad with smoked trout, enchiladas and fresh fish.
M (2 Miranova Place, Suite 100, 614-629-0000) is the latest offering by Columbus resident and chef Cameron Mitchell famous for Mitchell's Steakhouse. In M's high-energy, New York atmosphere, the eclectic American menu features seafood, pork, duck, veal, rack of lamb and "steak-in-a-bowl."
There are more than 18,000 hotel and motel rooms throughout Columbus, providing a variety of accommodating options. One of the newest, a Hampton Inn (501 N. High St., 614-559-2000), contains standard rooms and suites ranging from $108 to $218 per night.
The 162-room Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott (3031 Olentangy River Road, 614-267-1111) will open Nov. 15 on the Ohio State University campus. The hotel features an indoor pool, whirlpool and exercise room.
For more information about Columbus events, call the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-354-2657 or log on to www.columbus.org.