Ohio's biggest city (population 800,000), Columbus is also the 15th largest city in the nation. Given its size, it probably shouldn't come as any huge shock that it's home to a sizable gay and lesbian community, and more than 20 gay bars and clubs. But as a GLBT vacation destination, Columbus still lags in reputation behind many other cities its size, in part because many gay travelers don't realize it has so much to offer.
To be sure, Columbus isn't the most dramatic looking city in the country - it isn't surrounded by mountains or set along one of the Great Lakes, although downtown does enjoy a picturesque setting on the Scioto River. It's more popular with business travelers than vacationers. That being said, it's a terrific weekend destination, with plenty to see and do, and it has one of the most visible gay communities in the country. If you're looking for a relatively affordable vacation spot with a sophisticated and independent-spirited food scene and lots to offer in the way of arts and culture, nightclubbing, and shopping, Columbus fits the bill.
There is quite a lot that's remarkable about Columbus. It's one of the only cities in the Midwest or Northeast that has enjoyed steady growth and relative prosperity during every decade since World War II. Leading employers include the state government, the Ohio State University, and the banking, insurance, and retail industries. The high levels of education, political awareness, and economic success are perhaps key reasons that Columbus has long fostered such an active and open gay community.
The city, and particularly the gay community, supports a superb culinary scene as well, with a number of stellar restaurants in the gay-popular Short North and German Village districts. Other neighborhoods (or adjacent suburbs) where you're likely to find a selection of diverting shops, eateries, and attractive residential blocks include Victorian Village, Clintonville (with a particularly strong lesbian following), Grandview, and Upper Arlington.
Throw in a slew of art galleries, a handful of excellent museums, and one of the best-attended Pride celebrations in the country, and it's easy to see why Columbus is such a gem.
When to Go
Columbus is a four-season destination, although because the Ohio State University adds plenty of energy to the city and its gay scene, you may want to visit from fall through spring, when school is in session. College football is hugely popular here, so be sure to book well ahead if you're planning a weekend trip here in fall.
Like most of the Midwest, Columbus has warm and often humid summers, cool and occasionally snowy winters, and moderate fall and spring weather. January highs average 35 deg F, with lows around 20 deg F. In summer, highs average around 85 deg F, with lows in the mid-60s.
Getting to Columbus - the Lay of the Land
The Lay of the Land
The capital of Ohio, Columbus is situated in the geographic center of the state, at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 71. The terrain is relatively flat, with the city surrounded by gently rolling hills. It's at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, and the Scioto cuts right through downtown. As opposed to other larger Ohio cities (such as Cleveland and Cincinnati, Columbus - though larger in population - is less compact and has a lower skyline. In fact, much of the city proper feels more suburban than urban in character, which is not to say you won't find plenty of cosmopolitan sophistication and energy downtown.
Driving distances to Columbus from major cities and points of interest are:
- Atlanta, GA: 570 miles (8.5 to 9.5 hrs)
- Chicago, IL: 360 miles (5.5 to 6 hrs)
- Cincinnati: 110 miles (1.5 hrs)
- Cleveland: 150 miles (2 hrs)
- Detroit, MI: 200 miles (3 to 3.5 hrs)
- Indianapolis, IN: 175 miles (2.5 to 3 hrs)
- Louisville, KY: 200 miles (3 hrs)
- New York, NY: 560 miles (8 to 9 hrs)
- Pittsburgh, PA: 185 miles (3.5 hrs)
- Saugatuck, MI: 350 miles (5.5 to 6 hrs)
- Toronto, ON: 440 miles (6 to 7 hrs)
- Washington, DC: 410 miles (6 to 7 hrs)
Flying to Columbus
Port Columbus International Airport lies just 8 miles east of downtown and is served by most major airlines, with direct flights throughout the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard (as well Toronto, Canada), although relatively few direct flights to Western U.S. cities (with Los Angeles an exception).
Columbus 2017-2018 Events Calendar - Columbus Gay Travel Resources
Here's a calendar of some of the top events in Columbus throughout 2016 and 2017
- Late Feb. to early March: Central Ohio Home & Garden Show.
- Mid-May to early Sept.: Shakespeare in Schiller Park, German Village.
- Early June: Columbus Arts Festival.
- Late June: Columbus Gay Pride celebration (one of the country's top Pride festivals, with many Gay Columbus Pride events leading up during May and June).
- Early July: Red, White and Boom! (Independence Day party - largest fireworks display in Midwest.
- Late July to early Aug.: Ohio State Fair.
- Early Sept.: Home & Garden Show and Holiday Fest.
- Mid-Sept.: Columbus Microbrew Festival.
- Mid-Sept.: Ohio Lesbian Festival.
- Late Sept.: Columbus Oktoberfest.
- Late Sept.: Riverfront Arts Festival.
- Early Oct.: AIDS Walk of Central Ohio/Columbus AIDS Walk.
Resources for gay travelers to Columbus
A handful of resources provide information on the city in general, and a few on the local gay scene. For visitor information, check out the excellent GLBT site of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau. Stonewall Columbus runs the city's GLBT center (at 1160 N. High St.), organizers the fantastic Pride Celebration in late June, and operates a first-rate website. Stonewall Columbus also produces the Visit Gay Columbus Guide. Columbus also has a terrific GLBT weekly newspaper, Outlook. Also very helpful is The Other Paper, the city's alternative newsweekly.
Exploring Columbus - Cool Neighborhoods and Attractions
The Short North
Columbus abounds with intriguing neighborhoods, a few of them with a strong gay presence. Most popular is the hip and arty Short North, whose main drag, High Street, is lined with gay-friendly bars, restaurants, boutiques, and galleries. A block west you'll find leafy and beautiful Goodale Park, which is where Columbus Pride takes place each June - it's a lovely spot for a stroll on warm days. The neighborhood stretches north from downtown, around the Columbus Convention Center and I-670 underpass, to about King Avenue and East 7th Avenue, a span of just over a mile. You can shop for GLBT and Pride-related gifts and books at Suite Q
(815 N. High St.), which is operated by the city's gay media company, Outlook: Columbus. The city's LGBT community center, Stonewall Columbus, has its offices and a drop-in space at 1160 N. High Street.
Notable shops include a handful of favorite chains like American Apparel and Utrecht Art Supplies, but one-of-a-kind independent boutiques dominate here. TORSO (772 N. High St.) has a strong gay following for its underwear, club gear, and accessories; The Chamber (1182 N. High St.) is the city's only gay erotica and fetish shop, with a full supply of S&M gear, safer-sex supplies, lubes, and leather jocks and chaps; Big Rock Little Rooster (654 N. High St.) and Ladybird (716 N. High St.) lead the way in edgy women's fashion. Bink Davies (668 N. High St.) bills itself a "modern day general store" and carries a mix of urbane and campy gifts and housewares, while you can find a fascinating range of fair-trade hand-made crafts and products at Global Gallery (682 N. High St.). The ginormous consignment shop ReVue (881 N. High St.) and its adjacent antique marketplace contain thousands of treasures for the home.
The Short North has a fast-rising gallery scene with close ties to the queer community - check out spaces like Studios on High and PM Gallery. There's a Short North Gallery Hop the first Saturday of each month. Speaking of art, note the plaque honoring realist painter George Bellows on High Street - Bellows was born and raised in Columbus, living from 1882 to 1925, and became famed for his gritty, sometimes homoerotic paintings of urban life.
Short North Stage (1187 N. High St., 614-725-4042) is a well-respected professional theater presenting musicals and plays at a handsome space, as well as cabaret and comedy in the Green Room.
At the northern end of the the Short North, two artisan businesses have been making waves for their high-caliber adult beverages. Partly gay-owned, Middle West Spirits (1230 Courtland Ave., 614-299-2460) produces exceptional Oyo Whiskey as well as three top-notch Oyo vodkas, including a classic version, one flavored with honey and vanilla, and another flavored with stone fruit - tours are available weekly. And neighboring Brothers Drake Meadery (26 E. 5th Ave., 614-388-8765) makes tasty, honey-based mead wines, which you can sample in the on-site bar, along with Ohio-made beers and spirits.
Ohio State University Campus and Clintonville
Things remain interesting in Columbus as you continue north up High Street, first reaching the neighborhood of Ohio State University's campus, which runs from about 7th Avenue for 10 blocks up to Lane Avenue. You'll find a number of fun shops and affordable, student-favored restaurants along here. Be sure to check out the Wexner Center for the Arts, a superb contemporary art museum on OSU campus.
Then just north of campus, High Street becomes the main commercial for Clintonville, an eclectic mixed residential and commercial neighborhood that's steadily developed a reputation over the years as a popular place to live among gay men and, somewhat more visibly, lesbians. Businesses like the Clintonville Community Market and Boomerang Room Vintage have a strong LGBT following, as do several restaurants and cafés around the neighborhood.
Downtown and Arena District
Due south of the Short North is downtown, a neighborhood primarily of office buildings and political concerns, but for its western edge, which is home to the lively Arena District. This planned entertainment zone contains Nationwide Arena (where the NHL's Blue Jackets hockey team plays) and Huntington Park (home to the Columbus Clippers Triple A minor league baseball team), along with many restaurants and clubs, although little in the way of establishments with significant GLBT followings.
One of the city's biggest cultural draws is downtown's Columbus Museum of Art, which is especially strong on German expressionism and American modernism. Other popular diversions, especially in warm weather, include the verdant Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden, an 88-acre complex dating to the 1890s and showcasing plants from every climate zone on the planet. COSI Columbus science center is a great rainy-day attraction with dozens of engaging interactive exhibits.
The Ohio Statehouse is, itself, worth a visit - it's open for free guided tours throughout the week (with limited hours on weekends), or whenever this mid-19th-century Greek Revival building (which, notably, lacks a dome) is open, you can stop inside to explore on your own. Nearby, you'll find downtown's Theatre Row, which is home to three excellent, historic performance spaces, the Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre, and Southern Theatre, plus the state-of-the-art Capitol Theatre at the Riffe Center. On the east side of downtown, the 1928 Lincoln Theatre is one of the Midwest's performance spaces dedicated to African-American and jazz heritage.
Just a couple of blocks south of the Ohio Theatre and the statehouse, beautiful Columbus Commons is a 9-acre park that opened in 2011 on the site of a former shopping mall. It's now the site of events and festivals all year-long, some popular food carts during the day (plus two cafés), and colorful gardens. It's a nice example of restoring green space to a densely developed city center. Not far from here, as you head south and west closer to the river, the Brewery District is worth a visit. Once the home of five breweries, it's now a lively area of restaurants, bars, and some mixed-use developments.
Additionally, just west of downtown, East Franklinton is one neighborhood that many see as having great potential - one highlight here, 400 West Rich Street gallery and arts space, occasionally holds events and parties with an LGBT following.
South of downtown, historic German Village is a 233-acre haven of cobbled lanes, wrought-iron fences, flower gardens, redbrick cottages, and two-story homes, many dating to the 1840s through early 1900s, when the city - and this neighborhood - experienced an enormous German immigration. Quite a few gays and lesbians live in German Village, which is also home to many of the city's best restaurants, plus a handful of diverting shops.
Among the latter, the Book Loft is a justly famous 32-room emporium of books set inside adjoining redbrick buildings that date to the mid-19th-century. In the south end of the neighborhood, Schiller Park is a magnificent swath of gardens and greenery that's ideal for stroll. It's named for German poet Friedrich von Schiller, of whom there's a statue in the park.
It's a 30-minute drive north of downtown to the suburbs of Dublin and Powell to reach one of the most impressive attractions in the state, the world-renowned Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, which TV personality and zookeeper Jack Hanna has made famous (he was director of the zoo until 1993 and continues to promote it). The impressive facility is home to more than 700 animal species and is divided into five key regions (African Forest, Asia Quest, Australia and the Islands, North America, and Shores). The complex also includes Zoombezi Bay water park, Jungle Jack's Landing theme park, and the renowned Safari Golf Club.
Columbus Ohio Restaurant Guide
Short North Restaurants
The Short North has been the city's hub of sophisticated dining for more than two decades, and it remains a hub of exceptionally good, gay-popular dining options. Several classics have been enhancing the city's culinary reputation for years, including the romantic L'Antibes (772 N. High St., 614-291-1666), with its beautifully plated French-American cooking; and sophisticated Rigsby's Kitchen (698 N. High St., 614-461-7888), where plenty in the GLBT community go to celebrate a special occasion, but you can also dine and drink more casually at the bar. Highlights from the mod Italian menu include the crudo salumi tasting with lemon and chervil, crispy pork belly with braised cannellini beans and salsa verde, and rib eye steak with Gorgonzola butter. Pizzas and pastas are also available. Casual and campy Betty's Fine Food & Spirits (680 N. High St., 614-228-6191) serves mostly comfort-minded American and international cooking, as does the restaurant's lovable sister eatery, Surly Girl Saloon (1126 N. High St., 614-294-4900), with its menu of delectable treats like frito pie and made-from-scratch cupcakes, plus stiff drinks and craft beers. Back a block from High Street, cozy Tasi Cafe (680 N. Pearl St., 614-222-0788) is open for breakfast and lunch, serving fresh, creative, and affordable fare in homey space with both communal and individual tables. Bagels with house-smoked salmon, chevre-roasted pepper sandwiches, pulled-chicken salads are among the offerings.
Festooned with rainbow flags, decked in colorful lights, and pumping out dance music, Level (700 N. High St., 614-754-7111) is part gay cocktail bar, part trendy restaurant. The menu here focuses on American and pub favorites, sometimes spruced up with modern twists, including big salads, calzones, steaks, pastas, and the like. Bernard's Tavern (630 N. High St., 614-223-9601) occupies a warm and inviting space that used to house a gay bar and still attractions quite a few LGBT folks. It's a nice options for casual comfort fare, and there's a good selection of craft beer.
As you head north up High Street, you'll come to a number of hot spots that have opened in recent years. The trendy tapas restaurant Bodega (1044 N. High St., 614-299-9399) has a menu of more than 50 beers as well as a nice mix of creative salads, sandwiches, and internationally inspired small plates, like chicken tikka and portobello tacos. Stylish and urbane Mouton (954 N. High St., 614-732-4660) is a cool bar for fine wines, microbrew beers, and specialty cocktails, with a short but fine menu of charcuterie, cheese, and artisan bread - it may sound snacky, but you could easily cobble together a meal here from the stellar cheese and cured-meats selection. Haiku (800 N. High St., 614-294-8168) is a mod, comfy space that serves terrific sushi and Pan Asian fare, and across the street, you can enjoy sophisticated versions of American South classics (buttermilk fried chicken, Cajun-spiced red snapper, Carolina-style turkey, chocolate-bread pudding) at Hubbard Grille (793 N. High St., 614-291-5000), which occupies a vintage Chevy dealership with exposed-brick walls and huge windows. Head west of High Street a few blocks to reach a farm-to-table eatery that's become a foodie favorite, Till Dynamic Fare (247 King Ave., 614-298-9986) - it's notable for cocktails, artisan coffee, and superb small-plates-oriented food: spicy chicken wings and donuts; pizzas topped with shiitakes, tallegio, and egg; pulled pork and grits with pickles and bacon.
With three locations in the city, Northstar Cafe (951 N. High St., 614-298-9999) has an especially popular and attractive space in the Short North - with tall windows and high ceilings, this sunny spot is a fine option for breakfast and brunch (frittatas, ricotta pancakes, breakfast burritos) as well as creative and relatively healthy lunch and dinner fare at reasonable prices. Flatbread pizzas, burgers, salads, rice bowls, and baked goods are among the specialties, and there's a good beer and wine list. Take a seat on the large patio on sunny days. The Short North has some excellent coffeehouses, with gay-popular Impero Coffee Roasters (849 N. High St., 614-294-2489) producing some of the finest artisan-roasted brews in Ohio - it's an airy, attractive space, too, perfect for chatting with friends or typing away on your laptop. Local chain Cup o Joe has several locations around town, including the Short North, German Village, Downtown, and the University District. The Short North location at 600 North High Street is especially attractive, with a big swatch of patio seating along the street. Also at 600 North High (as well as German Village) is Cup O Joe's sister, MoJoe Lounge, which takes things a bit further by serving booze as well as more substantial meals, but with a similarly affordable and casual style.
Having drawn national acclaim for crafting superb, creatively flavored, small-batch ice cream, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (714 N. High St., 614-294-5394; plus locations in North Market, Grandview Heights, Bexley, Dublin, Clintonville, German Village, and elsewhere) needs almost no introduction. This sensational ice-cream purveyor frequently changes flavors, but you can usually find signature concoctions like Bangkok peanut, cherry Lambic sorbet, salty caramel, pistachio-and-honey, and whiskey-and-pecans. Also check out the selection of Parisian macaroon-inspired ice cream sandwiches (like Ugandan Vanilla ice cream and black currant jam, smooshed between almond macaroons. Jeni's began life at the famed, and historic, North Market (59 Spruce St.), a long-running daily community market with dozens of stalls selling fresh produce, specialty meats and foods, and prepared foods - everything from sushi to pizza to barbecue. It's at the downtown end of the Short North.
German Village Restaurants
In this historic, romantic neighborhood, Barcelona (263 Whittier St., 614-443-3699) is a longtime gay favorite for romantic meals of exceptionally well-crafted tapas (corn flan with roasted poblano peppers, balsamic blackberries, and pistachios), braised lamb shank with Manchego, and Spanish cheeses and charcuterie. Other good bets in the neighborhood include elegant and romantic G. Michael's (595 S. 3rd St., 614-464-0575), which serves deftly crafted contemporary Italian and American food, with an emphasis on local ingredients; and trendy Harvest (495 S. 4th St., 614-824-1769), a dapper pizzeria that produces creatively topped, wood-fired, thin-crust pies (try the one with fennel sausage, local Gouda, smoked provolone, onions, and fennel pollen), a nice mix of salads and small plates, and well-curated cocktails and wines. The butterscotch budino here is terrific, and on warm nights, you can dine on an airy patio.
An absolute must in German Village is the sleek little pastry shop and cafe Pistacia Vera (541 S. 3rd St., 614-220-9070), which is perhaps most famous for its dazzling variety of artful, pastel-hued Parisian-style macarons, which come in such unexpected flavors as yuzu pink guava, Ohio buckeye, coconut creme, and chocolate cherry cordial. This lovely spot with a bright patio also serves strong artisan coffee, a variety of tarts and tortes, house-made preserves, flaky-good breakfast pastries, and a handful of delicious brunch items - tomato Provencal baked eggs are particularly good. Nearby Katzinger's Delicatessen (475 S. 3rd St., 614-228-7297) is a German Village institution, renowned for huge sandwiches, filling breakfasts, and such Jewish traditional bites as potato knishes and marinated herring. Another old-school neighborhood favorite, Schmidt's Sausage Haus (240 E. Kossuth St., 614-444-6808) has been a fixture in German Village since 1886 - the staff dresses in authentic German garb, and the traditional German cooking is stick-to-your-ribs tasty.
OSU and Clintonville Restaurants
Just north of OSU campus, you'll find the fantastic neighborhood restaurant and bar Sage American Bistro (2653 N. High St., 614-267-7243), which presents an outstanding Sunday brunch as well as dinner nightly except Monday. The focus here is on farm-to-fork regional U.S. cooking: crispy pig ears with curried mango puree, pan-roasted bone marrow with red cabbage marmalade, Ohio pork cheeks with sage dumplings, rosemary lamb shank with Yukon-asparagus hash. It's the sort of food that warms the soul on a winter day but is still light and fresh enough to satisfy on a summer evening. Some of the most creative cocktails in town, too. Not far away, talented and charismatic chef Alana Shock sources locally to create delicious mod American fare at Alana's Food & Wine (2333 N. High St., 614-294-6783), an local-art-filled space with a shaded patio in front.
Downtown Columbus Restaurants
Close to downtown theaters and Columbus Commons park, de Novo Bistro (201 S. High St., 614-222-8830) is a terrific spot for drinks or dinner before or after a show. It's noted for creative American fare, from sandwiches and tapas to more substantial steaks and seafood grills, and good breakfasts are served, too. Another interesting spot near the theaters, the Brewery District, and German Village is T. Murray's Bar and Kitchen (560 S. High St., 614-824-2301), which occupies a courtly redbrick building and is known for well-crafted regional Midwest-inspired cuisine, such as flatiron steak salad, "pot roast" nachos, and chile-marinated center-cut pork chops. Popular with the GLBT community and not far from German Village, Sidebar 122 (122 E. Main St., 614-228-9041) has a lively happy hour scene, and serves tasty global-inspired food: tilapia fritters with cilantro-yogurt sauce, lamb shank roasted in malbec.
Columbus Gay Bar Guide
Top Columbus Gay Bars and Nightclubs
As gay nightlife goes, Columbus stands for having so many gay bars, and also for its wealth of attractive, smartly designed venues - places with clear-glass windows, stylish decor, and popularity with both gays and straights. Some of the top gay establishments town include Axis Nightclub, Wall Street (one of the most popular lesbian clubs in the country), Union Cafe, and Club Diversity.
In downtown Columbus, fairly close to the Short North, Wall Street Nightclub (144 N. Wall St., 614-464-2800) deserves bragging rights as one of the most dynamic, successful, and inviting lesbian clubs in the nation - the owners also operate the festive Aqua on Duval club in Key West. This spacious club, which also has a very popular "boys night out" on Wednesdays, has great DJs, live comedy shows, and different music programming depending on the night (country followed by hip-hop on Thursdays, house and dance classics on Fridays and Saturdays, and female and male drag cabaret on Sundays.
In the trendy Short North neighborhood, Axis (775 N. High St., in back, 614-291-4008) is the largest gay dance club in the city and caters to an predictably young and pretty crowd. You can get some fresh air on the enclosed patio, reached through a side door. It's owned by the same team behind Union Cafe (782 N. High St., 614-421-2233), the handsome video bar and restaurant across the street. Union Cafe has z more mixed crowd (gay and straight, more diverse in age) than Axis, and on warm nights it's a bustling and fun spot to dine or drink on the patio. Reasonably priced contemporary American pub food is served, and there's an extensive cocktail list. A few blocks down High Street, the restaurant Level (700 N. High St., 614-754-7111) is also a gay-popular lounge, serving a wide range of colorful cocktails and pumping out dance music. Broadway Sundays draw fans of musicals.
Just a few blocks east of the Short North in Italian Village, Exile (893 N. 4th St., 614-299-0069) is one of the Midwest's most popular gay leather bars, set in a redbrick building with large, dark windows. "Best ass" contests, the first Saturday of each month, draw big crowds. As with many leather-oriented bars these days, Exile is more about the vibe than a strict dress code, although leather, uniforms, and other such gear are quite welcome.
Mixed Venues, Trendy Lounges, and Hipster Bars
Mixed gay-straight spots in the Short North include the student favorite CIRCUS! (1227 N. Nigh St., 614-421-2998); and a cool little joint called Local Bar (913 N. High St., 614-670-8958), which has a fine beer selection, lots and lots of games (pool, arcade games, etc.), and a quirky and eclectic crowd. Nearby and similar weird and fun, Skully's Music-Diner (1151 N. High St., 614-291-8856) is both a live-music bar and a casual diner. Its rep is as something of a straight pick-up bar, but it draws plenty of "family," too, depending on the night.
Near German Village in the city's Merion Village section, friendly and fun Cavan Irish Pub (1409 S. High St., 614-725-5502) pulls in a good mix of homos and heteros and serves a selection of first-rate craft beers on tap. It's a great spot for happy hour, whether on your own or with a group of friends. A few blocks north in the Brewery District, Club Diversity (863 S. High St., 614-224-4050) has a similarly mixed venue that lives up to its name, drawing a great mix of folks for cocktails, cabaret and other performances in the theater on-site, and socializing on the lovely garden patio in back. Inside you'll find several festive rooms, and a crowd and staff that's among the friendliest in town.
A lively hipster-favored lounge, music club, and source of first-rate Japanese and other Asian bar treats in the Brewery District, trendy Double Happiness (482 S. Front St., 614-220-5558) is a great place for late-night noshing, and enjoying some exceptionally well-crafted cocktails. It's right by fun and highly original live-performance and sketch-comedy venue Shadowbox (503 S. Front St., 614-416-7625), one of the best places in town to watch a concert or show.
Columbus Gay Neighborhood Bars
In downtown Columbus, Slammers (202 E. Long St., 614-221-8880) is an easy-going, friendly bar with a mostly (but by no means exclusively) lesbian following - it's popular with women early in the evening, before many of them head nearby to Wall Street nightclub. Slammers is both a pub and a pizza joint, making a good place to fill up before further partying, too. There's a good-size patio, a pool table, and very well-priced drinks.
At the north end of the city, the laid-back, mixed male-female bar Club 20 (20 E. Duncan St., 614-261-9111) is a longtime favorite neighborhood hangout near the campus of OSU, in the diverse Clintonville district. One strong attribute here is the rockin' jukebox - the staff is lots of fun, too.
Other friendly neighborhood bars in Columbus that cater to the gay community include Inn Rehab (627 Greenlawn Ave., 614-754-7326), which is southwest of downtown in Merion Village and has its own volleyball court and quite massive patio, plus a nightly menu of bar food; AWOL (49 Parsons Ave., 614-621-8779), with its military-gear theme, fun drag shows, popular karaoke, and a location on east side of downtown; Southbend Tavern (126 E. Moler St., 614-444-3386), another standby in Merion Village, with pool, a show stage, and mostly over-50 crowd; and the dive-y Tremont Lounge (708 S. High St., 614-444-2041), which regulars laud for its happy hour deals - it's on the edge of German Village.
Columbus Gay Bathhouses
The city's most popular gay bathhouse, Club Columbus (795 W. 5th Ave., 614-291-0049), a 24-hour facility just northwest of the Short North and just south of the campus of Ohio State University. It's a large, clean club with plenty of secure parking, on a busy and safe road. Club Columbus is part of the "Club" group of gay bathhouses that includes Club Indianapolis, Club Fort Lauderdale, and others in Dallas, Houston, Orlando, and St. Louis. During the warmer months, you can relax by the heated outdoor pool and in a garden gazebo. The other noted gay bathhouse in town, H20 Spa, has closed.
Columbus Hotel Guide
Columbus Gay-Friendly B&Bs and Inn
In historic German Village, the gay-owned and wonderfully stylish German Village Guest House (748 Jaeger St. for guest house, 177 E. Whittier St. for suites; 866-587-2738) is the nearest you'll find in this city to having your very own artfully decorated home away from home. The property consists of a guest house with three chic rooms, and a nearby historic house containing two 800-square-foot suites with fully equipped kitchens, spacious sitting areas, and myriad amenities. Guests can check in 24/7 and are given utmost privacy - you won't feel pressured to mingle with other guests here, especially if you book one of the self-contained suites, which have their own private entrances. Abundant with thoughtful touches, this is one of the finest small inns in the Midwest.
You'll find several other charming B&Bs in or near the Short North. 50 Lincoln--Short North B&B (50 E. Lincoln St., 800-516-9664) is just a few doors off the High Street main drag, close to many restaurants and gay bars. This stately redbrick mansion contains seven rooms with period furnishings and private baths. Edging Victorian Village and the Short North, the graceful and gay-friendly Harrison House B&B (313 W. 5th Ave., 614-421-2202) contains four spacious, Victorian-decorated rooms and includes a first-rate full breakfast in the rates; and Neil Avenue B&B (1237 Neil Ave., 614-670-5075) occupies a dramatic, turreted, redbrick Queen Anne mansion in Victorian Village, with three romantic, period rooms.
Among larger, chain properties, the 179-room Hampton Inn & Suites Columbus-Downtown (501 N. High St., 614-559-2000) has one of the best locations of any hotel in the city for convenience to gay nightlife and the Short North's fab dining and shopping. It's by the convention center, too, and has been fashioned out of a handsomely converted historic warehouse. A few blocks farther south, both the Hyatt Regency Columbus (350 N. High St., 614-463-1234) and Crowne Plaza Columbus-Downtown (33 E. Nationwide Blvd., 614-461-4100) are well-maintained properties with close proximity to Short North attractions. The Crowne Plaza adjoins (and operates) a terrific boutique property, the gay-popular, stylish Lofts Columbus (55 E. Nationwide Blvd., 614-461-2663), which has just 44 rooms, each with high ceilings, clean lines, big windows, Frette Italian linens, Aveda bath products, and handsome tile bathrooms. This is a great option if you want to be downtown but in an intimate hotel with personalized service. A bonus: guests can use the gym and other facilities of the neighboring Crowne Plaza.
Another upscale, attraction option that's close to the Ohio Statehouse, theaters, and downtown dining, the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel (50 N. 3rd St., 614-228-5050) rises 21 floors and is home to one of the better hotel restaurants in the city, Latitude 41. Rooms are well-appointed, and there's a large, well-equipped fitness center, rooftop outdoor pool, sauna, and hot tub. On the south end of downtown, the handsome and historic Westin Columbus (310 S. High St., 614-228-3800) is relatively close to German Village and the Brewery District, and is one of the most regal historic hotels in the Midwest, having opened as the Great Southern in 1897. The building retains its historic flair, but rooms are contemporary and stylish with flat-screen TVs and iHome radios.