Nightlife in Columbus, Ohio: Best Bars, Clubs and More

Columbus Old North district, near the Ohio State University campus, seen at night.
Copyright Artem Vorobiev / Getty Images

A wide range of live music venues, divey holes in the wall, trendy clubs, swanky rooftop bars, beer gardens, craft breweries, and all sorts of other inviting hangouts make it easy to stay up all night in Columbus. This friendly Midwestern metropolis facilitates drinking, gaming, and dancing the night away by rolling out the welcome mat for all visitors. Whether your tastes run toward chic craft cocktails or longneck bottles of beer by the bucket, you’ll find something to quench your thirst for entertainment in the state capital of Ohio. 

Bars and Lounges

Densely populated with nightlife destinations, High Street in the Short North Arts District provides a walkable stretch of bar-crawl territory to keep visitors happily occupied into the wee hours. German Village and the Brewery District are plentiful with good bars and popular drinking locales as well. 

  • Lincoln Social Rooftop: This swanky lounge sits nine stories above High Street to offer incredible views of the Short North Arts District, downtown and beyond (especially at sunset). The open-air bar serves cocktails, bubbly and small plates in a sophisticated setting that incorporates walls of lush living greenery, a fire pit, and upscale patio furnishings.
  • Oddfellows Liquor Bar: Grab a seat on the patio for a friendly drinking session at Oddfellows. Events and activities at this casual neighborhood hangout include weekly trivia nights, fundraisers to support local animal organizations, and dining pop-ups. Feel free to bring Fido along; Oddfellows prides itself on being a dog-friendly establishment. 
  • R Bar Arena: For visitors in town to check out Columbus’s NHL Blue Jackets franchise at nearby Nationwide Arena, R Bar is the place to pre-game, grab a cold one after the bout, or watch the whole event from the comfort of your barstool. More than 30 flat-screen TVs stationed throughout the bar afford guests the opportunity to follow all their favorite sporting action at once. 
  • Denmark: The ingredients used to build the inventive cocktails at this stylish mixology-driven spot are all made in-house, from bitters and cordials to syrups and garnishes. The result is a menu of one-of-a-kind creative cocktails you won’t find anywhere else in town. 

Clubs

Put on your dancing shoes and work up a sweat on Columbus’s buzziest dance floors. If you’re in the mood to boogie, check out local events calendars for fun themed dance nights at these establishments. 

  • Axis: For Columbus’s best DJ-ed beats, set a course to the largest LGBTQ+ dance club in town and dance utill you can't anymore. You'll be able to enjoy the two-level interior, a patio area, VIP room, video screens, and drag performances and revues. Axis is open to guests 18 and up, but you’ll need to be 21 to order alcohol.
  • Skully’s Music-Diner: If disco’s your jam, hit the Damn Girl dance party on the third Friday of each month, where the mirror balls keep on spinning and they play that funky music all night long. It’s the perfect excuse to break out the halter tops and dust off those old go-go boots; costumes are encouraged and welcome.
  • Monthly Dance Parties: Groove to the all-vinyl Heatwave dance party held on the first Saturday of each month at Ace of Cups, with tunes that throw it back to the era of Motown and classic old-school R&B. Or, beeline to the ReDo and shake your booty to the sounds of early hip-hop on the third Sunday of each month at the Avalon.

Beer Halls and Gardens

Columbus has deep Germanic roots, so it’s only natural the city’s home to a devoted beer-drinking crowd. The city’s festive beer halls and open-air beer gardens are ideal places to raise a stein. 

  • Short North Pint House: Head to the Short North district for a hearty “Prost!” or “Slainte!” where there are plenty of beer options to choose from amid a menu that boasts dozens of cans, bottles, and drafts. The Pint House claims the first beer garden in the neighborhood, and the 1,000-square-foot courtyard space gets busy on sunny summer days and balmy evenings. 
  • Gemut Biergarten: Belly up to this friendly German-style spot in Olde Towne East for steins of helles, hefeweizen, dunkel and pils to wash down giant Bavarian pretzels, schnitzel and wursts.   
  • Barley’s Brewing Company: Downstairs from Brewcadia, this easy-going hang has operated as a traditional English brewpub since 1992, featuring handsome wooden booths and an emphasis on British-style beers, ales, and food.

Craft Breweries and Distilleries

With dozens of microbreweries and several craft distilleries in town, it’s easy to sample the flavors of Columbus. Many operations offer their own dedicated tasting rooms, and you’ll also find locally produced products at many bars and restaurants across town. Follow the Columbus Ale Trail and gather stamps at each participating regional location to earn free swag. 

  • Land-Grant Brewing Company: In the Franklinton creative district, Land-Grant maintains a production craft brewery, taproom and beer garden on the renovated site of a historic factory building, along with a satellite taproom in the John Glenn Columbus International Airport. Loyal fans kick back here to sample the diverse selection of IPAs and rotating seasonal offerings.
  • Elevator Brewery and Draught House: In a historic downtown building, Elevator pulls pints of house-brewed lagers, pilsner, and ales to accompany a menu of gastropub cuisine. 
  • Watershed Distillery: If you’re a gin drinker, you’ll want to stop in and taste-test the citrusy Four Peel flagship product at Watershed straight up or shaken in a martini at the on-site bar. 
  • Middle West Spirits: This Short North-based operation cooks up batches of vodka, whiskey, and gin, all of which play nicely with the fine dining-caliber dishes coming out of the distillery’s Service Bar kitchen. 

Gaming Bars

Need something to do while you sip? Fortunately, Columbus maintains an interesting collection of drinking spots that provide fun and games to enjoy during happy hour or well into the evening. 

  • Pins Mechanical Company: Pins brings the East Coast pastime of duckpin bowling to Columbus (think standard bowling with smaller lanes, balls, and pins), along with pinball, foosball tables, ping pong tables, beer pong, and oversized Jenga. The spacious facility runs a full bar for beer, wine, punch, and cocktails to pair with sustenance provided by a rotating schedule of visiting food trucks. Kids are welcome until 8 p.m.; after that, it’s 21+ only. 
  • Brewcadia: Catch the video gaming craze upstairs from the Barley’s pub, where you can revisit vintage favorites like Space Invaders, Ms. Pacman and Asteroids, or take part in a board game challenge. Customers play for free while they sip from a well-vetted beer menu. 
  • 16-Bit Bar and Arcade: Donkey Kong and Frogger reign supreme here. After a fierce retro gaming competition, quench your thirst with classic and new-wave cocktails, draft beer, and spiked slushies. 
  • Columbus Axe Throwing: Make like a lumberjack by testing your axe-throwing skills on indoor targets. All protective equipment is provided, and beer can be purchased at the front counter during sessions.

Tips for Going Out in Columbus

  • It’s easy to bar-hop up and down High Street through the Short North Arts District on foot. Public parking garages and lots are available throughout the area, along with metered street parking at daily rates of $1 per hour between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and $2 per hour between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Meters are free between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and all day on Sundays.
  • If you want to let someone else do the driving, rideshares are plentiful and easy to access in Columbus with rates varying according to supply and demand. Those who prefer to get around on two-wheels can grab a ride from and return it to any CoGo Bike Share station around town.
  • The CBUS public transit circulator runs between the Short North Arts District, Downtown Columbus, and the German Village-adjacent Brewery District, and is free to ride.  
  • The drinking age in Ohio is 21, and ID is required for service. Last call at local bars and restaurants is usually around 2 a.m. 
  • Ohio does have an open container law, meaning it’s illegal to carry open containers of alcohol in cars, liquor stores, or public spaces.
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