Columbus is more than just Ohio’s state capitol … it’s a center of innovation, a vibrant college town (including Ohio State University), a hotbed of successful “household name” American businesses (JP Morgan Chase, Nationwide Insurance, Limited Brands, Big Lots, Wendy’s Restaurants) and a cultural hub with a diverse food scene, a surprising array of museums and interesting neighborhoods. Surprised? You may not once you realize it is the second-largest city in the Midwest after Chicago and 14th in the nation.
This summer, two major openings add to the city’s cache as a place for science and history lovers. On June 21, the sky will not be the limit, but just the beginning at the John Glenn Astronomy Park, 40 miles southeast of Columbus in Hocking Hills State Park. The area, known for its clear, pollution-free night skies, will preserve the pioneering astronaut’s legacy with access to state-of-the-art telescopes, daytime astronomy study in the Solar Plaza and an enclosed 540-square-foot observatory featuring a retractable roof that permits night sky viewing. Gathering areas, open green space and parking make the Astronomy Park ideal for research, star parties, special events and general daily visitation.
Closer to downtown, the National Veteran Memorial and Museum opens this summer as the only U.S. museum of its kind where stories of veterans, their families and the Fallen — across all branches of military service and all eras of conflict — will be told together. NVMM will bridge historical events to current concerns and strengthen understanding and respect between veterans and civilians. History will be presented as a dynamic, participatory experience with photos, letters and personal effects, multimedia presentations and interactive exhibits.
The two new offerings take their place alongside existing history, science and cultural destinations that continue to evolve and excite children and adults alike with their mix of exhibits and interactive activities, from the Columbus Museum of Art to the Central Ohio Center of Science and Industry to the nationally renowned Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Family activities and crafts are offered every weekend to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
Columbus also has no shortage of interesting neighborhoods, along with an eclectic food scene to match. North Market, the city’s last remaining public market established in 1876, has a nice mix of ethnic eateries balancing out boutique cheese, spice and candy shops. Here, one will find prepared meals with cuisines from around the globe (including Vietnamese, Polish and Belgian) as well as celebrity chef Cara Mangini’s Little Eater and Produce & Provisions and award-winning bakery Piscacia Vera.
Some of the trendiest casual restaurants demonstrate why Ohio fits the bill as an American heartland. Katalina’s Café, known for its top-secret recipe pancake balls and perfect fried chicken, is a showcase for local producers, including Cooper’s Mill pumpkin and apple Butters and peach habanero jam, North Market Spices’ seasonings and sea salts, Thunderkiss Coffee, Tehku teas, Skinny Piggy Kombucha, Fowler’s Mill flour, and Matija Breads bread. Flowers & Bread is a “slow flowers and bread studio” where one can sip coffee and country inn-inspired food or sign up for a bread-making class (when available) with noted baker Sarah Black.
Families wanting to go a little beyond their comfort zone, meanwhile, can sign up for a tour with Columbus Food Adventures, where delicious surprises from around the globe await, including Tibetan/Nepalese dumplings, Somali cuisine and Salam Market & Bakery for pan-Middle Eastern to-go bites.