PRE-EXPO: A Quick Take on Columbus

From motorcycles to manatees, take advantage of all this special city has to offer.

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So you've spent the day at Gear Expo, meeting with old friends and making some new ones, and you're ready to get out on the town and see what else Columbus has to offer. Plenty, as it turns out, with a wealth of restaurants, bars, sporting venues, museums, and other attractions that are sure to satisfy any discerning traveler.

Whether you're drawn to sports or shopping, history or horticulture, the arts or the art of brewing beer, Columbus is packed with sights, scenes, and sounds that you won't want to miss while you're in town. Here's a quick take on how you might want to spend your downtime–if you have any, that is.

Distinct Districts
The "crown jewel" of the Arena District is Nationwide Arena, home of the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets. The city's newest arena hosts dozens of events each year, from concerts and family events to rodeos and monster truck shows. Restaurants such as Buca di Beppo, the Gordon Biersch Brewery, Ted's Montana Grill, and the O'Shaughnessy Public House are located near the arena. The district also features the Arena Grand Theatre, a state of the art, eight-screen venue with reserved seating and a Grand Club Level for light dining and drinks. The latest addition to the district is PromoWest Pavilion, an indoor/outdoor concert facility that is ideal for audiences that prefer a club-like setting.

Columbus' downtown Theatre District features three historic theaters and one contemporary theater complex, all managed by the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA). The Ohio Theatre is home to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and BalletMet Columbus. The beautifully restored 1928 theatre hosts a variety of programs, including classic movies, dance, and popular music. The Palace Theatre, a restored 1928 vaudeville house, is home to Opera Columbus and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. The 854-seat Capitol Theatre opened in 1989 as part of the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts. The theatre's offerings include CAPA's "Capitol Nights" presentations of comedy, music, dance, theater, family entertainment, and cultural programming.

With one of the largest student populations in the nation, The Ohio State University is a center of activity, culture, and history in Columbus. The surrounding area has a variety of attractions, such as the Jerome Schottenstein Center, which hosts Ohio State's men's and women's basketball games, men's ice hockey games, and concerts and family events. The Wexner Center for the Arts, one of the few multidisciplinary contemporary arts centers in the world, offers exhibits, film screenings, theater performances, and educational programs. Now undergoing a major renovation, the southern sector of the district will soon feature new shops, restaurants, bookstores, and a movie theater complex.

As the largest privately restored historic district in the United States, German Village features quaint homes, gardens, shops, and galleries along brick-lined streets. Popular German Village attractions include Schiller Park, Schmidt's Restaurant & Sausage Haus, and the 32-room Book Loft. The adjacent Brewery District, which is one of the city's top entertainment areas, is filled with bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. And there's moreä

Jack Nicklaus Museum
Opened in the spring of 2002, the museum includes interactive exhibits and memorabilia documenting Nichlaus' career as a golfer, golf-course designer, businessman, and family man. Highlights include a series of exhibits that chronicle Nicklaus' playing career through his performance in the sport's five major championships: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, the PGA Championship, and the U.S. Amateur. Learn more online at [www.nicklausmuseum.org].

Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum
Located adjacent to the world headquarters of the American Motorcycle Association, the museum features displays of historical motorcycles and plaques dedicated to those inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Visit in advance at [www.motorcyclemuseum.org].

Columbus Museum of Art
The museum features works from an outstanding collection of impressionists, German expressionists, cubists, American modernists, and contemporary artists, including works by Degas, Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Bellows, Demuth, Hopper, Marin, and O'Keeffe. Highlights include the Russell Page Sculpture Garden and the Ross Photography Center. Take a virtual tour at [www.columbusart.mus.oh.us].

Short North Arts District
In this district, visitors will find the city's largest and most eclectic concentration of art galleries, featuring works in glass, ceramics, prints, paintings, and other media created by local, national, and international artists. All is on display, and most is for sale to the public. The district also has a variety of restaurants and pubs. Most galleries stay open late the first Saturday of each month for the popular "Gallery Hop" event. Check it all out at [www.shortnorth.org].

Easton Town Center
This development is one of the city's two new major shopping destinations–the other is the Polaris Fashion Place, with anchors including Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor–and it features entertainment, dining, and retail space located in an indoor/outdoor setting. Easton offers a wide variety of upscale home stores such as Williams-Sonoma and Restoration Hardware as well as unique boutiques. Easton doubled its size in 2001 with the opening of the Fashion District, which includes Nordstrom and 70 other specialty shops. Check stock at [www.eastontowncenter.com].

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Playing host to more than 2.5-million visitors each year, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has received national recognition for its success in breeding cheetahs and lowland gorillas, and for having the country's largest collection of reptiles. The Manatee Coast–a $10-million mangrove waterway habitat that holds 190,000 gallons of water, various fish and turtle species, and three manatees–opened in 1999. Currently under construction is the Australia and the Islands Project, which will feature animals from Australia and the islands of Southeast Asia. Access their Web site at [www.colszoo.org].

COSI Columbus
The city's interactive science center is located in a 300,000 square-foot building that is more than five times larger than the White House. World-renowned architect Arata Isozaki designed the new building, which features eight "learning worlds" where visitors can experience hands-on activities that make science understandable and fun. These "worlds" include Ocean, Adventure, KidSpace, Progress, I/O, Gadgets, Life, and Space. COSI–whose president is former astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan–also features a seven-story Extreme Screen Theater and a 21st-century planetarium. Take a glimpse at [www.cosi.org].

With all this going on, it's not surprising that Columbus is the largest city in Ohio–with a population of more than 710,000 people–and the fifteenth largest in the United States. Franklin County has a population of 1,068,978, and the six-county metropolitan area, which is comprised of Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, and Pickaway counties, has a total population of 1,540,157 people.

Columbus is among the more economically stable metropolitan areas in the country, too, and is one of just a handful of cities in the northeastern quadrant of the United States whose economy and population have both grown steadily over the last three decades. The seven-county Columbus metropolitan area has a labor force of some 900,000 people, with about half of the jobs concentrated in service businesses (29.6 percent) and retail (20.5 percent). Others work in government (16 percent), manufacturing (10.2 percent), finance/insurance/real estate (8.8 percent), wholesale trade (5.3 percent), transportation/utilities (4.8 percent), and construction (4.7 percent).

Columbus is centrally located at the intersection of interstates 70 and 71, and once in the city, the Central Ohio Transit Authority offers regular bus service throughout the area. In addition, a variety of taxi and limousine services are available.

At the Port Columbus International Airport, 23 airlines combine to offer 190 daily departures and as many daily arrivals. Thirty-three cities are served nonstop or direct from Port Columbus.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center completed an $85-million expansion and renovation in 2001 that added 120,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 15,000 square-foot ballroom, 11 new meeting rooms, and more than 1,100 additional parking spaces. The center now offers 426,000 square feet of exhibit space, two ballrooms, and 61 meeting rooms.

All told, it's easy to see why the American Gear Manufacturers Association chose Columbus as its site for Gear Expo 2003. See you there!

WHERE TO STAY IN COLUMBUS

Best Western Clarmont
Inn & Suites
(614) 228-6511
www.bestwestern.com

Courtyard by Marriott
(614) 228-3200
www.marriott.com

Crowne Plaza Hotel
(614) 461-4100
www.ichotelsgroup.com

Doubletree Guest Suites
(614) 228-4600
www.doubletree.com

Drury Inn
(614) 221-7008
www.druryhotels.com

Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown
(614) 559-2000
www.hamptoninn.com

Holiday Inn City Center
(614) 221-3281
www.ichotelsgroup.com

Hyatt on Capitol Square
(614) 228-1234
www.capitolsquare.hyatt.com

Hyatt Regency
(614) 463-1234
www.hyatt.com

The Lofts
(800) 73-LOFTS
www.55lofts.com

Red Roof Inn
(614) 224-6539
www.redroof.com

The Westin Columbus
(614) 228-3800
www.westin.com