With Nationwide Arena hosting the second and third round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament this weekend, many fans from around the country will be making their first trip to Ohio's capital city. In an effort to make their trip a memorable one, we've offered some suggestions for our guests to enjoy during their time in America's 15th largest city.
Let's start with an easy one.
Transportation - It's not great, but it's not bad. Public transit is really limited to buses. Uber and Taxi's are around, but expect higher rates during busy times. Lyft recently left the Columbus market. The good news is there are plenty of hotels/bars/restaurants within walking distance of Nationwide Arena.
Once you're here, you'll probably want to figure out where people hang out and socialize so let's take a look at some of the neighborhoods.
Arena District - The immediate area including and surrounding Nationwide. The successful mixed-use development was built on the site of what was once the Ohio State Penitentiary. Now what you'll find is a collection of bars and restaurants that can handle all types of guests.
Short North - The booming arts district continues to grow and has become the de facto urban hub of Columbus. This is probably where you will find the best restaurants and bars in Columbus. Luckily, it pretty much blends directly into the Arena District.
German Village/Brewery District - Sitting directly south of downtown, you'll find some of Columbus' most historic and well-know restaurants amongst the renovated homes and brick streets.
Campus - Seeking to relive your college days or catch a glimpse of The Ohio State University? Feel free, but be warned that students are currently on spring break and you won't be getting the full OSU experience. Campus sits just north of the Short North and is a quick cab ride from Nationwide Arena
That's great, but you're really just looking for a place to drink and possibly catch some other games on TV?
We can handle this. Columbus is a bit of a drinking town, with a diverse and growing bar scene.
If you're the craft beer type be sure to check out some of Columbus's local breweries. Barley's Brewing Company is within walking distance of nationwide and offers great food. Also nearby is Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus - a staple of the Columbus beer scene, Seventh Son Brewing Co - a newer but popular choice, Wolf's Ridge Brewing just down the street from nationwide recently got some love in the Wall Street Journal. And just across the river from downtown you'll find the well-named Land-Grant Brewing Company.
If you're not as particular about your drinking options, we've got you covered as well. Pint House in the Short North has become to the go to beer garden for the young professionals scene. Also in the Short North are: Bernard's - offering lots of TV's and a good beer list, Arch City Tavern, Bakersfield - because who doesn't like taco's and whiskey, and Oddfellows.
If you want to combine drinking and old school arcade games, check out 16-Bit Bar+Arcade on the east edge on downtown. Not only does 16-Bit have over 40 arcade games on the floor, but they are all free to play (with the exception of pinball).
If you find yourself on Campus, you could do worse than finding a seat Eddie George's Grille 27. Columbus also recently added a Hofbrauhaus location at Grandview Yard. Fourth Street Bar & Grille has a plentiful selection of draft and bottled beers, and boasts some great happy hour specials that makes the wide array of beers go down that much smoother. Finally no campus area bar list would be complete without mentioning Out-r-Inn. It may not be as fancy as some of the other bars on this list, but it's where to go if you want to feel like you're in college again.
Where can we eat around here?
Most of the bars mentioned above offer pretty good food, but also worth mentioning are: Nada - a relatively new mexican inspired place in the arena district, Thurman's in German Village is legendary for their massive Thurman Burger, Bareburger - the well known New York establishment has established a Columbus location, and North Market - offering some of the best local vendors in Columbus including (at least temporarily) the wildly popular Hot Chicken Takeover. Late Night Slice is the premier post-bar food and be sure to add some slut sauce to your pizza.
One bar mentioned above doesn't serve food, but right next door there is a great place to grab some grub. While 16-Bit Bar+Arcade doesn't offer any food options, if you make your way there be sure to stop at Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace next door. With over 30 different hot dogs on the menu, Dirty Frank's has found a way to spice up a national staple.
What about after the games?
Again, most of the previously mentioned bars and restaurants should work, but if you're looking for something else try anything on Park Street. Callahan's offers a regular bar on the first floor and dance floor/roof deck on the second.
Anything else to check out?
Easton Town Center about 15 minutes northeast of the city has become a shopping mecca with additional hotel and restaurant options.
Going to be in town for the whole weekend? Looking to learn a little while in town? In that case be sure to check out COSI on the banks of the Scioto River. The Center of Science and Industry has plenty of exhibits that are fun for all ages.
Enjoy your time in Columbus. It's a pretty nice place and probably underrated. And good luck surviving until the second weekend of the tournament.