With Ohio State set to host its first home game of the season this Saturday, many people will be flocking to Columbus this weekend to watch the Buckeyes take on the Penguins.
Even in a matchup that Ryan Day’s team should win with relative ease, getting to attend a college football game at a major program is a special atmosphere, and despite it being an FCS opponent, at least Youngstown State provides fans some added intrigue as an in-state school. Plus, many will be looking to take advantage of cheaper ticket opportunities to get into Ohio Stadium before some of the bigger brands come to town with much higher price tags.
As such, there will likely be a good amount of people attending their first Ohio State football game and are unfamiliar with the surrounding area. Getting to watch the Buckeyes is a ton of fun, but what are you going to do before and after the game? Well, we’re here to provide some recommendations about places to see, things to do, and the best local eats so that you can make the most of your gameday experience.
A staple of the Ohio State community since 1969, you cannot take a trip to Columbus without stopping at Buckeye Donuts. Open 24 hours, the establishment obviously specializes in donuts, and of course you have to try the fan favorite Buckeye donut — comprised of chocolate and peanut butter — or the apple fritter. In addition to pastries, Buckeye Donuts also has a pretty robust food menu, which includes breakfast sandwiches, salads, gyros, french fries and much more!
Hang Over Easy
If you’re looking for more of a sit-down spot in the morning, then Hang Over Easy is for you. A small diner located on the South side of campus, this Buckeye breakfast joint has been serving up the classics since 2007. The restaurant features creative dishes with comical names, like the Walk of Shame (a bacon, egg and cheese served on a glazed donut), the Silence of the Hams omelet, and other traditional breakfast favorites. They also offer hair of the dog options, including a variety of Bloody Mary concoctions.
Hot Chicken Takeover
A spot that I make sure I hit every time I’m at Ohio State, Hot Chicken Takeover is the place to go if you’re looking for some Nashville fried chicken in the heart of Ohio. With a handful of locations both in and near Columbus, including spots in Grandview, Clintonville and North Market, HCT offers wings, tenders, a sandwich and more at four different levels of heat ranging from mild to ‘Holy’. I would highly recommend the baked beans and Ma’s Mac on the side. The house ranch is fantastic as well, and also comes in a spicy variation.
Mikey’s Late Night Slice
As a native New Yorker, it wasn’t always easy for me to find a good slice of pizza in Ohio. Different people will tell you different things as far as the best pizza near Ohio State, but for my money, Mikey’s Late Night Slice was my favorite. The place sells pizza by the slice as well as full pies, and offers a variety of different toppings in addition to a special ‘Pizza of the Week’ and alcoholic beverages options. The Short North location is probably the most popular, but there are eight locations around Columbus in total, with most open well past midnight.
For a more traditional Ohio State pizza option, Tommy’s is the spot. One of the most popular joints for a slice on game days because of its location right down the road from Ohio Stadium, Tommy’s has been serving Buckeye Nation since 1952. They specialize in ‘Columbus style’ pizza, which features a cracker crust, but also serve up subs, salads, sandwiches and a handful of other entrees with beer and wine available for dine-in customers. Tommy’s also has locations in Upper Arlington and Dublin.
There are so many bars to choose from around Ohio State, but far and away my favorite bar in my time as a student was Out-R-Inn. Established in 1969, the campus staple has some of the best drink specials you’ll find, highlighted by Mug Night, which offers low-priced beer re-fills in a nice souvenir mug — a handful of which I still own and use regularly. The bar has a tremendous atmosphere with both indoor and outdoor spaces, pool tables, picnic benches, corn hole, and more. Out-R-Inn is a fan favorite for both current students and alumni alike.
Ethyl & Tank
Another personal favorite of mine, Ethyl & Tank is a bit of a smaller joint, but has a really inviting and relaxed atmosphere. During the day it is more of a restaurant, offering affordable eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a brunch menu and a full coffee bar. At night, it turns into a classic bar and hangout spot, with nightly specials and good music. Their 32-ounce beer ‘tanks’ on Thursday nights are a big hit. The bar has two levels and a good amount of tables and seating.
Pins Mechanical Co.
A bit further away from campus in downtown Columbus, Pins Mechanical Co. is a great spot to grab a few drinks and play some games. With both indoor and outdoor spaces, the bar offers a variety of fun activities, including bowling — hence the name — fooseball, pinball, and huge ‘patio pong’, which is essentially beer pong but played on a much larger scale with garbage cans and volleyball. Pins offers a large number of beers on tap and cocktails with daily specials on both drinks and games.
Located just outside Ohio Stadium on the south side, Buckeye Memorial Grove is a natural museum honoring Ohio State’s football greats. Established in 1929 as a dedication to the first OSU football team, Buckeye Grove now features over 200 trees that are planted to honor players that are named All-Americans, with the most recent additions being Paris Johnson Jr. and Marvin Harrison Jr. in 2022. Each tree is designated with a plaque denoting the honored player.
The Woody Hayes Athletic Center
While you obviously can’t just walk right onto the practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the facility’s lobby is open to the public, and on display are a variety of accolades and accomplishments from throughout the history of Ohio State football. Here you can find the 2014 National Championship trophy, multiple Heisman Trophies and bowl game trophies in addition to Big Ten Championships and more. Outside the building stands a statue of Woody Hayes himself.
If you’re just looking to take a leisurely stroll around campus, then the Oval is a great place to start. A lawn originally used for livestock to graze, the Oval became the heart of Ohio State’s campus as it connects a number of important academic buildings. At the western end stands the Thompson Library, and in front you will find the state of William Oxley Thompson. The many crossing paths that make up the Oval are a result of the paths that students took over the years walking between the many buildings that surround the space. During the warmer months, you will find students here lounging around, studying, tanning or partaking in outdoor activities.
Recently renovated and restored, Mirror Lake is one of the more picturesque parts of Ohio State’s campus. Beginning in the fall of 2016, Mirror Lake underwent a massive facelift, and now features abundant plant life, a stone grotto, fountains and benches. It is a pretty and relaxing place to take a stroll, sit and read a book, or just get away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of a busy campus and city. If you’ve never been to Ohio State before, Mirror Lake is definitely a place worth checking out.
One of the most famous attractions in all of Columbus is the Columbus Zoo. The fourth-largest zoo in the entire United States, the Columbus Zoo is home to over 10,000 animals from around 600 species. The 580-acre attraction, which opened in 1927, gained a ton of popularity because of wildlife celebrity and zookeeper Jack Hanna, who was the director of the zoo from 1978-1993. In addition to the many animals, from November to January are the famous Wildlights, which features millions of LED lights, animated musical light shows and more across the park.
Center of Science and Industry
Commonly referred to as COSI, the Center of Science and Industry is another popular Columbus attraction. The 320,000 square foot facility looks to engage visitors in science, technology and engineering through hands-on and interactive exhibits. COSI features live shows, a planetarium, and experiences such as a high-wire unicycle, a mini submarine, a dinosaur gallery and more. Unfortunately, COSI will be closed from Sept. 5 until Oct. 10 for annual maintenance.
Columbus Museum of Art
Established in 1878, the Columbus Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of American and European Art. The museum’s collection includes works by renowned artists such as Monet, Picasso, and O’Keeffe, and allows visitors to explore a wide range of artistic styles and time periods from the classic to the contemporary. An added bonus of the museum is that it is free to the public on Sundays!