Columbus, Ohio was a city that really impressed me. It’s modern, youthful, trendy, quirky, and fun. Columbus has lots of unique things to do and see, so consider this just the tip of the iceberg.
From the slimmest wallets you’ve ever seen to a creative ice cream vendor to a massive bookstore (yes, they still exist), here are some of the coolest stores and attractions I found in Ohio’s capital city during my recent visit.
Cool and Unique Places to Shop and Visit in Columbus, Ohio
The Book Loft
Tucked away in the historic German Village neighborhood, the Book Loft has half a million books in 32 rooms on two levels. Pick up a map of the store, or just wander around through the rooms of books about politics, music, humor, history, travel, and pretty much everything else you can think of.
The Book Loft is open late, so it’s easy to get lost in the world of print and spend the better part of an evening here (believe me, I know.) The Book Loft is consistently voted the top bookstore in Columbus, and I’ll go so far as to say that it’s worth mentioning in the same breath as Powell’s Books.
The term “indoor marketplace” doesn’t tell the full story of the North Market.
Part shopping mall, part food court, part town square, the North Market is a nice way to spend a couple of hours.
Food is a big part of the North Market, with all sorts of ethnic restaurants and various stands offering everything from barbecue to ice cream. My favorite spot was an “Organic Greenfix” stand giving out free samples of an energy juice. Lately I’m all about the health benefits of juicing, so seeing how they made their juices (kale, spinach, dandelions, lettuce, apples and banana) was enlightening.
The best ice cream in Columbus comes from Jeni’s, which offers a slew of interesting flavors. The pistachio & honey, whiskey & pecans, and wildberry lavender were tempting, but I went with a three-scoop cup of Ugandan vanilla bean, something peanut buttery, and “the milkiest chocolate in the world,” which just might have lived up to its name.
Jeni’s has scoop shops around the city, but I suggest checking out the one on High Street in the Short North, the coolest neighborhood (among many) in town.
Zer0z will make you completely re-evaluate your life. Or at least your billfold. I’ve been known to possess a George Costanza wallet from time to time, but the folks at Zer0z have created sleek little wallets, just big enough for 10 cards and your bills. Perfect for a minimal lifestyle.
Look at the size of this Zer0z wallet compared to my old one. Finally, a wallet made for the pockets of tight pants!
The wallets come in various colors and styles, and they stitch them on-site at the downtown store. People have been so drawn to the slim concept that they often leave their old wallets behind when they purchase one of these. This is a pile of actual discarded customer wallets. Amazing!
Zer0z is one of the coolest stores in Columbus and it has a storefront located at 17 East Gay Street. You can also check out their website and make orders online.
The quest for awesome thrift store t-shirts is a neverending one, and it took me to Rag-O-Rama in Clintonville. Normally, if I come out of a store with a single garment of clothing, I consider the trip successful. Miraculously, at Rag-O-Rama I actually found four different shirts that I immediately needed to own.
Also worth mentioning is Flower Child, a vintage store in the Short North with some amazing retro furniture and clothing. Best item for sale: a Kermit the Frog telephone from the ’70s. Both of these shops are worth checking out if you’re looking for weird places in Columbus!
Until 2014, the Arnie statue sat outside the Veterans Memorial on Broad Street. But it has since been moved to the convention center in downtown Columbus.
Eight feet tall, the bronze figure serves as a reminder of the annual Arnold Sports Festival in the city. The Schwarzenegger statue is conveniently located near some other popular sights, so after spending a few minutes posing with the Governator, check out the Cosi science center, or walk along the banks of the Scioto River.
Located not far from the Book Loft, the Harvest Pizzeria is another German Village hotspot, a cozy restaurant with an attached bar. They’re big on using local ingredients. I went with the Ohio double bacon pie with mozzarella, roasted red pepper and oregano. I loved those fluffy homemade crusts and enjoyed checking out a couple random selections from their beer list.
Food trucks are always cool. It’s especially clever that a bunch of trucks congregate in Columbus in a vehicle food court of sorts. From 11 to 2 on weekdays, stop by and pick and choose items from whichever trucks you like, then eat in a cafeteria setting. Daily offerings change but there’s always some good variety, from burger trucks to crepe stands. I know a lot of cities where this sort of setup would be a welcome addition to the workday lunch scene!
Visiting Columbus: More Unique Places and Hotel Tips
Looking for other interesting places in Columbus? Check out my article about touring the city on a Segway, which includes photos of the Ohio state capitol building (it’s one of the few in the U.S. that doesn’t have the usual dome shape), the giant entrance arch from Union Station, and Goodale Park, a fun spot in the Short North.
And don’t miss this photo essay of Columbus, with pics from Ohio State’s campus, including the quirky statue of a giant praying mantis on campus, the replica of the Santa Maria on the Scioto River, and of course, the mural of the famous American Gothic painting.
As for Columbus lodging, there are lots of options. I always recommend using booking.com, because they do the best job of aggregating all the hotels and B&Bs around the city. Click here to search for Columbus lodging for the dates of your travel.