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Columbus Ohio Travel Guide - 2021 Edition

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

The long awaited post! Columbus is a near and dear city to my heart; I lived in Columbus for 2 years and fell in love with the many hidden gems the city has to offer. Now, I am lucky I am less than 4 hours away! So I get to treat Columbus like a get-away spot and go to all of my favorite spots.


In this travel guide, you'll find:

a) Things to do- NOT active
b) Things to do- ACTIVE
c) Favorite Restaurants
d) Favorite Healthy Restaurants
e) Favorite gyms/ studios 

A) THINGS TO DO- NOT ACTIVE 

COLUMBUS ZOO

One of my favorite past times! The Columbus Zoo is by far, the BEST zoo I have ever gone to. They have every animal imaginable, an incredible reptile exhibit, a marine life area, and so much more! The zoo is broken into continents which makes it easy to navigate if you're in search for an animal. My personal favorite is Asia; the tiger exhibit is somewhat eye-opening in regards to endangerment. Asia also has the coolest Komodo dragons & monkeys! Plan to spend the entire day at the zoo as it is MASSIVE.


The zoo is located in Dublin, which is about 20 minutes from downtown. I have other restaurants listed here that are located in Dublin, so spend time checking out this area! I love to go to the zoo in the summer BUT the Columbus Zoo has the BEST Christmas light display out of all zoos.

Fit tip: Plan to walk the entire zoo. There are tons of ways to see the zoo seated (boat ride, train ride, etc). But after a day of walking this zoo, I am EXHAUSTED!

Mike and I at the Columbus Zoo during the Zoo Lights!


Old & New Dublin

Dublin is like my second home! I lived here for 2 years and loved EVERY single part. Dublin's downtown (old Dublin) is beautifully kept and has some of the most quaint and nice restaurants around. Recently, they expanded Dublin to spread ACROSS the river with new buildings, apartments, businesses and restaurants! It's truly a spectacular place and easily one to eat-your-way through.


In Old Dublin, there are MANY fancy restaurants. My FAVORITE restaurant just opened their second location here, The Pearl. The Pearl is a cameron mitchell restaurant so you know they do a good job. If you're willing to share, I highly recommend the seafood tower which includes oysters, clams, shrimp, and crab! Once you've ate at the Pearl, you must walk over to the best ice cream around; Jeni's. Jeni's is a unique company that uses real whole ingredients. Their darkest chocolate is my absolute fav.


My first massage EVER was at The Woodhouse Day Spa in Dublin, and I wish I could remember the little girls name that gave me- to this day- one of the best massages I have EVER had! I could not talk about Old Dublin without mentioning this fact; I left the spa feeling like a new human.


Lastly, Harvest Pizza needs a good mention. This pizza joint is in a little house and has some incredible pies. My favorite kind of pizza is wood fired, so the burnt edges and thin-bread style is right up my ally!


New Dublin is ... NEW. The city built a bridge from Old Dublin to cross the Scioto river into a brand new area. This area has fun restaurants like Pins, Rebol, and Local Cantina!


Fit Tip: Make a wellness day out of Dublin! Start at Wood House Day Spa for a relaxing massage & manicure. Then, head to Vitality for a Warrior 1 green juice before walking the streets of new and old Dublin! Lastly, grab lunch at REBol where you can make your own very clean bowl. My favorite: cauliflower rice, pasture-raised chicken, hummus + grilled veg topped with sesame seeds!

The Pearl Restaurant; one of my favorite! I love getting the seafood tower as my meal. It's super light, low in carbs and high in protein!

FRANKLIN PARK CONSERVATORY

If you're looking for a simple day focused around learning, nature, and BEAUTIFUL scenes... you must go to the Franklin Park Conservatory. This conservatory is HUGE with both indoor and outdoor options; however, I recommend going when it is nice outside to take full advantage of walking the grounds/park! Franklin park has tons and tons of beautiful walking trails and a botanical garden area so be sure to bring your camera.


Inside is more of an educational experience; you can walk about ALL different kinds of terrains and learn about the plants and life among these different scenes. Each biome has its own section. The rainforest biome is my favorite with crazy wild colored plants and humidity to truly make you feel like you're there!


Lastly, Franklin Park Conservatory has an array of classes and programs. From gardening, to cooking classes, even art classes... you're sure to find something that gets you excited to participate! I have taken many yoga classes at the conservatory. It is one of my favorite places because the smells and temperature in the conservatory give off the best zen vibes!


Fit Tip: Sign up for a Sustainability Kitchen Cooking Class! These classes are catered to educate you on how to take small steps towards increasing the health of our planet. Then, dive deep into your cooking class!

Franklin Park Conservatory


CANDLE LAB

One of my favorite activities in Columbus... The Candle Lab. This little shop is located in the Short North amongst tons of shops and restaurants you must check out while in the city. Inside Candle Lab, you'll chose your candle holder (mason jars, glass vases, tons of options) then get to work! The wall is lined with many different scents from baked bread to mans cave. On your Candle Lab notepad, you'll write down any/all flavors that smell good to you. Then, the employees help you chose your top 3 and practice "wiffing" the smells under your nose. The creativity doesn't stop here; you pour your favorite amounts of each scent into your candle and start decorating your label. After around an hour, your candle is ready to go!


Fit Tip: Try making a relaxation candle! Eucalyptus, tea tree, sandalwood.... all of these scents have unique properties that contribute to mind + body wellness. Your candle will be perfect to burn during an at-home yoga class or while meditating!

Candle Lab: making our unique candles!

EASTON TOWN CENTER

Ahhh... the BEST SHOPPING CENTER YOU WILL EVER FIND! I will say it & say it again. I grew up going to Easton for every occasion to find a new outfit. From school shopping, to hanging out with friends, going to the amazing movie theater or building a "build a bear".. Easton has everything. My favorite stores have evolved over the years, but every time I go, I am sure to hit up:

- North Star Cafe (scroll to learn more)

- Anthropologie

- Lulu Lemon

- Victoria's Secrets (this one is HUGE!)

- Homage

- Barnes and Noble (again... SO HUGE)

- Dick's Sporting Goods

.. and SO much more.

If you're in Columbus you need to go to Easton. Even just for the afternoon, you will find something you LOVE.


Fit Tip: There are many healthy restaurants in Easton. My two favorite are North Star Cafe and True Food Kitchen. If you're at Easton, plan to grab a healthy protein and veggie rich lunch at one of these spots!

PINS

There are a few locations now, but Pins is a must if you're looking for good vibes, good drinks, and an active night with your gang. Pins is a bowling alley bar with arcade games, tons of drinks and beer on tap.. and best of all, VERY spacious. During COVID times, I feel very comfortable going to Pins as the tables are long and it's very easy to socially distance from the next table. Pins is located both downtown and in New Dublin.

Fit Tip: Sign up to bowl and get active! It is so fun to not just sit around and drink, but to get competitive with each other in a good bowling game!

North Market

North Market is just.... cool. Mike and I would come here and support local vendors by purchasing tons of goods from this spot! If you're staying for awhile, I highly recommend coming here to get your goods to make a scrumptious dinner at home.

- Pastaria has some really unique raviolis! Grab a few different kinds to make a ravioli flight!

- Dos Hermanos has TONS of salsa flavors. I go absolutely WILD over the mango salsa, but they have tons of varieties to try!

- North Market Spices is a great place to find spices to take home with you (if visiting!)


Fit Tip: Every Saturday in the summer, North Market hosts a farmers market where local farmers come and sell their vegetables, fruits, and other food items! By stocking your shelves with healthy fresh items, you're more likely to eat them!


Standard Hall & OSU Game

Standard Hall is my FAVORITE bar. Located at the end of the Short North, this bar has the most chill vibes with both outdoor and indoor seating options. By day, this bar has the best bloody mary bar ever. The breakfast menu is top notch and OSU games are playing around every screen. At night, this bar plays the best music and fills up with LIFE. It is not a dancing bar, which helps attract what I call "young professionals that like to have fun". If you like alcohol and a good time, Standard Hall is a must.


Fit Tip: Yes, I have a fit tip for Standard! For breakfast, I always order the standard breakfast. Its a plate of eggs, toast, potatoes and bacon. Stick to eating the eggs and potatoes for fiber, protein and healthy cholesterol!


b) THINGS TO DO- ACTIVE

Hike The Metro Parks

Columbus is full of amazing metro parks. While I lived in Columbus, I loved checking out the trails and gardens! In my opinion, High Banks Metro Park is the best one. The trails are long and wooded. If you follow the main trail, you'll spot the live eagles nest that is too big to put into words! It is quite the sight!


Fit Tip: Pack a picnic lunch and hike a metro park for a fun afternoon outdoors!


COGO Bikes

COGO bikes are found all over downtown Columbus but if you want a paved path to bike, rent the bikes near the Bicentennial Park. They are super easy to rent and use and this path goes all the way around the sciota river! It runs right downtown and is a perfect way to see the city.



Old Man's Cave + Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills is not far from Columbus (about an hour depending where you're coming from). Hocking Hills is a beautiful hiking mecca; full of rocks, rivers, and pine. If you're deciding to venture here, plan to spend a day full embracing everything nature has to offer. Mike and I were able to hike around 7 miles this day; the path was fairly flat. After hiking, I highly recommend going to Hocking Hills Winery for a wine flight and a snack! Be sure to pack an extra pair of clothes in case you go in the summer months; the hike was a sweaty one!


Races- 5K,10K, Half Marathons

Columbus is no stranger to a good race. If you're a runner, simply google "5K in Columbus" and something will pop up the weekend of your visit. My favorite races have all been in Columbus. Some of the best races Columbus offers are:

- Cap City Quarter Half & Half Marathon

- Arts Festival 5K

- Arnold Classic 5K

- FORE! Miler

.. and so many more! Columbus also has tons of running routes and most of the suburbs have sidewalks galore.



C) Favorite Restaurants

Bakersfield

My favorite Mexican restaurant to-date! Bakersfield is located in the heart of the Short North. The menu is fairly simple; but a few must orders: the classic margarita (make no changes to this baby... it is as delicious as it comes), the queso (they BAKE it in a cast iron small skillet) and 2-3 of their specialty tacos.

Healthy order: Order 1 margarita and a water. You won't want to miss out on how delicious it is, but only order one! My go-to meal here is 2 of their specialty tacos without cheese. Cheese tends to add up in calories and when its paired on a sandwich of taco, you typically don't taste it.. so it is a waste in my opinion!

Forno

Forno is right across from Bakersfield located in the Short North. This joint is a fun and vibrant restaurant dishing out wood fired pizzas! Pizza being my favorite food, I rate Forno pretty high on the list of taste in pies. Their menu is crazy big with all different fun options. Their pizza is wood-fired, so think traditional style crust with the burnt edges. All of their pizzas can be made with gluten free crust or vegan cheese. Forno also has an impressive brunch menu; the avocado bruschetta is out of this world!


Healthy order: I'll never skip the pizza... so to ensure I don't go crazy with portions, I like to order an entree size salad with chicken (the arugula salad!) and split a pizza with the table! This way, I can fill up with tons of greens and protein while still enjoying a slice of pizza!

The Avenue

The Avenue Steakhouse is located in Grandview and is the perfect date night spot! Its classy decor gives you that dark romantic feel; a must if you're looking to splurge and dress up! I cannot discuss The Avenue without bringing up their steak seasoning. The first time I ate here, I couldn't get over the seasoning on my steak that I actually asked the waiter if they sold it. And they do! So do yourself a favor and grab the salty seasoning to take home with you!


Healthy order: I've actually gotten many menu items that I consider high protein and low-carb.. but my favorite combo is starting with the oysters on the half shell. Oysters are full of minerals and high in protein. Then for dinner, the tavern salad with grilled chicken is ALWAYS delicious and filling! And don't forget.... red wine is full of antioxidants ;).

The Barn

Ah... the SPOT. When I lived in Dublin, I lived in an Edwards Community (shout out to the Orchard!) The apartment complexes had a club house called the Barn that offered so many things to the residents. I actually ended up working the pool in the summer! I spent hours at the barn day and night; from working out in the gym in the morning, to spending Thursday nights watching Duke play at the bar. The Barn has delicious food! My favorite memories were sitting outside listening to the acoustic bands on Thursdays, ordering the hummus appetizer as my meal and sipping on cabernet. If I was lucky to enjoy a pool day relaxing, i'd order the chicken cranberry salad with a miami vice!


Jeni's Ice Cream (or) Cheryl's cookies

Now were talking! Jeni's ice cream has multiple locations throughout Columbus. You may recognize the name from seeing the pints at Kroger... but there is NOTHING like getting the real deal at a shop. Get at least two flavors and enjoy this ice cream made with REAL WHOLE ingredients. My favorite is the darkest chocolate flavor!


Cheryl's cookies is another staple and in my opinion, very underrated. I absolutely love these cookies. No they aren't stuffed or giant, but they have many many flavors and make lovely gift baskets for every occasion. Their is nothing better than a classic buttercream cookie from Cheryl's.


D) Favorite Healthy Restaurants

North Star Cafe

Can I put North Star in ALL CAPS WITH STARS AROUND IT HIGHLIGHTED IN YELLOW AND CIRCLED IN RED????

LOL... I digress, this is my favorite place. North Star cafe has many locations but my "home" spot is the Easton location. I adore this joint. Everything on their menu is locally sourced, real-food inspired, and absolutely delicious. They do a fabulous job at accommodating dietary restrictions. If you asked me where to go to lunch, this will always be my choice. North Star also serves alcohol, so enjoying a Columbus local beer or glass of wine is a must!


Healthy order: EVERYTHING! My top favorites are the buddah bowl with chicken or tofu (left picture); the townsfair salad (right picture) or the cowboy breakfast (not pictured).

True Food Kitchen

**Sheds tear** this healthy California based restaurant just opened in Easton! True Food Kitchen is one of my favorite spots to ensure healthy, fresh eats with a good laid back vibe! Each TFK has a bar with the most unique cocktails using whole food ingredients and organic wines. I was so impressed when I ordered a mimosa, they freshly squeezed the OJ right in front of my eyes!


Healthy Order: The turkey burger over the kale salad is a MUST! I actually love getting the turkey burger with all the fixins' (avocado, tomato, etc) on top of the salad. Pair this with their margarita or fresh mimosa!


Zest

Zest Juice Co was the first official smoothie/juice joint I went to while living in Columbus and it still serves as one of my favorites. In my opinion, I DESPISE smoothies that are icey; Zest does a fine job at making their smoothies with great ingredients and keeping them smooth and creamy. The smoothies are a good portion; enough to be a filling quick breakfast!


Healthy Order: Super Spirulina smoothie is my favorite; it has protein, fat, fiber and micronutrients packed into one shake!

Brassica

I know i've been saying this about almost every restaurant but Brassica has a special place in both Mike & I's hearts! This BYO Mediterranean dream has the best hummus, pulled chicken and pickled vegetables. They fill these incredible bowls with whatever your heart desires- think chipotle style!


Healthy oder: Bed of lettuce, pulled chicken, cucumbers, pickled beets, and roasted cauliflower topped with hummus.


Alchemy

This smoothie and juice joint in Grandview is actually one of my husbands favorite stops. Alchemy cafe has amazing smoothies with real food ingredients along with other fun dishes like the egg sandwich or one of their many smoothie bowls.


Healthy Order: You cannot go wrong with one of their many toast selections! My favorite is the lox toast. If you're in a smoothie mood, I love the breakfast smoothie with minor modifications. I exchange the oats for protein powder!

Core Life Eatery

I love Core Life eatery but only get to dine here while I am in Polaris. In my opinion, I always prefer Easton when shopping; but on the are occasion I venture to Polaris, this place is my stop! Core Life Eatery has an impressive menu with all different fun healthy dishes. They have amazing salad options, tacos, and broth bowls! You can make your own or order off of their menu.


Healthy Order: I think Core Life Eatery has amazing Ahi tuna, so I always make a salad with double the ahi! Fun add-on's like orange segments and edamame make this asian inspired salad light and summer-y!




E) FAVORITE STUDIOS + GYMS

Mat Happy Yoga

I literally cannot believe I don't have more photos here. Mat Happy Yoga is located in Hilliard, about 20 minutes from downtown Columbus. This studio is what started it all for me and my yoga journey. Their approach was gentle yet challenging. Each class to me was new and exciting. Each instructor was extremely kind and welcoming. I admired the studio owners; two sisters who love yoga and animals. I couldn't feel more at home at any other studio in Columbus. I miss my Mat Happy home, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from them!


Lifetime (DUBLIN LOCATION)

This Lifetime was our favorite Lifetime gym around. The Dublin location has an amazing strength floor, cardio floor, killer classes and a great spa. One of my best massages ever was at this Lifetime (I wish I could remember his name!). They hold amazing community events like 5K's and are conveniently located off Sawmill.


PAI Yoga & Fitness

I found PAI yoga & fitness during 614 Fit Week. I tried many classes at this studio from Barre, Yoga, and TRX! My favorite classes were the TRX classes as they were fun, interactive with the other class participants and we had tons of room to work with. The best part, this studio is right beside Trader Joe's... so I'd always end a class and enjoy a kombucha!


LIT Yoga

LIT life yoga is a newer studio in Columbus that I got the pleasure of trying this year. The studio is BEAUTIFUL. They have a store in the front that sells tons of CBD products, yoga books and props! The class I took specifically was on the slower side for Vinyasa, but the instructor spoke well and clear; she provided modifications for form which I always appreciate hearing.



And there you have it! My Columbus favorite things to do + places to eat + move your body + so much more. Columbus has SO much to offer weather you're looking for a healthy get-away or just a fun time!


Watch out for more travel guides to come this summer!




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