Columbus is Ohio's capital, its largest city, and, in many ways, its cultural center: a meeting place between Cleveland and Akron to the northeast and Cincinnati and Dayton to the southwest. So while you could certainly spend a full day touring the State House and learning the inner-workings of government, that's just the beginning of the many things to do in Columbus. Downtown is particularly friendly to walkers, who can stroll between art galleries, restaurants, and cultural destinations.
On the edge of downtown’s Arena District lies North Market. In addition to selling fresh produce and local goods, the public market houses local vendors such as Nida's Sushi, Sarefino's Pizzeria and Italian Deli, and Holy Smoke BBQ. Before leaving, grab a cone at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, where ice cream makers create their treats using fair-trade vanilla beans sourced from a small farm in Uganda.
Just a few streets north is the Short North Arts District, a neighborhood with a little bit of everything: nightlife, restaurants, art galleries, and shopping. Groups can eat Italian and Mediterranean dishes at basi Italia, and then tour Palnik Studios, where artist Paul Palnik creates and presents his whimsical cartoons. The best way to experience the neighborhood is to attend the monthly Gallery Hop. Singers, instrumentalists, and dance troupes perform on the street as more than 40 galleries display the work of Ohio-based artists.
From downtown, the Olentangy River Trail leads north to the campus of The Ohio State University (students make a point to include the definite article at the beginning of its name). One of the nation's largest public universities, OSU has plenty to offer even non-students. The Wexner Center hosts a changing lineup of art exhibits and performance pieces. Football fans can head over to Ohio Stadium to take a guided tour or, if they’re lucky, watch the Buckeyes battle the hated Michigan Wolverines.
To the north of the city lies the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where world-famous zookeeper Jack Hanna led the way in replacing cages with replicas of habitats from around the world. Koala bears hug the trees at "Australia and the Islands," whereas the "African Forest" is home to lowland gorillas, okapi, and more than 700 African plant species. During warm weather, you can head to onsite water park Zoombezi Bay to splash across 22 acres of slides, pools, and other attractions.
Like many large cities, Columbus hosts seasonal festivals and activities throughout the year. The Ohio Expo Center is home to more than 150 of these events, including the Ohio State Fair. Other standouts include ComFest, which showcases the city's local musicians, and the Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest.