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Columbus, OH

Columbus in 3 DaysThree days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Columbus.

Day 1: MorningIn nearby Powell you'll find one of the country's top-rated zoos, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium , a definite must-see. The name may sound familiar; Jack Hanna, an animal expert who often appears on television shows, is Director Emeritus. It's preferable to spend a day here, but even a few hours will give you a good sampling of the zoo's top exhibits. Don't miss the Kangaroo Walkabout, where more than a dozen bouncy marsupials hop about freely on the grass or lounge under shady trees. A short, 1-rail fence is all that separates you from the delightful roos. Make sure you visit the polar bears and koalas; for the rest of your tour, take a gander at birds, moose, trumpeter swans, gorillas, bison, wild cats, Asian elephants, Arctic foxes, reptiles, sharks, manatees, penguins, flamingos...the list goes on.

Day 1: AfternoonWhen your stomach starts growling louder than a Western lowland gorilla's, you'll find plenty of provisions around every corner of the Columbus Zoo. Carts, food stands and sit-down cafés dole out munchables ranging from sweet treats like funnel cakes, ice cream, fried Oreos, scones and smoothies to savory choices like pizza, sandwiches and wraps, hamburgers, salads and cappuccino.

You may end up spending the day at the zoo, but if you leave early enough, drive over to the Ohio History Center . If your kids normally find museums boring, they'll be thrilled when they step foot inside this one, especially when the first thing they see is a gigantic, life-size replica of a mastodon skeleton. Parents and kids alike will be intrigued by such Civil War artifacts as civilian clothing and well-worn battle flags, Native American arrowheads and beads, and cars from the mid-20th century. Kids can also play in a log cabin and use computers to learn more about Ohio's natural history.

Day 1: EveningTime for dinner? Martini Modern Italian wins points for its ambience alone, with red and white modern décor, white leather chairs and massive sparkling chandeliers, but its menu earns it a gold star. It may be on the pricey side, but the restaurant offers a palate-pleasing range of pasta, chicken veal and seafood entrées as well as martinis in offbeat flavors like citrus tarragon or pineapple sage.

For a more casual evening, grab a brew and a hot dog while you cheer on the National Hockey League's Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, 200 W. Nationwide Blvd. If minor league baseball is your thing, watch the Columbus Clippers, Triple-A National Champions in 2010 and 2011, play at Huntington Park Stadium, 330 Huntington Park Ln.; the state-of-the-art ballpark opened in 2009.

Day 2: MorningPerhaps some freshly baked croissants or scones and just-plucked strawberries will hit the spot for breakfast, in which case head to the North Market, 59 Spruce St., a mostly-indoor farmers market that will put a smile on the faces of foodies and locavores. Marked by a huge neon sign, the bustling market holds vendors hawking everything from farm-fresh produce and spices to bakery treats and international foods, and it's open daily.

Day 2: AfternoonWhile away the afternoon with a stroll in the Short North Arts District, along North High Street from Poplar Street to Smith Place. Wander in and out of independently owned boutiques, antique stores and art galleries in this bohemian shopping area; you'll find merchandise ranging from affordable antiques to trendy and expensive designer denim.

All that walking and shopping can make anyone's stomach growl, so get a table at Marcella's Short North and tuck into pizza baked in a Neapolitan stone oven; braised veal meatballs make for a savory appetizer, and the homemade pasta can't be beat.

For spectacular frozen treats that have won rave reviews nationwide, head to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams for out-of-the-ordinary flavors like wildberry lavender, beet cake with black walnuts, and coriander raspberry.

Day 2: Evening Extend your day in the Short North Arts District into the evening and choose from a variety of cuisines for dinner. Stimulate your taste buds with Asian fusion dishes at Lemongrass Fusion Bistro (think sushi, lemongrass soup and pad thai).

Incurable chocoholics will want to save room for dessert at Le Chocoholique, 601 N. High St. A bakery case holds a massive collection of exquisitely decorated chocolates that look like miniature works of art. The flavors are equally artful and include Velvet Elvis (peanut butter, banana and bacon-flavored), chipotle cherry and limoncello espresso. Or have a Picasso-esque slice of cake with a cappuccino; it's all served by chic, well-mannered college girls. Take a window seat, savor your sweet indulgence slowly, and watch the locals stroll by.

Day 3: MorningLet the peaceful surroundings at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens give you a gentle start to your third day in Columbus. Commune with nature as you drift through the gardens and gaze at a Bonsai collection, exotic orchids, and a Pacific Island water garden, just a few of the conservatory's highlights. Inside the property's centerpiece, an impressive 1895 Victorian greenhouse made entirely of glass panes, are tropical flowers and more than 40 varieties of palm trees. Blown-glass orbs and reeds in gem-like hues by artist Dale Chihuly add another dimension to the horticultural collections.

Day 3: AfternoonIf you're ready for a little adventure, COSI Columbus , a science center that mixes education and fun, is your kind of place. Have you ever tried to lift a car or ride a bike on a tightrope? Here's your chance! Use a giant lever to raise a 2,437-pound automobile or ride a unicycle on a tightrope several stories high. Split a laser beam, maneuver a spacecraft and submerge yourself in a submarine. During live shows, watch rats play basketball as you learn about operant conditioning or learn about weather as you step inside a cloud.

Willkommen to the German Village , just a few minutes away from COSI by car. The charming red-brick homes, cafés and shops fronted by flower-filled window boxes are a visual treat; just watch your step as you tread along the village's equally charming yet uneven cobblestone sidewalks. Stop in at Kittie's Hand-Crafted Cakes (495 S. 3rd St.) for a coffee-and-cupcake break, then wend your way through 32 rooms at block-long The Book Loft, 631 S. 3rd St., a literature-lover's delight. Browse local art and European ceramics, pottery and linens at Caterina Ltd., European Housewares, Art & Gifts, 571 S. 3rd St.

Day 3: EveningBefore you say auf wiedersehen, polka on over to Schmidt's Sausage Haus in German Village, where you can feast on German favorites like wiener schnitzel, bratwurst and potato pancakes as well as Schmidt's signature jumbo cream puffs. On weekends, tap your feet and slice your schnitzel to the high-energy sounds of polka and oompah duo Squeezin' n' Wheezin'.

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Columbus, OH

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Travel Information

City Population



777 ft.

Sales Tax

Columbus has a sales tax of 7.5 percent and a lodging tax of 10 percent. There is an 11 percent concession fee on rental cars picked up at Port Columbus International Airport.



Police (non-emergency)

(614) 645-4545

Fire (non-emergency)

(614) 221-3132

Time and Temperature

(614) 281-8211


Doctors Hospital, (614) 544-1000; Grant Medical Center, (614) 566-9000; Mount Carmel Medical Center (Mount Carmel West Hospital), (614) 234-5000; The Ohio State University Hospital East, (614) 257-3000; The Ohio State University Medical Center, (614) 293-8300; Riverside Methodist Hospital, (614) 566-5000.

Visitor Information

277 W. Nationwide Blvd. Suite 125 Columbus, OH 43215. Phone:(614)221-6623 or (800)354-2657

Air Travel

Port Columbus International Airport

Rental Cars

Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (614) 239-1084 or (800) 654-3080.


Greyhound Lines Inc., (614) 228-2266 or (800) 231-2222, 111 E. Town St. between S. 3rd and S. 4th streets, serves Columbus.


Yellow Cab, (614) 444-4444, is the largest cab company. Fixed fares are $3 base rate, $4.50 for the first mile, 45c for each additional 2/9 mile and $2.25 for each mile outside Franklin County. A $3 surcharge is added for fares originating at the airport.

Public Transportation

Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) provides bus transportation throughout the city and suburbs Mon.-Fri. 5:30 a.m.-11:45 p.m., Sat. 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 8-7. The basic fare is $2, express fare is $2.75 and transfers are free. Multiday passes and reduced rates for children and senior citizens are available. Passengers must have exact change.

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