COLUMBUS – Experience Columbus announced today the winners of its annual EXPY Awards, recognizing outstanding contributions by businesses, groups, organizations or individuals to the local hospitality industry and the Greater Columbus visitor experience in 2018.  

The EXPY Award winners demonstrate the best of ColumbUS and serve as role models for creativity and collaboration in the community. They bring awareness to the importance of the local visitor economy, which generates $7 billion in direct visitor spending each year.  

The awards will be presented along with the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) of the Year and CTA Employer of the Year at The Best of US reception May 6, 5-7 p.m. at the Ohio Union. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

The recipients are: 

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants – 25th Anniversary

In October 2018, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) celebrated 25 years of restaurant excellence. For more than two decades, CMR has been committed to enhancing Columbus’ dining scene through creative restaurant concepts, high quality and genuine hospitality and investment in infrastructure. In 2018, CMR proudly served more than 1.7 million guests in Columbus and Cameron Mitchell Premier Events catered more than 1,750 events, which helped drive more guests and economic activity to the region. Additionally, CMR has gained national attention in Forbes, New York Times, Eater and others, further establishing Columbus as a must-visit foodie destination.

Columbus Foundation – The Big Explore

On Dec. 29, 2018, the Columbus Foundation marked its 75th anniversary with an unprecedented community endeavor. By removing all financial costs and barriers, more than 55,000 people had the opportunity to experience seven of Columbus’ cultural institutions, utilize COTA transportation and enjoy a scoop of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. The Big Explore proved to be an overwhelming success thanks to the leadership and collaboration of the Columbus Foundation and its partners. Four of the seven cultural institutions set all-time attendance records, COTA saw a 78% increase in ridership from a year ago that day and Jeni’s had the biggest (Columbus) sales day in the history of the company. The Big Explore inspired pride and connectivity among residents and visitors alike and displayed the generous spirit that so well defines Columbus.

Columbus Local Organizing Committee – 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four                                           

In March 2018, the NCAA Women’s Final Four arrived in Columbus, filling 32,747 hotel rooms and pouring $21.7 million in direct visitor spending into the city. The success of this event can be attributed to the Columbus Local Organizing Committee (CLOC), a team of 60-plus community leaders, change makers and influencers who served and utilized their extensive networks to execute a flawless Women’s Final Four. The event also had national impact, increasing our image and awareness by showcasing all that Columbus has to offer to visitors – of which 83% visited from outside Ohio and 60% of those being first-time visitors. Additionally, an impressive 7.62 million ESPN viewers watched three thrilling games and witnessed sold-out crowds inside Nationwide Arena. Columbus expanded its reputation as a premier sports destination and the impact of the CLOC’s work has proven to last long after the final buzzer.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens – The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden

Since its opening in May 2018, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden has been a popular destination for Columbus residents and visitors. The Children’s Garden provides a unique, educational opportunity that allows children to explore nature in a safe and immersive environment. Sixteen different garden galleries and a variety of art installations give guests of all ages an opportunity to be creative and get active. The Children’s Garden has helped spur a 57% increase in Conservatory attendance and a 47% increase in member households. This innovative attraction is an important economic driver to our community and exemplifies what makes Columbus unique, forward-thinking and attractive to visitors.

I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100

Over 30 Columbus arts organizations teamed up to create “I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100,a celebration that recognized the impact the Harlem Renaissance had, and continues to have, on cities across the country, including Columbus. The intellectual, social and artistic blossoming of African American culture after World War I in art, literature, music and poetry inspired a movement of artists, creators and scholars from around the world. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance started with celebrations on Martin Luther King Day and ran through the end of January 2019, with experiences and explorations across all disciplines, including photography, literature, painting, music, spoken word, dance and theater. The events drew more than 110,000 attendees and garnered national recognition from The Washington Post and The Georgia Review.


“A soccer club is a community.” Six words that turned into a movement in 2018 when the first charter member of Major League Soccer (MLS) was at risk to move from Columbus to Austin. The club’s history is deep-rooted in Columbus, having built the first soccer-specific stadium and becoming a fabric of the community. After news released of the potential that Columbus could lose its soccer club, #SavetheCrew was born and local organizers mobilized a grassroots effort to stop the Crew SC from leaving the city. The #SavetheCrew organizers were steadfast and utilized local resources, community partners and businesses to not only draw attention to the issue but cultivate a solution that defined the city. The Columbus Way came to life when leadership from Alex Fischer, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, Mayor Andrew Ginther and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners generated additional support and were instrumental players in keeping the Crew SC in Columbus.


Experience Columbus is the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, dedicated to growing visitor spending and enhancing the visitor experience. Annually, visitors make more than 41.1 million trips to Greater Columbus for conventions, tradeshows, sporting events and leisure visits, generating $7 billion in direct visitor spending and supporting 78,000 jobs. For more information, visit