I hope you rung in the New Year in style! The start of a new year is always a great time to reflect on the outgoing year, and boy was 2012 a great one to visit Columbus!

2012 will always be a milestone in Columbus history - after all, we celebrated our bicentennial all year long!

In the spring, Scioto Downs Racino reopened with a multimillion dollar renovation that brought Vegas-style gaming on more than 2,300 video lottery terminals.You can catch live harness racing May-September and see simulcast races year-round. In other gaming news, Hollywood Casino Columbus debuted in October with 3,000 slot machines, more than 70 table games and a poker room with 30 tables. 2012 was the year it became possible to have that swanky night out at a casino in Columbus.

The 534-room Hilton Columbus Downtown also opened its doors in October, and it's filled with more than 120 pieces from local artists, has a great restaurant in the Gallery Bistro (seriously - order the lobster roll) and gives you a great new place to stay that's connected to the Convention Center AND a minute's stroll away from the North Market and Short North Arts District.

Hilton Columbus Downtown Art Hotel

Sticking with the art theme, a new hub of Columbus art has popped up at 400 W. Rich Street in Franklinton. The space, comprising artist studios and gallery space is a great place to check out up and coming talent, and the adjacent Dinin' Hall is the perfect way to ease yourself into the food truck scene that has taken Columbus by storm. At Dinin' Hall, a rotating selection of trucks shows up each day. There's a central pay-station, and plenty of covered space to sit down and enjoy your japchae or local, grassfed burger.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium added a fun new way to interact with animals - Stingray Bay - this summer. You can actually pet stingrays as they swim in their 18,000-gallon pool. Don't worry, they can't actually sting you - and you'll be surprised at how they feel - kind of gummy and slimy - it's an all-around cool experience!


Columbus also welcomed the inaugural idUS festival, which brings together creative minds for a celebration of innovation and design. Such awesome events as the Columbus Idea Foundry's Mini Maker Faire, FFOCOL film festival and TEDx Columbus provided a great chance to get connected into the creative community that's blossoming here. Stay tuned for idUS 2013 - which is certain to be even better!

2012 also served as the starting point for even more developments that will have you packing your bags for Columbus. SPARC is a new racing facility and test track that broke ground at the site of the former Cooper Stadium in Franklinton. In November, two-time Daytona 500 champ Michael Waltrip announced he would make SPARC the northern home-base for his racing team. Downshifting a little, 2012 marked the start of the restoration of Columbus' rivers, the Scioto and Olentangy, back to their natural state. Low-head dams will be removed throughout the city, making for a faster-moving, cleaner river and hundreds of acres of new parkland. Ground also broke at the Columbus Zoo for Safari Africa - a huge new exhibit that will bring giraffes (which you'll be able to feed!) back to the country's best zoo.

So - what's going to be the agenda for your first trip to Columbus in 2013?