Chances are, if you're at all familiar with Columbus, you know that High Street is the main artery that connects the city, north to south. You really can spend a whole weekend exploring just this one street. It's super easy, and the totally free CBUS Downtown Circulator makes it even more convenient to explore this single stretch of road. But here's where to go if you want to get just a bit off the beaten path in some of our favorite downtown neighborhoods.
Downtown: Gay Street Downtown is oriented along the High Street Corridor, but once you veer off the beaten path, you can find many pocket neighborhoods full of urban vitality. Foremost among these is Gay Street. In the past five years, this has become one of downtown's most coveted addresses, thanks to a big variety of places to eat, drink and shop.
Cafe Brioso anchors the western end of this stretch, with artfully roasted and brewed coffees. Zeroz crafts minimalist wallets right inside its tiny retail shop, and both swanky and late night dining are on offer at Due Amici and Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails, respectively. The Renaissance Columbus is a great base to explore Columbus from, and its restaurant, Latitude 41 is a hidden gem worth discovering. Walk a bit further to the east to see how in-demand this neighborhood is, with a series of condos under development.
In terms of events, this is a hot spot as well. The monthly second-Saturday Moonlight Market turns the street into a pedestrian-only zone and brings dozens of vendors and live music from 6 -11 p.m. The Pearl Alley Farmers Market spills onto Gay Street from the intersecting Pearl Alley from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays through the end of October.
Short North/Italian Village: N. Fourth Street This one is tough - the Short North is strictly defined as High Street and just one block to the west and east of it. There are lots of great cross-streets, like Buttles, which takes you to Kingmakers Board Game Parlor and the north end of Goodale Park, but to get a taste of something a little newer, check out adjacent Italian Village's rapidly-developing N. Fourth Street stretch, especially between 2nd and 5th avenues.
Amid the countless condo towers under construction, you can sample nightlife at Little Rock, one of the city's best live music clubs as well as the dark and laid-back St. James Tavern, which serves up local and regional microbrews for $4 a pint. During the daylight hours, stop in at Fox in the Snow Cafe, the city's buzziest new coffee shop, and don't miss the house-made baked goods. Seventh Son Brewing Co. crafts some stellar beers, has an outstanding patio and beer garden, and is host to a rotating selection of food trucks. Seventh Son is hosting 4th and 4th Fest on July 11, which brings great live music and a pop-up pinball arcade.
Clintonville: Indianola Avenue Again, High Street serves as the main artery of Clintonville, a largely residential neighborhood just north of Ohio State's campus. But interested clusters of indie businesses are popping up all over this district, and Indianola Avenue is your best bet for finding a cool cluster off the main drag.
Start at Glen Echo Park, a small but scenic gorge right that feels secluded. A bridge (carrying Indianola Ave. above it, is adorned with a beautifully painted native bird mural, which makes a great photo backdrop. Just a bit north, you'll find Studio 35, a historic independent movie theater and performance space that also has a stellar bar specializing in local beer and liquor. Yeah, Me Too is a quirky and dead-simple coffee shop that you're sure to remember and The Crest Gastropub has quickly become one of Clintonville's dining standouts.
German Village: Beck Street German Village's main drag is S. Third Street, and it has many, many charms. If you have a chance to explore, Beck Street is an excellent choice. Starting at the corner of Beck and High (technically in the Brewery District,) you'll find the High Beck Tavern - a great watering hole. Just a few blocks east and inside German Village limits is Caterina - a shop that specializes in European homegoods. A bit further down is Lindey's, a German Village dining institution with a gorgeous patio, and Vernacular, a clothing and homegoods shop with its finger on the pulse of wearable trends (and affordable prices. Frank Fetch Park is a tiny pocket of urban oasis based on the design of a German beer garden, and perhaps best of all, the beautifully restored homes on this street are some of the most interesting in this neighborhood of notable buildings.
Franklinton: West Town Street Franklinton's original thoroughfare was Broad Street, and while there are lots of signs of revitalization there, the real energy in this emerging neighborhood is on W. Town Street. Starting at the Scioto River in the east, COSI is one of the nation's best hands-on science centers. COSI is also home to the Columbus Historical Society, which has a small but entertaining and informative gallery. A bit west, you'll find a trio of new drinking and dining establishments, Land-Grant Brewing Company, Rehab Tavern and Strongwater Food and Spirits, which all pay homage to the heritage of the neighborhood while also catering to a hip clientele. Just behind Strongwater is 400 West Rich, a cavernous artist studio space that also holds a bi-weekly, year-round farmers market and a popular monthly dance party, Damn Girl. At the western edge of the neighborhood is Glass Axis, an art-glass studio space where you can watch glassblowing, or even try it yourself.