Whether you’re coming to Columbus for the first time for U.S. Travel Association’s ESTO 2024 Aug. 11-13, 2024, or are returning for the first time in a long time, Columbus is sure to surprise you and show why outlets like Forbes have called the 14th largest city in the country a “hidden gem in plain sight.” 
We hope you’ll plan to come a day early or stay late to enjoy summer in Ohio’s capital city and experience our award-winning attractions, unique neighborhoods and taste why Essence named Columbus one of the best cities in the country for culinary travel in 2024. Keep reading for ideas of things to do during sessions and must-see attractions for first-time visitors.


Jenni Britton eats ice cream in the north market

North Market, located just outside the Greater Columbus Convention Center


Things to Do in 1-3 Hours 

The Greater Columbus Convention Center is conveniently located near Columbus’ “Five on High” neighborhoods, including the Short North Arts District, Arena District and more. 

Some pro tips on where to go when you have a short break before, during or after the conference: 

North Market: Central Ohio's historic public market since 1876, featuring fresh groceries, international cuisine and more. It was named the seventh best public market in the United States according to USA Today 10Best. Try Columbus staple Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams while you’re there, or a coffee from Stauf’s. North Market is also a great place to find small, local souvenirs to remember your trip by.  

Short North Arts District Shopping: Local boutiques that accentuate Columbus’ rising and thriving fashion scene. Try boutiques like Red Giraffe Designs, Pivot and more. Take an hour to see why High Street has been named one of the best shopping streets in the nation. You can also enjoy restaurants and cafes like The Lox Bagel Shop, named one of the best bagels in America and featured in publications like Food & Wine and Bon Appetit.

Explore German Village: Built by German settlers hundreds of years ago, German Village is one of the most idyllic neighborhoods in the country, featuring a unique combination of historic charm and modernism. Peruse local businesses like delicious pastry and coffee shops, the truly unique 32-room Book Loft, and more.


Two people dine and laugh at a table in FYR

FYR, located in the Hilton Columbus Downtown


Enjoy A Meal Nearby 

You don’t have to go far to enjoy a nice meal or drink while you’re in Columbus for ESTO. Check out these locations close to your hotel: 

FYR: Led by renowned chef Sebastián La Rocca, this live fire restaurant is located in the Hilton Columbus Downtown just steps from the Convention Center and recently earned a spot on USA Today’s Restaurants of the Year list.

The Guild House: This artisan eatery features creative American cuisine and has options available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

Northstar Cafe: Inspired by the eclectic energy of Downtown Columbus, Northstar features a casual setting with carefully prepared cuisine. It makes for a great meal throughout your day, including a great option for Sunday brunch.



Rosemarie Rossetti and husband, Mark Leder, at Franklin Park Conservatory

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, located in Columbus' Near East Side


Things to Do With a Few Hours 

Have a few hours to explore some of our top attractions? Consider visiting one of these must-see spots: 

COSI: The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is located just across the river from Downtown Columbus, and you can check out incredible exhibits like Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. You’ll quickly see why COSI consistently ranks as one of the best science museums in the country. 

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: This beautiful horticultural and educational institution showcases exotic plant collections and special exhibitions, and displays the world's largest collection of Dale Chihuly's glass artwork in a botanical garden.

National Veterans Memorial and Museum: The only museum in America that honors all veterans, from all branches of service, from all eras. On exhibit during ESTO is Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II.  

Walk The Scioto Mile: Located in the heart of downtown Columbus with more than 175 acres of lush parkland stretching along the Scioto River, the Scioto Mile is one of Columbus' most popular areas to get outdoors. It was named one of the 21 Best Urban Parks in the country by Men’s Journal in 2022.


Chapman's - Front - Square

Chapman's Eat Market, located in German Village


Dine at Award-Winning Restaurants 

A culinary city on the rise, Columbus was named one of the best destinations for culinary travel in 2024 by Essence. Other national publications have praised the city’s local restaurants, bagels, food halls and more. 

If you’re planning a nice evening out, here are a few restaurants to try: 

Chapman’s Eat Market: James Beard Award semifinalist BJ Lieberman is the mastermind behind this picturesque spot in German Village. 

Hiraeth: Lieberman’s latest concept, Hiraeth, opened in August 2023 in the Short North Arts District. It’s a Welsh term used to describe a deep longing for a familiar time, place or spirit and features wood-fired cuisine from around the world. 

Agni: You may know Avishar Barua as a Top Chef contestant and James Beard Award semifinalist, but did you know that he’s from Columbus? His concept in the Brewery District, Agni, is inspired by local memories of global cuisine, fueled by fire. For a more casual but equally delicious breakfast and lunch spot, head to Joya’s in Worthington, Barua's Bengali American daytime cafe.  



Brass Eye

Brass Eye, located atop The Junto Hotel


Skyline Views for the Perfect Night Out 

Columbus boasts a thriving rooftop restaurant scene. Here are just a few options for grabbing a bite or drink with Downtown Columbus as your backdrop:  

Brass Eye: Possibly the best view of the city is located in the brand new Peninsula district and award-winning Junto Hotel. Brass Eye, the Junto's rooftop bar, was inspired by Benjamin Franklin and his Drinker’s Dictionary.  

Stories on High: Columbus’ tallest rooftop bar is atop the Hilton Columbus Downtown and offers sweeping views with uniquely crafted cocktails and sophisticated small plates. 

Lincoln Social: This urban rooftop lounge is the perfect spot to take in views of High Street and the bustling Short North Arts District. Enjoy sweeping city views with a cocktail in hand, crafted by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants' expert mixologists and stay for a flavorful bite created by their award-winning culinary team.


Columbus Skyline Photo by Andy Spessard


Explore More During ESTO 

Columbus thrives thanks to its inclusivity, restaurant and fashion scenes, world-class attractions and more. If you look close enough, you’ll make unforgettable memories and find hidden gems.

With our unique neighborhoods bustling with activity, free experiential trails from coffee to Columbus-style pizza to local spirits, and stunning riverwalks and metro parks, there are so many ways to make the most of your time here. 

Download our mobile app CBUS Rewards, digital Visitor Guide or our Accessibility Guide for more ways to explore our city this August.