COLUMBUS, OHIO — Although I’ve been to this city at least five times already, I never seem to run out of things to see and do. There’s always something new, either an attraction or a special event in Ohio’s capital city, located 162 miles north of Charleston.
A recent two-day stay in April gave me a chance to catch up on things I had missed, starting with the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. In case you’re wondering, Ireland was a cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch.
Located on the Ohio State University campus, the museum is free of charge and houses the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartoons (more than 300,000) and comics. This includes original art, books, magazines, journals, comic books, archival materials along with newspaper comic strip pages and clippings.
It was fun to see cartoons that date back into my childhood. Prince Valiant, Pogo, Dick Tracy, Calvin and Hobbs are just some of the exhibited comics from the past that I spent close to an hour enjoying in a gallery exhibit.
In a display case, I saw cartoons that have made their way into merchandising on school lunch boxes, hats and T-shirts. Elsewhere, themed galleries hold exhibits that change frequently. During my visit, I enjoyed Power Lines, which dealt with the environment, and Dark Humor, the work of African-American, Oliver “Ollie” Harrington, who used his talent to raise awareness of racial, economic and social injustice with razor-sharp wit and insight.
While on campus, you might want to consider taking a walking tour of OSU (allow 90 minutes). Maps and a walking tour guide are available at the Ohio Student Union and online at campusvisit.osu.edu/WalkingTour.pdf.
Also on campus, the Wexford Art Center first dazzled me years ago for its stunning architecture and amazing programming of contemporary art in all its forms, including dance, theater, music and film. Two outstanding exhibits I remember viewing there were an Andy Warhol show titled “Other Voices, Others Rooms” and a photo exhibit of the work of Annie Leibovitz.
Running through mid-August, “Portal For(e) the Ephemeral Passage” is a multiple artist show curated by resident artist jaamil olawale kosoko. Check the website for scores of summer hours and scores of other exhibits and performances: https://wexarts.org/.
The Columbus food scene
Columbus has become quite a food destination with a long list of good to great restaurants. For lunch one day, I stopped by Katalina’s Café, home of the original pancake balls. That’s right, balls made of pancake batter filled with things like Nutella or dolce de leche (your choice).
But the fun doesn’t stop there at this funky eatery proud to serve “5-star food with a Latin twist.” With my award-winning Mazatlan Pork Sandwich, for instance, I tried for the first time a glass of prickly pear juice — just one of many interesting beverages on the menu.
Take cash because Katalina doesn’t accept credit cards. 3481 N. High Street.
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For dinner that evening, I went Italian at Due Amici, on Gay St. between 3rd and High. Housed in a renovated, historic building, Due Amici offers its guests an option to dine and imbibe bar-side or enjoy a meal in the sleek, brick-walled dining room.
Some of the classic Italian dishes I tried are the calamari appetizer (with vegetable tagliatelle, lemon thyme aioli and minced scallions) and the Chicken Parmesan, served on linguini and a rosé sauce made with red peppers.
For a postprandial treat, I drove to the Franklin Park Conservatory to catch light artist James Turrell’s piece “Light Raiment II” after dark. The work transforms the Conservatory’s Palm House into a Columbus beacon by night and features a permanent installation of 7,000 computer-controlled LED light sources in a nightly show.
During the day, visitors can soak in the beauty of the landscape, see over 400 species of plants from around the world in the Conservatory’s biomes and simply marvel at the intricate glasswork of Dale Chihuly in the largest private collection of the glass artist’s pieces in a botanical garden.
One of Columbus’ newest attractions, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, is located on the downtown riverfront. The building is the only place in America dedicated to telling the stories of veterans of all branches of military service over the course of all conflicts. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, winning accolades from Architectural Digest for its curving lines and unique cast concrete construction.
Exhibits in the circular space take place in a series of alcoves, where the different parts of a service member’s journey are told, from enlistment to swearing-in, to training camp, to wartime service to coming home. While there are a few artifacts, they tend toward the personal (letters from home and tokens of good luck), and the experience of military service is explored primarily through personal stories.
A drive over to the Budd Dairy, a business/restaurant incubator from Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in the Italian Village, was a real eye-opener. The massive brick building built in 1916 once housed a milk processing and distribution center that eventually became a part of the Borden Dairy Company. As first built, the building could process 6,000-14,000 gallons of milk and cream per day. The final day of milk processing took place in 1967.
After the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants began restoring the building, now known as the Budd Dairy Food Hall. Today, the massive hall holds 10 kitchens (everything from Filipino, Southern and Cuban to pizza, tacos, poke and cheesecake), three bars and a popular rooftop area with a bar and food service area that overlooks its surroundings.
For more information on Columbus, phone 866-397-2657 or experiencecolumbus.com.
For a Place to Stay, The Graduate Hotel operates under an interesting concept. All 35 hotels across the U.S. sport portraits of famous alumni or those who attended the university in which the hotel is located.
The room keys have replicas of student id cards and the backdrop behind the front desk has a Mt. Rushmore type image of Archie Griffin, Jesse Owens, Katie Smith and Jack Nicklaus. 750 N. High St. Phone 614-484-1900 or graduate hotels.com/Columbus.