Skyscrapers rising from flat fertile fields recall the cover of a sixth-grade civics textbook. But this classic American city surprises with its modern attitudes, and the city has been rated as one of the best places in the country for gays and lesbians to live.
Diversity has a long history in Columbus, composed as it is, of many ethnic neighborhoods. The city is also home to Ohio State University. With 60,000 students, this small city within the larger one has helped encourage a certain tolerant live-and-let-live ambience here, and in surrounding areas. Small wonder Columbus has the third highest per-capita population of gays and lesbians in the United States.
Port Columbus International Airport is six miles east of Columbus. A cab from the airport to downtown is the easiest way into town but there are also shuttles, buses and limo services. The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) public bus service can take you almost anywhere in the city.
If traveling beyond downtown, you’ll need a car to get around. Within the city, there's a useful bus running along Main Street between German Village and the Short North. Fares are $2 per trip, or buy a day pass for $4.50. A ticket vending machine is open 24 hours a day at their central office at 33 North High St, taking cash or credit cards. Find schedule information at the COTA website.
German Village. The oldest gay neighborhood has narrow brick paved streets shaded by vast spreading elms and lined by graceful houses that are more than a century old. Its architectural treasures were threatened by the wrecking ball in the 1960s, but were saved with the help of outraged locals. It still has a sizable gay population, and lots of gay-friendly cafes and bars.
Short North. In recent years, gays have spread out across the city, and with many settling in the Short North neighborhood. Old traditions, such as the farmers market, mix with the more recent art galleries and boutique shops. A good time to visit is the first Saturday of the month, when 40 galleries spotlight new and established artists.
Local media and resources
CAPA, the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, operates a number of theaters around town, presenting a variety of stage entertainments. See the link for details.
Stonewall Columbus is the GLBT community center, with services, films, theater, social activities and advocacy programs. They also organize Pride Columbus, with a mid-June Saturday parade down High Street, a festival in Goodale Park, plus other events during the first half of June.
CUB is the area social group for bears and friends. See their website for the annual August CAMP get-together, and other events during the year.
See our listings tab for map locations and website links to gay Columbus area businesses.
The gay-friendly 50 Lincoln-Short North B&B (50 E Lincoln St; 800-526-9664), has seven guestrooms between downtown and the Ohio State campus, just off North High St; full breakfast, elegant dining room.
Two nearby B&Bs include the Neil Avenue (1237 Neil; 614-670-5075), and the Harrison House (313 W 5th; 800 827-4203), each with 4 unique rooms and breakfast.
Good Downtown general-public hotel options include the Courtyard Marriott Downtown (35 W Spring St), serving hot buffet breakfasts, and the Red Roof Inn (111 E Nationwide Blvd; 614-224-6539), with budget-conscious rates.
For more luxurious indulgences at city center, try the Hyatt Hotel Capitol Square (75 E State St; 614 -228-1234) near the Capitol Building, or The Westin Columbus (310 High; 614 228-3800), once the 19th-century classic Great Southern Hotel.
The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel (2407 Indiana Ave; link) won't set you back as much, at $25-50 for dorm beds or private rooms. Gay-friendly, they're happy to help you get around with tips on local festivals, art exhibits, concerts and sports events.
Many inexpensive motels are located along the major interstate highways just outside the I-270 beltway, 20-30 minutes drive from Downtown.
Bars & clubs: German Village & Merion Village
Cavan Irish Pub (1409 S High St), friendly neighborhood bar, covered patio, karaoke, TV sports, Wednesday strippers, Sunday bingo, drag shows.
Club Diversity (863 S High St), piano and martini karaoke bar with gay and mixed crowd.
Club Fuel Bar (1312 S High St), neighborhood bar, Saturdays drag shows, male strippers, amateur contests.
Tremont (708 S High St) neighborhood gay bar, food, older friendly diverse crowd welcomes all; jukebox, patio.
Bars & clubs: Short North
The Short North has long been one of the gayest neighborhoods in Columbus, with many shops, cafes, and bars on High Street between downtown and Ohio State University, each an easy walk from the next. Many gay-only businesses are gone now, but at most places along the strip people of all kinds still mix comfortably. See our listings for map locations and website links to these and more local bars.
Axis (775 N High), weekend dance club, 18-plus college crowds, jocks in the showers, sometimes erotic video stars, live performers, and all-all-male reviews on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Bernard's Tavern (630 N High St), the space where Union started out, now mixed but gay-friendly lounge, bar food menu of wraps, salads, burgers, pastas; beer and cocktails.
Betty's Fine Food & Spirits (680 N Main), mixed crowd, good jukebox, 1940s-60s pin-up art, weekend brunches; hearty main meals, sandwiches, pastas, salads and starters.
Exile (893 N Fourth), men's leather and cruise bar, outdoor patio and smoking lounge, with karaoke, and patio cook-outs. Fridays and Saturdays are DJ dance nights. The Tuesday (amateurs) and Sunday male strip shows are popular, and they do special "best ass' and leather/ fetish nights too.
Level (700 N High St), gay-friendly upscale cocktail lounge and restaurant, American/International food, Saturday/Sunday brunch, Sunday Broadway and Disney Musicals.
Union Cafe (782 N High), popular, casual gay neighborhood cafe and cocktail lounge. Martini menu, modern American cuisine, patio, brunch, live performances.
Bars & clubs: Downtown
South of the train tracks that separate Short North from downtown there are still a few gay establishments these days.
Garage (40 E Long), new Summer 2013 gay Friday/Saturday gay dance club that resurrects an old '90s club name; theme party nights.
Slammers (202 E Long) popular bar and restaurant serves good food, great pizza, appetizer nibbles, salads, subs and wraps. Always a friendly welcome for women and their gay male friends; pool games, and special nights that include live music.
Wall Street (144 N Wall), dance club where women usually rule, but the guys take over for Boys' Night Wednesday 18+ dance nights, with drag shows and male strippers; also with a last Wednesday Underwear Dance Party.
Bars & clubs: Rest of Columbus
Barracks (49 Parsons), aka A.W.O.L., mostly men, bear events, karaoke and video gay party bar.
Blazer's Pub (1205 N High), neighborhood gay bar, a favorite with women. CLOSED at this location - plans to reopen elsewhere.
Club 20 (20 E Duncan), hole-in-the wall for mixed crowd neighborhood locals, cheap drinks, jukebox, karaoke.
Hal & Al's (1297 Parsons Ave), over 100 draft and bottled beers, ginger cider, all-vegan tacos, brats, chili, burgers, pizza; mixed crowd, weekend live music.
South Bend (126 E Moler), mostly men, neighborhood gay drinkers' bar, drag shows.
PromoWest operates four funky local music venues, mostly aimed at the 18-30 set; often a crush of OSU students: A&R Music Bar (391 Neil Ave), The Basement (391 Neil Ave), The LC Pavillion (405 Neil Ave), and the Newport Music Hall (1722 North High). Their website has upcoming performance line-ups.
German Village has good local restaurants and delis, some going back many years. These include:
G. Michael's (595 S 3rd St) memorable evenings over fine meals from seasonal menus.
For German fare apropos to the settlers for whom the district is named, check out:
Juergen's (525 S 4th St), bakery, restaurant/cafe, import store landmark of 40 years, with finest German foods. Holidays are celebrated with time-honored style and enthusiasm.
Katzinger's Delicatessen (475 S Third St), big menu that begins in German, then ventures far and world-wide with "crazy good food." They like chocolate, and the wine selections are good, with frequent tastings.
Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant (240 E Kossuth St), good source for bratwurst, spatzel, sauerkraut, pretzels, chicken noodle soup, strudels and other traditional meals of Bavaria.
The Short North also has a good selection of restaurants:
Deep Wood (511 N High St), named among ten best by the Columbus Dispatch; New American food worth going out of your way for - lunch or dinner. Desserts are good too, and the good wine list is reasonably priced.
North Market (59 Spruce St), a cornucopia of fresh food stands, bakeries, cheese shops and prepared food stands of many ethnicities between downtown Short North. Eat here, or take-out to park, home or hotel. Daily until 5pm (7pm Tues).
Northstar (951 N High St), healthy, hearty breakfast from 9am, weekend brunch until 3pm. Muffins to full plates of meat and eggs or pancakes. Lunch and dinner salads, burritos, and sandwiches, meat or veggie.
Rigsby's Kitchen (698 N. High St) Italian service: primi, secondi and contorni courses; pastas, gnocci, risottos, fresh fish and meat, vegetable side plates. Old favorites or new creations, master chef, remarkable in-house deserts too.
Till (247 King Ave), former Dragonfly, chef retains unique and quirky urban garden seasonal focus, ever-changing veggie/vegan and meat menu, mostly rave reviews. Pleasant patio, beer, wine and cocktails, Saturday brunch.
For map locations and website links to these, plus another 30 restaurants, see our maps & listings tab.
Club Columbus (795 W Fifth) modern facility whirlpool, gym, outdoor heated lap-pool, Sunday buffets, guest porn stars, steam room, dry sauna, video lounge, and rooms. Men 18-plus, always open.
Flex Columbus - CLOSED. Their Cleveland, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Phoenix facilities remain open.
Shopping in Short North
At Torso (772 N High), a dapper store with gifts and latest styles for working out, cruising, or clubbing, gay designer labels, underwear, lubes and accessories at good prices.
Piercology (190 W 2nd), professional, safe, creative and nationally recognized body-piercing, with a big selection of embellishments.