During the first official weekend of summer, my family and I were lucky enough to visit Columbus as guests of Experience Columbus, the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. I think they hoped to give us a sense of the kid-friendliness of the city so that I could share it with my readers and potential future visitors to the city. We were given accommodations, tickets to some kid-friendly destinations, and a gift card for meals. Otherwise, Experience Columbus allowed us to choose our own itinerary. We could pick our own destinations, set our own pace, and form our own opinions. It was a brave approach for them, and one that I highly respect. It showed the same sort of quiet self-confidence that Pittsburghers exude. “We know our city’s underrated. But it’s still cool,” they said through their actions, “When you get out there and explore it, you’ll know it too.” And they were right!

The Book Loft of German Village
The Book Loft of German Village

In my previous post, I described some of the more mainstream tourist destinations in the city.  In this post, I would like to highlight some of the more off-the-beaten-path spots we found.  One of my favorite parts of visiting a new place has always been discovering its quirky secrets–either through pure chance or through conversations with people who know the city well.  During our recent trip, we discovered that Columbus has some hidden little gems!

The Book Loft of German Village

During our Columbus wanderings, we discovered one of the most amazing book stores that I have ever found:  The Book Loft of German Village.  It is one of the nation’s largest independent booksellers and is located in pre-Civil War-era buildings that were once general stores, a saloon, and a nickelodeon cinema.  The Book Loft has 32 distinctive rooms–each with its own theme. The book selection and even the overhead music playing in each room match its theme. For example, in the Gardening Room you can browse books related to gardening, while listening to a soundtrack filled with birdsongs.

Brushing up on his mushrooming
Brushing up on his mushrooming

The Book Loft has an adjoining courtyard filled with lots of greenery, benches, and a water feature.  Plus, there is a separate coffee shop located right next door.  It is so cool!

We decided to bring the kids into The Book Loft and let them explore.  My husband and I split up–each took one child and we roamed.  It was an incredibly interesting place for the kids because there are so many different rooms, little hallways, and stairs (note: not very stroller-friendly for this reason).  We browsed their HUGE book selection and each of us got one book.  Then we settled down in the courtyard, read our new books, and ran around a bit.  It was a wonderful find!

Reading her new book in the courtyard
Reading her new book in the courtyard

Scioto Audubon Metro Park

The Scioto Audubon Metro Park's Climbing Wall
The Scioto Audubon Metro Park’s Climbing Wall

My husband and I used to love rock-climbing together before we had kids.  During our trip to Columbus, we were excited to learn from a city native that Columbus has the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the country located in the 120-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

Early Sunday morning we packed the kids up and ventured over to check it out.  We learned that climbers can bring their own equipment and then scale the impressive 35 ft rock formation.  We also discovered that the space is surprisingly kid-friendly!  Older kids can either rock climb with their parents or practice bouldering on large rock formations.  And younger kids can play at the adjoining playground that fittingly has a ton of climbing equipment for kids to learn skills for their future rock-climbing adventures.  The Scioto Audubon Metro Park Climbing Wall could be an amazing way for parents to maintain their rock-climbing hobby and even introduce it to their kids.

Practicing her bouldering skills
Practicing her bouldering skills

North Market

Ogling the noodle selection at North Market
Ogling the noodle selection at North Market

I love, love, LOVE food and spend a good portion of my waking and dreaming hours thinking about it.  For this reason, a friend of mine who grew up close to Columbus recommended that we check out the city’s North Market.  After visiting the Climbing Wall, we drove over and explored this foodie paradise. The North Market hosts tons of ethnic grocers and food stands, speciality kitchen equipment stores, vegetable/meat/cheese/etc. vendors, a Saturday Farmer’s Market, a Sunday Artisan Festival, and even a cooking school! It reminds me a lot of the Strip District in Pittsburgh. However, in some ways, it is more accessible for families.  It is all located in one building, which means it’s protected both from the weather and surrounding traffic.  It has an adjoining parking lot and even has a second-story seating area. We explored the Market, saw lots of interesting food items, and even got some amazing banana-honey ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams!

Getting lost in a bowl of Jeni's ice cream
Getting lost in a bowl of Jeni’s ice cream

*****

As you can probably tell from my posts, my family and I had a wonderful time in Columbus, Ohio.  We discovered that Columbus (like many other small cities, including Pittsburgh) is actually a pretty exciting place to be.  It has all the amenities of a larger city including museums, great food, culture, outdoorsy stuff, shopping, etc.  But it’s just easier to be there as a family.  It’s cheap, navigable, friendly, and quite beautiful.  I would definitely recommend checking it out!

 Thank you, Columbus, for a wonderful visit!  We will be back again!

© Copyright Nadine Champsi, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

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