Adult-oriented Amusements in the American Heartland
By Hope S. Philbrick
What do you do when your friend moves to Columbus, Ohio? You visit, of course. And discover some adult-oriented hot spots within that family-friendly state—some compelling enough to warrant a trip to Columbus even if you don’t know anyone in town.
Columbus, Ohio might not top your list of “must go” destinations. But that’s a darn shame. Go discover a whopping pleasant surprise in the American heartland. The easy-to-navigate city offers an eclectic mix of neighborhoods alive with friendly folks. You won’t just be glad that you visited—you’ll find plenty of reasons to return again.
Our favorite discoveries:
Basi-Italia is a gift to humanity. Seriously, if you need only one reason to visit Columbus, it’s this restaurant tucked in the Victorian Village neighborhood. Specializing in Italian fare with innovative twists, Basi-Italia showcases local, seasonal ingredients on both the food and bar menus. Dishes like eggplant Parmesan with basil pesto, lobster bucatini with vodka-tomato sauce and lamb Bolognese with crumbled goat cheese transcend expectations. Have special dietary needs? No problem, Chef John Dornback, who owns the restaurant along with his wife Trish Gentile, is ready to accommodate since every dish is made-to-order with loving attention to detail. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute in New York City, Dornback is just the sort of skilled and enthusiastic chef you want preparing your meal. While he’s so friendly and personable that you’ll wish he’d just pull up a chair and chat, when biting into his preparations you’ll be grateful for the time he’s spent in the kitchen. Whether seated in the cozy dining room or out on the terrace, odds are you’ll rub elbows with fellow diners as the spaces fill with hungry fans, both locals and visitors.
*Odds of Encountering Children: Possible, but on a Friday night you’re more likely to find adults ready to kick-off the weekend.
The Brothers Drake Meadery opens into a very cozy bar where you’ll happily spend time with friends (and are likely to make several new ones) while sipping Mead straight up or mixed into creative cocktails. Mead? If you think honey wine is best enjoyed in Middle-earth taverns, think again. The portfolio of bottlings here ranges from dry to sweet, with some batches infused with interesting flavors like Bergamot and habenero. Prepare your palate to be tickled with the flavors of Ohio beekeepers and farmers, since the Brothers Drake work with local, organic producers to source their base ingredients. Keeping with the local theme, the product is sold only in Ohio—so stock up while you’re in Columbus. The bar is open for sampling, sipping and live music every afternoon and evening except Sunday; tours are offered on Saturdays from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
*****Odds of Encountering Children: Zero. The meadery and bar are open exclusively to guests age 21 and older. 21 Plus Salute!
Middle West Spirits is Central Ohio’s first micro-distillery, and sets the bar high for any that may follow. Its small-batch products are made of ingredients sourced from Ohio farms: the current portfolio includes whiskey, vodka, stone fruit vodka and honey vanilla bean vodka. Using the first pot and column, copper and stainless steel still in North America—an innovative combination of tried-and-true processes—proprietors Brady Konya and Ryan Lang preserve good taste from field to glass. Their stylish open-air distillery serves as a working production facility, tasting room, spirits shop and art gallery (supporting local emerging artists). Public 90-minute tours are offered at 6:00 p.m. every Friday and Gallery Hop Saturdays (first Saturday of the month) for $10 per person with an optional tasting for an additional fee; private tours and tastings are available for groups of 6 to 40.
*****Odds of Encountering Children: Zero. Facility exclusively hosts guests age 21 and older. 21 Plus Salute!
North Market is a haven for foodies. Whether your goal is to eat, shop or pick up a few cooking tips, it’s all here under one roof. Launched in 1876 as the second of four public markets in Columbus, today North Market is Columbus’ only public market and a showcase for 35 small businesses. From butchers to candy makers, fishmongers to pizzerias, chocolatiers to ethnic food specialties, gourmet groceries to delis and much more, it houses a cornucopia of yummy things plus fresh flowers, cooking supplies and gift items. Don’t miss Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, scooped up in creative flavors like wildberry lavender, goat cheese with cognac figs, sweet corn and black raspberries, ‘The Buckeye State’ (with salty peanut butter and chocolate) and more. Open daily; on Saturdays (Spring through October), the farmers’ market features producers selling what they grow. *Odds of Encountering Children: High, but worth tolerating
Mukha Custom Cosmetics & Medi-Spa is where to go for an updated look. Schedule a make-up lesson with renowned make-up artist Tim Maurer, whose work has been featured in magazines like British Vogue, on fashion runways worldwide, and in feature films including “Little Man Tate” and “Field of Dreams.” Then stock up on his custom products that are 100-percent mineral-based and oil-free. Other available services include facials, massage, mani-pedis and more. ***Odds of Encountering Children: Unlikely
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers 88 acres of beauty. Built in 1895, the horticultural and educational institution showcases exotic plant collections, a signature collection by glass artist Dale Chihuly, plus special exhibitions. The Conservatory houses 400 species of plants from various global climates and the Victorian Palm House houses over 40 types of palms, all surrounded by botanical gardens and floral displays. The Orchid Forest and Blooms & Butterflies are perennial favorites.
*Odds of Encountering Children: High. Go during school hours for the best chance of avoiding crowds.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals representing over 675 species from around the globe. If you’ve ever wanted to stand underneath a polar bear or find out how a brown bear’s paw measures up to your own, this is the place to do it—and if such thoughts never entered your mind then ready yourself for these and more amazing discoveries. The 588-acre complex includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club and is open 363 days a year. *Odds of Encountering Children: Inevitable, but worth enduring.
More To Do…
If time permits on your itinerary, you’ll also want to check out:
Named one of Columbus’ best restaurants in 2011 by Columbus Monthly, De Novo Bistro & Bar boasts funky décor, tasty food and smooth bar offerings, plus live jazz. Executive Chef Robert Harrison is a graduate of the renowned Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, so you’re in good hands.
Stop by Tucci’s California Bistro for a wine tasting and the cozy space and warm crowd are invitation enough to stay for dinner.
Whether you want to pick up some desserts, savor pastries with coffee, or simply can’t resist macaroons, Pistacia Vera is a must. The from-scratch patisserie is open daily 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., go hungry and be sure to ask about how to have their treats shipped to you back at home, because you’re going to crave them long term. Besides, with a menu of over 60 seasonal pastries and confections you won’t be able to sample them all in one visit.
The Columbus Museum of Art houses collections that appeal to diverse interests and styles. See exhibits of American and European Impressionism, German Expressionism, cubism, photography, regional artists—including woodcarvings by Columbus folk artist Elijah Pierce plus paintings and lithographs by Columbus native George Bellows—and more.
In the German Village park on the street (pay attention to the two-hour signs) and stroll neighborhood shops like the 32-room bargain book store Book Loft and Schmidt’s Sausage Haus where you just have to have a cream puff.
Love to shop? Don’t miss Short North and Easton Town Village.
For expert help planning your adult getaway to Columbus, visit ExperienceColumbus.com.
– Top photo, Scioto Mile by Randall L. Schieber; all other photos © HSP Media LLC