It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally, I will find a reason to get out of town and visit a place I’ve never been before.
Over the Labor Day holiday, I had a chance to visit Columbus, Ohio, which in my mind had always been Ohio’s third-class city behind Cincinnati and Cleveland. I knew it was the capital city and I knew it was home to Ohio State University, but I didn’t know much else about it. My wife, an Ohio native, told me it was about two hours from her hometown in southern Ohio. But everything seems to be two hours away from her hometown on the Ohio River.
When we arrived in Columbus on Friday morning, we walked into a bright airport terminal with bright colors and a cheery atmosphere. I noticed that the last two letters of the name Columbus were in red while all the others were in blue.
“Neat idea,” I thought, realizing the Port Columbus Airport was an international airport, after all.
Getting out of the airport was easy and we made a couple stops before we went to our hotel. The first stop was a Bob Evans restaurant, where the service was gracious and quick – unlike the rudeness I experienced with the airline ticket-taker at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. From there, we went to our hotel, which was not too far from the airport, but a fair piece away from the church where we were to attend a family wedding that afternoon.
We left for the church about 3:30 and it took an hour to negotiate the stop-and-go traffic we encountered on a Friday afternoon of a three-day weekend. We walked into the church at the moment the ceremony was to have started. Fortunately, they were a few minutes late, so we didn’t miss any of the show.
After the ceremony, we drove back across town to the place where the reception was to be held. It was a wonderful venue, with a spacious ballroom that provided room for plenty of seating and a nice dance floor. On the way to the reception hall, we passed through the swanky part of Columbus with lots of gigantic houses with large front porches and manicured lawns, much like Raleigh’s Oakwood neighborhood, but with newer homes.
On Saturday morning, we decided to take in what we could of the city before we had to return to the airport. The Columbus skyline is beautiful, with long views from Interstate 71 as you skirt downtown. We traveled toward the university which has 50,000 students.
That’s a lot. N.C. State, North Carolina’s largest university, has about 34,000 students. The area around the university looked like you might think, with a fair amount of rather run-down housing that is probably rental housing for area students. The campus itself, though, is a gorgeous place with lots of open space and pretty buildings.
We left the university area and went to another business, traveling south on US 315, where we got more spectacular views of the downtown skyline.
Columbus, it turns out, is quite the big-time city. The Ohio capital is home to nearly 836,000 people according to 2014 Census estimates. That’s quite a bit more than the 440,000 or so who live in Raleigh. And it’s a lot more than Cleveland and Cincinnati, both of which slipped somewhat in my estimation after our trip to Columbus.
Like Raleigh, Columbus was established with an eye toward becoming the state capital. Unlike Raleigh, it has two rivers – the Olentangy and the Scioto – that converge near downtown and snake through the city, giving it a neat little riverfront.
And, while Garner is home to Scotty McCreery, Columbus claims the Golden Bear – Jack Nicklaus. We even traveled a highway named for the all-time golfing majors champion.
Travel is a rarity in our family, but when the opportunity presents itself, there’s nothing quite like visiting a place you’ve never been before. Yet, and still, it’s nice to come home.