With more than one million people living in the metropolitan area, Columbus is Ohio’s largest city. Its major employers are the state government, the university and colleges, retail (The Limited), insurance (Nationwide), and technology (Battelle and others).
You’ll find music, theater, museums, parks, good bookstores, even a replica of the Santa Maria floating in the Scioto River downtown.
Columbus's climate depends to a great extent on the season. Spring and fall are mild and full of color. It can get hot and sticky in the summer, and fairly cold and icy in the winter.
Several large "metro parks" are located on the outskirts of Columbus, with picnic areas, playgrounds, walking trails, trees, fishing lakes, and streams. The Whetstone Park of Roses is not far north of Campus on High Street. Hocking Hills to the southeast of Columbus is a great place for a day-hike or a weekend in a campground or B&B.
Visit Experience Columbus for information on life in the Greater Columbus area from the Greater Columbus Convention & Visitor's Bureau, including sports, the arts, restaurants and night life, and shopping. Or check out Columbus Arts, your guide to cultural events and organizations in Central Ohio.
Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs or more commonly, TAs) should arrive in Columbus before the pre-semester workshop. Fellows should arrive before autumn semester classes begin in mid-August. You may want to leave yourself a few days or so to unpack your books and computer, obtain your student ID, activate your university e-mail account, and generally get settled.
If you arrive in town before undergraduates arrive en masse, usually the week before classes begin, this allows you to avoid the bureaucratic bottlenecks that can occur on campus. If you can, take care of any bureaucratic business before the undergraduates arrive on campus.
It’s a good idea to visit Columbus a few months prior to your move to look for an apartment. The Graduate Program assigns each new student a volunteer graduate student Peer Mentor, and s/he can recommend neighborhoods. Peer Mentors can sometimes help in other ways; for example, they may know of someone in the department who is moving out of a good apartment.
When looking for apartments from a distance, try Metro Rentals. Here, you can look up apartments by neighborhood, and then by number of bedrooms. Most listings will include photographs and maps, as well as info on amenities and special features. What is nice about this website is that it includes listings from the most popular and trustworthy landlords in Columbus, so you can pretty much be sure to find a reliable landlord. This website also includes information about each neighborhood: traditions, organizations, volunteer opportunities, pet care information, festivals and other events.
You might also look at the classified sections of the local papers, such as the campus newspaper, The Lantern. Be careful with these ads, though. There are a lot of scammers advertising pretty places for cheap prices, but there is always a hefty drawback (i.e. poor emergency maintenance, unreliable year-to-year leases and pricing, etc.).
OSU’s off-campus housing website is also quite helpful, and includes some pictures of properties.
Finding an apartment from a distance can be tricky. Because Columbus’s occupancy rate is extremely high for the areas around campus, extending north into Clintonville and south into the city proper, landlords often don’t advertise widely at all. Your best bet is to actually visit Columbus and drive or walk around areas you can see yourself living in. Most landlords advertise through “For Rent” signs outside of their properties, and many graduate students have found great apartments this way.
There are many nice neighborhoods in Columbus, but graduate students tend to cluster in three specific ones surrounding campus: Clintonville, Grandview/Upper Arlington, and the Short North.
Clintonville: North of Campus
Pros: Like the Short North Area, High Street runs right up the center of this community, which means that bus routes are very convenient/accessible. This neighborhood is very well-kept, quiet, and pet friendly – you will find a lot of parks and families around these parts. Clintonville is also home to a lot of great restaurants, bakeries, dive bars (with personality), coffee shops, etc. Even better, the Giant Eagle grocery store and Clintonville Co-op are nestled right in the center of the community, so you should be able to walk from anywhere in the neighborhood to pick up your dinnertime groceries. The #2 bus runs up and down High Street every 15-20 minutes. Further, the bike path runs right through Clintonville all the way down to campus, so getting to school is a cinch! Many graduate students live in Olentangy Village, a large apartment community located right off high street where it’s possible to find one-bedroom apartments. Most other graduate students who live in the area live in duplexes with a partner or roommate.
Cons: This area is quieter than the Short North, with fewer restaurants and bars. The average rental rate has also increased dramatically in the past few years.
Parks and Entertainment:
- Whetstone Park—Includes the Whetstone Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, and the Whetstone Park of Roses.
- Studio 35 Cinema--Studio 35 Cinema: independent cinema house.
- The Clintonville Community Market-- grocery co-operative.
- Clintonville Farmer’s Market: Wednesday evenings and Saturday Mornings, spring, summer and fall.
Coffee and Restaurants:
- Cup O’ Joe: free internet, nice baristas, great place to grade papers.
- Mozart’s Cafe: Viennese Pastries and live piano.
- Global Gallery: Fair trade coffee and gifts.
- Northstar Cafe: fresh, delicious, mostly organic, homemade food.
- Lavash Cafe: Middle Eastern vegetarian (and non) fare.
- Wholly Craft!: Crafty/indie/DIY/alterna-shop.
- Rag-o-Rama: Consignment-style store with a lot of character.
- Laughing Ogre Comics: The best comic shop in the city.
- Half Price Books: One of several branches in the city.
- Karen Wicliff Books: An independent used-book store.
Grandview Heights/ Upper Arlington:
This community is located to the west of the Olentangy River, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is farther away from campus. Technically a suburb, this area is only a five minutes from downtown Columbus by car. Officially a city, Grandview Heights is predominantly residential with a downtown area that draws visitors from all over making it feel like a busy urban arts district.
Pros: This neighborhood and the apartments there are very well maintained and clean. You will definitely find more bang for your buck here. A typical nice one-bedroom will run between $450 and $650/month, and a two-bedroom will be around $550 and $850. The area is unique in that it staved off the effects of the suburban exodus that adversely impacted so many other neighborhoods close to downtown. According to the Grandview Heights Marble Cliff Historical Society, “After Grandview became a city in 1931, it did not lose its small town charm. It remained the same in many ways. There is still a close-knit feeling and neighborliness among the people. Few neighborhoods in a city have remained so delightfully unspoiled for nearly a century.” Indeed, I found that at all the apartments I visited in Grandview, the neighbors were very friendly and helpful, often offering iced tea or lemonade from their front porches. This place is an ideal neighborhood for children.
Cons: You may have trouble finding places that accomodate animals, since the nicer apartments in this community do not like to risk the stains of the wayward urine streams of a naughty pet. Expect to pay an additional deposit and, in some cases, additional monthly charges for your pet. Deposits can be a set fee, regardless of your pet’s size, or it can be calculated by the pound ($10 per pound). Further, living in Grandview can feel isolating, since this neighborhood is on the other side of the Olentangy from Victorian Village. This means that it is much farther away from campus than the Clintonville and Short North neighborhoods, so bus routes to campus and other neighborhoods takes a bit longer and busses to and from Grandview come much less frequently (every 30 to 45 minutes) than the busses in the other neighborhoods.
- Giant Eagle Market District: Extra-fancy Giant Eagle.
- Whole Foods: Includes a wine bar complete with gas fireplace.
- Grandview Ave Farmer’s Market: Seasonal farmer's market.
Coffee and Restaurants:
- Stauf’s: Plenty of space and a large selection of house-roasted coffees.
- Cambridge Tea House: Great for high tea.
- Aab India: Best Indian food in Columbus.
- Z Cucina: Upscale Italian. They have a good happy hour.
- Royal Ginger Asian Fusion Bistro: Half-priced sushi Monday & Tuesday evenings.
- Third and Hollywood: Upscale version of Northstar.
- One More Time: Nice, consignment clothing.
- Acorn Books: Gorgeous used bookstore (featured in the film Liberal Arts).
- Half-Price Books: One of several branches in the city.
Short North/Italian Village/Victorian Village/Harrison West:
These little neighborhoods are in one category is because it is very difficult to distinguish where one community ends and the next begins. The “Short North Area” is the district that runs, roughly, along North High Street from The Columbus Convention Center north to Fifth Avenue. The Short North, known for its GLBT community, is home to the Columbus art gallery scene, as well as many pubs, clubs, boutiques, and restaurants.
Pros: You can take the #2 bus right up High Street (convenient!) to get to campus in about five minutes. It is considered the “hip” area of Columbus. There are great vintage/thrift shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, coffee shops, and boutiques bunched along High Street in this neighborhood. While the nearby grocery store, Kroger, is not right out your front door, a quick bike ride (if you have a nice basket) or bus ride will get you there in a jiffy. Otherwise, you can find Giant Eagle on the corner of Neil and Buttles, just a couple blocks away from the beautiful Goodale Park. This park is a great place to take your dog for a walk or to meet other neighbor doggies. You can also enjoy a delicious Jeni’s ice cream on a bench next to the lily-pad pond at the northeastern edge of the park and attend the frequent festivals that take place there.
Cons: Of course, with all these perks, you should expect to find elevated prices in these neighborhoods for fewer in-home amenities (compared to other neighborhoods). I found that a typical one-bedroom apartment with decent amenities (updated kitchen and bath, insulated windows, secure entries, off-street parking) will run between $600-$900/month, which may or may not include paid utilities. If you can afford it, go for it. Also, if you like quiet, there maybe some places around this area where you might get some peace, but it can be hard to know when you’re apartment shopping during the day (vs. at night when the drunk undergrads are storming the streets).
Parks and Entertainment
- Goodale Park: Home to Comfest, and a great place to watch Fourth of July fireworks.
- Short North Gallery Hop: In the Short North, the first Saturday of every month. It’s the place to see and be seen, especially if you like art, going to bars, or just being around a lot of people.
- Kroger: Located on High Street and King Avenue, this is one of the nicest grocery stores in the city.
- The North Market: Located a block or so from the end of Goodale Park. Jeni’s ice cream, florists, butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, a cooking wares store, and lots of treats of all kinds.
Coffee and Restaurants:
- Zen Cha Tea Salon: Tea and brunch.
- Impero Coffee House: House roasted coffee.
- Travona Coffee House
- Northstar Cafe: Fresh, delicious, mostly organic, homemade food.
- Betty’s: Diner-style food.
- Jeni’s Ice Cream: Famous for good reason.
- Surly Girl Saloon: Interesting infused vodkas and seasonal drinks.
- The Aveda Institute Columbus: Located just short of the Short North, the Aveda Institute is a great place for both men and women to get haircuts and any other services. All services performed by students, so it may take some time, but the price is good and includes extras like mini-facials and massages. 1581 North High Street (614 291-2421)
- Too much to list! High Street in this area is lined with upscale and vintage clothing and home décor shops.