Event planners are saying hello to Columbus in large numbers as Ohio’s largest and fastest-growing city flexes its meetings muscles. Geography makes a solid case for Columbus-based events, as more than 50 percent of the U.S. population is within a day’s drive or one-and-a-half-hour flight. Upon arrival at John Glenn International Airport, visitors are a short 10-minute drive from downtown and its 4,250 hotel rooms. Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus, notes that hospitality is a community-wide focus in Columbus, with more than 2,000 local industry associates holding an active Certified Tourism Ambassador designation. “The number of CTAs is one of the highest levels of any U.S. city, and this pays dividends for our visitors,” says Ross. He’s not the only one singing his city’s praises. In 2016, J.D. Power and Associates named Columbus the “Best Visitor Experience Destination for a Midwestern City.” Read on to see why.
Anchoring events large and small is the newly renovated Greater Columbus Convention Center. In June 2017, GCCC emerged from a $140 million renovation primed to increase the center’s already high rate of 61 percent repeat business, according to GCCC General Manager John Page.
“Our design has incorporated an engaging aesthetic with wooden benches, soft natural light and large communal areas, making it convenient for attendees to remain on-site to connect and do business without returning to their hotel.”
GCCC has 373,000 square feet of exhibit space, 10,000 square feet of outdoor event space, 75 meeting rooms and three flexible ballrooms including the split-level Battelle Grand. (At 74,000 total square feet, it’s the largest ballroom in the state.)
Page says GCCC plays host to around 350 events annually, with a sweet spot of 3,000 to 10,000 attendees. High-tech amenities include a 60-foot video board, touch-screen kiosks delivering updates, Open Table dining reservations and entertainment information.
Food-service provider Levy’s SmartFarm at the Center’s Discovery Café spotlights an indoor hydroponic vertical farm expected to yield 5,000 pounds of vegetables and herbs annually. GCCC also has specially equipped rooms for nursing mothers.
National Veterans Memorial & Museum will open in fall 2018 on the banks of the Scioto River. The museum will be the only place in America where the stories of veterans—across all branches of service and all eras of conflict—will be told together. The 50,000-sq. ft. building includes a great hall, sanctuary, exhibition gallery, memorial room, memorial grove and house a ceremonial amphitheater for use by military groups upon the rooftop.
Easy Walking, Global Dining
Several contiguous distinct walkable districts surround the GCCC with vibrant local dining, hip galleries, shops and entertainment. Find your match here.
Short North Arts District has scores of dining options and one-of-a-kind shops to browse. Try The Guild House, the showpiece eatery of Cameron Mitchell, a local restaurateur with more than a dozen concepts in town.
Meeting attendees mingle with locals at Columbus’ iconic North Market. This unofficial cafeteria of the city features spice emporiums, green grocers and global eats, from pierogies and German bratwursts to Vietnamese pancakes. Want to host a taste of Columbus for your group? The market can coordinate an after-hours event for up to 2,000.
Columbus’ Riverfront district, the Scioto Mile, is the community’s living room with welcoming green space, parks, fountains, shopping and restaurants. Central attractions along the mile are COSI (Center of Science and Industry) and the National Veterans Memorial & Museum, coming in summer 2018.
Find fashionable dining and craft cocktails at Hotel LeVeque’s The Keep, a contemporary brasserie/speakeasy offering French-influenced cuisine extending to influences from Louisiana, Southeast Asia and North Africa.
Where to Stay
Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph: This eye-popping upscale arts-centric boutique opened in 2015 with 135 rooms and 6,700 square feet of meeting space. Situated in the heart of Columbus’ hip Short North Arts District, it is a two-block walk from the convention center.
Hilton Columbus Downtown: Built as an anchor hotel for the city and opened in 2012, the 532-room Hilton has 32,000 square feet of flexible space and an open lobby with a 15,000-sq.-ft. glass ceiling. Former President Barack Obama was the presidential suite’s first occupant during his 2012 campaign.
Hyatt Regency Columbus: With 631 guest rooms, the Hyatt is the city’s largest property by rooms and has the largest hotel ballroom (15,000 square feet). The Hyatt has 63,000 square feet of function space. All guest rooms were renovated in 2012, and the GCCC connector was part of the recent convention center renovation.
Hotel LeVeque: The Autograph Collection 149-room posh art-deco Hotel LeVeque, opened in 2017, claims anchor space in Columbus’ historic LeVeque Tower. The 90-year-old structure was once the tallest building between Chicago and New York City and used as a beacon for Amelia Earhart.
The Westin Columbus: Fresh off a multi-million-dollar renovation touching all 187 guest rooms and public spaces, The Westin Columbus has more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a Grand Ballroom with original marble flooring and stained-glass windows from The Great Southern Hotel dating back to 1897.