Ohio's largest city, state capital, and home to the massive Ohio State University, Columbus is a likeable place to visit. Its position in the rural heart of the state also makes it the only center of culture for a good two-hour drive in any direction.
Ohio became a state in 1803 and legislators designated this former patch of rolling farmland, on the high east bank of the Scioto River, its capital in 1812. The fledgling city was built from scratch, and its considered town planning is evident today in broad thoroughfares and green spaces. Statues form a significant part of the cityscape, with many of them portraying the city's namesake, Christopher Columbus; there's even a replica of his ship, the Santa Maria, docked downtown on the Scioto River.
Though Columbus has more people, it always seems to lag behind Cincinnati or Cleveland in terms of public recognition. As such, the place is best enjoyed for what it is – a lively college city with some good museums, gorgeous Germanic architecture, and a particularly vibrant nightlife. Surprisingly, it boasts one of the country's most active gay scenes. The spacious, orderly, and easy-going downtown area holds several attractions, along with the new Arena District entertainment zone. The main nightlife areas – bohemian Short North Arts District and more mainstream Brewery District – are on the north and south fringes of the center, respectively.