What You Need To Know
Columbus is the state capital and the most populous city in Ohio. It is the 14th-most populous city in the United States, with a population of 860,090 as of 2016 estimates, making Columbus one of the fastest growing large cities in the United States. This makes Columbus the 3rd-most populous state capital in the United States after Phoenix, Arizona and Austin, Texas, and the second-most populous city in the Midwestern United States, after Chicago. It is the core city of the Columbus, Ohio, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses ten counties. With a population of 2,078,725, it is Ohio’s second-largest metropolitan area.
Population: 860 090 (2016)
Area: 577,8 km²
Columbus has a generally strong and diverse economy based on education, insurance, banking, fashion, defense, aviation, food, logistics, steel, energy, medical research, health care, hospitality, retail, and technology. In 2010, it was one of the 10 best big cities in the country, according to Relocate America, a real estate research firm. MarketWatch ranked Columbus and its metro area as the No. 7 best place in the country to operate a business in 2008. In 2012, Forbes Magazine ranked the city as the best city for working moms. In 2007, the city was ranked No. 3 in the United States by fDi magazine for “Cities of the Future”, and No. 4 for most business-friendly in the country. Columbus was ranked as the seventh strongest economy in the United States in 2006, and the best in Ohio, according to Policom Corp. According to the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, the GDP of Columbus in 2016 was $131 billion.
In 2013, the city had four corporations named to the U.S. Fortune 500 list: Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, American Electric Power, L Brands, and Big Lots, with Cardinal Health in suburban Dublin. Other major employers in the area include numerous schools (for example, The Ohio State University) and hospitals, hi-tech research and development including the Battelle Memorial Institute, information/library companies such as OCLC and Chemical Abstracts, steel processing and pressure cylinder manufacturer Worthington Industries, financial institutions such as JP Morgan Chase and Huntington Bancshares, as well as Owens Corning. Wendy’s and White Castle are also headquartered in Columbus. Major foreign corporations operating or with divisions in the city include Germany-based Siemens and Roxane Laboratories, Finland-based Vaisala, Tomasco Mulciber Inc., A Y Manufacturing, as well as Switzerland-based ABB Group and Mettler Toledo.
The most common non-English language spoken in Columbus, OH was Spanish. 3.77% of the overall population of Columbus, OH are native Spanish speakers. 2.65% speak African Languages and 0.94% speak Chinese, the next two most common languages.
The city’s climate is humid continental (Köppen climate classification Dfa) transitional with the humid subtropical climate to the south characterized by hot, muggy summers and cold, dry winters. Columbus is within USDA hardiness zone 6a. Winter snowfall is relatively light, since the city is not in the typical path of strong winter lows, such as the Nor’easters that strike cities farther east. It is also too far south and west for lake-effect snow from Lake Erie to have much effect, although the lakes to the North contribute to long stretches of cloudy spells in winter.
The highest temperature recorded in Columbus was 106 °F (41 °C), which occurred twice during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s—once on July 21, 1934, and again on July 14, 1936. The lowest recorded temperature was −22 °F (−30 °C), occurring on January 19, 1994. (wind chill was −63 °F (−53 °C)). Columbus is subject to severe weather typical to the Midwestern United States. Severe thunderstorms can bring lightning, large hail and on rare occasion tornadoes, especially during the spring and sometimes through fall. A tornado that occurred on October 11, 2006 caused F2 damage. Floods, blizzards, and ice storms can also occur from time to time.
Columbus is the home of two public colleges: The Ohio State University, one of the largest college campuses in the United States, and Columbus State Community College. In 2009, The Ohio State University was ranked No. 19 in the country by U.S. News & World Report for best public university, and No. 56 overall, scoring in the first tier of schools nationally. Some of OSU’s graduate school programs placed in the top 5, including: No. 5 for best veterinary program and No. 5 for best pharmacy program. The specialty graduate programs of social psychology was ranked No. 2, dispute resolution was ranked No. 5, vocational education No. 2, and elementary education, secondary teacher education, administration/supervision No. 5.
Columbus City Schools (CCS), formerly Columbus Public Schools, is the largest district in Ohio, with 55,000 pupils. CCS operates 142 elementary, middle, and high schools, including a number of magnet schools (which are referred to as alternative schools within the school system). The suburbs operate their own districts, typically serving students in one or more townships, with districts sometimes crossing municipal boundaries. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus also operates several parochial elementary and high schools. The area’s second largest school district is South-Western City Schools, which encompasses southwestern Franklin County. There are also several private schools in the area. St. Paul’s Lutheran School is a K-8 Christian school of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Columbus.
According to Sperling’s BestPlaces, 37.6% of Columbus residents are religious. Of this group, 15.7% identify as Protestant, 13.7% as Catholic, 1.5% as Jewish, 0.6% as Muslim, and 0.5% as Mormon. Places of worship include St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Lamb of God Lutheran Church of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, ISKCON Columbus, Trinity Episcopal Church, Global Community United Methodist Church, Christian Community Church North, the Glenwood United Methodist Church, Broad Street United Methodist Church, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Second Presbyterian Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, Roman Catholic Church’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral, (the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus), the St. Thomas More Newman Center (Catholic), Holy Name Catholic Church, Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, Columbus Chinese Christian Church, All Nations Christian Fellowship (ANCF), Veritas Community Church, the Indianola Church of Christ, the Greek Orthodox Church’s Annunciation Cathedral, North Columbus Friends Meeting (Quaker), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Columbus Ohio Temple, Russian Baptist Fellowship in Westerville, Russian Baptist Church of Columbus (in Dublin, OH), the Ahlul Bayt Islamic Center, the Muslim Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Beth Jacob Synagogue (Orthodox Jewish) and the Reform Jewish Temple Israel, the oldest synagogue in Columbus, Life Church at Easton in NE Columbus and The First Baptist Church of Columbus, Ohio, one of the oldest baptist churches in Columbus, in East Columbus.
Dial 911 to get emergency (police/medical/fire) help.
Although down somewhat in recent years, crime is still a problem in certain areas of the city. Most violent crime occurs in areas that would not be frequented by tourists. Visitors to the area should be aware that the theft of laptop computers, phones, and other items from automobiles is a common occurrence. Always store valuables in the cargo compartment of one’s car and make sure it is locked.
Motorists who drink and drive will face stiff penalties if one’s blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit (0.08). Police routinely set up checkpoints along major roads where all drivers must pass through and show their license and registration to check for intoxicated people.
Vehicles are required by law to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. However, the law is not universally followed. Take care to watch for turning traffic when crossing streets.
Areas on the east side of the city along the streets of Livingston Avenue, Main Street, and Mount Vernon between Parsons and Alum Creek sometimes see violent crime. These areas should be avoided at night. Additional areas to avoid at night include Cleveland Avenue between I-670 and SR-161 and the area east of High Street near the OSU campus.
On the West side of town, a sliver of neighborhoods around Broad St. and east of I-270 South are relatively safe during the day, but not at night. Generally, areas outside of the I-270 loop (the Outerbelt) are safer and more peaceful than areas inside, although the area around Brice Road and I-70 is not safe. Safe areas inside I-270 include the Arena District, the Short North District, Clintonville, Northwest Columbus, Upper Arlington, Grandview Heights, Worthington, Dublin, much of German Village and Bexley.
The COTA bus service can take you to most important places in the city, which should be about 5 blocks away from any conceivable location you need to go to. This service costs $2.75 for an Express bus and $2.00 for a Local/Crosstown bus. Transfers for a Local/Crosstown bus are free, but transfers between bus types, such as from a Local to an Express route, are subject to an upcharge. Ask for one from the bus driver when you pay your fare.
The entire corridor of High St (US Route 23) from Clintonville in the North to Merion Village in the South is extremely pedestrian-friendly, though it does pass through some less-than-scenic areas, particularly the few blocks between campus and the short north. Downtown Columbus is a walkable city with most attractions located within a 20 minute walk of each other. The Columbus Landmarks Foundation conducts walking tours, too.
Columbus is a car-centric city, with usage of a car required outside of the areas directly surrounding downtown. Parking is extensive (and reasonably priced) at almost all major destinations. There are many surface lots and garages around the city. There are only a few areas of the city, like the Short North, where parking can be hard to come by; those locations all feature abundant valet parking at an affordable $5 per vehicle. Keep in mind that U-turns are illegal citywide in Columbus. Downtown is a short ten minute drive ($20 taxi fare) from Port Columbus (the airport) via I-670W.