Queer Girl City Guide: Columbus, Ohio

0. 2/20/2012 – Here/Queer Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 3/02/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Montreal, Canada, by Sid
2. 3/05/2012 – Playlist: Here/Queer, by Riese
3. 3/05/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Portland, Oregon, by Lesbians in PDX
4. 3/07/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Brighton, United Kingdom, by Sarah Magdalena
5. 3/07/2012 – Oh But To Be A Queer in Sicily, by Jenn
6. 3/08/2012 – City Guide: Seattle, by Marley
7. 3/11/2012 – City Guide: Washington DC, by Keena
8. 3/13/2012 – Here/Queer: Sydney Mardi Gras Is On Your To-Do List, by Crystal
9. 3/14/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Spokane, Washington, by Ana
10. 3/15/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Cleveland, Ohio, by Lora
11. 3/16/2012 – Madison, WI and W4W Entertainment, by Emily
12. 3/16/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Dublin, Ireland, by Una
13. 3/19/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Vancouver, Canada, by Kathryn
14. 3/19/2012 – Things We Wrote That You Loved, by The Team
15. 3/20/2012 – Here/Queer: Boogie Down Bronx, by Gabby
16. 3/21/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Columbus, Ohio, by Dominique, Annie, Kat, Liz & Mila

A City so Nice, We Wrote About it Twice


by Dominique, Annie, Kat, Liz & Mila

When we heard about the City Guide call for submissions, we (Dom, Kat, Liz, and Annie) jumped at the chance to finally share all the queer things Columbus has to offer. The thing is, we didn’t all know each other. We wrote two guides, sent them in, and hoped our posts would make it to Autostraddle. When we learned about each other, we decided to meet up and combine our pieces, which was awesome for us because we got to learn more about our lovely city and meet new people in the process! We all have different backgrounds, some of us grew up here, others are recent transplants. Below is our combined efforts, our love letter to this rockin’ lesbian haven of a town.

Columbus Skyline Courtesy of trekearth

Ohio’s capital city (and the third largest city in the Midwest) has everything you’d ever need, including the world’s best ice cream, one of the country’s largest universities, and a hoppin’ LGBTQ scene. We have an estimated LGBTQ population of 35,000, which certainly contributes to our ranking as the second most sexually satisfied city in the country. We’re a city overflowing with gay and women-owned businesses, lesbian clubs, great restaurants (comfort food is our best mastered art), and hot women peddling around on bikes. It’s also legal for women to be topless in Columbus!. What’s not to love?

The Many Gayborhoods of Columbus


It is hard to pick one gayborhood in Columbus, ’cause it is all pretty gay, but the best known one is probably the Short North. This arts district on High Street hosts many of the city’s best boutiques and galleries and is picturesque with its colorfully lit arches. While the area is a little over-gentrified for our tastes, it has lots of gems, including Northstar (951 N High Street), a mostly local and organic restaurant); Nida’s Thai on High (976 N High Street), the green curry is to die for); and Flower Child (989 N High Street), a great vintage shop. It also hosts the ever-popular Gallery Hop on the first Saturday of each month, when all of the art galleries debut their new shows, restaurants have special events, and the sidewalks fill with busking musicians.

Short North

The Short North sits in the middle of three neighborhoods, the ritzy and beautiful Victorian Village, the classic and more affordable Flytown (aka Harrison West), and the slightly gritty and really cool Italian Village.

The neighborhoods of North Campus and Clintonville blend together and have a more down-to-earth, organic feel to them. Meals are cheaper here, and if you are looking for a great local show, the best bands are normally playing at Ace of Cups (2619 N High Street), Rumba Cafe (2507 Summit Street), or Kobo (2590 N High Street). For local art and performance, check out Wild Goose Creative (2491 Summit Street), and if you like local produce, Clintonville has the best farmer’s market in town.

Our favorite up and coming neighborhood is Old Town East. They have a friendly, cheap gay bar, AWOL (49 Parsons Avenue); awesome pizza at Yellow Brick (892 Oak Street); and they are the home of Carabar (115 Parsons Avenue), one of our favorite venues for local shows. But the real reason we love this neighborhood? The scones at Angry Baker (891 Oak Street). They will change your life.


Drinkin’, Dancin’ Dykes


The rumor around town is that Wall Street (144 N Wall Street) is the largest lesbian dance club in the country, and while we haven’t been able to verify this, we can see the basis for it. Wall Street has a huge dance floor and a second story balcony with couches looking down on it from above. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is why a night here is always such a blast. There are smoke machines, large screens projecting nineties music videos, and disco lights. And there are lots of cute girls, many of them wearing USWNT soccer jerseys. It is kind of costly (at least for Columbus), with a $5 cover and similarly priced drinks. We suggest going on the first Friday of the month, when all of queer Columbus hits the dance floor. Wall Street is also hosts events like Traffic Night — wear a red, yellow or green glowstick to indicate your relationship status and let the games begin — and multiple queer burlesque nights featuring Viva! and the Velvet Hearts, The Royal Renegades, and other local performers.

If you want to go somewhere a little more chill, we suggest checking out Slammers (202 E Long Street), Columbus’ lesbian sports bar. It has one of the best patios in Columbus, which is filled with witty girls playing corn-hole on warm summer nights. Inside offers a pool table and a jukebox filled with songs to belt along to. The pizza is also phenomenal, and they often have pizza and pitcher specials.

St. Patrick's Day at Slammers

While Union Cafe (782 N High Street) is targeted more to the Gs of Columbus, it is a pretty great mixed LGBTQ bar with a relaxed patio and fun theme nights. The place is always crowded and the drinks can be a little steep, but they do have $3 long islands on Thursdays. If you want a fun Sunday night, check out Showtune Sundays, where they project Broadway (and Glee) clips and everyone acts them out on stage.

Every third Saturday is Party Trash, an alterna queer dance party at Circus (1227 N High Street). We haven’t been because we just learned about this, but we are super excited to go next month! Circus also has some terrific pizza. So perfect, in fact, that it brought Anthony Bourdain to Columbus. You can find some queer burlesque performances here as well.

Club 20 (20 E Duncan Street) is the gathering place for the gays of north campus and is great for everyone who doesn’t feel like trekking into the Short North. Though there are usually more men here, Club 20 has tons of lady regulars. Karaoke has been known to get crazy.


Cures for Your Munchies


Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

If you are visiting Columbus, the first thing you should do is go to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (multiple locations/orgasms), because it defines this city. Jeni’s has a range of innovative flavors including Goat Cheese and Cognac Figs and our personal fave, Wildberry Lavender. You can try as many flavors as you’d like, and because Jeni uses many local ingredients you won’t just taste Ohio cream, you’ll get to try whiskey from Middle West Spirits in the Short North, nuts roasted at the Columbus-based Krema Nut Company, and brambleberries grown in the Appalachian hills. It will set the mood for the rest of your visit (and if you go right away, it gives you plenty of time to go back!).

For some awesome international food, check out North Market (59 Spruce Street) between Short North and downtown. It’s pretty hard to miss since it’s in a giant, old warehouse with a giant rooster painted on it. Here, you can get fresh, local produce and meats, imported cheeses, local alcohols, and food from all over the world. This is a great place to lunch, because it is like a huge food court, but with some of the most unusual flavors in town.

North Market

Hal & Al’s (1297 Parsons Avenue) may be our favorite place to scope out cute girls. This out-of-the-way, all-vegan restaurant has legit, vegan bar food, including amazing avocado fries. The prices are low, the beer is diverse, and they have an awesome happy hour with half-priced pints.

Another Columbus genius, Liz Lessner (because the ladies rock this town), has created a number of our most original and popular restaurants, all serving a unique twist on traditional comfort food. Our favorite is Surly Girl Saloon (1126 N High Street) which has a girly western feel, a rock star brunch, and features the coolest chandelier in Columbus.

Dirty Frank’s (248 S 4th Street) is one of Lessner’s other gifts to Columbus. Located downtown, this hot dog shop offers the best, and strangest, hot dogs (and tofu dogs!) we’ve ever tasted, and for really low prices. Each hot dog represents a different state or city. The Ohioana dog, for example, has a corn relish topping, and the Pittsburgh Princess has slaw, fresh cut fries, and malt vinegar. There’s lots of variety, and lots of vegan and gluten free options. This place is always flooded with gay or lesbian couples, especially on karaoke night.

You can’t call yourself a Columbusite if you haven’t been to the Blue Danube aka the Dube (2439 N High Street), one of our oldest diners/dive bars. This place opened before Pearl Harbor, and it continues to grow and change in a way that makes if feel classic, hip, and like home all at once. The ceiling tiles are hand DIY decorated, some by regulars, some by famous people! They have the best jukebox in town, filled with all the tunes you need to mourn or win a lady. We usually get the mac and cheese bites, sweet potato fries with mixed berry and chili sauce, and their great hummus plate. There are two glorious nights a week set aside for dollar-burger-with-a-beer specials, where you can get super fancy adding anything from egg to guac for a minimal fee. What more could a recession-laden lesbian want?

Liz introduced Annie to Lavash Cafe (2985 N High Street), a Middle Eastern restaurant in Clintonville, and it may be the best thing she’s ever done for us. This is Annie’s favorite restaurant in Columbus. They have phenomenal spicy black bean hummus, Columbus’ best tabouli, mouth waveringly glorious kebabs, and a meal rarely costs more than $10.

We could go into the many fantastic ethic restaurants in this town, but we could never cover them like the blog alt.eats.columbus does. They provide detailed reviews of Columbus’ many off-the-beaten-track ethnic spots, and have led us to delicious meals we never would’ve discovered on our own.

Because “dining lounge” seems to be code for fancy martinis and plush white couches, Level (700 N High street) is a great place to both eat and drink. They have a cool lounge upstairs and a pretty lively karaoke night and while it’s never boring, it’s way more relaxed than Union. Definitely check out Wine Wednesday (half off all bottles of wine, so you can get tanked the classy way).

Pattycake Bakery (3009 N High Street) is easily our favorite bakery in Columbus. Operated by mostly lesbians, this is the best place to get your vegan baked goods. No matter what time you go, you’re sure to find some cute queer girls waiting to plow into Pattycake’s famous muffins.

If you’re in the mood to sip some coffee and check out cute girls, you should try Kafe Kerouac (2250 N High Street). This cafe is a literary lover’s dream, as the name suggests. All the drinks are named after authors, and the walls are covered with old books which are available for purchase. Records and local art are also found through the shop. Keruoac also has a stage for local musicians and poetry nights. An Ohio State feminist group, Women and Allies Rising in Resistance (WARR), meets here for Feminist Fridays.

Travonna Coffee House

Travonna (1195 N High Street) is the premier LGBT-friendly coffeehouse and art space and also gets cool points for being the only coffeehouse in Columbus open 24 hours. Drinks are a little pricey, but they actually have matcha tea and know how to make a real macchiato.

If you’re after a real cup of Joe, we suggest checking out Stauf’s (1277 Grandview Avenue) in Grandview. This spot radiates local charm and a laid back atmosphere. Customers can even borrow board games to play while they enjoy their drinks and pastries. Stauf’s is more chill than Kerouac, so you’re more likely to get reading and studying done here, and they have the best, locally roasted coffee C-Bus has to offer.


Local Literature


For those nights when you want to stay in, you can cuddle up with your girl and read some of Columbus’ LGBTQ publications. These publications include Outlook, Gay People’s Chronicle, Out in Columbus, and many others for a total of ten queer print-news sources. None of these are specifically for gay men or lesbians; they include all LGBTQ readers. If you’re looking for info on LGBTQ friendly businesses, the best lesbian spots, or lesbian friendly service providers, browse through the Lavender Listings. Most of these publications and resources are free and can be found in cafes, shops, and at bus stops.

Pearls of Wisdom (3522 N High Street) is a New Age bookstore and community center that has bookshelf after bookshelf of pro-womanyst and pro-sex literature, knickknacks, jewelry, plants, and teas. There are also several overstuffed couches that welcome your bottom for endless reading. They offer several different meditation, belly dancing, and yoga classes that are welcoming to all body types.

The Garden (1174 N High Street) and The Chamber (both cater to the LGBTQ community. The Garden has the best lesbian section we’ve ever see, and The Chamber has an amazing fetish selection. The first floor is full of feather boas, hundreds of lubes (which you can sample!), sexy costumes, and pride merchandise. The basement has dildos, vibrators, strap on harnesses (many of which are locally made!), and every other sex toy you can imagine. Erotic literature and how to sex books for people of all sexualities cover the walls of the shop. Like any good sex shop, there’s a bunch of porn here, too. Just like the literature and toys, the porn section has options for everyone including, lesbians, gays, feminists, heterosexuals, and everything else you can imagine. The Garden also gets bonus points for being open until 3 a.m. Monday-Saturday. Remember that really expensive vibrator you had your eye on? There’s a 94% chance you’ll be mentally able to afford it after closing your bar tab.


Where to Get That Perfect Alt Life Haircut or Tattoo


Lucky 13 (3131 N High Street) in Clintonville is one of the most popular places to get an edgy and alternative hair cut. The hair cut prices are about $30 and they are worth every penny. Lucky 13 has been involved in the LGBTQ community for a while, too. They are participate in Pride week and go out of their way to include LGBTQ customers.

If you want an even more alternative place with even more queer stylists, go to Rendezvous (2600 N High Street). They offer amazing style and service for a great price. Thursdays are half off haircuts, and they base cut prices on hair length, so you won’t be charged an arm and a leg for a trim. Hair coloring is also well priced and the results are PERFECT. “Since trying this place, I have finally found the perfect hair cut.” – Dom

I started going to Virtue Salon (3333 N High Street), a vegan salon in Clintonville, about a year ago, and my life changed. At least my life in relation to my hair. The salon is super cute and decently priced ($30 for a haircut and style). I can’t speak for all of the stylists, but my stylist, Sarah, is the master of getting to know each customer’s unique balance of adventure and restraint. Check ’em out, read their Yelp reviews, and let me know what you think. – Annie

Aveda Institute on High, right in the heart of OSU’s campus, features cheap cuts (typically around $20 with tips going to your stylist’s choice of non-profit) and washes from cute multi-presenting and orienting students. I have gotten many an L Word-inspired cut there with no judgment, only love. A haircut here may be an all-day affair, and you can never get the same stylist twice, but the results are marvelous more often than not, and the floor-to-ceiling windows offer excellent people-watching and/or creeping. – Liz

If you already have an edgy hair style, get a tattoo. Evolved Tattoos (1880 N High Street) has an all female studio where you can get your tats and piercings. Keep an eye out for their buy one get one half off deals.


How to Get Your Activism On


While we still have a long march towards equality in Ohio (we still don’t have equal housing and employment laws, let alone anything close to marriage or second parent adoption rights), we have a lot of determined groups that fight for and/or recognize the importance of LGBTQ people and families.

The nearest and dearest to our hearts is Equality Ohio. If you are passionate about finding legislative solutions to the many inequalities we LGBTQs face in this state and nationwide, this is the perfect place to volunteer. EO is currently working on two state bills, an equal housing and employment bill and a safe schools bill with enumeration. They have volunteer nights every Thursday, and with volunteers of all backgrounds, orientations, and ages, this is a great way to see the diversity and learn the history of our community.

Stonewall Columbus is our local LGBTQ community center. They host a variety of activities and meetings, including trans support groups, alcoholics anonymous, ballroom dancing, and a running club. They are also known for the amazing job they do pulling together Pride!

The Buckeye Region Anti Violence Organization (BRAVO) is an LGBTQ survivor advocacy resource for victims of hate crimes, discrimination, domestic violence, and sexual assault. They are inclusive in their outreach to many sub-communities in Columbus, including the Leather/BDSM communities, queer communities, and polyamory communities.

Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) provides a wide range of support, education, and outreach provided no-cost and judgment-free. SARNCO advocates receive extensive sensitivity training on LGBTQ issues, and survivors may request the gender of his or her advocate. Outreach and education programs can also be tailored for lesbian or queer audiences.

The Planned Parenthoods on West Broad and East 17th Avenue are, in our experience, extremely LGBTQ friendly. Both are on a sliding payment scale.

Other great places to check out for your health needs are the Ohio State University’s Center for Women’s Health and the Columbus Aids Task Force.


Where the Gayish Girls Are


While you can find queers of all types all over this city, there are a few unique LGBTQ social groups and hot spots that y’all should check out.

Queer Behavior is an awesome, purely social LGBTQ group that organizes things like Queer Yoga, Queer Scouts, and alt-Valentine’s Day art parties. Wednesday night yoga ($8/5 for students), has fantastic instructors, is located in our favorite art gallery (Gallery 83), and is a pretty good mix of Ls and Gs. They also have queer film nights once a month at Kafe Kerouac.

Like most queer cities, Columbus has a slew of high quality drag queen shows. As fun as drag queen shows are, we lady gays need some drag kings and other queer performers in our lives. Columbus rocks the queer burlesque and drag king shows. Our favorite groups have to be Viva Valezz! and the Velvet Hearts burlesque troop and The Royal Renegades Drag Kings. Both groups perform often and even travel throughout the country. Viva Valezz, the leader of the Velvet Hearts, recently won the “Golden Pasties” award at the 2011 New York Burlesque Festival. She also runs the Columbus Burlesque Academy, where you can learn to seduce that girl you met at Wall Street.

Viva and the Velvert Hearts Courtesy of Brett Hunt

For all you youngins (12- to 18-year-olds) out there, Kaleidoscope Youth Center (1904 N High Street) is an awesome LGBTQ group located in an old house near Ohio State. KYC is open every weekday from 4-7pm as a place to hang out, play pool, use the internet, and just be with other queers and allies. On the weekends they organize bowling trips, movie nights, and other social activities. If you are involved in a GSA at school or are interested in creating one, or if you are having issues with bullying in school, they have many resources and will even come out to your school for teacher trainings.

If for some reason you want to go dancing somewhere other than Wall Street (blasphemy!), Columbus has some great options. We suggest Heatwave, a retro 60s dance party the first Saturday of the month at Ace of Cups; Clampdown, an indie pop party the second Saturday of the month at Ravari Room; or Ladies 80’s every Thursday at the infamous Skully’s Diner. Axis, the gay counterpart to Wall Street, is also always a good time.

Columbus is completely full of dykes on bikes and local bike shops. You can find the recreational dykey bikers on our 7 major bike trails. We even have the Third Hand Bike Co-Op (174 E 5th Avenue), where they will teach you to fix your bike and all you have to pay for are the parts.


Where the Gayish Girls are: University Version


Central Ohio features a high concentration of colleges and universities, including The Ohio State University, Columbus College of Art and Design, Franklin University, Columbus State Community College, and Capital University. This potent mix of young people and academia means that we have lots of sexy-smart girls of all kinds of orientations, identifications, and presentation. It also means we have lots of art shows, galleries, poetry slams, famous lecturers, music, boozery, and fun!

As one of the largest universities in the country, by enrollment and area, The Ohio State University is crawling with queers. Though OSU is well known for its sports, it has a lot to offer. They have one of the largest and best Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality departments, and dozens of LGBT organizations. There is even a class about lesbian porn in the winter! The professors and faculty help make this campus a very gay friendly space.

The various college crowds all get together once a month for a party called Stonewall Fusion. The parties often involve drag or talent shows, and each party is hosted by a different college or university around Central Ohio.

This summer Equality Ohio is organizing the first ever Equality Express Bus Tour! During the tour college-age LGBTQs will travel the state for three weeks and march in the Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati Pride parades. They will also do community service projects in Zanesville, Akron, and other smaller cities, and it will be an opportunity to showcase how awesome and diverse Ohio’s LGBTQ community is!


The Town of 1000 Festivals


Pride Parade 2011, Short North

We have no idea how many festivals the Central Ohio area actually has, but 1000 seems about right. Every summer weekend there is at least one music festival, not to mention food festivals, cultural festivals, beer and wine festivals, and the occasional ferret festival (yes, this is a real thing). Because this year is Columbus’ 200th birthday(!) the festivities are extra special, so make sure to get out and enjoy C-Bus this year!

Each June, Columbus celebrates a month of Pride. Street lamps bear pride and diversity banners while businesses cover themselves in gay flags and rainbow lights. The LGBTQ community organizes events including picnics, dances, art shows, movie nights, lesbian softball, and so much more. And we hosts what is likely the second largest Pride Parade and Festival in the Midwest, after Chicago, with over 210,000 people coming out for the event last year. The parade marches from downtown to Goodale Park in Victorian Village and is on the family-friendly side with many businesses, religious organizations, social groups, and individuals taking part. While it was guy heavy (as Liz put it, Pride had “too many dudes, not enough boobs”) it was a huge, diverse event and totally worth checking out. On stage the ladies were present, with Ohio’s own Vanity Theft and Chely Wright performing.

Comfest is the Columbus event of the year and is rumored to be the largest non-sponsored festival in the country. A mix between a neighborhood block party and Woodstock, it is a perfect example of why this city is so rockin’. Tens of thousands of Columbusites of all ages fill Goodale Park (the same spot as Pride) for three days of local music, food, beer, hula hooping, and more. The cute and occasionally topless girls that were missing from Pride come out in spades for Comfest. And not only is the whole event free and volunteer-run, but all extra money raised from beer sales gets donated to local homeless shelters.

If local music is your thing, Independent’s Day is your festival. Located on Gay Street and Pearl Alley, this September event has five stages filled will all Columbus bands, and every year they showcase the best established and up and coming acts this city has to offer.

The Dark Side


We try to avoid Park Street. Not because of homophobia or anything, it’s just broville and super straight. The bars aren’t interesting and drinks are expensive and taste like pee water. If your straight friends do drag you here (as ours often do) we suggest talking them into going to Novaks (479 N High Street) or Callahan’s (520 Park Street), the best Park Street has to offer.

There aren’t many terrible places in Columbus, but it’s best to be aware of your surroundings.


Other Awesome Things


If C-bus locals have one thing, it is Ohio pride. Everywhere you go you see the heart-shaped outline of our state, whether it be on shirts, necklaces, bags, or coasters. Kat even has an Ohio flask (that Annie may or may not have gotten her for Christmas). And Wholly Craft! (3169 N High Street) is your source for any and all things kitsch and Ohio. They only sell items made by fellow Columbus crafters, and they offer a slew of decently priced crafting classes. It’s like Etsy in a brick-and-mortar store.

Wholly Craft!

While we do have a few famous sports teams (Ohio State Buckeyes, anyone?), there is only one team you really need to know, the Ohio Roller Girls. The girls are hot and play some feisty roller derby and the matches are affordable and a total blast.

Available Light Theatre is one of our favorite art groups in Columbus. They put on a mix of original and recreated works and they bring something new to everything they do. They also have a pay-what-you-can policy for day-of tickets, so this is a perfect place to experience theatre on a budget.

For the best concerts, go to The Newport Music Hall (1722 N High Street). The Newport is one of the oldest rock ‘n roll halls in the country. To this day, it is still locally run and independently owned, making it one of the few still in existence. This musical den mostly hosts indie, alternative, experimental music.

The OSU Urban Art Space (50 W Town Street) is Kat and Annie’s favorite way to spend a free afternoon. Located in the old Lazarus building downtown, the UAS is a free art museum, with ever-changing exhibits showcasing art that is mostly local, and often design-oriented. If you are interested in urban sociology, development, or planning, make sure to check it out. We always learn something new about this city, the people who live here, and where it’s going.

If you are into the great outdoors, Columbus has more available than most people realize. We have an expansive Metro Parks system, with fifteen parks and many miles of hiking trails. Our personal fave is Clear Creek Metro Park, where a winter hike is like stepping into a Christmas card. If you are near downtown, check out Scioto Audubon Metro Park (400 W Whittier Street), where there is a lot bird watching and a free climbing wall.

Climbing Wall, Scioto Audubon Metro Park


Diversity, Income, and Other Noteworthy Things


In economic and population terms, Columbus isn’t doing too shabby. While we are located in the middle of the rust belt, we’re totally bucking the trend. We’re growing (10% population growth between 2000 and 2010!) and we have a lot of large companies with headquarters or bases here, including Limited Brands, Nationwide, and Chase. We also have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Ohio (6.4% in December 2011).

While we’re not as diverse as many cities (59% Non-Hispanic white), Columbus features the second largest population of Somalis outside of Somalia. We also are home to large Latino and South African populations. This means that we have some truly incredible and authentic ethnic cuisine, tons of great translation services, and many opportunities for Halal/Kosher shopping.

Because it is still a hidden gem, it doesn’t cost much to live in Columbus. In fact, it costs less than the national average ($0.89 for every dollar you would spend elsewhere). Depending on your neighborhood and your willingness to live with roommates, it’s easy to find a place to live for under $450 a month including utilities.

Columbus is also a really easy city to get around. The freeways are well designed and maintained, so that even as we grow, rush hour traffic rarely adds more than ten minutes to any commute. And while the public transit in this town isn’t award worthy, it isn’t awful either. COTA, our bus system, is fairly reliable and free for OSU and CCAD students.

On the surface, the Columbus LGBTQ scene looks kind of guy heavy, but for us, the community feels pretty united. We’ve all have close gay guy friends, and have spent a lot of time in gay bars. We’ve also seen a lot of guys at Wall Street and Slammers. We’ve always felt welcomed and like family, and hope our guys feel the same.

Columbus Ohio!

Part of an ongoing series of Queer Girl City Guides.

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Double major of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University. Certified cheese monger.

Dominique has written 1 article for us.


  1. Thank you..Thank you..I can not wait to tell my ultra conservative tea-party member sister just how gay her freaking city is and that I’m taking her up on her invite to visit just so I can experience all it’s many gay splendors!

  2. I’ve long had an irrational need to move from New York to Columbus, and this article isn’t helping quell that at all!

  3. Happy to see Lavash on here! My dad knows the owner and I’m hooked. Make sure to get their Shwarma sandwhich…

    SPEAKING OF WHICH, Leeno’s is a great hookah bar, while not especially queer, it’s worth mentioning that all the food is made by the owner’s mom… so youre basically being fed by a Middle-Eastern gramma. Git.

    • Awesome! What’s your focus for grad school? I’m already at OSU but I’m staying here for my MA in English :)

      • English as well! I’ll be in the MFA program for fiction/nonfiction. I’m psyched! And I did actually live in Columbus for a year about five years ago, and its awesomeness was very much a factor in applying to OSU. But there’s a ton of stuff on here I didn’t know. But I miss Cup O’ Joe’s and the amazing vegan cookies from Pattycake like whoa. Also Northstar. Basically all of the things.

        • Awesome! I am going into editing, so I can edit your stuff! Ni did a creative writing minor, but editing and academic writing, especially about feminist and queer theory is my thing (I’m double majoring I. English and Women’s, Gender, Sexuality Studies right now ). I hope to meet you at some point!

  4. Columbus is hands down the best city in Ohio. I considered going to undergrad at OSU but – true story – knew I would be too tempted by the awesomeness that would be around me to study instead of party.

    I might be spending my last Ohio summer down in Columbus if a certain internship doesn’t come through. If so, I intend to visit about 90% of the places listed above. Definitely have to make it to Columbus Pride this year.

  5. This article is informative, well written, the best and most accurate reviews, and great photos… and not just because it mentions me. ;) But, seriously, as you can tell by the Ohio tattoo with a heart smack-dab in the center where Columbus is… I love this city. I lived in the San Fran area for ten years, and this small city really rivals it in terms of queer/gay girl power. I love it here. You all should visit. And… Come to Columbus in May 2013 for Fierce: The First International Queer Burlesque Festival! http://www.fiercequeerburlesque.com Hope to see you all in Cbus!

  6. Funny, I grew up near Cleveland but because I went to college in the southeast, I know Columbus much better. Hal and Al’s, Nida’s Thai on High, and Dirty Franks are some of my favorite places.

    • I grew up nearCleveland too, well more like Akron/ Youngstown. I was so happy to move here aft being there and in Pittsburgh. It’s the best!

    • are you a vegetarian? those are probably some of the best vegetarian friendly places here. you should check out banana leaf if you like indian food.

      • I have been trying to go to Banana Leaf for like three years, and it has never panned out. I need to make this top priority, I hear such good things!

        • I do like Banana Leaf, but as far as vegetarian Indian food goes, Dosa Corner can’t be beat. Their food is to die for! Plus, it is super cheap. The only downside is that they are not used to dealing with non-Indian customers, so (as a white girl) I usually get a lot of disapproving glares when I pick up my food :) It is worth it, though!

          • Another place I want to check out! I love dosas. I usually go to upipi cafe for veg southern indian.

  7. you guys, i live in cincinnati and i’ve never felt any particular need to go to columbus but after reading this I CAN NOT WAIT UNTIL MY NEXT DAY OFF SO I CAN COME UP THERE. can. not. wait.

    • This is a super late comment but… a trip from Cincinnati to Columbus for Jeni’s, Northstar, and Autostraddlers sounds like the perfect vacation of awesome.

      It’s really only 2 episodes of Mad Men (plus commercials) away!

  8. Mac’s in Short North – have a scottish egg and thank me later. In fact, its right across the street from Jeni’s so you can go there for dessert! Happy Greek has awesome food, Marcellas has a great happy hour for food and Bar 23 has super cheapo martinis during happy hour. Pride is a blast, make sure to stay until Monday so you can go to Bat N Rouge on Sunday afternoon (drag softball – so fun). The Ohio Theatre in downtown occasionally shows old movies, in between its off Broadway shows, that are reasonably priced. Oh, and DO NOT leave Cbus until you’ve gone to First Friday at Wall Street. Just don’t. You need First Friday.

  9. hey guys. so i live in columbus and there were a few things i wanted to comment on:

    – comfest is a must-see
    – jeni’s is good, if overpriced (i prefer johnson’s)
    – rendezvous is the best hair place i’ve ever been to
    – cota is mostly reliable from downtown to osu, and hit-and-miss everywhere else
    – wall street… i really hope it’s not the biggest lesbian club in the country, because that would be depressing. i was there last week and they were playing chris brown forever, the dance floor was half empty, and of the crowd that was there, a very noticeable portion of them were creepy straight guys. one of them was literally standing in the middle of the dance floor watching us and clapping.

    • Ya, I guess when I wrote that about COTA I had just come from a place with the worst bus system ever. Like the schedule meant nothing, buses just showed up at random and often didn’t show. It made COTA look pretty awesome.

      Hopefully it was an off night at Wall? I made the mistake of showing up around 10 once and it was pretty empty. Now I don’t go before midnight.

    • Wall can be pretty hit or miss, I’ve also experienced the empty dance floor/creepy straight dudes phenomenon. Try to go on First Friday or Traffic Night or some kind of event night, during the week & before 10pm it’s always dead. Also some weekends when things are happening elsewhere :)

  10. I am in Dayton and have been to a few of these places and will be trying out the rest this summer….oh yes!

  11. All Ohio based college-age queers, the Equality Express (mentioned in the guide) will be a really cool internship opportunity this summer. Message me if you’re interested in applying or just want to hear more about it!

  12. i’ve had family in columbus (and dayton-area) all my life so it feels like, after ann arbor, one of the areas of the country where i spent the most time as a kid, so it’s one of those places I’ve never really thought about. it just IS, like ann arbor is. like grass and trees. i have even more family there now than i used to. and my intern of course. and then you wrote this thing! how lovely!

  13. I love living in Old Town in C-bus! There are so many great things going on, and it’s so friendly. I love that it is in this article. All of the places that were mentioned are great, and there are so many more! Viva Columbus!

  14. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you for this!!! I have lived in Columbus for years, but am pretty clueless about where to go to meet other people. Thank you for helping to make me a more informed baby dyke :) P.S. I think I had a class with you Dom…just saying.

      • I can’t remember the name, sexuality and civilization or something like that. Spring 2011. It was basically lesbian history and we met a pornstar!… were you in that or am I crazy? It is likely that I am crazy :)

  15. I love this!!!!! Columbus for the win! As a fellow Ohioan I’m so happy to see a city guide that I could work my way through on any given weekend. That, and my lady has to attend conferences there a few times a year and it’s always nice to have new places to go.

    I have to say we absolutely LOVE Union Cafe, even though it’s a little heavy on the men side. Their humus is fantastic an so are the Thai chicken kababs. Also, who doesn’t love the uber gay music videos playing at every booth! Surly Girl is pretty amazeballs. Definitely the most awesome chandelier, and their menus are boun in those leather hardbacks from Time-Life books. The cucumber infused peach vodka and soda is a must to cool down on a hot day!

    I’m looking forward to check out more of this fab city, so all of the thanks to you ladies for doing the research for us!!!! Just want to add, there is a “NO H8” shoot there this Saturday night! Everyone should check it out :)

  16. I’ve been waiting for the Columbus version!
    I wish this was here a year and a half ago when I transplanted from Toronto.
    Columbus is small though, so don’t be surprised when you’re on a date at Hal and Al’s and your ex shows up…
    Also- Virtue salon is the BEST! Got my hair cut (like 15″ off) 2 weeks ago and went from red to bleach blonde. It was the best experience I’ve ever had at a salon!

    • Also Also- if you’re at Ace of Cups (which is awesome) get the lavander vodka w/ lemonade. Trust me on this. Also- walk home after having this.

      • Yes! The lavender vodka with lemonade is one of the many awesome things about Ace of Cups.

    • I love Virtue! I wish I could get my hair cut once a week, just because I love being there so much.

    • I know, German Village is the original gayborhood, but outside of the Book Loft and Shakespeare in the Park, I just don’t know much about it. My friends and I are going to explore it more this summer. What are your German Village must sees?

  17. Love C-bus! I’m from Troy and I live in Cleveland, but this is just giving me so many more reasons to visit Columbus this summer. My girlfriend lives out in Bexley, I think we’re going to have explore downtown a bit. Thank you guys for writing such a great article! So many great ideas here!

  18. I have to share in the many thanks and happiness this post has gotten. As a new transplant (although I lived in cbus before realizing I was queer) I haven’t found the scene yet or the fun new queer friends.

    It’s time I got out and explored!

  19. These city guides are awesome, someone should do one for Rome cuz I been here 2 months and I havent seen anything remotely gay…

  20. As someone who grew up in cbus, this is the best thing ive read about the city! I go to school in Cleveland and this post made me realize just how much i miss it, especially in the spring/summer! (un)fortunately ill be living in cleveland after graduation for work, but thank god its only a 2 hours drive.

  21. Yes! I keep trying to tell all of my friends how awesome Columbus is and they never believe me. This will help.

  22. Nicely done, C-bus team. Every time I thought, “I hope they mention…,” there it’d be. I’ve been here for forever and still learned things. I live in Harrison West and was not aware it’s also known as Flytown.

    I would like to add that our local independent radio station, CD101, is fantastic and noteworthy. They bring a ton of great bands to Columbus, and are still fighting strong in the battle against Clear Channel domination. They also regularly have Low-Dough shows and their annual CD101 Day (two days this year) for $5.

    For great shows in the city, the Newport is lovely, but there are also a bunch of other fantastic bars. We have an awesome local music scene. Times New Viking, Saintseneca, and Lydia Loveless are all Columbus musicians who are getting big.

    Carabar (which you ladies mentioned) is always cover-free. Ace of Cups regularly has fantastic shows (not surprising, as the owner, Marcy Mays, was in Scrawl and has been a great member of the music scene for years) and an impressive amount of hot girls in attendance at a given time. Circus, Kobo, Kerouac, Woodlands, and Rumba Cafe are all pretty super. The Summit has terrible sound, but sometimes still gets great bands in (Langhorne Slim this Saturday, yay).

    • Sorry, just one more thing to add to my novella, then I promise I’ll stop. the Wexner Center for the Arts on OSU’s campus always has thought-provoking and rad art, film, theater, and music. I’m super jazzed to see Tune-yards there this summer.

      • Ha! These were all things we wanted to include as well, but we ran out of room! Thanks for mentioning them!

      • I’m so glad you added these things! I wouldn’t do them justice. I’d add Way Yes and Maza Blaska to the best local bands. Also the Wex was on our list to write about, but it is so diverse in what it does that I never found the words to describe it. Thanks for finding a way to summarize it!

      • Also, Flytown (which was named for the housing that flew up for immigrant workers) and Harrison West were adjacent neighbors, but when 670 came through they tore down half of Flytown and the rest became part of Harrison West. Flytown is totally a better name, so a lot of HW residents (myself included) are trying to bring it back.

  23. I would love to visit Columbus Ohio, but unfortunately, I still owe money, to the money, to the money I owe.

    But if I get carried to Ohio by a swarm of bees, then I’m on it.

    (So once your state features in a song by The National, automatically in my top ten of places to visit.)

  24. So glad you wrote this post. AND there is nothing better than Jeni’s Ice Cream. Nothing.

  25. This was so great to read! I am going to be moving to Columbus soon and I can use all the help I can get. I’ve been looking at apartments and coming from a big city and not knowing a single person in Ohio, this has helped me figure out what area I want to move to! Thanks so much <3

  26. I’m moving to Columbus for the summer. Is there a GLBT rec soccer league? I’d be open to softball, too, but I’m way more interested in soccer.

    • I don’t know about a soccer league, but there is a softball league. The website below offers some info, but it is best to show up at one of the sign up nights. Games start May 6!


  27. I’m so glad I read that! I currently live in Zanesville and have lived here my whole life but I never new any of this. That’s really awesome!

  28. hey hey I’m spending the holidays in ohio but I have no friends there.

    be my friends? let’s drink beer? anyone?

  29. Yay! I’ll be here all throughout the holidays. My gf and I have a two bedroom place near downtown so you should stop by!

  30. My girlfriend and I have been working our way through this guide whenever we get a weekend in the city….it’s fanfuckingtastic! Today we went to Hal and Al’s and considered never leaving. Now I’m at home wishing someplace local wanted to feed me vegan corndogs. Thanks again! Also, going to Jeni’s first definitey gives you maximum opportunity to maximize on Jeni’s.

  31. Thanks for this!! I’ve lived in Cbus for almost 7 years now (OSU student), and while I know most of the biggies (Wall St, Slammers, Union, Level, Jeni’s, Dirty Frank’s, the Dube, Surly Girl, Kafe Karouac, Travonna, etc.) I’ve never heard of a lot of these places, and I’m stoked to start trying them all as soon as I get back after the holidays! Doesn’t hurt that I’ve been seeing a new girl lately so I won’t have to adventure around by myself :o)

  32. Going to Columbus for the Tegan and Sara show! This guide is SO helpful for finding more things to do in town! And WOW it makes me want to live there. Thanks!

  33. hi hello I’m moving to columbus next week for a little bit and I have no friends there! does anyone want to show me around/drink a drink(or two)/enjoy some pride festivities??

  34. Headed back to Cbus next week…and still working on this almost 2 years later! It’s funny my first comment references chicken kebabs and shortly after I stopped eating meat altogether. Thank goodness this guide has something for everyone!!

  35. Would just like to mention that, sadly, Circus, Surly Girl Saloon, and Hal and Al’s are all closed now.

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