Fitness, culture, food and drink: These don’t have to be separate endeavors. Grab your running shoes, bike or skateboard and check out some of the best public art—from street murals to fine art and notable architecture—that Columbus has to offer. Traveling by foot or wheels is the best way to soak in all the city’s variety of cultural and historical sites, allowing you to make culinary and open-space discoveries along the way. To help you enjoy, expand and enhance your route, the city created Columbus Art Walks, a series of self-guided walking maps that identify a few hundred sites across a dozen art-filled neighborhoods, such as the Brewery District, German Village and River South. (Call 614-645-2646 and punch in the 3-digit site codes to learn more about the statues, murals, buildings or parks you locate on the maps.)
Start: Scioto Audubon Metro Park to Capitol Square Walk
Begin your tour at Scioto Audubon Metro Park where there’s plenty of parking, water and restrooms. Head north on the Scioto Greenway Trail for a couple of miles. Just past the Scioto Mile Fountain, exit the trail and head east on Town Street to the Ohio Statehouse and its surrounding square, filled with statues, monuments and lots of Ohio history. Start at the southeast corner of the square at the old Post Office & Federal Courthouse Building (100 S. 3rd St.). Punch code 183 to learn about one of the area’s oldest (1887) and most ornately decorated, and overwhelmingly Victorian Gothic buildings. President Taft (an Ohio native) was on hand for the unveiling of the 1912 renovation.
Around the corner is the Ohio Theatre (55 E. State St.), a “palace for the average man.” This Spanish baroque masterpiece opened in 1928 as a movie theater and vaudeville house that seated about 3,000 people. The cost of decorating the interior, more than $1 million, exceeded the construction cost, but just might have been worth it.
When you get to the corner of East State and High, look up to see the monocle- and tophat-wearing Mr. Peanut, who has been waving hello to roasted-nut lovers for more than a century. This is one of the last-surviving Mr. Peanut signs. Stop inside for some peanuts or caramel corn.
Head across the street and onto the statue-filled grounds of the Ohio Statehouse. Completed in 1861, the column-filled, Greek Revival building is one of the nation’s oldest state capitals. There’s a ground-floor museum, and tours are available. There’s also a restaurant (House Taco) on the ground floor if all this history whets your appetite.
On the northwest side of the Statehouse grounds is the These Are My Jewels statue, a series of life-size sculptures of the seven sons of Ohio who played a prominent role in the Civil War: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, James A. Garfield, Phillip Sheridan, Edwin Stanton, Salmon P. Chase and Rutherford B. Hayes. Dial 614-728-6884 to learn more about this statue and the inspiration behind its name (from the quote, “These are my jewels,” attributed to ancient Roman aristocrat Cornelia, referring to her sons).
On the South High Street side of Capitol Square is the large monument and statue of Rutherford B. Hayes, the nation’s 25th president, infamously assassinated in 1901 with the monument unveiled five years later to a crowd of 50,000. Looking forward, another block south and then east is the Urban Art Space of The Ohio State University (50 W. Town St., Ste. 50), a wonderful gallery located in the former Lazarus department store building. The Space is filled with modern art from a varied, diverse and rotating group of urban artists. Admission is always free.
Art Walk Pitstop: Capital Square is swarming with hungry people who work within walking distance on weekdays. It’s much quieter in the evenings and on the weekends, but is slowly changing as the downtown revitalization continues. As a result, the area specializes in lunch spots. A couple options are Condado Tacos (132 S. High St.), Tasty Dawgs (107 S. High) and Pizza Rustica (175 S. High).
Want more modern street art? Follow East Main Street until you get to South Fifth Street. At this corner is the #CbusLoveMural (better at night when neon lights highlight the word ‘love’) and the #CbusColorWall where you can snap your perfect selfie in front of a rainbow backdrop. Less than a mile north and east from here is Topiary Park (480 E. Town St.), which isn’t a mural but is too good to pass up. It’s a recreation of the famous pointillist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—in 3D topiary form.