March 28, 2011

A Guide to Columbus for OGS Conference Goers

I thought it might be helpful to give a little overview of some of the opportunities for research, dining, and sightseeing in Columbus for those attending the upcoming Ohio Genealogical Society conference, March 31-April 2. It's only a few days away now! My mini-guide is based solely on personal experience as a resident and does not reflect any commercial affiliations. Here goes:
Looking to do a little family history research while you’re in town? Great! All of the following will welcome you:
Columbus Metropolitan Library—The Genealogy, History, and Travel Department on the third floor is rapidly evolving into a major research center for genealogists. Within the last several years, CML has become the repository for the holdings of the following collections: The State Library of Ohio, the Ohio Daughters of the American Revolution, the Ohio Huguenot Society, the Joy Wade Mouton British Collection, the National Palatines to America Society (German immigration), and the Franklin County Genealogical and Historical Society. CML has resources on all 88 Ohio counties, most if not all states, military history, immigration, city directories, periodicals, Central Ohio newspapers, and more. It also holds the prison records of Camp Chase (on microfilm). The knowledgeable and helpful staff can help you find what you need on the shelves. You can learn more about the department's resources and access the library's online catalog here. Location: 96 S. Front St., Columbus 43215; phone (614) 645-2275. Attached parking garage. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 9 am-9 pm; Fri. & Sat. 9 am-6 pm; Sun. 1-5 pm. In addition, the library is hosting a special “Genealogy Lock-In” on Friday, April 1st from 6:30 pm-9:00 pm (with free parking) in conjunction with the OGS conference.

The Ohio Historical Society Archives/Library—This is the official repository of state records, including Ohio death records 1909-1954 and all census records. County probate, land, court, naturalization, and vital records are available for many counties (check the OHS Archives online catalog for coverage of a particular county). State military rosters and muster rolls (especially strong for Civil War), as well as other military records and veterans’ grave registry, can be found here. Other collection highlights include Ohio land grant entry records 1796-1876, prison records, and an extensive microfilm collection of historic newspapers throughout Ohio, including small communities. Location: 1982 Velma Ave., Columbus 43211 (17th Avenue exit off I-71); phone (614) 297-2510. Ample free parking; no charge to visit archives, but registration for library card required at first visit. Hours: Thurs. 10 am-7 pm, Fri. & Sat. 10 am-5 pm (closed Sun.-Wed.).

State Library of Ohio—This facility holds Congressional records, agricultural reports, USGS maps, military rosters from the Spanish-American War through Vietnam, State of Ohio government documents (laws, decrees, proceedings, etc.), U.S. patents, and other original records. You can access the State Library's online catalog here. Location: 74 E. 1st Ave., Suite 100, Columbus 43221; phone (614) 644-7061. Free parking. Registration for library card required at first visit. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 am-5pm.
The Hyatt on Capitol Square, where the OGS conference is being held, is home to two restaurants--casual Darby’s and upscale The Plaza. Since City Center Mall has been torn down, there are limited dining options within walking distance. For lunch, I'd recommend walking north on High Street (past the Statehouse) a couple of blocks. There you'll find Spenelli's Deli, Cafe Napolitana, and other choices. For dinner, a similar walk down Third St. will bring you to Mitchell's Steakhouse.

Those looking to venture out by car might consider nearby German Village and the Brewery District, home of the original Max & Erma’s, the authentic Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, and, for fine dining, Lindey’s, G. Michael's Bistro, and Barcelona. See the German Village “Shop, Dine, & Stroll” webpage for more information. For all restaurants, if you have a group of three or more, it might be a good idea to call for a reservation or call-ahead seating. Be aware that on-street parking is the norm throughout the downtown area, though some establishments offer valet parking.

Alternately, the Short North area on N. High St. features a plethora of trendy restaurants, bars, boutiques, and art galleries. Restaurant choices include Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, Rigsby’s Kitchen, Marcella’s Ristorante, Martini Modern Italian, and more. See the Short North dining guide for a full listing. The Elevator, located between downtown and the Short North, features a microbrewery (tours by appointment) in addition to a full menu. Clustered around Nationwide Arena, the Arena District offers still more choices, including Buca di Beppo, Gordon Biersch Brewery, and BD’s Mongolian Barbeque, among others. Since the Columbus Blue Jackets have a home game on Friday, April 1st, you may want to avoid the area that evening (unless you have tickets to the game!).

There’s a lot to see and do in Central Ohio if your schedule permits before or after the conference. The following are just a few suggestions. For a more complete list of attractions and historical sites, see Experience Columbus or's “Columbus and Central Ohio Tourism Attractions." The closest attraction is the Ohio Statehouse, completed in 1861, which sits across the street from the conference hotel. You can pop in for a quick look or free audio tour anytime Mon.-Fri. 7 am-6 pm and Sat.-Sun. 11 am-5 pm. Guided tours are also available.

Museum buffs can pick from the award-winning Center for Science and Industry (COSI), the Columbus Museum of Art, or the Ohio Historical Center Museum. Franklin Park Conservatory, a warm and welcoming spot year-round, is a photographer’s dream. Military history enthusiasts might want to head east to Mott’s Military Museum in Groveport. The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, located about 30 minutes north of downtown, makes a nice destination on a spring day. Shoppers can head east to Easton Town Center, or north to Polaris Fashion Place. Or take some time just to stroll around the shops along Third Street in German Village or High Street in the Short North. Whatever your interests, if you have the time, it’s not hard to find something to do in Columbus.

I hope these suggestions, for what they're worth, will prove helpful to those heading to the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference. If you have any questions or comments, or just want to say you're coming, post them below or email me at  Hope to see you soon at OGS!

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