Here's how to get the most out of a Saturday in the Short North

It's easy to fall into a vacation rut--thinking to "get away" means to "go far away." If you're looking for fun, you need not pack your bags or book a flight. Stay right here and explore Columbus. Be it an afternoon getaway, a Saturday outing or a weekend out-and-about--we've got a bevy of ways to be a tourist in your own town.

Start at the North Market and browse the 35 stands with local groceries, ethnic eats, sugary treats (Jeni's got its start here) and spices. Wander upstairs for a great view and a bit of history. Did you know the market is built on an old cemetery?

Next, relax at Mukha Custom Cosmetics, by blending a personal shade of foundation, lipstick, gloss or other beauty items. The 30-minute, by-appointment session allows for up to three products to be made right in front of you--and you can even add candy essence for extra flavor. Starts at $19 for blush.

Stop next door for a tea-style brunch at ZenCha. Sample teas from around the world with brunch items that complement, such as apple-pie-reminiscent pancakes with Earl Grey syrup.

Wander through Short North boutiques--some of the best shopping in the Midwest--and burn off those brunch-time calories. Find what's trendy at Jinny, Rowe and Ladybird; look for menswear at Brigade and Milk Bar; appreciate sustainable apparel at Substance; and be wowed by the variety of home décor shops and gift stores.

Now, who needs a glass of wine? Make your own at Camelot Cellars, where you can craft your own vino, choosing from 70 varieties. Mix juices with a winemaker at your side. It's the perfect laboratory for grown-ups. Roughly 12 weeks later, come back and add a personal label, then bottle and cork it, and you've got more than a dozen bottles of your own vintage. Starts at $200 for 15 bottles.

End the day with a little culture at Gallery Hop. Held on the first Saturday of each month, meander through more than 40 galleries and non-traditional art spaces such as restaurants, salons and other shops as they spotlight local and national artists. Boutiques will stay open late, and street vendors will peddle crafts, and musicians will entertain as you stroll from stop to stop.


Middle West Spirits:
A tour of this Short North distiller of OYO craft vodka and whiskey will please both the history buff and liquor connoisseur. "We have a history that dates back to Prohibition," teases Ryan Lang, head distiller and co-owner. Want the truth? You'll have to take the tour, which ends with a taste test between OYO and large brand labels. Tours are $10 and held Wed., Fri. & Gallery Hop Saturdays at 6 p.m. Reservations recommended.

Ohio Herb Education Center
This small center in Gahanna packs a mighty herbal punch. Create your own garden and then learn fun things to do with those herbs in classes that range from Tea 101 to aromatherapy to pesto. Mark your calendar for May 12 when they'll have more than 100 herbs on sale.

Columbus Food Adventures
More than a peek into area kitchens, tasty samples and an intro to new neighborhoods or foods--these guided tours give full access to knowledgeable foodies who can answer questions about all things edible in the city. The favorite tour? Taco trucks--a van tour that introduces guests to some of the city's best Mexican dishes. Tours vary by week and season. Prices start around $50.
Watershed Distillery
Start with the official tour get-to-know-you game, Hammerschlagen, which involves a hammer and nails. Then learn how Grandview's Watershed crafts the botanicals in its gin and why it is they can make bourbon outside of Kentucky. It's an open question-and-answer format. Owner Dave Rigo recommends booking a few weeks in advance, as tours, which end with an optional tasting, tend to sell out. Tours are $10/person, dates vary.


There may only be one professional sports team, but don't be fooled: Columbus is very much a sports town. So if you haven't been to a Clippers, Columbus Crew, Blue Jackets, and of course an Ohio State football game, put each one high on your list. Outside of the arenas and stadiums, here are a few anytime attractions for the sports-minded:

American Whistle Corp
It's the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the country, creating products used daily by police officers, teachers and--you guessed it--professional referees. Schedule a tour (in advance) at the Columbus plant to find out how that ball gets in there.

Phoenix Bats
Royals star hitter Billy Butler is just one of the major leaguers swinging bats made by this Plain City company. Hear more pro stories and get an up-close look at the entire bat-making process--both modern and vintage era--through a guided tour. Tours are $10, Tue., 6 p.m., Thu. & Fri., 1:30 p.m.

Jack Nicklaus Museum
Golf fanatic? This is for you--a 24,000-square-foot museum at the Ohio State University Sports Complex that chronicles the Columbus native golf legend's life and career. $10, Tue.-Sat., 9 a.m.-
5 p.m.


Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Head here after Memorial Day weekend as the Zoo unveils its Stingray Bay--an interactive stingray exhibit where you can get up close and personal with these underwater creatures. Open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), $14/adults; $9/kids 2-9; $10/ages 60 and up

The Wilds
Mark your calendar for May 19 as this safari-inspired park kicks off the season with WildZfest--a free event packed with costume characters, food and music. For an extra fee, take the family zip lining or stay overnight at Nomad Ridge.
Perkins Observatory
Opt for live entertainment at the observatory at Ohio Wesleyan. Get a tour, hear its ghost story, learn about the night sky, and look through its 32-inch reflecting telescope (weather permitting). Most Fri., 8 p.m., advance reservations recommended, $8/adults; $6/kids 3-17; $6/ages 62 and up

What you know: it's been rated the No. 1 science center in the country. What you may not: COSI's latest interactive exhibit opens March 17, illustrating how different cultures use water. Swing by the last Friday of the month from 5-9 p.m. for reduced admission ($9) and a movie.


Governor's Mansion
In the residence the focus is on Ohio industry. But the most interesting pieces are the intricate tables and frames crafted by young inmates at Mansfield Reformatory. In warmer months, go to see the Heritage Garden, with areas that represent all the major eco systems in the state. The free tours are held Tuesdays.
Columbus Commons
Spend the afternoon at the year-old, nine-acre city park that has more than just green space. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, read a book in a reading room (with books and free WiFi), take an old-fashioned carousel ride or see what's on stage at the Bicentennial Pavilion, set to open in May.

Kelton House Museum & Garden
Visit on Sunday when different performers bring the history of this 1852 home and the Underground Railroad to life. $6/adults; $2/students and kids ages 6 and up; $4/seniors

The Kings Arts Complex
There's no boring history lecture here as exhibits focus on interaction, such as Goree Island, a slave ship replica where visitors feel and hear what it was like to leave their homeland; and the Cradle of Jazz, a kiosk-style exhibit where you can hear from Columbus musical legends such as Roman Johnson and Elijah Pierce. Tue. & Thu., 1-7 p.m., Wed. & Sat., 1-5 p.m.; $3/gallery; special event prices vary

Thurber House
Keep this spot on your radar for its Evening With Authors series that attracts noteworthy writers to discuss their latest books. Circle June 5 on your calendar as bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan visits. Event prices vary.

German Village
Peruse The Book Loft's legendary 32 rooms. Shop at Helen Winnemore Craft. Lunch on sandwiches as big as your head at Katzinger's. Play at Schiller Park (or catch a show at the amphitheater come summer!) And don't miss the German Village Haus und Garten Tour in the spring.


Some old favorites, along with new ones to try

At the Columbus Museum of Art, the year-old renovations are worth a visit. But if you need a new reason, we've got two: In May, both the west garden and a display of a Roman-era mosaic floor from Israel open--the latter which is fated to be built into a permanent exhibit in Israel. Tue.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Thu., 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Free/members; $10/adults; $8/students and seniors; Free for children under 5, and for all on Sun. Special exhibits extra.

Or try this: In honor of the bicentennial, Keny Galleries, which offers museum-quality art in an historic German Village house, will celebrate more than 50 major Columbus artists through shows, such as George Bellows, Elijah Pierce and Theodore Butler. Plus, unlike a museum, many of these pieces are for sale.

Sure, you can head to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for flowers and butterfly exhibits. But stay to watch master glass blowers at Hot Shop where they create delicate artwork out of molten glass every day (and you can buy their vases in the gift shop for less than $20!). Join in the fun on some Wednesday and Thursday nights alongside gaffers (glass blowing pros). Open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Free/members; $11/adults; $9/students and seniors; $6/ages 3-17.

Or try this: Primarily a nonprofit glass studio, the artist creative element adds to the class lesson at Glass Axis in Grandview. During instruction with a professional artist, you'll feel the heat of the more than 2,000-degree ovens and be able to look over your shoulder at real artists as they work. Opt for one of 30 first experience classes--make your own ornament, tumbler, pumpkin and more. Classes start at $29.

Instead of just looking at art, walk with it at the Topiary Garden downtown. Pack a picnic and become part of landscape at this seven-acre park which recreates Georges Seurat's famous painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte." Free and open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Or try this: If public art is your thing, head on a self-guided Columbus Art Walks tour through neighborhoods such as German Village, Clintonville and Franklinton. Download an interactive map of nine areas with stopping points and a number to call for background on each piece of public art work.

l Peel your eyes from the Wexner Center's rotating contemporary exhibits, indie films or musical concerts and take a look at the floor--notice how the tiles taper off to the corner at a strange angle? Twelve and a quarter to be exact, a purposeful bit of symbolism worked into the building as a nod to the center's relationship with the city. It's the degree at which the city streets meet those on campus. Tue., Wed. & Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Thu.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Free/members, college students and 18 and under; $5/general public

Or try this: OSU Urban Arts Space, located in the Lazarus Building across from the Columbus Commons, is another constantly changing creative space, but with an educational bent. Run by OSU faculty and students, it's a learning lab as much as a gallery with exhibits--visual and performing arts--designed to spark dialogue. For a full taste, check out the spring season dedicated to OSU student work. Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Thu. open until 8 p.m.; free admission

l Broadway shows, classical music and comedy troupes are just a few of the touring acts at one of the CAPA-run theatres, each as varied as the entertainment it offers, such as the Southern Theatre (the oldest surviving theater in the area) and the recently renovated Ohio Theatre (once a movie theater).

Or try this: Head to the new home of Shadowbox Live in the Brewery District any night and you're sure to be entertained by the local nonprofit theater company. Thursday through Saturday there's sketch comedy. Sundays typically feature a musical (watch for "Rent"). Mondays are movie night. And expect a standup comic the first and third Tuesday of the month. Tickets start at $10