The sun is out. The party's on.
Summer weather brings us outdoors, where everything is shared—from the smoky smell of the barbecue to the soaring sounds of an open-air concert. New greenspaces, an ever-expanding fleet of food trucks, thriving local music and arts scenes and a growing array of craft breweries and distilleries make each Columbus summer better than the last. Summer is Columbus' social season; come out and join the party.
An educational tour of the Long Street Cultural Wall, the collage of photos and artworks along the Long Street Bridge celebrating the Near East Side's black heritage, will be the centerpiece of the second city-sponsored African-American Cultural Festival. The daylong event will include live performances by local black artists in spoken word, music and dance, as well as everything else required for a day of fun and learning: a kids zone, community and wellness booths and plenty of food. Free. June 2. columbus.gov/AACF
Columbus is often rated one of the nation's most LGBTQ-friendly cities, and each summer a weekend is dedicated to celebrating that status. Last year's Columbus Pride Festival drew an estimated crowd of 500,000 to the event's new location, Bicentennial Park. Expect food, fun and plenty of rainbow-colored finery when it returns in June—especially at the annual parade, which steps off at 10:30 a.m. from the intersection of Goodale and High streets on Saturday. June 15–17. columbuspride.org
Entertainers will take the stage and stroll about at the Powell Festival, a family-friendly event that includes rides and kids activities, food and libations. The two-day fest closes with a display of fireworks. Village Green Park, 47 Hall St., Powell. Free. June 22–23. festival.cityofpowell.us
With 2,500 volunteer shifts and 17 organizing committees with names like “food fairies” and “spirit and purpose,” the volunteer-run ComFest truly is a festival for the community. Break out your tie-dye for this celebration of diversity, which offers arts, crafts, food, beer, wall-to-wall live music and workshops in everything from vegan eating to art for social change. Goodale Park. Free. June 22–24. comfest.com
The Drexel Theatre's “America's Greatest Films” series continues through the summer with free classic movies followed by a Q & A on the first Tuesday of each month. This summer's offerings will be “To Kill a Mockingbird” (June 5), “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (July 3) and “American Graffiti” (Aug. 7). Free. June 5–Aug. 7. drexel.net
The Columbus Arts Festival, the city's first big summer bash, is not only a chance to see and purchase the work of established artists from far-flung places; it's also an opportunity to discover talented local newcomers. This year you can use the festival's new app to find them (see Event Spotlight), as well as check performance schedules, activities and food vendors. Also new this year: a local craft beer garden and a Friday night concert by Postmodern Jukebox. Free. 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sat., and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. June 8–10. columbusartsfestival.org
Reading outside is one of the pleasures of summer, so why not go a step further and talk about books outside as well? For 32 years, Thurber House Summer Literary Picnics have drawn book lovers to the lawn of James Thurber's former Jefferson Avenue home for readings and talks by local authors as well as tours of the house. This summer, poet Scott Woods will read works from the Harlem Renaissance as part of the “I, Too Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100” citywide event (July 11); Jessica Strawser, Dan Gearino and Karen Harper are just a few of the other writers featured. Boxed dinners are available, or you can bring your own. June 13–Aug. 22. thurberhouse.org
The CAPA Summer Movie Series returns the Ohio Theatre to its original role as a grand movie house, with 25 classic films screened over eight weeks. As in days of yore, pre-show and intermission entertainment are provided on the theater's “Mighty Morton” organ, and the series includes live organ accompaniment at select silent films. This year's flicks include “Some Like It Hot,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” a morning of cartoon capers and a special presentation of “Fright Night” with local legend Fritz the Nite Owl. $5 per screening. Strips of 10 tickets available for $30. June 15–Aug. 4. capa.com
If you're looking for a chance to revisit the debate about which is better, the book or the movie, you'll have a wealth of opportunities this summer as the Columbus Metropolitan Library partners with the Gateway Film Center to present the Book to Film Outdoor Movie Series in the Columbus Topiary Park. Films start at dusk on June 30 (“Marley and Me”), July 28 (“Howl's Moving Castle”) and August 25 (“Arrival”). But there's more: the Gateway is offering a movie inspired by a book at the theater every day from May 25 to Aug. 23. Admission is free with a library card. columbuslibrary.org; gatewayfilmcenter.org/featured_film_series/from-book-to-film
The 26th annual Worthington Arts Festival, a two-day event at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center, will feature the work of artists and craftspeople working in everything from oils to leather. Free. June 16–17. worthingtonartsfestival.com
What better place to see a midsummer performance of “A Midsummer Night's Dream” than at your neighborhood library? Columbus Metropolitan Library is partnering with the Franklinton Playhouse for four performances of a modernized version of Shakespeare's popular, chaotic brew of love triangles, love potions and woodland sprites and fairies. Free. All performances 6–7 p.m. June 27, Franklinton Branch; June 28, Main Library Children's Area; July 18, Whitehall Branch; July 19, South High Branch. columbuslibrary.org
Last year's Memorial Tournament winner, Jason Dufner, was the second Ohio-born golfer to win the tournament; the first was founder and host Jack Nicklaus. Dufner returns this year to defend his title in the annual extravaganza at Dublin's Muirfield Village Golf Club—the course that Jack built. This year's tournament honoree will be Hale Irwin, who in nearly 50 years of competition has won three U.S. Opens and 20 PGA Tour events, including Memorial titles in 1983 and 1985. $185–$290 for weekly badges. May 28–June 3. thememorialtournament.com
Polo is one of very few events where spectators are expected to dress nicely, then come onto the field and stamp out the divots left by horses' hooves after the match (Note to self: Don't wear heels). It's all part of the fun for attendees of Polo at Bryn Du, where games are played on the Great Lawn of the historic Granville mansion from 3–5 p.m. the first and third Sundays of each month from June through Oct. 2. Free. 537 Jones Rd., Granville. playpoloclub.us/schedule
First-timers are welcome at the Central Ohio Multisport Festival at Alum Creek State Park, with the Central Ohio Aquathlon open-water swimming on Friday, and the Triathlon & Duathlon Challenge Saturday and Sunday. It's a weekend filled with swim, run and bike races in various lengths and combinations and includes relays and competition divisions for special categories, such as first responders and heavier athletes, as well as clinics and training opportunities. It all takes place in a festival atmosphere with live music, a cookout and post-event massages. 3305 S. Old State Road, Delaware. June 8–10. greenswell.com
Ninety-degree turns and steep inclines are some of the features that draw hundreds of pro cyclists from the U.S. and abroad to the Tour de Grandview each year. Amateurs, too, can join the fun, and residents host race watch parties along the streets of this leafy urban suburb. To complete the festivities, the city of Grandview Heights will host a street party from 6 to 11 p.m. on Grandview Avenue. $35–$45 to race, kids free. June 15. tourdegrandview.com
Columbus Crew SC fans may look at this season as a last opportunity to see their beloved team play in Mapfre Stadium, as team owner Anthony Precourt continues to investigate the hotly debated possibility of uprooting the Crew for Austin's warmer clime. You can show your fanatical fandom in the Nordekke or seek out a calmer seat location to watch the Crew at home on June 2, 9, 13 and 30, July 21, Aug. 11 and Sept. 1. columbuscrewsc.com
FOOD & DRINK
For its second year, Chicken & Beer Fest is moving—like so many other festivals—to the riverbank. This year's “family cookout” will be held at West Bank Park, just south of COSI, and will include live music, craft beers, food trucks and board games, both regular and jumbo-sized. Free. June 2. chickenandbeerfest.com
As the local passion for brewing, distilling and fermenting has grown, so has the Grandview Digfest, which celebrates the full range of intoxicating libations crafted in Ohio. From 14 vendors in 2011 to 43 last year, the Saturday festival at Grandview Yard will offer a little something for everyone, from cool-off-after-a-hot-day beers to late-night-sipping liqueurs. Everything is local, including the music and the food vendors. Don't forget to bring a designated driver! Free. 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. June 16. grandviewdigfest.com
Strawberry season is fleeting, and the town of London cherishes every minute of it when the London Strawberry Festival takes over the Madison County city's streets each June for a three-day extravaganza featuring all things strawberry. All food vendors must offer something made with strawberries, and with residents and businesses competing for the best strawberry-dressed window, you'll be seeing the sweet berries in your dreams. The festival also features a 5K, a bicycle tour, selection of a full court of strawberry royalty and a Shelby Cobra car show. June 21–23. londonstrawberryfestival.com
Bicentennial Park is one of Columbus' sweetest spots to enjoy the transition from day to evening, and the only thing that could make it better is a free performance on the stage. The Rhythm on the River concert series will open June 1 with a 7:30 p.m. bluegrass pairing: Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers and Flatt Lonesome. The season will end Aug. 31 with an 8 p.m. performance by BalletMet, previewing the company's fall season. June 1–Aug. 31. Free. sciotomile.com/events-calendar/rhythm-on-the-river
Every Friday evening throughout the summer, you can hear live music at the Grove City Summer Sizzle Concert Series in George Edge Music Park. Each week offers something different: a community wind ensemble, a touch of Zydeco, a little country-rock, and a whole lot of cover bands playing music from different eras. June 1–Aug. 17. grovecityohio.gov
From the two-day Summer614 R&B and hip-hop festival (June 2) to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra's Picnic with the Pops series, the stage at Columbus Commons will be alive all summer long with a range of free and ticketed performances. Shadowbox Live offers free tributes to Pink Floyd (May 27) and David Bowie and Prince (Sept. 2). The Harmony Project will take you back to 1968 at a free (tickets required) performance June 7. And McGuffey Lane brings its familiar brand of country-rock to a free concert Aug. 31. columbuscommons.org/events/concerts
In an event that brings together literary and musical performing arts as well as crafts, all packaged as a fun outdoor picnic, the PBJ & Jazz summer concert series at Topiary Park has a little something for everyone. Start with a storytime and craft activity in the Columbus Metropolitan Library's main branch, then take your blanket and picnic lunch out to the Topiary Park for an hourlong interactive concert designed to introduce kids to jazz and American music. Free. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 9, July 14 and Aug. 11. jazzartsgroup.org/pbj-jazz
Bring a lawn chair or blanket to the outdoor amphitheater at Scioto Park in Dublin for this series of free Sunday evening concerts, now in its 35th year. The 2018 lineup for Sundays at Scioto includes funk, Americana, rock, Celtic folk-pop and other genres with local and national acts such as Hadden Sayers, ARKFOO with Kirstie Kraus, the HooDoo Soul Band and tribute band The McCartney Project. Free. 7 p.m. June 10–July 29. dublinarts.org
Its Gahanna location near the banks of the Big Walnut Creek means the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival offers paddleboat rides and visits with the Turtle Lady along with its 90 hours of music on five stages, with performances from local artists like Honey and Blue and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra as well as national acts like David Sanborn and the Urban Jazz Coalition Featuring Lin Rountree. Central Ohio teen artists will show their stuff at this year's new COTA Teen Stage (see Event Spotlight on Page 73). Take a break from the music with a cocktail or liquor tasting, or take the kids for a spin on the amusement rides. $7–$21. June 15–17. creeksidebluesandjazz.com
You'll know it's summer when the folks at Express Live turn the stage to face the grassy knoll. Kick off June with a visit from Incubus (June 1), headed for Bunbury the following day. There's a full lineup throughout the summer at this indoor/outdoor venue, with acts that will appeal to everyone from the youthful followers of Five Seconds of Summer (June 19) to those who remember when the Gin Blossoms (July 11) were new. Price varies. promowestlive.com
Take a break from shopping and take in some music at the Polaris Live outdoor concert series, Thursday nights from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Polaris Lifestyle Center next to The Cheesecake Factory. Performers include The Reaganomics, MojoFlo, Rockhouse and SWAGG. Free. June 21–Aug. 23. polarisfashionplace.com/events-news/event/polaris-live!
OUTDOOR & ADVENTURE
There's no need to scour the want ads for a listing of yard sales on the first Saturday in June; that's the date of the neighborhood-wide Short North Yard Sale, known as the largest in the city, with hundreds of residents participating from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. You'll find everything from junk to treasures. To plan your tour, consult the online map of participating homes. Consider, too, a stop at the concurrent bazaar on the playground of Hubbard Mastery School. Free. June 2. shortnorthcivic.org/yard-sale
Get “as naked as you dare” to participate in the World Naked Bike Ride, which seeks to promote carbon-free transportation, highlight the vulnerability of cyclists on city streets and celebrate all kinds of bodies. June 9. wnbrcolumbus.org
Event Spotlight: The Arts Fest App
When the weather's good, the Columbus Arts Festival—now in its 57th year—can draw as many as 450,000 people to the banks of the Scioto River. This year's exhibition will include 280 artists spread out along both sides of the river as well as on the nearby streets and bridges. It also will include a staggering array of entertainment: Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox (June 8) and G. Love & Special Sauce (June 9) will headline a roster of more than 150 performances on six stages. And with a full complement of activities and food vendors, it's not always as easy to find what you seek as it was when the entire event happened on the Statehouse lawn.
This year's free Columbus Arts Festival app should help. Available for iOS and Android phones, the app will point festivalgoers in the right direction, whether it's a food truck, information about a band, or a restroom. “You'll be able to search for artists and view the performance schedule,” says Jami Goldstein of the Greater Columbus Arts Council, which oversees the festival. “There's an interactive, clickable map to find what you need.”
Also new for 2018 will be a local craft beer garden, shade stations in Bicentennial Park and a move for the hands-on activity village, located this year in Scioto Peninsula Park. June 8–10, columbusartsfestival.org
Event Spotlight: Big Walnut Blues (and Jazz)
With an average attendance of 35,000 to 40,000, Gahanna's Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary by getting even bigger. This year, organizers are adding a free teen stage, located—along with the family fun zone—outside the festival admission gates. Performers will include local alt-rock teen band Cousin Simple on Friday and Blue Spectrum on Saturday, featuring autistic guitarist and blues sensation Zayne Harshaw. Aiming for the younger set, Endless Recess will play an interactive, educational set on Sunday.
Inside the gates, the festival will continue its tradition of wall-to-wall music, with 90 hours of performances by local and national acts on four stages over three days. Six-time Grammy winner David Sanborn will headline on the jazz stage Friday night. Other performers include The Urban Jazz Coalition featuring Lin Rountree, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, the Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson and Reverend Payton's Big Damn Band.
Beyond the music, there will be plenty of fun along the banks of the Big Walnut, including paddleboat rides, visits with the Turtle Lady, amusement rides and a variety of cocktail and liquor tastings. $7–$150. June 15–17. creeksidebluesandjazz.com