The Other Columbus: The Dead Campus Culture Trail

Scott Woods
Blue Danube

Every cool city has a trail experience now: donut trails, gallery hops, pub passports. It's fun to scavenger hunt for a genuine experience in whatever passes for a given city's culture. I like a good ghost tour myself, and while Columbus has a few reportedly ghastly hotspots, I find a bit of nostalgia roughly scratches the same itch if the tour is sad enough. In that spirit, I'm announcing my new experience event: the Dead Campus Culture Trail! Now you and a drunk friend can troll High Street with purpose, looking for all the good times that used to live there but have been eradicated for a sleeker mall experience.

Singing Dog Records

Back before music became free, the campus strip of High Street used to house several killer record stores. But Singing Dog had the best staff, every staffer eager to give you the right album. Uncover the thrill of digging through old crates for music by hitting the corner of Chittenden Avenue and High Street and smashing an old iPod on the ground.

Mean Mr. Mustard's

Between 9th and 11th streets sat this resilient kerfuffle in a box, featuring the kind of alternative DJ sets and music acts you can't find anywhere on High Street now. Gateway swallowed up the building this used to be in, so go down there and toss mustard packets at people rolling by on scooters while yelling lyrics from albums by the Cure. Hey, Mustard's was mean for a reason.

Bernie's Bagels and Deli

Don't let the name fool you: This campus bar was so hardcore it had to be buried underground. Bernie's served bagels all right… with a healthy side of mosh pit flop-sweat. If you wanted a true punk experience, Bernie's was your spot. It's a Target now, so pay your respects by smashing a bagel against the window with cream cheese and attitude.

Long's Bookstore

Head on down to the construction pit at 15th and High streets with a textbook you refused to sell back at semester's end because the store offered too little for it and you had pride. Toss it over the fence and make a wish.


Some of the biggest names in music played this campus institution, with its carpeted walls and genre-defying schedule. In what other bar could you say you saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Henry Rollins and Sun Ra? Pop on down to Paseo Nails and Spa and smash some ceiling tiles in the parking lot. (Another story; trust me.)

The Blue Danube

The most recent addition to the Dead Campus Trail, much of what you remember about the Dube is still there. Take a selfie in front of the mural before it gets pressure-washed away.