Welcome to Columbus (other names include "The 614," Cbus, or Lumbus). Whether a long-time resident of Ohio's capital city or a first-time visitor, hopefully this guide will be able to help you make the most of your time in the nation's 15th largest city.
First things first - I will try to refrain from giving a history on the city or propping up things that aren't in season (e.g. Jack Nicklaus / The Memorial Tournament, The Arnold Classic, etc.) that you may see in official press releases from the city. It is the hope that this guide will be updated as necessary as more details around the All-Star Weekend are released and that comments will be added by fans below.
If you want to see what the city has to offer from a very broad perspective, here are some recommended links and references:
Getting to Columbus
Columbus is a fairly easy drive from most directions within 5-6 hours (or more if you don't have little ones in the back seat). I-70 offers easy access into the city from the east and west while I-71, running north and south, intersects with I-70 in Columbus. If you are driving, take note of the I-270 outerbelt that circles the city. I-670 is the city’s "inner belt" and is the main path to the arena from the airport. State Routes 23 and 33 also run into the city - mostly coming in from the northwest and southeast. Google Maps / GPS should service you just fine if you are not familiar with driving into Columbus.
Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) is located just six miles from downtown. There are six major airlines which provide 140 non-stop passenger flights to 31 airports daily, according to their website. The airport is currently undergoing $80 million in renovations, so please pardon our dust if you are traveling to Columbus by air. There is free wifi at CMH though - and plenty of outlets compared to almost every other airport, so charging your phone or tablet as you are waiting to depart should be no problem. We're just sorry our dissolved low-budget airline is no longer around for you to enjoy (RIP SKYBUS!).
Staying in Columbus
So you've made it to Columbus for ASG weekend, but you don't have relatives or friends in the area. Where are you going to stay? Don't fret - you have options. There are more than 25,000 hotel rooms in the metropolitan area, from the new Hilton downtown (just a couple blocks from the arena) to your low-budget Motel 6-types outside of the downtown area. If you are trying to avoid driving to your hotel in the evenings, there are plenty of hotels near Nationwide Arena that are walkable. Check now, if you haven't already, for availability as these rooms fill up quickly when events are going on. The downtown Hyatt (attached to the Columbus Convention Center, which is where the NHL will hold its Fan Fair that weekend) is just across the street from the HIlton. East Nationwide Blvd also offers several other options within walking distance.
If you'd like to try something besides a hotel stay, Airbnb is a possibility. I have never used it but have heard from others that it works pretty well.
Getting Around Columbus
If you want to explore Columbus outside of the Arena District, you may need a way to get to your destination. Of course, walking is an option in and around the Arena District, the Short North, and other parts of downtown. But maybe you don't want to deal with parking, or perhaps you're coming from the airport. COTA is the major means of public transit in the city - including a free "CBUS" that runs from the Short North, past the Arena, through downtown and down to German Village south of the CBD. They are currently tweaking their lines, but they do have a map option on their website where you can enter your starting and ending points and it will give you which line(s) to take.
If a public bus isn't your style, both Uber and Lyft are available as alternatives to taxis. That weekend in January in Columbus it could be 65 and sunny or we could see a blizzard in sub-zero temperatures. There is a bike share program you could take (depending on the road conditions and how adventurous you're feeling) - CoGo is expanding and you can get a 24 hour pass for just $6. The car-sharing program car2go is also available - I believe membership in another city would carry over.
Of course you may have your own car or a rental - there are plenty of parking garages near the arena and downtown. Prices will vary based on location, but the ones immediately near NWA will likely be $15-$20 for a night.
If you are looking for other things to do besides watch hockey during ASG Weekend, you have options here as well. The "premier" district in Columbus right now is probably the Short North. The Short North prides itself on being open to everybody, buying local (no chains!), and its art. You will find plenty of great options for food as well as drinks late into the night. The Short North is immediately north (and slightly east) of Nationwide Arena, with High Street serving as the main corridor.
The Arena District houses (surprise!) Nationwide Arena in addition to entertainment in the surrounding area. Lifestyles Communities has a complex of concert venues just to the west of the arena. There are plenty of bars and restaurants here as well. R Bar is the official "hockey bar" in Columbus, located just steps from the NWA entrance. I personally wouldn't venture to the corridor of bars on Park Street (just north of the arena) if I was over ehhh, I'll say 35, or with children (you've been warned).
Speaking of children, there are plenty of family options as well. COSI is a fun and interactive science center downtown with activities for all ages. The Columbus Zoo will have plenty of exhibits open despite the anticipated cold weather. Easton Town Center (to the northeast of downtown) is a massive indoor/outdoor shopping center featuring hundreds of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
You may or may not have heard that Columbus is an emerging "foodie" market. If you talk to ten people about their favorite restaurant/food in the city you might get ten different answers. Hopefully we will see some recommendations in the comments. At the very least, check out the North Market which is located just a block north of the arena.
If you decide to venture out beyond the hockey festivities of the weekend, where you go and what you might do will definitely depend on the make-up of the group you are worth - families with kids are not going to want to check out Ohio State's campus, for example. Again, hopefully the comments will help you decide if you need recommendations. I use Experience Columbus' Event Calendar (linked previously) frequently to see what is going on in the city so keep an eye on that as January approaches.
As linked above, NHL's "Fan Fair" will be held in the Convention Center. It is the hope that we can update you here as more events are announced for the weekend. Feel free to ask questions below or post your own thoughts. It should really be a great weekend and again, welcome to Columbus, NHL fans!