Why is Columbus a great host for NHL All-Star Weekend?
That’s a question that cannot be answered in one, two or three sentences, but there is one thing that stands out: proximity and convenience. Leave your car in the parking garage, bring your family, and get ready to spend the day in downtown Columbus and celebrate the greatest sport in the world.
Such was the vision of late Blue Jackets founder John H. McConnell when he pursued a NHL franchise as a gift to the city. He partnered with Nationwide Insurance, who had the goal of revitalizing the downtown, and Nationwide Arena was built – serving as the anchor of the Arena District and catalyst for growth in a new area of the city. Fifteen years later, the city of Columbus has yet another feather under its cap with a well-connected and easily accessible corner of downtown to host hockey’s biggest party.
Let’s start with the crown jewel of the district: Nationwide Arena, one of the premier facilities in North American sports. Take one step outside any of the entrances to the 18,144-seat home of the Blue Jackets and you're footsteps away from food, drink and entertainment all weekend long.
Looking for nightlife? Cross the foot bridge next to the arena and you’ll run into the RBar, Columbus’ hockey bar. Keep going and you’ll find Park St., with no shortage of bars, cantinas and pubs to choose from.
Or, you can walk up Nationwide Blvd. toward High St. and the options keep coming. Italian restaurants, Irish pubs, you name it…it’s all within walking distance and it makes the Arena District a perfect hub for All-Star Weekend.
Let’s break it down further, shall we?
Two blocks up Nationwide Blvd. from the arena is the Greater Columbus Convention Center, known this weekend as home of the 200,000-square foot NHL Fan Fair celebration. Located conveniently near hotels like the Hilton, Hyatt Regency and Crown Plaza, the Convention Center is flanked up High St. by more popular restaurants, bars and coffee shops that the locals love.
NHL Fan Fair will be the main attraction, and on Friday night, captains Nick Foligno and Jonathan Toews will pick the teams for the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game during the All-Star Fantasy Draft (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN). If you’re hanging out downtown after the show, good news — you’ll have plenty of options.
After you find the North Market at the corner of Vine St. and Front St., head to High St. and the Short North (look for the arches over the street), a quaint district full of shops and restaurants that’s continuously growing and expanding. The options are endless and they’re all mere blocks away from the Convention Center.
ALL-STAR WINTER PARK PRES. BY WORTHINGTON INDUSTRIES
This is pretty awesome and you’re going to want to spend some time here. Located under the Union Station Arch within McFerson Commons (at the corner of McConnell St. and Nationwide Blvd.), All-Star Winter Park presented by Worthington Industries is the winter wonderland you’re looking for and it’s right in the middle of the All-Star festivities. Located across the street from Nationwide Arena, the park is anchored by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Rink, an NHL-sized sheet of ice in the great outdoors that features daily public skating sessions for $5 (including skate rental) as late as 10 p.m.
Again, we’re talking a short walk from the downtown hotels and Convention Center, and a stone’s throw from Nationwide Arena.
After you’re done skating, head to the Dispatch Media Group Hockey House (opening Thursday), a giant enclosed tent that has concessions, live music and more throughout the weekend. Then there’s the Kids Zone and the Blue Jackets Replica Locker Room presented by AEP and the Huntington Snow Slide, which is just as awesome as it sounds; weather depending, the goal is to have the slide open at some point Thursday, but stay tuned for details.
SERIOUSLY, IT’S ALL RIGHT HERE
We hope you enjoy your time in Columbus. We’re big fans of our city and think it has a lot to offer, and hopefully you find time to sample some of the things that make it unique.
Just think of it this way: since you’re walking from stop to stop, Convention Center for NHL Fan Fair down to Nationwide Arena for the Skills Competition, or from All-Star Winter Park up to the All-Star Fantasy Draft, you're getting a light workout in. You can afford to have a taste of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (world famous, by the way) or venture down 4th St. for a Columbus staple like Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace.
The list could go much longer, but know one thing: it’s right in front of you. Take the COTA Bus (there’s a free downtown circulator with expanded hours for All-Star Weekend called, cleverly so, the CBus), pay the $6 daily rate for the CoGo Bike Share system that has over 30 stations in the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, or just use your own two feet.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE
If you want to venture out of downtown, you’ll find German Village just to the south. It’s a historic section of Columbus full of unique shops and restaurants, including the famous Schmidt’s Sausage Haus on Kossuth St.
Have a car? You can find your shopping oasis at Easton Town Center (just 15 minutes east of downtown off I-270) or Polaris Fashion Place, the latter about equidistant from downtown to the north on I-71.
“Proximity” will be the key word in Columbus this weekend. Get out and about, walk around and have a great time. Welcome to town!
Want to know more about Columbus? Check out our "Visiting Columbus" page!