Named by The Advocate in 2007 as one of the 10 best off-the-beaten-path U.S. cities for LGBT folks to live, Columbus has become the gay mecca of Ohio -- maybe even the Midwest. Its center: the Short North, a quirky, bohemian arts district that?s steadily shed its rough-and-tumble skin since the mid ?80s. Extending from just north of downtown to just south of the Ohio State University campus, the nabe prides itself on diversity: Prominent LGBT organizations such as Stonewall Columbus exist in harmony with OSU?s hetero frat bars on North High Street, the main drag. 1920s-era row houses, brightly painted storefront murals, historically faithful steel light arches (an homage to its turn-of-the-century roots), and numerous ?pocket parks? hidden between parking lots and buildings all make the area eminently walkable. During the monthly Gallery Hop (first Saturday), over 40 galleries stay open late for an arty party featuring jam-packed streets and live entertainment. Add on resolutely friendly locals and cultural activities galore, and it?s easy to see why there?s nothing short about Columbus?s queer-welcoming heart.
772 N. High St.
Helping frumpy queers gay it up since 1998, this high-end unisex boutique and its swishy staff increase sex appeal with brand-name imported clothing and accessories from all over the world. Get ready for a night on the town with formfitting Pistol Pete shirts, Amigaz jewelry, Rufskin jeans, 23 brands of boxers and briefs, and authentic rugby shirts.
2. UNION CAF?
782 N. High St.
Having recently switched locations, this gay staple ditched its tired video bar approach and reinvented itself with a slick bar-and-caf? makeover. Despite the change, you?ll still find cute waiters and specialty cocktails that are as lethal as ever. Take yours to the outdoor bar and admire one of Short North?s many famous murals while nibbling on quality American grub such
as diablo pasta and steak salad.
3. SURLY GIRL SALOON
1126 N. High St.
Whether you?re a roller derby queen or suit-and-tie businessman, this quirky, female-owned rock bar is your rowdy, happy home. Pressed-tin ceilings, baroque chandeliers, and photos featuring ?ladies of the night? twist an Old West bordello vibe into a mixed-crowd haven where queer coeds and soccer moms down Surly Temples (vodka with cherry-flavored soda) and sway to local DJs and live bands in the back ?dungeon room.?
4. EUROPIA WINE & SPIRITS
672 N. High St.
Out owner Pia Hiotis and her predominantly gay staff keep gourmands stocked up on rare and organic wines, including upscale reds from Caymus Vineyards; champagnes and specialty beers, like Arrogant Bastard Ale; high-quality Valrhona chocolate; and cocktail essentials such as blue cheese?stuffed olives. Wine novices can sample a variety of vintages in the shop?s red velvet?draped basement testing room and sign up to receive updates on its roster of official tasting events.
5. THE LOFTS
55 E. Nationwide Blvd.
Housed in a wallpaper warehouse built in 1882, the 44 rooms of this hotel combine 19th-century architecture with ultramodern amenities including Frette linens and Aveda products. Its proximity to both the Short North and the Arena District?s theaters and concert halls makes it an aesthete?s dream.
6. SHERRIE GALLERIE
694 N. High St.
Contemporary Eva Kwong vases, Karen Gilbert Pyrex and sterling silver bracelets, and frequent exhibitions by prominent gay artists make the Sherrie Gallerie a best bet during the monthly Gallery Hop. Exhibits change several times throughout the year, but the fashion-forward accessories in the store remain a must.
One of the oldest restaurants in the Short North, Rigsby?s Kitchen is an iconic neighborhood staple of classic Italian cooking and the perfect place to ?duck in and have a cocktail and snack before hitting the disco circuit.?
Joe Sullivan, St. Petersburg, Fla.