Columbus, Ohio, a city known for its friendly and diverse atmosphere, has emerged as a thriving hub for LGBTQ+ culture in the Midwest. This vibrant community has grown exponentially in recent years, drawing people from all walks of life to experience its inclusivity, acceptance, and celebration of diversity. In this article, we delve into the rich LGBTQ+ culture in Columbus, exploring its history, events, organizations, and the city's ongoing efforts to create a welcoming environment for all.
Columbus has a long history of supporting LGBTQ+ rights and fostering an accepting environment. The city’s Pride Parade, established in 1981, is one of the oldest in the Midwest. This annual event brings together thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals, allies, and supporters to celebrate and advocate for equal rights, visibility, and social acceptance.
Short North Arts DistrictPHOTO BY ACESHOT1/SHUTTERSTOCK
Additionally, Columbus has a thriving LGBTQ+ neighborhood, known as the Short North. This eclectic and artsy area is home to numerous LGBTQ-friendly bars, restaurants, galleries, and shops. The Short North is not just a place to socialize and enjoy nightlife, but also a symbol of the city’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation. From popular bars like Union Cafe and Axis Nightclub to LGBTQ-owned cafes and art galleries, this neighborhood offers a safe environment for community members to express themselves authentically. The Columbus LGBTQ+ Community Center, known as “The Center on High,” is a vital resource for the community. It serves as a gathering place for meetings, support groups, educational workshops, and social events, fostering connections and a sense of belonging.
Center of Science and IndustryCOURTESY JOEY AMATO
Although the Short North is definitely the city’s most vibrant area, I urge you to check out the Franklinton neighborhood, just a short drive away. The area is home to new shops, restaurants, the Center of Science and Industry, or COSI for short, as well as The Junto, a new independent lifestyle hotel where I stayed for the weekend.
The Junto serves up a very trendy but comfortable vibe in a part of Columbus that is quickly emerging as one of the most sought-after addresses in the city. Aside from the hotel, new apartments and condos are popping up throughout the neighborhood.
The JuntoCOURTESY JOEY AMATO
The rooms at the hotel feature luxury linens, a separate living room space as well as a super-sized bathroom with a soaking tub in the shower area. Yes, you read that correctly. It was a massive space large enough to fit about a dozen people.
One of the highlights of the hotel is Maudine’s, a lovely café named after a cow. Maudine wasn’t just any cow. She was named Ohio State Homecoming Queen back in 1926. Maudine’s makes its own syrups for their beverages, and you can clearly taste the difference. I ordered a vanilla latte, and it was probably one of the best I’ve ever had. You can clearly taste the difference between Maudine’s version verse the chain store version.
Another highlight of the pet-friendly property is the Gear Garage where guests can rent anything from bikes or kayaks to vintage Polaroid cameras.
After checking into the hotel, my boyfriend and I decided to explore the Franklinton neighborhood. A short walk away is The Bee Collective. The owner Luke was gracious enough to give us a tour of the property and show us the inner workings of the extensive hives, some of which contain thousands of bees. We even got a chance to taste some local honey, which beats out the store-bought variety any day.
The Bee CollectiveCOURTESY JOEY AMATO
A few blocks away from The Bee Collective is Makers Social, a gathering space where visitors can create a variety of leather products all while indulging in delicious cocktails, or in our case, mocktails. I made a beautiful leather-bound journal while my guest decided to create a wallet. And don’t worry, all of the projects come with detailed instructions and the friendly staff will also be more than happy to assist if you get stuck. The business was founded by Megan Pando in 2020 and serves as one of the key gathering spaces for the Franklinton community.
Next, check out a new fashion district called Common Thread, located in downtown Columbus, home to local designers and boutiques including Gerardo Encinas, Xantha, and Alex Vinash.
For dinner, head to Speck, a modern Italian eatery located downtown. We decided to start with an order of the Blistered Shishitos, which were served with parmesan, malden sea salt, and a lemon aioli as well as the Mussels special prepared in a delicious white wine broth. For our entrée, we shared the Fungi pasta, which consisted of a variety of sauteed mushrooms served over pasta in a delicate cream sauce.
Fungi pasta at SpeckCOURTESY JOEY AMATO
Every time I visit Columbus, I have a good time, but if you happen to visit in June, check out the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival and Parade. Held every June, in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, this festival showcases the vibrancy, resilience, and unity of the LGBTQ+ community. Participants enjoy live performances, food vendors, workshops, and a powerful parade that brings together people from all backgrounds to march for equality and justice.
Numerous organizations in Columbus are dedicated to providing support, resources, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals. Among these, Stonewall Columbus is a prominent nonprofit that offers a wide range of services, including support groups, counseling, health services, and youth programs. The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) is another crucial organization working to combat violence against LGBTQ+ individuals and provide assistance to survivors.
The author and the Columbus skylineCOURTESY JOEY AMATO
As Columbus continues to evolve and champion LGBTQ+ rights, it serves as a reminder to other communities around the world that embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do but also a catalyst for creating a richer, more harmonious society for all.