The biggest small town delivers

Ohio’s capital, Columbus, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The forward-thinking momentum that brought Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and L Brands (Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Words) to town is reflected in the meetings infrastructure, including the recently expanded, 1.8 million-square-foot Greater Columbus Convention Center.

This art-forward building features As We Are, an interactive sculpture that displays visitor faces larger than life and the colorful “gallerage,” a parking structure filled with art. Experience Columbus President and CEO Brian Ross reported at a recent gathering in town of almost 5,500 ASAE attendees that more than 1,000 hotel rooms are in the pipeline in the “progressive, diverse and welcoming” city.

RelatedGreater Columbus Convention Center is World’s First Certified Sensory Inclusive Property

Cbus, as it is referred to by locals, consistently wins national awards for being visitor-, solo female- traveler and LGBTQ-friendly. The home of Ohio State University was named a Smart City Challenge and Bloomberg American Cities Climate Change winner for the work it’s doing to advance sustainable transportation technology.

Smart Meetings visited and came back with these tips for a well-rounded meeting in the City of Arches.

Need to Know

  • 5,000 downtown hotel roome
  • 150 daily flights
  • 5 Forbes 500 companies’ headquarters


John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) is 6 miles from downtown and offers nonstop flights to more than 40 destinations. The city is within a day’s drive or one-hour flight from more than half of the country.

Meet and Sleep

Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown

Greater Columbus Convention Center is connected to 2,700 hotel rooms and more are coming. The new Canopy by Hilton Columbus Downtown Short North opened with 167 guest rooms and 1,621 sq. ft. of meeting space days before ASAE 2019 Annual Conference. The modern, hyper-local property includes a rooftop lounge oasis in the middle of everything.

Next door, Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown is expanding to add Vine & Forge restaurant to the current Max & Erma’s on the Boulevard fare. The 421 guest rooms include Crowne Plaza WorkLife Rooms, a patented design that breaks the space into zones with angled beds and sofa nooks.

Graduate Columbus recently swung open the doors on a 171-room property in Short North that focuses on local alums and features its own mural-enhanced rooftop space.

One of the city’s oldest and liveliest gathering spaces, North Market, is getting new neighbors, as a 160-room AC Hotel at 511 Park St. is scheduled to open in 2021 and a still-unnamed boutique hotel project was recently approved for the market’s parking lot.

During ASAE 2019, Hilton Columbus Downtown ceremoniously broke ground on what it is calling “Hilton 2.0,” a tower that will bring the convention center-attached property to the magic number of 1,000 guest rooms by 2022.
For those with an adventurous group, the city is home to The Doghouse, from the makers of BrewDog, billed as the world’s first hotel inside a working craft brewery. Rooms come equipped with working taps and are beer museum-adjacent.


Each neighborhood has its own personality and dining options—Fox in the Snow in Italian Village, Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus in German Village (do not pass on the jumbo cream puff), Land-Grant Brewing Company in Franklinton and Del Mar SoCal Kitchen/Lincoln Social Rooftop in Short North Arts District. Columbus Food Adventures offers driving and walking tours for groups that explore the history and innovation all over the city.


A new experience across the street from the popular COSI science museum on the bank of Scioto River is National Veterans Memorial and Museum. This 50,000-square-foot nautilus eloquently tells veteran stories while setting the stage for meaningful gatherings in the great hall and outside in the nature-inspired amphitheater.