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Where to Go, What to Know

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Columbus, Ohio
Sunday, October 26, 2008

Writer M.J. McAteer recently traveled to Columbus, Ind. Here is her reporter's notebook.

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GETTING THERE

Delta, United, Northwest and Midwest all fly nonstop from D.C. area airports to Indianapolis (45 miles from Columbus), Cincinnati (90 miles from Columbus) or both. Roundtrip fares, including taxes and fees, recently started at $278

STAYING THERE

Columbus has the usual chain motels, but they aren't downtown. We went with the Hotel Indigo (400 Brown St., 877-270-1392, http://www.hotelindigo.com), which tries to be in sync with Columbus's modernist spirit. Its generic exterior is saved from blah by illuminated multi-story nature murals, and inside the hotel strives for striking and mostly succeeds. Our comfortable room had the color scheme of a bloody mary: celery green accents and tomato-colored walls, which might sound iffy, but we really liked it. Rates start at $117 per night.

EATING THERE

Smith's Row (418 Fourth St., 812-373-9382, http://www.smithsrow.com) occupies a two-story brick building with a balcony that seems very New Orleans, although the Big Easy is almost 800 miles south. Our dinners (duck for me, veal for Frank) were excellent after we sent them back to be cooked a little longer. The Asiago potatoes and the warm bread were big indulgences. The management graciously apologized for the undercooked main courses with a free dessert; we couldn't finish one shared piece of carrot cake. A satisfying meal for two with wine and tip, about $75.

WHAT TO DO

Architecture is about it, unless a special event is going on.

The visitors center offers one- and two-hour bus tours of architectural sites Monday-Friday at 10 a.m., Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m., March through December. In January and February, tours are Saturdays only ($7 for one hour, $10 for two). Call 800-468-6564 for reservations.

With a $2 map from the visitors center, your can tour the more far-flung sites on your own, but be aware that the churches tend to be closed on Saturday. The visitors center says the churches are generally open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays; Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church is also open on Saturday mornings. To see the church interiors on a Sunday, you must attend services.

The 1.5-mile guided walking tour of the downtown is offered at 3 p.m. on Saturdays ($10). On weekends, from mid-May to mid-October, the tour includes Irwin Gardens, open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (free garden admission) .

INFORMATION

The Columbus Area Visitors Center (506 Fifth St., 800-468-6564 or 812-378-2622, visitcol@sbcglobal.net, http://www.columbus.in.us.

-- M.J.M.


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