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Pride Journey: Columbus, Ohio

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Joey and the downtown skyline —Courtesy photo  

Columbus, Ohio, a city known for its friendly 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.

Columbus has a long history of supporting LGBTQ rights and fostering an accepting environment. Additionally, it has a thriving Queer 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 only 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 cafés and art galleries, the neighborhood offers a safe environment for authentic self-expression. The Columbus LGBTQ Community Center (3208 N. High), 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.

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, apartments, and condos, as well as the Center of Science and Industry (COSI for short) (333 W. Broad).

It is also home to The Junto (77 Belle), a new independent "lifestyle hotel and modern-day 'club for mutual improvement,'" where I stayed for the weekend. It 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. The rooms feature luxury linens and a separate living room space, as well as a supersized bathroom with a soaking tub in the shower area. Yes, you read that correctly. It was massive enough to fit about a dozen people.

One of the highlights of the hotel is Maudine's, a lovely café named after a cow. But Maudine wasn't just any cow: she was named Ohio State Homecoming Queen back in 1926. Maudine's makes its own syrups for its beverages, and you can clearly taste the difference. I ordered a vanilla latte, and it was one of the best I've ever had.

Another highlight of the pet-friendly property is the Gear Garage, where guests can rent anything from bikes or kayaks to vintage Polaroid cameras.

Joey at the Bee Collective —Courtesy photo  

After checking into the hotel, my boyfriend and I decided to explore the Franklinton neighborhood. A short walk away is the Bee Collective (410 W. Town). 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 honey, which beats the store-bought variety any day.

A few blocks away from The Bee Collective is Makers Social (461 W. Rich), a gathering space where visitors can create a variety of leather products, all while indulging in delicious cocktails, or in our case, mocktails. We made a beautiful leather-bound journal and 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 (1110 Chambers Rd. B), home to local designers and boutiques, including Gerardo Encinas, Xantha, and Alex Vinash.

For dinner, head to Speck (89 N. High), a modern Italian eatery in downtown. We decided to start with an order of the blistered shishitos, which were served with parmesan, Maldon 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 sautéed mushrooms served over pasta in a delicate cream sauce.

Every time I go to Columbus, I have a good time, but if you happen to visit in June, check out the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival and Parade. Established in 1981, is one of the oldest in the Midwest. This annual event brings together thousands of Queer people, allies, and supporters to celebrate and advocate for equal rights, visibility, and social acceptance.

Held in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, this festival showcases the vibrancy, resilience, and unity of the LGBTQ community. Attendees can 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 people. 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 Queer people and provide assistance to survivors.

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.

Enjoy the journey!