Most boring to ‘coolest’ city

Columbus just went from being named the most boring metro area in Indiana to one of the “10 coolest U.S. cities to visit in 2018” in the span of just two months.

It’s popularity whiplash, in a good way.

Business Insider in December ranked Columbus as most boring among 15 metro areas in Indiana, ranking the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson area as most exciting.

However, those cities are not among the list released this week that includes Columbus as a cool city along with Louisville, Philadelphia and San Antonio, among others.

Columbus is the smallest city in the list and the only one in Indiana that got a nod as cool.

Exhibit Columbus and the 2017 installations were mentioned as a highlight and a draw for tourists to Columbus.

Having Columbus on the Forbes’ list is “kind of a home run,” said Richard McCoy, founding director of Landmark Columbus, an organization dedicated to caring for and celebrating Columbus’ design heritage.

“That was our dream, from a destination-marketing perspective,” McCoy said.

Forbes contributing writer Ann Abel didn’t use Census numbers, cited by Business Insider, for its rankings of cool cities. Instead she asked high-end travel specialists about what they are recommending for a jaunt in nearby locales.

“The unlikely city of Columbus has become a hot spot for architecture buffs,” said Melissa Biggs Bradley, the founder of Indagare, a company that says it believes that impactful travel is built around personal experiences.

“The town’s design mastership is credited to an engine industry mogul who sponsored several notable projects in the 1950s with the aim of revitalizing the city. Today, Columbus is home to some 80 Modernist buildings designed by some of the 20th century’s best-known architects, including I.M. Pei and Richard Meier.”

Karen Niverson, executive director of the Columbus Visitors Center, said the Forbes endorsement will probably show up in future marketing campaigns for the city.

It isn’t uncommon for Columbus to make lists with much larger cities, which in this case also includes Baltimore, Detroit, Savannah, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia, she said.

“We always punch somewhat above our weight, isn’t that how that phrase goes?” she said.

Exhibit Columbus, from the 2016 symposium to the 2017 installations, put the city on the radar of national and international journalists, she said.

“So they took a look, and they love us,” she said. “And that’s exciting.”

In addition to the Forbes mention, a travel blog called Thrillist Travel on Wednesday named Columbus as Indiana’s most under-rated city, with the blog naming one city per state for its honor.

Noting the city is known in architectural circles, the blog written by Matt Lynch credits Columbus with “coming a long way in recent years as a place to eat and drink in between the time you spend admiring all that aesthetic beauty.”

Henry’s Social Club is lauded for a design befitting its Columbus home and a menu that has cod beignets and kimchi pork buns. 450 North Brewing Co. also received a mention for its beer and pizza, the blog states. And Zaharakos is described as a “national treasure.”

Mayor Jim Lienhoop said he wasn’t surprised to see Columbus on the two new lists.

“Sooner or later the truth always comes out,” he deadpanned, followed by a laugh.

Acknowledging you have to take rankings like this with a grain of salt, Lienhoop said it does go to show Columbus is a pretty cool place, one that can be recognized even among much larger cities.

“I think it speaks to the fact we live in a very unique community,” he said. “We need to be reminded of that from time to time, and I’m glad to see Columbus on these two lists. It’s pretty heartening.”

Coolist cities to visit this year

Contributing writer Ann Abel this week on listed 10-must visit cities for 2018. They are, in alphabetical order:

Baltimore: Burgeoning art scene

Columbus: Architecture

Detroit: Compelling, quirky

Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Center of Amish country

Louisville: Good times, good vibes

Philadelphia: Buss-worthy bistros

Portland, Maine: Classic New England vibes

San Antonio: Tex Mex at its best

Savannah, Georgia: Hospitality and history

Richmond, Virginia: Signature southern charm

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.