‘Columbus Commons’ a Common Ground for a Good Time

It’s a beautiful fall evening, the sky is clear and you’re looking for something to do. Go to the bar? Nah, you want to do something different. How ‘bout watch some football? No, you’ve been doing that all day long. What about the beach?  Ha, this is Columbus, Ohio, good luck finding one that doesn’t have rocks and dirt as the “sand”. How about go to the park? Now there’s an idea. But what can I do at the park at this time of night and what park is open past dusk? Downtown Columbus has your answer.

“One of the best comments I get… is I haven’t been downtown in years and I wouldn’t have recognized it,” said Amy Taylor, chief operating officer for Columbus Downtown Development Corporation.

She’s in reference to the new park that just opened in 2011 in the heart of downtown. Where once there stood City Center Mall now sits the Columbus Commons. Located on nine acres of land between South High and South Third streets, and East Rich and East State streets is the new destination spot to start the day off right by enjoying a picnic or wind down the evening in style by taking in a concert.

In 2011, Columbus Commons hosted 130 events and Taylor said the park plans to nearly double that number in 2012 by hosting 240 events.

This fall is going to kick off in style by offering the Fall Series Movie Nights every Saturday evening starting at dusk, and Columbus Commons plans to start the series with a bang by showing the iconic classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on Sept. 1. The following Sunday will then feature a live performance of the movie by the local theater troupe, Shadowbox Live. Other upcoming movie nights on Saturday evenings will feature “How To Train Your Dragon”, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Hunger Games”.

In addition, Shakespeare in the Park, presented by The Actors’ Theatre of Columbus, runs through September in Columbus Commons.

One of the things that Columbus Commons wants to bring back to downtown Columbus is the family aspect, said Taylor, and Family Fundays is one of the many activities you can enjoy.

“Downtown has had a rich history of really involving families. This particular site, City Center and Lazarus department store, were the site where a lot of people had memories of back-to-school shopping and visiting Santa, and we really wanted to bring families back to the core. So one of the things we did was create something that was family-friendly but not something that you find in the suburbs. We want downtown to be your friend,” said Taylor.

Harvest Fair Sunday is one event that’s sure to please the whole family. October 13 will be a day filled with games involving modern inflatables, face painting and a trampoline that will be capped off with an evening showing of the movie “Babe”.

Even if it’s not Harvest Fair Sunday, Columbus Commons still offers a number of fun things for kids to do. A hand-carved carousel sits near the back where children of all ages are encouraged to jump on and take a ride. Sitting just a few feet away is a life-size chess set that prompts kids not only to learn how to play but have fun while doing it.

In her first visit to the park since it opened, Chrissie Guiher of Galloway got a kick out of her ten-year-old daughter Janda grasping onto a pawn and sliding it forward while yelling out, “checkmate!”

“I’m really impressed with what they did here,” said Guiher.

She went on to say that her daytime duties as a babysitter may become a little easier now that she’s seen what Columbus Commons has to offer and the park will provide a comfortable place for her to take the children.

“I’ll definitely be coming back,” said Guiher.

When the sun goes down, though, is when the lights on the newly built Columbus Bicentennial Pavilion flood the lawn. A 40-foot by 60-foot stage covered by a white, fabric canopy is where a local act can become a star. The last concert is scheduled for Sept. 6 featuring The Spikedrivers and The Fabulous Johnson Brothers. Blankets and chairs are welcome but coolers are not. Instead, you can satisfy your hunger by visiting one of four local eating establishments who provide a food truck during the show. And quenching your thirst isn’t a problem, either. The local friends at Budweiser provide their own truck and make sure of that.

But the food trucks don’t limit their time to evening concerts. Every Thursday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Food Truck Food Court offers eight different local food trucks.

Geoff Stokes, who works on one of the food trucks, says the summer concert series has been a blast.

“Nights here have been a lot of fun,” said Stokes. “It’s cool to come out here and watch everyone have a good time.”

But the real question is: how much of a hole will all of this fun burn in your pocket? Excluding food and drink from the food trucks, your cost will be exactly $0.00. Columbus Commons welcomes you to bring in your own food and drink, except alcohol. Otherwise, if you’re running low on cash and still want to have a fun night out, head to the park.

“Regardless of whether you’re in town to see a Buckeye game, if you’re a student, an alumni… you should come to Columbus Commons and see how downtown has changed,” said Taylor.

About: Andy Evans

I'm a 34-year-old journalism major at Ohio State, minoring in criminology. I enjoy time with friends and family, watching OSU football and basketball games, watching true crime shows, and sitting on the couch vegging out and watching a movie I've seen a hundred times before. Once I graduate, given what I enjoy doing in my spare time, I'd like to write in either sports, arts and leisure, or some sort of crime beat.