Where to stay in Columbus for first time: 4 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in Columbus, Ohio as a first-timer can be a headache. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find safe places to stay in Columbus for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in Columbus for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map. I’ll also share where I stayed in Columbus and recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

Columbus is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Ohio. It is the political, economic, and cultural hub of the state, located at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, in the central part of the state.

Columbus is home to Ohio State University (OSU), one of the largest and most prestigious public universities in the United States. The university has a significant impact on the city’s cultural and economic landscape.

As the state capital, Columbus is the center of Ohio’s political activities. The Ohio Statehouse, located in downtown Columbus, is the seat of the state’s government.

The city offers a range of cultural and recreational attractions, including museums, theaters, parks, and sports venues. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Franklin Park Conservatory are popular destinations.

Columbus has professional sports teams, including the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL hockey team) and the Columbus Crew SC (Major League Soccer team).

The city has a well-developed transportation infrastructure, including a major airport (John Glenn Columbus International Airport), highways, and public transit options.

Is Columbus, Ohio safe to visit?

Yes, Columbus is generally a safe city to visit. But, When traveling to any city, it’s important to exercise normal safety precautions, such as securing your belongings, being aware of your surroundings, staying in well-lit areas, and avoiding poorly-lit areas at night.

Where to stay in Columbus for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Columbus for first-timers and tourists are Downtown Columbus, University District, Short North/Italian Village, and Polaris. These areas provide a wide variety of accommodations for all budgets and preferences.

In general, Downtown Columbus is the most popular area to book your accommodations. This area is the heart of the city and is home to major attractions like the Ohio Statehouse, Nationwide Arena, and the Scioto Mile. It also has plenty of dining and entertainment options.

Short North/Italian Village, located just north of the downtown, is an artsy neighborhood with a mix of boutiques, galleries, and excellent dining options. Close to the Columbus Convention Center.

University District is a vibrant and youthful atmosphere with proximity to Ohio State University. The area has plenty of student-friendly bars, restaurants, and cultural events. Polaris is a good choice if you’re looking for a more laid-back suburban atmosphere with shopping options.

During my trip to Columbus, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Columbus. It was a great 3-star hotel in central Columbus, adjacent to the arts district, a short walk from the Convention Center and the Nationwide Arena. My room was well appointed with a comfortable bed and large television.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Columbus for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Columbus first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Columbus first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Columbus, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Columbus have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

4 Safe areas to stay in Columbus for first-timers and tourists:

1. Downtown Columbus

Staying in Downtown Columbus is a great choice, especially for first-timers, as it puts you in the heart of the city with easy access to various attractions, dining options, and entertainment. 

Downtown is home to many key attractions, including the Ohio Statehouse, Nationwide Arena (home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets), and the Scioto Mile, a beautiful park along the river.

The downtown area offers a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, and bars. You’ll find options for various cuisines, from casual to fine dining. The Arena District is known for its nightlife and entertainment venues.

The Columbus Museum of Art, the Ohio Theatre, and other cultural institutions are located downtown, providing opportunities for art and entertainment enthusiasts.

Downtown Columbus is generally pedestrian-friendly, making it easy to explore the area on foot. You can stroll along the streets, visit parks, and enjoy the city’s architecture.

Best places to stay in Downtown Columbus for first-timers:

Budget ($): Drury Plaza Hotel Columbus Downtown, 3-star good value money hotel in the heart of Downtown Columbus, close to everything including the Convention Center,  Arena District, Ohio State University, and Goodale Park. The hotel has delicious breakfast, indoor pool, and an onsite restaurant.

Mid-range ($$): Hilton Columbus Downtown, 4-star hotel in Downtown Columbus, within walking distance from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Nationwide Arena, and Goodale Park. Many dining and entertainment venues can be found nearby. It has an indoor pool, private parking, a fitness center, and very good breakfast.

Mid-range ($$): Hotel LeVeque, Autograph Collection, 4-star pet-friendly accommodation in central Columbus, close to Capitol Square and Ohio Theater. Rooms are clean, spacious, and well-appointed with modern facilities. The hotel has family rooms, onsite parking, 24-hour front desk, and business center.


2. University District

University District is a great base in Columbus, especially if you enjoy a vibrant and youthful atmosphere. The University District is home to Ohio State University, and it offers a unique blend of academic energy, cultural diversity, and entertainment. 

Best places to stay in Columbus in University District:

Mid-range ($$): The Urban, popular accommodation one block north of the Ohio State University campus, 20 mins by bus from downtown Columbus. It has a shared kitchen, free private parking, and a 24-hour front desk.

Mid-range ($$): Hyatt House Columbus OSU Short North, good hotel in a nice location, walking distance to the Uni and to the downtown. Easy access to a lovely walking path along the river outside of the hotel.  It has free bikes, free private parking, a swimming pool, a fitness center, and a 24-hour front desk.

Budget ($): The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, 2-star good value for money accommodation located in a safe location on Indiana Avenue, very close to the University Bus service. It has a spacious outdoor hot tub, a shared full kitchen, free parking, paid airport shuttle services.


3. Short North And Italian Village

Staying in the Short North and Italian Village area is ideal for those who appreciate an artsy, trendy, and culturally rich environment. It’s a great choice for exploring unique shops, galleries, and experiencing the local creative scene. 

The Short North is home to a variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes. The nightlife in the area is lively, making it suitable for those who enjoy going out in the evenings.

Italian Village is known for its historic architecture and charming streets. Strolling through the neighborhood can be a delightful experience, with unique homes and buildings.

This area is located between downtown and the University district, making it a convenient base to explore both of these neighborhoods.

Best places to stay in Columbus in Short North/Italian Village:

Mid-range ($$): Graduate Columbus, 4-star hotel conveniently located on North High Street, great base to explore Short North and Italian Village. Within walking distance to great restaurants and shopping and the arena district It’s also a short Uber/Lyft to the Schottenstein Center and OSU campus.

Mid-range ($$): AC Hotel by Marriott Columbus Downtown, 4-star hotel located in central Columbus, close to many venues and popular points of interest such as BalletMet, Ohio Theater and Italian Village. It has a 24-hour front desk and a business center.  

Budget ($): Moxy Columbus Short North, great 3-star hotel, in the downtown area on North High Street,  within walking distance of all the amenities.


4. Polaris

Polaris is a suburban area in the northern part of Columbus, known for its shopping centers, dining options, and a more relaxed atmosphere. 

Polaris is home to Polaris Fashion Place, a large shopping mall with a variety of retail stores, boutiques, and major brands. If you enjoy shopping or need to make purchases during your stay, this area is convenient.

Best places to stay in Columbus in Polaris:

Mid-range ($$): Hilton Columbus/Polaris, great 4-star hotel located  just off Interstate 71, close to the Polaris Fashion Place Mall, short Uber ride from downtown Columbus, Ohio State University and the Columbus Zoo. You can find many shops, restaurants and entertainment options in its surroundings.

Budget ($): Hyatt Place Columbus Polaris, 2-star good value for money hotel, located on Polaris Parkway,  close to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. It has free private parking, a restaurant, a bar, and an indoor pool. 

Budget ($): Drury Inn & Suites Columbus Polaris, 3-star good value for money hotel, in great location to get to the Ohio State campus, outlet malls, and restaurants.it has free private parking, outdoor pool, a business center, and a 24-hour front desk.


In conclusion, Downtown Columbus, University District, Short North/Italian Village, Polaris are the best places to stay in Columbus for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe locations with a variety of accommodations to stay and explore the city.

You can continue reading about other popular cities near Columbus in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Columbus. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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