Five Ways to Dig Winter in Columbus for $5 or Less 

by Nelle Smith


I’ve had enough of people complaining about winter. Yeah, it’s frequently freezing (or topsy-turvy warm and wet) and you just lost your left glove again, but there’s still plenty to do. In fact, I think Columbus is a pretty stellar place to survive winter, and I’m prepared to prove it.

Here are five of my favorite Columbus winter activities…all of which you can do for about five bucks each. (See what I did there?)

1. Go to Los Gauchos — but not on taco night

I acknowledge the obvious: Los Gauchos makes a mean taco al pastor. This little taco — made with succulent slow-roasted pork and flick of pineapple — got big press a few years ago when it landed on the Food Channel as one of the top tacos in the country—and you can get it for half off on Monday nights at both Los Gauchos locations.

So why skip taco night this winter? Because Wednesday is $2 gringas night, and I think it’s way better.

Gringas feature the same pork as their more famous cousins, but they’re bigger. You get way more meat for nearly the same price. And, best of all, if you go on Wednesdays you skip the taco night crowd. (You’re still stuck inside, but, hey…at least you’ve got a table to yourself.)

Price: $4 for two gringas

Winter benefit: You’re warm from the salsa…not from being wedged in a taco line.

2. Catch a free day at the Columbus Museum of Art

Sundays are free days at the Columbus Museum of Art — and even if you don’t aspire to be Michelangelo yourself, viewing the pieces in the museum is a worthy way to spend a winter afternoon. CMA boasts a fine collection, including works by such greats as Mary Cassatt, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, and Agnes Martin, and hosts traveling exhibitions on a regular basis.

If you’re not convinced by any of the “official reasons,” consider this: there’s something genuinely calming about a walk in a museum in winter. Don’t ask me why. It’s a universal fact. So go! Get your exercise. Reflect. Enjoy the winter quiet. (Just don’t irritate the docents.)

Price: $5 for parking (maybe free if you’re lucky and can find a meter closeby, meters are free on Sundays)

Winter benefit: Something to look at that isn’t the television.

3. See a movie at the Gateway on Super Tuesday

Sure, the Gateway Film Center plays your normal Hollywood crackerjacks. And, yes, from the outside it looks like a normal theater. But, actually, it’s also the kind of theater that hosts a twelve showing marathon of Groundhog Day, and plays 2001: A Space Odyssey in 30 mm film, and screens documentaries that no one has heard of except your neighbor with a handlebar mustache.

In other words, it’s great.

So go see an odd movie, dammit. Tickets are five bucks all day on Tuesdays and include free popcorn and, we presume, an unlimited pass to the drinking fountain.

Price: $5 tickets on Tuesday

Winter benefit: You’re watching a movie and you’re not freezing to death. What more do you want?

4. Take a walk in Highbanks on a snowy afternoon

In my humble opinion, Highbanks is the shining jewel among Columbus Metro Parks. It’s full of ravines and winding paths and hills just steep enough that pretending you’re in optimal physical shape might be a little more trouble than usual. It’s also completely overrun on beautiful weekend days.

But you’re in luck, because it’s winter, it’s snowy, it’s freaking cold, and no one wants to go to Highbanks in such dreadful weather. Except you.

Because on a lonely weekday when the snow is falling, being completely alone in the woods of Highbanks is an experience not to be missed. Trust me.

Price: Free

Winter benefit: An actual experience of actual winter. Bundle up, Buttercup.

5. Read a big old book at a big old library

They’ve prettied up the Columbus Metropolitan Library headquarters, and, boy, is it shiny.

It’s also a pretty good escape in the wintertime. Thanks to the attached garage, parking is super cheap and a breeze, and, unless you take a wrong turn of epic proportions, you will encounter absolutely no freezing, wintry substances on your walk inside.

Once inside, the big reading room feels airy and vast, with room to stretch and breathe — it’s a good antidote to winter claustrophobia. And you don’t actually have to read there, of course. Take any quiet project, a puzzle, or a computer with headphones. Electric outlets are plentiful. Plus, there’s an attached coffee shop and a hall that rotates art exhibitions.

Plus, it’s a place that’s not your house.

Price: A buck or two for parking

Winter benefit: Didn’t you always say you’d read War and Peace someday?

What do you think? Do you have any secret wintery spots that you want to share with the rest of Columbus? Comment below!

For more of Nelle Smith’s work, you can visit her website/portfolio.
Photo by Nick W.

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