Union troops used to camp in Goodale Park during the Civil War. Now, one weekend out of the year, the oldest park in Columbus hosts a wilder and more colorful army called ComFest.
With shade trees galore, tennis courts, a gazebo, movie and concert programs, Downtown views and convenient Short North proximity, this beautiful, history-rich swath of urban greenery is practically screaming for you to picnic in it. Plenty of tables will accommodate this.
Frankly, I prefer pitching a blanket under a tree near the amoeba-shaped pond. There, while gazing at the layer-cake fountain capped by two giddy elephants shooting water from their trunks - another witty Malcolm Cochran creation honoring the once-huge Sells Brothers Circus (the Sells Mansion is just off the park) - your everyday routine will evaporate into a rejuvenating getaway that takes only as long as a sweet little lunch. Sometimes that's enough.
The North Market
Both pioneering and old-school, the North Market - where Jeni Britton Bauer got her once-humble start - was nothing less than the incubator for our local food revolution. It still sets the standard for Columbus markets. And it's a great place to load up for a delicious, "I'm lazy" picnic.
Start with a market circuit to pick up: beverages from Barrel and Bottle; superior Curds and Whey cheeses (try a soft and buttery/brie-like d'Affinois offset by a fabulous, salty and firm - if still creamy - Pecorino Toscano); soft and chewy handmade Brezel Pretzel Twists; a beautiful baguette (for mini-wiches) along with a light yet lush creme fraiche cheesecake piece from Omega; spicy tuna roll from Nida's; and Pam's awesome, awesome, awesome Cheddar and Caramel popcorn.
Then head to North Market Poultry and Game - one of the best picnic stations in town - for: superlative, meaty and mayo-restrained chicken salads (variously enlivened by curry, leeks and lemon zest, Buffalo sauce, caramelized onions and barbecue sauce - all phenomenal); tangy and up-there-with-the-best baked beans; oniony slaw; mac-n-cheese (think artisanal Creamettes); and shouldn't-be-this-good pasta and macaroni salads.
Then call me. I can meet you under that tree near the Goodale pond in 10 minutes.• The Hills Downtown + Columbus Commons • Katzinger's Delicatessen + Schiller Park • Vincenzo's Convenient Elegance + Field of Corn
Photos by Meghan Ralston