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Exploring the Arena District with a Picky Astronaut

December 6, 2019

Small Steps are Giant Leaps came to the Arena District for an adventure-filled experience! Click here for the original blog post.

It’s been a very busy fall for Astronaut Harrison (and his mom and I as well). I had been thinking about taking us on a getaway when we received an invitation to explore the Arena District right here in downtown Columbus. Astronaut Harrison loves a staycation so we said yes.

astronaut standing in front of Nationwide Arena

Our visit started with check-in at the Hyatt Regency Hotel which my wife and I have stayed at before and thought we knew what to expect. Boy were we wrong (in a really good way).

astronaut lying on couch in Hyatt Regency

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the term “junior suite” I think of a double queen room with a mini fridge or kitchenette, and maybe the bedroom and living space are separated. The suite we stayed in exceeded our expectations by about 1,000% with a massive open living area with a 70 inch 4k tv, dining table for 6, kitchenette with full-sized fridge, and 2 full baths and a complete separate bedroom with 2 insanely comfortable memory foam queen-sized beds and another wall-mounted 70 inch tv.

astronaut jumping on bed at Hyatt Regency

We let Harry do his customary exploration of the room(s) for a few minutes while we got settled and ready for our fun night out in the city. Once he had checked out every square inch of the suite and jumped on (and off of) every seat and bed, we had to figure out where to go for dinner. What is usually a seemingly impossible task where you factor not only food cravings but also, distance, parking/Lyft cost, etc. was very easy because the Arena District has a number of kid-friendly dining options, all within an easy walk of our hotel.

During our 24 hours exploring the Arena District we had old-school Italian at Buca di Beppo (pizza for Harry, of course), dessert at Ted’s Montana Grill (their fresh baked double chocolate chip cookies with Haagen-Dazs ice-cream was a big hit), and breakfast at Sunny Street Cafe that included Dino-shaped pancakes for Harry, pumpkin pancakes for his mom, and chicken fried steak with biscuits and gravy for me with a cinnamon roll pancake for dessert (I shared it though).

astronaut dining at Buca di Beppo astronaut eating at Sunny Street Café

Back to Friday night though: After dinner at Buca di Beppo, we headed to Nationwide Arena to watch the Blue Jackets take on (and beat) the St. Louis Blues at our first ever professional hockey game.

Once we got into Nationwide Arena we found our seats and Harry and I set off to explore and get a pic with the cannon! While waiting our turn the staff let us know that first-timers could also get a hockey puck to commemorate their first game (which we did as soon as we got our cannon pic).

astronaut sititng inside Nationwide Arena astronaut standing next to cannon inside Nationwide Arena

Harry’s favorite thing about the whole night? Standing at the glass watching the players do their warmup and seeing several players get checked into the glass right in front of us. He has been hooked on hockey ever since.

My favorite part of the night was that it was “Hockey Fights Cancer” night with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and several insanely brave kids were introduced and celebrated for their fight against cancer on center ice at the start of the game.

Having had a full school day and exploring Nationwide Arena between periods, we thought we’d head back to the hotel and Harry would fall right to sleep. Guess how that worked out for us? Instead we searched out the shops on the ground floor of the hotel for a snack, headed up to the 20th floor to check out the nighttime view of the Convention Center and Short North, and then finally started getting drowsy while watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives while covered in Pringles crumbs.

astronaut standing in front of the Union Station Arch

Saturday greeted us with a sunny sky, a brisk walk to breakfast and a chance to explore the Union Station Arch at McPherson Commons, and visit his favorite place to buy Pokémon cards in the convention center atrium (Heroes & Games comic shop) before it was time to check out and head back home just a few miles down the road.

What I love about staycations is how they make me look at places I’ve been to a million times in a new way. Also, It was an insanely easy visit. It was easy to get around, easy to find food that Harry not only liked but devoured (I’m going to start making all of his food dinosaur shaped), and easy to just relax in that insanely awesome hotel room. Thank you to the Arena District for making our stay one to remember!