With the Blue Jackets back home at Nationwide Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday, here are some tips on how best to enjoy an outing to the Arena District.
Let’s face it — only the most diehard fans (or those with clairvoyant powers) really expected to see Columbus Blue Jackets hockey this late in April.
And doubters would be forgiven, partly because the Blue Jackets have never actually played hockey this late in April. Plus, the Jackets were massive underdogs in their first-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After completing an improbable sweep — the franchise’s first NHL playoff-series victory in 18 seasons — the Jackets have given their fans at least one more series to enjoy, this time against the Boston Bruins. With the team back home at Nationwide Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday, here are some tips on how best to enjoy an outing to the Arena District.
1. Best places to park: Plenty of parking garages and surface lots surround Nationwide Arena. For more information, visit www.arenadistrictparking.com. But to avoid the hefty bump in game-time parking prices, the savvy traveler may consider public transportation. The Central Ohio Transit Authority has several $2 lines — 1, 2, 2L, 5, 6, 8, 10 and CMAX — to get fans to Nationwide Arena and back home afterward. For those parking their cars away from the arena, CBUS — the free circulator covering the Arena District, Short North, Brewery District, Downtown and German Village — has extended hours through midnight during home playoff games. Visit www.cota.com or download the Transit app to plan your trip.
2. Best happy hours: Thirsty folks looking for a cold-and-frosty before the game might consider local taprooms serving up their craft brews. Between 3 and 7 p.m. on game days, all drafts at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (215 N. 4th St.) are $2 off. Another special offered by the taproom allows guests to enjoy one happy-hour draft and a specified meal for $12. The happy hour at Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus (161 N. High St.) features $2 off draft beer, mixed drinks and all appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m. Prefer wine? The taproom offers happy-hour glasses of both red and white for $3. At Barley’s Brewing Company (467 N. High St.), guests can enjoy $4 pints from 3 to 7 p.m. The happy hour also includes a separate appetizer menu that features the famous sauerkraut balls, buffalo chicken dip, shrimp skewers and truffle fries. Tuesday night features $8 burgers from 3 to 11 p.m.
3. Best after-party: There’s just no denying it: The R Bar is the definitive Columbus Blue Jackets bar. After all, it bills itself as “the best place to watch hockey in Columbus.” Located at 413 N. Front St., just northeast of the arena, there are few better places for fans to celebrate a win or mourn a defeat. Be warned: the place fills up quickly on game days.
4. Best places to get gear: If you are going to the game, you have to dress the part. For Blue Jackets apparel, Homage, Fox Sports Ohio Blue Line at the Mall at Tuttle Crossing and Lamp Apparel all have you covered. Literally. And here’s a pro tip: Beat the lines at the merchandise stands in Nationwide by ordering gear online (www.thebluelineonline.com) and picking it up at the arena. Since it’s already paid for, just head straight to the counter.
5. Best viewing party for those without tickets: You don’t need tickets to enjoy a playoff atmosphere in the Arena District. Plaza Party events at the arena begin three hours before the puck drops and include beer trucks, food, live music, games and roaming entertainers. Once the game starts, you and your hundreds of new friends don’t have to leave to watch it — two giant screens will broadcast the action.
6. One more thing: Don’t let the name fool you; Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar (191 W. Nationwide Blvd.) will welcome Jackets fans. Those conflicted about eating at a place whose name bears the city of the Blue Jackets’ opponent need not worry. The chain covered the B with an “X,” similar to the way Ohio State Buckeyes fans cover every letter M when it comes time to face that team up north. And according to the company’s website, the company is based in Dallas; the closest Boston’s to Boston is in Washington, D.C., more than 400 miles away.