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2015 MLS Cup: Columbus soccer culture and beyond in our city guide | SIDELINE

Heading to Columbus for this Sunday's 2015 MLS Cup final at MAPFRE Stadium? Before you catch the Portland Timbers facing the Columbus Crew SC, you'll probably want to explore the city. Here's our guide to essential Columbus stops.

Photo via USA Today Sports Images

MAPFRE STADIUM

First thing's first: We've got to shout-out the actual game venue. The Crew SC play their home games just outside of downtown in America’s first soccer-specific stadium (okay, this fact remains somewhat disputed, but you know what we mean).

1 Black and Gold Blvd., Columbus, OH 43211; (614) 447-2739; columbuscrewsc.com/MAPFREStadium

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM

Consistently voted one of the best in the country, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium boast more than 10,000 animals representing more than 50 species from around the world. During the holidays, they host Zoo Lights, a gigantic light display that draws everyone from tourists to high-schoolers on first dates.

4850 W. Powell Road, Powell, OH 43065; columbuszoo.org; (614) 645-3400

Image via Homage on Facebook

HOMAGE

A purveyor of retro-inspired sports and pop culture apparel — and an officially MLS-licensed retailer — Homage has grown quickly since its inception in 2007. Locally owned and operated, the brand and its retail store are popular with locals and tourists alike.

783 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43215; homage.com; (614) 706-4254

Photo via Fourth Street Bar and Grill on Facebook

FOURTH STREET BAR AND GRILL

Known for its ridiculous happy hour and willingness to put soccer on its televisions, Fourth Street has become one of the premier Crew SC supporters’ bars, and it sits within walking distance of MAPFRE Stadium. They also boast 50 beers on tap, giving visitors a chance to taste one of many spectacular Columbus brews.

1810 N. 4th St., Columbus, OH 43201; fourthstreetcolumbus.com; (614) 291-1420

Photo via 16-Bit bar on Facebook

SOUTH 4TH STREET

One of the fastest growing parts of the city, the South 4th Street area is highlighted by 16-Bit, an arcade/bar that’s still arguably the most popular spot in the city more than a year after opening. Neighboring Dirty Frank’s is an outlandish hot dog spot, while Mikey’s Late Night Slice serves the most famous booze-soaking pizza in Columbus. Also in the area, El Camino Inn is a recommended taco and tequila joint, and Little Palace serves cheap comfort food and drinks.

254 S. 4th St., Columbus, OH 43215; 16-bitbar.com; (614) 222-1616

Photo via ohiostatebuckeyes.com

OHIO STADIUM

Not every city can claim a 100,000-plus-seat stadium. Known as the Horseshoe (or, more commonly, the 'Shoe), this is the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The stadium will also host the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s football playoffs on the Friday and Saturday before the MLS Cup final, if you’re interested in that type of football.

411 Woody Hayes Drive, Columbus, OH 43210; ohiostatebuckeyes.com; (614) 292-6330

Image via Schmidt's Sausage Haus on Facebook

SCHMIDT'S SAUSAGE HAUS

The best and most authentic German cuisine in town, Schmidt’s typifies the “German heritage” the Crew SC have been cultivating with their rebrand. Schmidt’s resides in the German Village district of Columbus, and is surrounded by excellent shops, bars and restaurants like the Book Loft, Club 185 or Harvest Pizzeria.

240 E Kossuth St., Columbus, OH 43206; schmidthaus.com; (614) 444-6808

Image via Wikimedia Commons

NATIONWIDE ARENA

The second-biggest sports arena in Columbus, Nationwide hosts the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and a variety of large musical acts. It serves as the linchpin of the Arena District, filled with bars and restaurants that will be swarmed during Jackets games. The team hosts the Florida Panthers the Friday before the MLS Cup final.

200 W. Nationwide Blvd., Columbus, OH 43215; nationwidearena.com; (614) 246-2000

Image via Wikimedia Commons

EASTON TOWN CENTER

While it may not be the most authentically Columbus stop, Easton is known for its shopping and town center format, which creates its own community among the many retailers. During the holidays, it boasts a lights display second to only that of the zoo. If you’re trying to complete your shopping for the season, you can knock it out in one day at Easton.

160 Easton Station, Columbus, OH 43219; eastontowncenter.com; (614) 337-2200

Image via Wikimedia Commons

SHORT NORTH

Columbus’s young, artistic district, the Short North is filled with beer, food, music and other Columbus oddities. It’s best known for its monthly gallery hop, where artists and musicians are showcased along High Street and within its establishments on the first Saturday of each month. The annual Holiday Hop is happening the Saturday before the MLS Cup final.

Shortnorth.org

Image via Wikimedia Commons

NORTH MARKET

With 35 different vendors of food, snacks, alcohol and other artisan items, the North Market offers local versions of almost anything. Whether you're visiting for lunch or Christmas shopping, there’s something for everyone here, including the famous Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.

59 Spruce St., Columbus, OH 43215; northmarket.com; (614) 463-9664

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