Exterior photo of Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Our staff's trip to Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, was our first trip to an NHL game. Though a small market franchise and city, neither disappointed by any means. The Blue Jackets were victorious 3-1 over the Los Angeles Kings. As a kid and young adult, I had only attended minor league hockey games to see teams such as the Knoxville Ice Bears and the old Kentucky Thoroughblades. That's really where my love for the game grew. The play and atmosphere that can be found in hockey arenas is way different than that of Major League Baseball, the NBA and NFL. 

Photo of Blue Jackets fans outside of R Bar in Columbus, Ohio.

Downtown Columbus, Ohio has a really neat setup surrounding Nationwide Arena. The area is called the 'Arena District'. Our staff had dinner both before and after the game at Boston's Pizza on Nationwide Blvd. and the Three Legged Mare, an Irish pub on Front Street. I would highly recommend both although you should probably get there three hours before the game to get a table and aren't rushed to get into the arena. There was quiet a bit of a wait. Also in the immediate area was Buca di Beppo (Italian), BD's Mongolian Grill, Ted's Montana Grill and an upscale brewery. Here is our complete list of sports bars near Nationwide Arena.

There are also a large number of hotels just a block or two away including the Hyatt Regency, Crowne Plaza, Renaissance, Red Roof Inn and Drury Suites. The only downside is parking isn't on site for most of the hotels but instead, across the street and costs in excess of $15 per day. High parking rates are typical of large cities. Here is our complete list of hotels near Nationwide Arena.

The traffic in downtown Columbus is an absolute headache as is traffic in most large cities. The Vine Street Garage downtown typically has $5 parking though it may have since gone up. The city is extremely clean and has a big city feel to it, much more so than other cities comparable to it's size like Nashville, Charlotte or Memphis.

Photo of the Arena District in Columbus, Ohio.

Nationwide arena is small, shiny and comfortable. Like Heinz Field in Pittsburgh or Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Nationwide Arena is painted blue from top to bottom matching the team's colors. The lower level seats were extremely affordable compared to almost any other NHL arena we've seen online. The concessions, however, were not affordable they had a wide offering of food and beer. If you've never had Skyline Chili, a chain from Cincinnati, you need to try their coneys. Fans should have no reason to sit in the upper levels or Nationwide Arena due to the affordability of the lower level tickets although I'm sure the view would not have been too terrible. 

The seats are comfortable but there are no cup holders on the lower level. I thought all modern stadiums and arenas were equipped with cup holders but looks like I was wrong. Blue Jackets fans did get into the game when a goal was scored and when there were fights but other than that, this was a tame and unexciting crowd. I can't say the same for other NHL arenas but I do recognize that this is a football state and Columbus loves their Ohio State Buckeyes first and foremost. I've heard personal accounts from Chicago Blackhawks fans that insist Blue Jackets fans aren't very knowledgeable about the game of hockey. If that's true, Blue Jackets fans just need time to learn the game and establish generations of fans. 

Hat trick display at Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The cannon outside of section 111 is a neat feature. It gets fired after every Blue Jackets goal and is extremely loud. It pays tribute to the Union Army from the Civil War era. Ohio was considered a union state during the era. Another cool feature is the hat trick display in the concourse which contains all of the hats thrown on ice for hat tricks at Nationwide Arena. The display also denotes who scored the hat trick and when.

Photo of the ice at Nationwide Arena from the upper level.

I would recommend Nationwide Arena to any sports fan that wants to see an NHL game for cheap and wants to have a fun evening away from home. I don't know if I will be back anytime soon but I would love to catch another Columbus Blue Jackets game in the future after seeing other arenas. The city of Columbus doesn't offer much else in terms of professional sports. It does have close proximity to both Cleveland and Cincinnati, however, if you need to get your NFL, MLB or NBA fix. 


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