Pictured above, a sculptures by artist Terry Allen of a deer looking over the Scioto River.Growing up two hours to the north of Ohio’s state capitol, Columbus was mostly a place to drive through.

My family felt there was no reason to stop or stay overnight. Even as a young adult, it wasn’t really a place that appealled to me, not the way other cities drew me with their diversity and energy.But Columbus today is on a fast-growing streak, and this once-quiet town is making noise as a queer destination.

Pre-pandemic, its annual Pride celebrations were attracting almost 500,000 people and up, putting it on par with events in places like Chicago.