One can tour Columbus by car, bike or bus, or can see the city through Will Haynes’ eyes.
The Mansfield, Ohio native and 2008 Ohio State alumnus founded Show Me Columbus, a local touring service, in 2014.
“When I came back to Columbus (in 2013), it was common for people to say, ‘We’re going to this place, why don’t you show us around?’” Haynes said.
It took a visit from a friend of a friend for Haynes to start thinking about giving tours of Columbus professionally.
“She was coming from Toronto, and my friend suggested I show her around,” he said. “So I put a little tour together, and that became my Best of Columbus tour.”
Show Me Columbus offers seven set walking tours of the area, including Downtown, the Short North and Ohio State campus.
“There’s a lot of alumni who come back, who want to see how the campus has changed,” Haynes said of the campus tour. “It’s not usually strangers, but people who knew the campus at one point and want to see what is different.”
But the majority of Haynes’ tours are by request and customized around the interests and needs of the client.
“I ask about interests and base the tours around that,” Haynes said.
After he graduating from OSU’s Theater and English programs, Haynes coordinated service projects in Costa Rica and Thailand, including English education programs and construction work.
But eventually, he said Columbus started drawing him back.
“You get older, you start wanting to move around less,” he said.
Haynes’ said he developed a new curiosity in Columbus’ history after returning from abroad, noticing new buildings spring up around old structures.
“I looked at the changes Columbus had gone through,” he said. “And I started to dive in the city’s history. Columbus has a rich history that I didn’t appreciate beforehand.”
This time of year, the Boos and Brews tour is especially popular. The tour of ghostly spots in and around Downtown begins at Barley’s Brewing, which was built on part of the Old North Cemetery.
The tour is based on historical facts on what could make the city haunted, Haynes said. Along the way, the tour stops into bars and restaurants that now call these potentially haunted spots home.
Haynes said he serves as an unofficial ambassador for people coming to the city for job interviews and for reintroduction to those, like him, who return.
“Most people love the city but don’t know the history,” he said. “I get a lot of joy from people saying ‘I had no idea Columbus was this great.’”