Columus, Ohio

Every 60 seconds a tattoo convention takes place somewhere around the world, and while there are only so many times you can watch people in strategically hand-cut outfits discuss the meaning behind their fairy flash and tragic tribals, the Hell City show stands out as one of the mustattend events among the tattoorati.

The upcoming Hell City Tattoo Convention (May 29–31) in Columbus, OH , like its Phoenix counterpart (September 4–6), has proven to be one of the top tattoo vacation destinations, not simply for the stellar artist lineup, art shows, workshops, and plentiful parties, but for the city itself.

Tattoo artist and Hell City organizer Durb Morrison says, “I love living here. This is a very liberal city, and there’s always something going on. Killumbus has a deep appreciation of all forms of art, so you can find art-related events year-round. It’s also home to a lot of great tattoo artists, including the late Stoney St. Clair.”All the action’s at the Hyatt Regency, where the convention takes place and where most of the artists will be staying. Unlike at other conventions, all attendees, not just those working the show, get the group rate. Rooms get booked fast, so if you can’t get one, Morrison suggests staying at The Drury Inn at the Convention Center or the Crowne Plaza, both of which are next door to the Hyatt.

The hotels are on the edge of Short North, the arts district in downtown Columbus where top-notch galleries and restaurants are within easy walking distance. Art lovers make pilgrimages to Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts, where amazing performances and exhibitions take place in a landmark of postmodern architecture. And if you’re in Columbus the first Saturday of the month, check out the Gallery Hop, when galleries, restaurants, and shops stay open late and spotlight emerging Ohio artists.

After working up gallery-hopping hunger, head to Lemongrass, one of Morrison’s favorite restaurants in Short North, for Thai fusion specialties like vegetable kebabs dressed with choo-chi chili paste and coconut milk. Foodies will also love the North Market, where they can sample dozens of vendors’ wares, from bubble tea to handmade chocolate. A farmer’s market takes over every Saturday, May through October.
Yet for art, food, and fun, there’s really no need to leave the Hyatt. In fact, the tattoo weekend is specifically designed to “keep all the Hellions under one roof for one hell of a weekend,” says Morrison. “We try to offer events and parties right in the hotel, like the Innerstate Art Party Saturday night and our first-ever roast on Sunday night, which will be paying homage to ‘The Mayor of Tattooville,’ Chris Longo. As always, the [Hyatt Regency] Big Bar on 2 will be kicking with attendees and artists celebrating all weekend long.”

The biggest attraction that convention weekend: the tattoos. The artist lineup is untouchable, with international masters of all styles working two floors of the ballroom. But, like getting a room, it’s always best to contact tattooists early to ensure an appointment. One thing is certain: You’ll leave Hell City with one smokin’ tattoo.

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