Are you thinking about moving to Ohio but not sure which city offers the best lifestyle, amenities, and job opportunities? Cleveland and Columbus are the two largest cities in Ohio and often compared thanks to their affordability and quality of life, but they are very different in terms of size, economy, and amenities.
Cleveland is known for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Clinic, Lake Erie beaches, and award-winning Metroparks. It’s nicknamed the Forest City thanks to its gorgeous outdoor attractions. Columbus is known as the Indie Art Capital and Discovery City and best known for Ohio State University, the Columbus Zoo, and its college football culture.
To help you decide between these two great cities, here’s a complete look at the pros and cons of living in Columbus versus Cleveland and what each city has to offer.
Pros & Cons of Living in Columbus vs Cleveland
Which city is right for you? Compare and contrast Cleveland vs Columbus pros and cons to see what you’ll love about each city – and drawbacks that may be deal breakers.
Living in Columbus Pros
Family-friendly attractions including the Columbus Zoo
One of the benefits of living in Columbus is the city’s many things to do with kids – or kids at heart. Top Columbus attractions include the LEGOLand Discovery Center, Otherworld art installation with mixed reality playgrounds, and the Magic Mountain Fun Center.
Famous for its association with director-turned-ambassador Jack Hanna, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is the second largest zoo in the country and one of America’s top-rated zoos. It’s also home to Zoombezi Bay, a large water park with 19 fun attractions for all ages. The Columbus Zoo operates the Wilds about 80 miles east of Columbus which offers a safari experience with Indian and Southern white rhinos, cheetahs, three species of giraffes, ostriches, zebras, and more!
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When you compare the Columbus vs Cleveland zoo, you’ll find the Columbus Zoo is much larger, but this also means it can be harder to walk and explore. The Columbus zoo covers 580 acres with over 7,000 animals and 800 species. The Cleveland MetroParks Zoo is 183 acres with 3,000 animals and over 600 species.
Columbus is a rapidly growing metropolis in the Midwest with a strong economy
Many cities in the Midwest are shrinking including Chicago (7% population decline between 2000 and 2010) and Cleveland (6% population loss). In Columbus, the story is different. The city has never seen its population decline and it continues to grow thanks to affordable housing, a strong economy, and ever-growing city limits. The Franklin County GDP grew $2.3 billion between 2014 and 2017 alone and much of the population growth comes from educated, young people moving to the city.
The diverse, growing economy is one of the best advantages of living in Columbus. Unlike Cleveland and other Midwest cities, Columbus never relied on manufacturing and was founded as a capital.
You’ll find great career options in many sectors including insurance, education, defense, banking, medical research, aviation, technology, and government. There are several Fortune 500 companies and international corporations with top employers including JPMorgan Chase, Huntington, Nationwide Mutual, Siemens, and Ohio State University.
Columbus has a vibrant culture and art scene
Want to live somewhere with a vibrant culture and active art scene? Its thriving art and culture is a major plus of living in Columbus!
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Cbus has been named one of America’s best metro areas for the arts thanks to its world-class performing arts venues, museums, theaters, and cultural events.
- Catch foreign films and contemporary art exhibits at the Wexner Center for the Arts
- See the latest touring Broadway shows at the historic Palace Theatre and Ohio Theatre
- Visit the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) and the Columbus Museum of Art for Monet, hands-on learning, and an award-winning dinosaur exhibit
- Be moved by performances by Opera Columbus, Columbus Jazz Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO), and BalletMet
- View and buy art from more than 280 acclaimed artists from across the country at the annual Columbus Arts Festival
Living in Columbus Cons
The Columbus infrastructure hasn’t kept up with growth
The biggest drawback of living in Columbus is the city has not kept up with its steady growth. There’s a serious lack of parking, certain areas of the city become very congested at times, and, most notably, Columbus is the largest city in the U.S. with no passenger rail service.
Living in Cleveland Pros
Cleveland has great schools
If you have or plan to have kids, education is probably a big concern when listing the living in Cleveland, Ohio pros and cons. Cleveland is frequently ranked as one of the best places to live in Ohio for public schools. In 2022, five of the top 10 Ohio school districts were in Cuyahoga County including the Solon City School District, ranked #2 in Ohio.
That isn’t to say you won’t find great schools in the Columbus area; #3 on the list is Dublin City School District!
Cleveland has excellent access to nature with a nationally recognized park system
Love being out in nature hiking, fishing, boating, or just enjoying a picnic? One of the perks of living in Cleveland is its great outdoors.
Lake Erie is perhaps the most obvious answer to outdoor recreation and scenery in Cleveland. Residents and visitors flock to the shore throughout the summer for huge beach parties with food and live music.
Hit the open water on a paddleboat, kayak, or jet skis. Euclid Beach Park offers 300 miles of trails plus a golf course and the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo. The 88-acre Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is a big draw for birdwatching. Edgewater Beach is a gorgeous destination for picnics, swimming, beach volleyball, and strolls along the shore.
Cleveland MetroParks features 18 reservations encircling the city and following the Lake Erie shore and the region’s rivers. This nationally recognized park system won the 2021 Award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation Management, the highest national honor for parks and recreation.
Living in Cleveland Cons
Cleveland has a lot of crime and poverty
There are many large neighborhoods in Cleveland that never recovered from the housing market collapse and recession, and haven’t fared better since the COVID-19 pandemic. Poverty is a problem in many parts of the city and contributes to the high crime rate in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland has 327% more violent crime than the U.S. average.
Taxes in Cleveland are costly and complicated
A common complaint and big downside of living in Cleveland is the complex tax system and high tax rates. You can never simply rely on home prices when buying a home in Cleveland – property tax rates vary significantly from one neighborhood, school district, and suburb to the next. Cleveland has the highest property taxes in Ohio, a state that already has above-average property tax rates.
The city income system is best described as a maze with every municipality in the metro area using a different tax rate. If you or your spouse work multiple jobs, are self-employed, or work in a city where you do not live, expect an annoying tax season.
Cost of Living in Columbus vs Cleveland
One of the most important metrics for comparing Cleveland versus Columbus is the cost of living in each city.
At first glance, both cities are comparable with a cost of living lower than the national average. Affordability is one of the biggest draws for moving to Columbus and Cleveland!
When you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the Cleveland cost of living is higher than the cost of living in Columbus, OH. The low home prices in Cleveland, for example, hide the real cost of homeownership: Cleveland property taxes are notoriously high! You may pay twice as much to buy a house in Columbus, but your property taxes may be thousands lower – and the median income is much higher in Columbus too.
Here’s how the cities compare.
|Median home price||$113,000||$250,000|
|Median property tax bill||$2,000 per $100,000 value*||$1,480 per $100,000 value|
|Sales tax rate||7.5%||7.75%|
|City income tax rate||1-3%**||2.5%|
|Median household income||$31,838||$54,902|
* Cleveland has the highest property tax rates in Ohio and widely varying rates based on the township, county, city, and school district. The Shaker Heights area of Cleveland has the highest property tax rate of $4,035 per $100,000 in value.
** There are 127 different municipal income tax rates in Greater Cleveland. Most townships and cities have a rate of 2% to 2.5%.
Additional Things to Consider Between Columbus Versus Cleveland
Cleveland vs Columbus Population & Area
How do Columbus and Cleveland compare when it comes to population and total area? That’s a good question to ask, whether you’re looking for a more densely populated city for urban living or want more space to spread out and enjoy nature.
|How Big Is Columbus Ohio?||How Big Is Cleveland?|
|Columbus area||226 sq mi||83 sq mi||Cleveland area|
|Columbus population||905,748||372,624||Cleveland population|
|Columbus population density||4,115 people/sq mi||4,793 people/sq mi||Cleveland population density|
|Columbus metro area||3,169 sq mi||2,046 sq mi||Cleveland metro area|
|Columbus OH metro population||2,138,926||2,088,251||Cleveland OH metro population|
Columbus is Ohio’s largest city and capital with about 3x the population and area of Cleveland. However, Cleveland is more densely populated and it’s part of the larger Cleveland-Akron-Canton CSA with a population of 3.6 million.
Columbus vs Cleveland Crime
Is Columbus or Cleveland safer? Columbus has far less crime than Cleveland. The Cleveland crime rate is 5,727 total crimes and 1,657 violent crimes per 100,000. That’s 327% more violent crime than the U.S. average! By comparison, the Columbus crime rate is 3,686 total crimes and 556 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
Columbus is one of the safest large cities in Ohio while Cleveland is by far the most dangerous city in Ohio. Make sure you consider the higher crime rate when comparing the pros and cons of living in Cleveland Ohio!
Also if you do choose Cleveland, there ARE plenty of safe places to live within the metro.
Columbus vs Cleveland Sports
Which city offers the best pro teams and sports culture? Columbus is famous for its college football culture thanks to OSU and 36 varsity teams. “The Game” between Ohio State and Michigan is fervently followed and Buckeye Nation pride is on display everywhere.
Outside college football, Columbus is home to the Columbus Crew SC (MLS) and Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL).
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Cleveland is one of America’s best sports cities if you’re looking for professional league sports. The Cleveland Browns is one of the most successful American football franchises in history and the city is home to the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) and Cleveland Indians (MLB).
Cleveland vs Columbus Airports
Do you like to travel? When considering where to live, make sure you look into the airports including nearby airports and whether there is a major hub in the area or smaller regional airports. How do airports near Cleveland vs Columbus compare?
- Busiest airport in OH
- Served by 8 airlines
- 41 nonstop domestic destinations (non in Pacific Northwest)
- Not a hub for any airlines but a Frontier focus city
- 15 minutes from downtown
The Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) is 50 miles outside Cleveland but bills itself as a more convenient and affordable alternative.
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- Served by 9 airlines
- 40+ nonstop domestic destinations
- 10 minutes from downtown
The nearby Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) just south of Columbus is a cargo-focused airport but also offers Allegiant flights to a small number of destinations, mostly in Florida.
Columbus vs Cleveland Weather
Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio both have a humid continental climate, but there are big differences between the weather!
Columbus has an average summer high temperature of 85 degrees and an average winter low of 21 degrees. You’ll get 22” of annual Columbus snowfall and 40” of rain.
When you compare Cleveland vs Columbus weather, you’ll quickly notice Cleveland gets a lot of snow – 54” of annual snowfall in Cleveland! The city also gets about 38” of rain. The winter low is 22 degrees with a summer high of 82 degrees, cooler than Columbus.
Cleveland to Columbus Distance
How far is it from Cleveland from Columbus? It’s 141 miles from Columbus to Cleveland along I-71, about a two-hour drive. That means you can enjoy all the perks of living in Columbus or Cleveland and still enjoy the attractions of the other within an easy day trip driving distance!
Cleveland vs Columbus: Where Are You Moving?
Which city offers what you’re looking for? Cleveland is a good place to live if you want professional league sports and endless outdoor recreation and beaches, but it has a high crime rate and high taxes. Columbus is a great place to live for excellent career opportunities, great colleges and universities, and world-class cultural attractions and art.
If you have settled on moving to Columbus, Ohio, give us a call at Krupp Moving & Storage today to get started with a free moving estimate. We’ll help you settle into your new home without the stress!