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- 1. Explore the recreational opportunities of the Chattahoochee River
- 2. Attend a performance at Rivercenter for the Performing Arts
- 3. Applaud a Broadway-quality show at the Springer Opera House
- 4. Learn about the contributions of American military personnel at the National Infantry Museum
- 5. Focus on the maritime activities of the Civil War at the National Civil War Naval Museum
- 6. Take a nostalgic walk through the Columbus Collective Museums
- 7. Admire the art of Bo Bartlett and others at the Corn Center for the Visual Arts
- 8. Take advantage of the educational offerings for the public of Columbus State University
- 9. Smell the roses and many other fragrant plants at the Columbus Botanical Garden
- 10. Swim laps or do water aerobics throughout the year at Columbus Aquatic Center
- 11. Satisfy your taste buds with culinary choices in Columbus
- 12. Tour the home of Ma Rainey, the Mother of the Blues
- 13. Find the public art on display in Uptown Columbus
- 14. Spend the night in a renovated grist mill
- Fun Facts About Columbus, Georgia
Columbus is the second largest city in the state of Georgia in terms of population. It hugs the state line between Georgia and Alabama and is separated from Phenix City, Alabama, by a bridge over the Chattahoochee River. That river is home to the Chattahoochee Whitewater Park, which is among the top 12 manmade adventures in the world, according to USA Today.
Here is my list of 14 things to do when you visit Columbus, listed in random order. I visited a number of these attractions during a press trip but have also found others during individual trips to Columbus.
1. Explore the recreational opportunities of the Chattahoochee River
Not only does Columbus enjoy the benefits and outdoor activities of having the Chattahoochee River as its western border, it also boasts the longest urban whitewater course in the world. Rafting and kayaking are extremely popular sports in the area, and a company called Whitewater Express is happy to provide guides and outfit those who want to try those sports.
The Chattahoochee Riverwalk is a 22-mile trail along the river that is perfect for biking, walking, jogging, inline skating, or strolling. Geocachers will find several dozen caches along the riverwalk. Possibly the most unique attraction on the river is the Blue Heron Zipline that goes over it and crosses the state line from Georgia into Alabama
2. Attend a performance at Rivercenter for the Performing Arts
Famous choirs, orchestras, individual performers, and touring companies are presented on a regular basis at RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. With three different sizes of performance venues and The Wave, a fabulous theater organ, those who crave great music, Broadway shows, and theater will find something to suit their preference in each year’s season without having to travel to Atlanta.
3. Applaud a Broadway-quality show at the Springer Opera House
With five mainstage shows, three studio shows, and five family fun shows, rehearsals and production planning seem to be constantly happening at Springer Opera House. This is a historic state theatre originally built in 1871. It is a visual feast, and the productions are presented with excellence.
4. Learn about the contributions of American military personnel at the National Infantry Museum
Located just outside the gates of Fort Moore (formerly known as Fort Benning), the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center has been recognized by USA Today as the Best Free Museum and by CNN Travel as one of the world’s best military museums.
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The museum covers 240 years of military history and incorporates more than 70,000 artifacts and replicas, so you will want to allow plenty of time for your visit. There are no admission or parking fees, but you will want to bring money for the Giant Screen Theater, the Combat Simulators, and the Fife and Drum, the on-site restaurant. The Giant Screen Theater is a 3-D laser light projection theater, making it extra special for visitors. The dedication and sacrifice of U.S. military personnel will inspire and educate you.
5. Focus on the maritime activities of the Civil War at the National Civil War Naval Museum
With a surviving Confederate warship, the CSS Jackson, and the remnants of others, this museum has a very specific focus and purpose – the time period of the Civil War and the contributions and involvement of the Navy.
The National Civil War Naval Museum is an important history museum. It is open every day, except for major holidays. In addition to general admission tours, there are events throughout the year that feature character impersonations, weapons demonstrations, and cannon firings.
6. Take a nostalgic walk through the Columbus Collective Museums
The Lunch Box Museum may be the most popular at the Columbus Collective Museums, but there are six other art and history collections inside. The Car Museum, Georgia Radio Museum, and Tom Huston Peanut Museum along with Cola Museums, such as Royal Crown, Nehi, and Chero, are housed there, all with connections to Columbus GA. The museum is sure to evoke feelings of nostalgia, especially for those who carried beloved cartoon, TV character, or superhero lunchboxes every day to school.
The museum is open every day except Sunday, and there is a small entrance fee.
7. Admire the art of Bo Bartlett and others at the Corn Center for the Visual Arts
Bo Bartlett, an American realist painter, was born in Columbus, Georgia. The Bo Bartlett Center inside the Corn Center for the Visual Arts on Front Avenue in Columbus houses several hundred of his paintings and drawings, as well as artifacts, journals, memorabilia, photographs, and sketchbooks.
The center also rotates between six and eight other exhibitions throughout the year. There are hours of operation Tuesday through Saturday, and there is no admission fee but a suggested donation of $10 per person. Expect to be amazed at the monumental size of many Bo Bartlett paintings.
8. Take advantage of the educational offerings for the public of Columbus State University
In addition to the Corn Center for the Visual Arts, Columbus residents and visitors can enjoy other educational facilities under the Columbus State University umbrella. The Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center is located between the National Infantry Museum and Historic Westville (which is temporarily closed to visitors). The center provides exhibits for hands-on learning, displays, and nature trails highlighting the area’s plants and animals.
Coca Cola Space Science Center is located along the Chattahoochee Riverwalk and offers sky tours, planetarium shows, and a large collection of NASA Space Shuttle artifacts.
The McCullars Center for Writers and Musicians is dedicated to the legacy of Carson McCullars, a Columbus native and respected southern writer who became famous for her book “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” as well as other novels, plays, and short stories.
9. Smell the roses and many other fragrant plants at the Columbus Botanical Garden
A rose garden, camellias, Japanese maples, vegetables, herbs, and many more plants that grow prolifically in the south can be found among the terraced trails, fountains, and water features of the Columbus Botanical Garden. This is a beautiful place for educating children and adults and for hosting events. Four acres are currently planted with more coming in the future.
10. Swim laps or do water aerobics throughout the year at Columbus Aquatic Center
Don’t wait for the pool to warm up in the summertime. Go to the Columbus Aquatic Center on Midtown Drive for year-round swimming fun. Lanes for lap swimming and a large pool area for free swimming are included, along with classes for all ages. The Aquatic Center is open six days a week, and the admission cost for Muskogee County residents is half of what it is for out-of-county residents.
11. Satisfy your taste buds with culinary choices in Columbus
If you’re looking for elevated cuisine:
- Denim & Oak Restaurant
- EPIC Restaurant
- The Loft
- 11th & Bay Southern Table
- Millhouse Kitchen & Bar
For great food in locally owned eateries:
- My Boulange & Tower Pizza
- Plucked Up Chicken & Biscuits
- The Animal Farm
- Bodega 1205
- Banks Food Hall
- Minnie’s Uptown
Columbus has an impressive number of places to suit a wide range of preferences, and many offer live music.
12. Tour the home of Ma Rainey, the Mother of the Blues
Gertrude “Ma” Pridgett Rainey, who lived in the late 19th century and early 20th century, made her first stage appearance at the Springer Opera House when she was only 14 years old. Her singular style led to her description as “Mother of the Blues.” She toured and recorded albums for a number of years, and her former home on 5th Avenue has been turned into a museum known as the Ma Rainey House & Blues Museum.
It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but it is a good idea to call the museum before you plan to visit. The number on the website is (706) 641-5933.
13. Find the public art on display in Uptown Columbus
Broadway and other streets in Uptown Columbus have been enhanced through the efforts of Artbeat of Columbus. A stroll through the area will reveal murals, statues, and sculptures that have been strategically placed to bring pops of color, fun things, and inspiration and are perfect places to snap a photo to post on social media. It is as if you are visiting an outdoor art museum.
14. Spend the night in a renovated grist mill
Lodging options abound in Columbus with large hotels such as Columbus Marriott, AC Hotel by Marriott, and Hotel Indigo, but if you’re looking for something smaller and more unique, check out City Mills Hotel. City Mills Hotel is a renovated former grist mill that has been turned into a 30-room luxury boutique hotel on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Parking and breakfast are included in the room rate. For more info, check out my complete review of the City Mills Hotel.
Fun Facts About Columbus, Georgia
- The city of Columbus has several interesting nicknames. It is known as The Electric City because its streetlights, installed in 1885, made it one of the first cities in the world to have them.
- It is referred to as The Fountain City because of the significant amounts of water and water features around the town.
- Forbes called Columbus “Georgia’s Cool Cat City,” likely referring to the number of activities appealing to all ages that can be enjoyed in Columbus.
- Another quirky tip about Columbus is the fact that anything considered downtown Columbus by visitors is referred to as Uptown by Columbus locals.
Other attractions to consider are the Columbus Museum for regional history and art, which is currently undergoing a massive renovation, Bull Creek Golf Course, Flat Rock Park, and the Dragonfly Trail for biking along 32 miles of former rail lines. A drive through the historic district will also take you past fascinating homes with beautiful architecture. Columbus has so many fun activities and hidden gems to enjoy during a family or couple’s getaway.