The second-largest city in the state, Georgia’s Columbus is an oft-overlooked destination that really has a lot going for it. As well as plenty of parks and museums, it has a myriad of interesting historic sights and attractive industrial architecture for visitors to check out with it also being known for its small town feel and Southern hospitality.
Located on the east bank of the Chattahoochee River, it lies directly across its languid waters from Phenix City in Alabama. Once a major textile manufacturing center, it has lots of well-preserved old buildings and historic districts for you to explore with important cultural landmarks and Civil War monuments dotted here and there.
While exploring its dynamic arts scene should be on everybody’s list of things to do in Columbus, this Georgian city also boasts some gorgeous scenery with the Riverwalk being just one of its main attractions.
12. Oxbow Meadows
A very peaceful and picturesque place to visit, the idyllic Oxbow Meadows can be found just a short drive south of the city center. Home to an excellent Environmental Learning Center, it has a wealth of pretty nature trails and pristine wetlands for visitors to explore with countless wildlife exhibits and interactive activities being on offer.
Set on the campus of the Columbus State University, it lies alongside the winding Chattahoochee River with lots of lovely ponds and marshes making up much of its territory. Aside from learning all about the local fauna and flora in its center, you can attend talks in its auditorium or see all kinds of cool creatures with everything from snakes and alligators to fish, tortoises and turtles on show.
11. Columbus Historic District
Packed with beautiful old buildings and leafy boulevards; the charming Columbus Historic District really is a treat to amble around. While it is primarily a residential area, it has a scattering of historic sites and monuments for you to check out with a couple of shops, cafes and churches also included within its twenty-block boundary.
Recognized as a historic district in 1969, the quiet and quaint neighborhood encompasses hundreds of centuries-old houses of all sizes and styles. As well as enjoying all its attractive Georgian, Greek Revival and Late Victorian architecture, visitors can also stop by its 1879 confederate war memorial and ogle at the unique antebellum-era Octagon house.
As both the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and Columbus Riverwalk lie along its western side, you can easily stroll around the historic district while taking in some of the city’s other sights.
10. FD Roosevelt State Park
Although it is located around forty-five minutes’ drive northeast of town, the fantastic FD Roosevelt State Park is definitely well worth a detour if you have the time. Part of the Pine Mountain Ridge, it has vast swathes of verdant hardwood and pine forests for you to hike and bike about with creeks, waterfalls and several historic structures also dotted here and there.
The largest state park in Georgia, it is named after the former president who sought treatment for his paralytic illness in the nearby town of Warm Springs. Aside from a life-size statue of FDR, there are cottages and a swimming pool built by the Civilian Conservation Corps to see alongside Roosevelt’s favorite picnic spot and viewpoint.
Sure to delight nature lovers and outdoor aficionados alike, its rugged confines have more than forty miles of trails to explore with two lakes, a playground and countless campsites also scattered about.
9. Lunch Box Museum
Certainly a unique and unusual stop, the Lunch Box Museum contains a cute and quirky collection of over 5,000 colorful lunch boxes. The largest museum of its kind in the world, it lies within the equally intriguing Rivermarket Antique Mall, just five minutes’ drive north of downtown.
Since being established in 1990, its owners have amassed an astounding array of rare and vintage metal lunch boxes with thermoses and other related memorabilia also displayed. Lining its walls are shiny square sandwich containers featuring everyone from Charlie’s Angels and Tarzan to Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo and other childhood favorites from decades ago.
While some are relatively common, other items are one-of-a-kind with its entire collection covering the early 1950s right up to the eventual banning of the metal lunch box in 1985.
8. Coca-Cola Space Science Center
Long one of Columbus’s top tourist attractions, the first-class Coca-Cola Space Science Center can be found in the the Historic District, right along the Riverwalk. As well as fun flight simulators and a planetarium, it has all kinds of interesting and interactive exhibits on the galaxy, space flight and physics for young and old alike to enjoy.
First opened to the public in 1996, the state-of-the-art science center focuses primarily on space and astronomy with NASA artifacts and equipment on show in its grand galleries. Besides testing your piloting skills and participating in a rocket launch, you can drive rovers around Mars, strap yourself into a simulator and observe the night’s sky through telescopes. With engaging talks, science shows and films all regularly taking place; it makes for a great day out for all the family.
7. Columbus Botanical Garden
Home to a colorful collection of plants, flowers, trees and shrubs, the Columbus Botanical Garden sprawls across a huge part of the north of the city. With dozens of scenic sections and pristine wild spaces for visitors to explore, it is certainly one of the best places to head if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Constantly evolving, it not only has fragrant rose and camelia gardens for you to wander around but tiered, terraced parts and an imaginative children’s secret adventure garden too. While these are all lovingly landscaped, its meadows and forests are full of pretty wildflowers with picturesque trails meandering their way about them. On top of this, the botanical garden has an outdoor amphitheater and community center which regularly hold classes, concerts and theater performances.
6. Flat Rock Park
Not too far from Columbus Botanical Garden is another absolutely gorgeous spot to visit if you love the great outdoors: the fabulous Flat Rock Park. While a bubbling creek courses its way across the large, flat rock formation after which it is named, towering trees and green patches of grass line its reflective, fish-filled lake.
Besides basking in its beauty and scampering about its wonderful rocks, visitors can cycle along its bike path or stroll about the park’s shady wooded areas. In addition, there are plenty of benches and picnic areas for people to make use of with barbecue facilities, restrooms and a playground also on offer. An oasis of peace and calm, Flat Rock Park is the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy some outdoor activities.
5. Columbus Museum
If instead of some spellbinding scenery and nature it is interesting art and history that you are after, then the excellent Columbus Museum is definitely the place to go. Set right in the center of town, it boasts an extensive array of artifacts, exhibits and artworks that mainly focus on the city, state and Chattahoochee River Valley.
One of the largest museums in the Southeast, it was founded in 1953 with its diverse collection now occupying a massive and majestic Mediterranean Revival mansion. While some of its galleries look at the native Creek peoples and tell the story of the area’s development, others contain hundreds of phenomenal paintings, photos and sculptures.
As well as attending a workshop or taking part in one of its numerous festivals, make sure to amble around the rest of the property’s picture-perfect gardens before you head off.
4. Callaway Gardens
Right next to FD Roosevelt State Park is another fun and family-friendly destination for you to drop by: the magnificent Callaway Gardens. Originally just a garden, it now has a myriad of epic outdoor activities and attractions for guests to enjoy with everything from a breath-taking beach and butterfly house to ziplines, golf courses and a water park on offer.
Since being founded in 1952 to protect native azalea species, the resort has expanded tremendously with fine gardens, woods and trails now lining its dozen or so lovely lakes. Besides lounging on the world’s largest man-made, white sand beach, exploring its colorful and quiet butterfly center really is a must with its exhilarating obstacle course and zipline being another of its main attractions.
3. National Civil War Naval Museum
Home to impressive artifacts, exhibits and even its own warship, the fascinating National Civil War Naval Museum can be found alongside the busy Port Columbus. As well as delving into the history of America’s boats, ships and waterways, it also offers an unrivaled look at the roles both the Union and Confederate navies played during the Civil War.
Packed with uniforms and equipment, cannons and weapons, its well-designed exhibition spaces are a delight to explore with a brilliant timeline also on-hand to highlight how the Civil War progressed. While wandering about its full-size replica of the USS Water Witch is an incredible experience, it is the largest surviving Confederate warship, the CSS Jackson, and the remains of the steam powered CSS Chattahoochee that attract the most attention.
2. Columbus Riverwalk
A wonderful way to see as much of the city as possible and enjoy some exercise at the same time is to walk, run or cycle along the Columbus Riverwalk. Very popular with locals and tourists alike, the paved path follows the peaceful Chattahoochee River as it winds its way along the west side of town.
First opened for use in 1992, it now extends over 20 miles in length and takes you past many of the city’s main sights. Lining its route and river are not just Oxbow Meadows and the Coca-Cola Space Science Center but the National Civil War Naval Museum and National Infantry Museum too. Aside from stopping by its tourist attractions, visitors can also enjoy some great views of the river and its rapids or explore the numerous parks and nature spots that border its banks.
1. National Infantry Museum
Right at the southern end of the Riverwalk you can find arguably the most important and impressive attraction in town: the exceptional National Infantry Museum. Located just outside of Fort Benning, it has a huge array of artifacts and exhibits for visitors to peruse that chronicle the history of the US Army infantry from the American Revolution right up to Afghanistan.
Boasting one of the largest collections of military art and artifacts in the country, its well-designed displays and dioramas now occupy a massive modern building. While some focus on the Cold War and modern warfare, others take you back to the Civil War and WWII with its exhibitions covering over 200 years of history in total. As well as uniforms, weapons and military vehicles, the museum has vivid virtual reality combat simulators and educational films for guests to enjoy.