Founded in 1828 on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Columbus Georgia welcomes visitors with open arms and Southern hospitality. The city is rich in the history of the Creek Indians, Civil War, railroading, manufacturing, and the military. One little known historical fact – Coca-Cola was invented here!
A vibrant uptown supports an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and hip entertainment. Outdoor enthusiasts can test themselves on whitewater rapids, kayak leisurely down the Chattahoochee, or hike and bike throughout the city. Whether you take a day trip or stay for a week, you’ll never run out of exciting things to do in Columbus! Start your adventure at the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau on Front Avenue, where you will find everything you need to get started on your urban excursion.
Run the river
After the release of the City Mills and Eagle and Phenix Dams along the Uptown Columbus section of the Chattahoochee, Whitewater Express opened the longest urban whitewater rapids course in the world! Selected by USA Today as one of the top 12 man-made adventures on the planet, the 2.5-mile course offers different rapids, with one appropriate for the family, the other geared for the more extreme adventurer: Choose between two types of trips (mild or wild) based on the amount of water flow. The classic course consists of Class I – IV rapids, and the challenge course cranks the water up to ten times the classic course flow for participants to propel through Class II – V rapids.
My friend Marcia and I choose the classic course, guided by Jody, our expert and knowledgeable river guide who maneuvered us through seven challenging rapids (without us falling out of the raft!) while entertaining us with stories about the ‘Hooch.’ The restoration of the Chattahoochee to a more wildlife-friendly river was evident on our trip. During quieter moments on the raft, we glided under trees filled with great blue herons sitting on nests and saw a variety of other birds and ducks enjoying the river. The ride is a one-of-a-kind experience that gives a unique perspective on the great river that is the signature feature of Columbus. I highly recommend a Whitewater Express excursion as a “must-do” urban adventure.
Zip Across the Sky
After traveling on the river, Marcia and I experienced it again from 100 feet above on the 1,200-foot long, dual-zipline course that extends from the Georgia side of the Chattahoochee over to Alabama! Blue Heron Adventure offers this 40-mph, heart-stopping flight that continues on the Alabama side with a treetop obstacle course and another zip through the trees before returning to Columbus on a motorized raft. The aerial obstacle course is designed for all skill levels, ages 5 and up, and is the perfect family adventure. Whitewater Express and Blue Heron Adventure are located at 1000 Bay Avenue in Uptown Columbus. To reserve your adventure, call 800-676-7238.
Cache In On a High Tech Adventure
Geocaching is a worldwide phenomenon, and Columbus features 32 hidden caches for you to discover on your personal treasure hunt. All you need is the GPS unit on your phone to start your adventure. The RiverWalk GeoTour takes you on a pleasant journey along the beautiful Chattahoochee RiverWalk to find hidden cache containers. If you complete the series of caches on the tour, you can earn a custom geo-coin. For more information, go to visitcolumbusga.com/visitors/riverwalk_geotour.
Bike the Rails
Grab your bike and peddle along the Fall Line Trace, a multi-use bike and pedestrian trail that follows former railroad lines through Columbus. You can bike or hike the 11-mile path and then continue along the RiverWalk for more miles of beautiful scenery and outdoor adventure.
Smell the Roses
The 20-acre Columbus Botanical Garden, on Weems Road in North Columbus, is a picturesque spot to take a stroll through the gardens, visit the historic farmhouse and gin house, and wander along the Joann Holt Walking Trail for reflection and bird watching. To learn more, go to columbusbotanicalgarden.org.
Step back in time
To get a real feel for historic Columbus, take a walk through the 28-block stretch of vintage Victorian homes and Southern gardens, lovingly restored by residents. The Historic District includes several significant houses including Walker-Peters-Langdon House (c. 1828), the oldest house in Columbus, and the Pemberton House, home of the inventor of Coca-Cola’s formula. Guided tours are available through Historic Columbus. For more information, go to historiccolumbus.com.
Get Some Culture!
Catch a Show
According to Scooter MacMillan, the marketing director of the Springer Opera House, “Any trip to Columbus is incomplete without a tour or a performance at the Springer.” Designated the State Theater of Georgia, Springer Opera House on Tenth Street in the historic district is one of only seven surviving national historic landmarks still producing theater. The European-style facility was built in 1871. Nationally known for its opulent interior as well as for those who entertained there, Springer Opera House showcased the talents of John Philip Sousa, Buffalo Bill, Edwin Booth, Tom Thumb, Lillie Langtry, Will Rogers, Ethel Barrymore, W.C. Fields, and many more theater luminaries. Today the Springer offers a series of plays in three theaters. On Friday evenings for just $5, enjoy or participate in the “No Shame Theater” – original improv comedy, poetry and dance. To learn more, go to springeroperahouse.org.
Honor our soldiers
Steeped in military tradition, Columbus is home to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. This impressive world-class facility honors Army infantrymen by highlighting the 235-plus years of their history and service. Over 70,000 artifacts have been collected to tell their story. The signature attraction is the Last 100 Yards ramp that leads visitors through our war history and the role of the infantry in each battle. The museum includes six galleries, an IMAX Theater, a restaurant, and a gift shop. Admission is free, but donations are requested. For more information, go to nationalinfantrymuseum.org.
[Darn] the torpedoes!
The National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus houses the largest surviving Confederate warship, the ironclad CSS Jackson, as well as the wreckage of the CSS Chattahoochee. The museum also includes replicas of the USS Harford and USS Water Witch. Here you will also find the largest collection of Civil War Navy Flags in the country. To learn more, go to portcolumbus.org.
Savor local art and history
The Columbus Museum, on Wynnton Road, highlights American art and regional history. “Chattahoochee Cookin,’” running through September, offers a fresh perspective on Southern food and beverages. “Transformations” is the hands-on gallery for kids to explore. Gardeners will enjoy strolling through the historic 13-acre Bradley Olmstead Gardens. Bring the whole family because the museum is free! To learn more, go to columbusmuseum.com.
Grab Some Good Eats!
In Columbus you’ll find imaginative food and drink to satisfy every palate. Known for such local delicacies as the scrambled dog, Royal Crown Cola, pig tater and red velvet pancakes, Columbus serves up the best in Southern cuisine. Here are a few of my favorite places for good eats.
Get your BBQ On
Country’s Barbecue has three locations to choose from, but I love the uptown location on Broadway, housed in the old Greyhound bus depot. Known for its sweet tea, pig tater (large baked potato topped with barbecue), Brunswick stew, and vegetable plate, not to mention the great BBQ, Country’s is the perfect place for good old-fashioned Southern cooking, made fresh each day. For more information, go to countrysbarbecue.com.
Eat Where the Locals Eat
Experience the “real” Columbus with a trip to Dinglewood Pharmacy on Wynnton Road for a scrambled dog at the lunch counter of the original soda fountain. A favorite of President Jimmy Carter, the scrambled dog is served in a bun in a long dish and features chopped up wieners covered in chili, mustard, ketchup, pickles, onions, and oyster crackers with other optional toppings like cheddar cheese and coleslaw. Dinglewood Pharmacy is the oldest place to eat in town, serving Columbus residents since 1918. While there, you can even pick up a prescription!
Enjoy Fine Dining
Located uptown on Front Avenue, Epic is the place to go for an intimate and modern fine dining experience. The menu is described by Chef Jamie Keating as “a contemporary spin on classics.” The Chef’s Table, by reservation only, offers a private culinary experience with eight creative courses served to eight people. For more information, go to epiccuisine.com.
To plan your Columbus urban adventure, go to visitcolumbusga.com.