We spent a weekend exploring a myriad of things to do in Columbus, Ga- I had no clue how much there was to do in this expanding city. With the advent of the RiverWalk and WhiteWater Express, the city has seen a change. I can’t wait to go back!
Gems You’re Sure To Enjoy
WhiteWater Express. White water adventuring in Columbus is only in its third season, but it is already taking the planet by storm. USA Today calls it the best man-made white water on the planet and one of top 12 man-made adventures in the world. The original idea was born in the 70s, launched in the 90s and completed in 2013. Read more about our white water adventure here, or see a slew of other white water adventures across Georgia here.
Coca-Cola Space Science Center. When we visited the Science Center it was during the Columbus Comic-Book Convention, so we didn’t experience it as others might, but we still had a great time. The kids loved seeing the space suit and driving the simulated space shuttle landing. There is a real shuttle nozzle on display that is pretty amazing. If you can stay longer than we did, be sure to catch a movie in the Omnisphere Theatre.
Visit John S. Pemberton’s Grave. You knew Pemberton was from Atlanta – who doesn’t love the tribute to him at World of Coke. But did you know he was actually born and buried in Columbus? Stop by and visit his grave.
Blue Heron Zip Line. Race on the dual-zip line over the Chattahoochee River from Georgia to Alabama. Going over the river was one of the highlights of the zip course, as well as being able to race your kids.
Blue Heron Aerial Course. The first step here is a doozy. The Ranger Jump, a free-fall from a 60-foot tower is the first of 10 different elements on a high and low course. You can do all the elements or just the lower course. This definitely gave our family something to talk about. We were all impressed with my husbands Tarzan swinging ability on the high course.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding. It’s pretty easy to stand up on a SUP and actually quite relaxing. The Whitewater Express folks brought our boards down to the river and got us all set up, then climbed down to pick everything up, so all we had to do was paddle. My favorite part was being able to see what was on the bottom of the river. We were able to watch fish swimming and turtles along the bottom.
Bike Rentals. The Columbus RiverWalk has a 22-mile liner paved trail that follows the Chattahoochee River. The path takes you from Downtown Columbus to the drill fields of Fort Benning, with lots of stops interesting stops in between that include parks and attractions. There may be some places along the trail where a smaller child or one on training wheels might have a bit of trouble, but for the most part it’s a easy ride with some rolling hills.
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Kayaks Rentals and Fishing. Although we didn’t rent kayaks or go fishing on this trip, we saw plenty of folks doing both. Kayakers were learning in the protected cove how to roll, and more advanced students were running the rapids in between rafts.
National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus. Port Columbus honors the Sailors, Soldiers, and Civilians, affected by the Navies of the American Civil War. It’s another emotional, touching museum with a number of interesting artifacts. You’ll find the largest surviving Confederate warship, the CSS Jackson, as well as several full-scale replicas of other Civil War vessels.
Looking for an excuse to visit? Try the annual Southern Pirate Festival in late October. There will be live entertainment, family activities, cannon firings and pirates. Expect storytellers, mermaids and games, black powder weapons demonstrations and face painting. Vendors will offer food, drink and pirate merchandise, and guests can also tour the museum as part of their festival admission.
Free things to do in Columbus, Ga
Sculpture Walk on Broadway. Look for original sculptures and artwork on the corners of Broadway between the blocks of 9th-13th Streets and also in the median. New pieces are added annually so the collection keeps growing!
Oxbow Meadows. See turtles, snakes, alligators and more. Don’t forget to check out the Discovery Trail Guide at the front desk; it’s a great way to extend the learning opportunities of your visit. Oxbow is free, but donations are welcome.
Spring and Fall Concert Series in Uptown Columbus. The concerts usually run for 6 weeks each season. Families are invited to bring a lawn chair or blanket, kick back or get up and dance in the 1000 block of Broadway from 7:00-10:00pm on Friday nights.
Columbus RiverWalk GeoTour. Explore the RiverWalk in a fun way with the kids. You’ll find 5-6 caches in each category including the walk, the dams, the attractions, the mills, the river and the whitewater. Bring your completed Grid Sheet into the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau during regular hours to receive your custom geo-coin.
The Island. Our favorite place along the RiverWalk was “The Island.” It’s one of the best places to view folks rafting . You’ll find it directly below the Eagle and Phenix apartment complex. The Island is open daily from 9am – 8pm, depending on the weather. You can also splash in the water here, just bring a life vest.
Columbus Museum. Admission to Columbus Museum is FREE. It is one of the largest museums in the Southeast and is unique for its dual concentration on American art and regional history, displayed in both its permanent collection as well as temporary exhibitions. Additional FREE programs of note here:
Second Saturdays. Free-Family programs that include anything from hands-on art creating with the kids, scavenger hunts and story time (10:00am-12:00pm)
Teen 3rd Sundays. Free-Special guest artists talk to teens about their works then they get to take part in art-making activities with the artist (2:00-4:00pm)
Annual Fall Festival. The Annual Fall Festival takes a look back in time to explore past decades! Get hands-on at five different activity stations featuring marble making, photo tinting, invisible ink, and more. The Museum provides family-friendly games, special scavenger hunts, and story time throughout the program. Children can also participate in a costume contest for a change to win prizes.
Heritage Corner. Established in 1988 as a stunning addition to the Columbus Historic District, the corner features five preserved homes representing different eras of Georgia history. Among them is the Pemberton House, once the home of local pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton. He is renowned today as the inventor of that truly Southern concoction, Coca-Cola.
Linwood Cemetery. Visit this beautiful cemetery to see the graves of such notables as Dr. John S. Pemberton: A pharmacist who was wounded in the last land battle of the Civil War here in Columbus, Pemberton would go on to concoct the secret formula to Coca-Cola; H. Augusta Howard: As the woman who founded Georgia’s Women Suffrage Association, Howard’s headstone is emblazoned with the word “Martyr” and Noble Leslie DeVotie: A Baptist minister and newspaper editor, DeVotie is among the founders of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the first national fraternity to be established in the Deep South.
Kadie the Cow. She used to sit in front of Columbus’s Kinnett’s Dairies, but once they were torn down, she sat in storage for a while. You can now see the larger-than-life cow at the Best Buy store, renamed to Bebe, but still Kadie to those that knew her.
Tuesday Night Group Bike Rides. This is a family friendly, social group ride open to all levels. Most rides take place on the Columbus RiverWalk and lasts about 2 hours. Meet at Ride On Bikes on Broadway.
Columbus Botanical Garden. With a mission to retain an open space in Columbus, these 22 acres are free to the public to explore and learn. Don’t forget your camera.
Splashpad. Directly across from WhiteWater Express, there is a super seasonal splashground for the kids. They can watch the rafters, soak up some rays and cool off in the water. Trees, rocks and music make this a great place for a family picnic, too.
Infantry Museum. It’s a large, beautiful facility and a world-class tribute to those who served in this capacity in the Army. Honestly, I was a little worried about it holding my guys’ attention, but they really enjoyed it. It’s no wonder why this ranks on TripAdvisor as the #1 attraction in Columbus.
The museum itself is FREE (however greeters at the door do suggest a $5 per person donation.) The museum includes a Family Gallery, which examines how spouses and children manage when a Soldier is deployed. There is a kid-sized room in which they can try on Soldier uniforms and learn about humanitarian missions Soldiers carry out.
Where To Stay in Columbus, Ga
While we visited Columbus, Ga, our family stayed at Columbus Marriott. It worked well for our family of four, with spacious rooms and easy access to the best of the city. Here is the scoop on why we enjoyed it.
The history. The Columbus Marriott stands on the site of a 1860s conglomeration of warehouses, a cotton mill and a Confederate arsenal. The original brick was refurbished and converted into this national landmark hotel.
The rooms. Our room was simple, but clean and elegant. There was plenty of room for our things. I especially loved the oversized foyer area for our suitcases and toys. We stayed in a room with two queen beds. It also included a desk, free WiFi, a mini-fridge and microwave and large windows with plenty of natural light.
Restaurant options. For your convenience, Houlihan’s is the hotel restaurant. I’m sure it is a great restaurant, but I want to encourage you to get out to some of the local Columbus, Ga restaurants for lunch and dinner. HOWEVER, we all know that kids want to eat at the strangest times. It’s very handy to have a full-service restaurant right on site. Also, if you want to take a dip in the pool (see below,) then it is also a great place to grab a cocktail to enjoy on the pool deck while the kids swim.
You’ll also find Grist Mill Coffee, great for a shot of Starbucks, a granola bar or a spare toothbrush.
The pool. We always look for a pool when traveling with the kids. It’s a great way to work out the squirmies in the morning before we head to breakfast, and it is the perfect way to wind down an evening. Columbus Marriott has a seasonal outdoor pool with a large deck. Towels are provided. For mom and dad, there is also a fitness room with free weights and cardio equipment.
The location. You are only minutes away from tons of fun activities like The RiverWalk, WhiteWater Express, and the best restaurants. We walked almost everywhere, especially in the mornings when the weather was cooler. If you find yourself walked out far from the hotel, Lyft car service operates in Columbus. To sweeten the deal, we’re giving you $50 in Lyft credits to get yourself a driver for the evening. (must be a first time Lyft customer).
Directly across the street from the Marriott is the Columbus CVB. I encourage you to stop in for tips on where to visit, the best times and more.
We were extremely pleased with our stay at Columbus Marriott, and we hope to return soon. Between the rooms, the staff, the amenities and the location, this is a no-brainer. For the best hotel deals in Columbus, visit our partner Hotels.com.
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Disclosure: Thank you to Columbus CVB for hosting us at Columbus Marriott. We are grateful, but it did not sway our opinion. #keepingitreal
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.