Columbus, Georgia was a city that surprised me. Much like Greenville, South Carolina and Cincinnati, Ohio, I came in with limited expectations and found myself falling more in love with it around every turn. The city has obvious industrial roots, but they have re-purposed many of the old industrial buildings and turned the once gritty downtown into a modern, walkable, very enjoyable town. Columbus is the third largest city in the state with a population of just under 200,000, and their economy relies heavily on nearby Fort Benning. It is also the home of Aflac Insurance and Columbus State University. Beyond these major employers though, Columbus is making major strides in attracting tourism, and from my perspective they are well on their way.
And so it was that I found myself in their wonderful Visitor’s Center trying to find a way to spend my day. It was a beautiful Georgia fall day with clear skies and a very agreeable temperature, and I wanted to spend the day outside taking photos of the city. My question for the people working at the Visitor’s Center was simple: what are the most iconic locations in Columbus? What are the places that someone born and raised there would recognize instantly, no matter how long they had been gone for? This is a seemingly simple question, but probably not one they receive every day. The three of us discussed it for some time, and put together a fairly extensive list. They had incredible resources on hand to work with from a driving tour of the lovely Midtown neighborhood to an African American History Walking Tour pamphlet of downtown. After about a half-hour of discussing the most recognizable places in town, I set off to take the photos you’ll find below.
Let me tell you about some of the more interesting spots I discovered on this photo tour. The 1871 Springer Opera House was wonderful, and I especially loved capturing it as the sun was setting over Columbus. The Opera House is still in regular use today. The old Eagle and Phenix Mill buildings with their smokestacks and water tower were a constant inspiration. Once the second largest mill in Georgia, the building now houses loft apartments with river views. I shot the mill from all angles, and you’ll see those pictures below, but my favorites were from the historic Dillingham Bridge. Columbus is nicknamed The Fountain City, and a walk around downtown will bring you to several beautiful fountains and a number of wonderful art projects as well. I also visited blues legend Ma Rainey’s house and saw the reproduction of the USS Water Witch at the National Civil War Naval Museum. Just south of town was the amazing National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.
The Columbus Historic District and Midtown neighborhoods showcased some beautiful architecture, and I even found the Pemberton House, onetime home of Coca Cola founder John Pemberton. RC Cola and Nehi sodas were created in Columbus as well, making it a must-visit town for soda enthusiasts, if such people exist. Columbus’ must-have meal is the unique “scrambled dog”, a chili, hot dog, cheese, onions, slaw and pickle combination topped with oyster crackers which is absolutely delicious. You can get one in a few places around town, but to get the original you have to head to the lunch counter at Dinglewood Pharmacy which just celebrated its hundredth anniversary. I also had an amazing sliced pork barbecue sandwich at Country’s Barbecue in the old Greyhound Bus Station Downtown. This place had a great atmosphere and you can even eat in the old bus parked outside.
For adventure, look no further than Whitewater Express. They offer whitewater rafting and kayaking tours which end right in downtown Columbus at incredibly affordable prices. They have also run two ziplines over the Chattahoochee River to Phenix City in Alabama which look like a lot of fun. There are also great walking trails along the river, plenty of places to ride a bike, and fishing and stand-up paddle-boarding as well.
Columbus really has a lot going for it and would make an excellent weekend getaway from Atlanta, Macon, Birmingham, Montgomery or even Tallahassee, Florida. The Visitor’s Center has lots of wonderful resources and are happy to help you plan your stay. I’m sorry I couldn’t stick around longer, but I had to be moving along. I was really happy with the photos I got while I was there though. This was my first visit to Columbus, but it will most certainly not be my last. Enjoy my photos of Iconic Columbus below and let me know how we did in capturing the essence of the town. Columbus bills itself with the slogan We Do Amazing and I have to agree - they certainly do!