20 Free Things to Do in Columbus, GA

Columbus, GA
SeanPavonePhoto / iStock.com

Countless sunny afternoons and cool evenings have been dedicated to exploring the enchanted corners of Columbus, Georgia.

From the rich murals adorning brick walls to the charming Southern hospitality resounding through the streets, the city always offers something fresh to unearth.

The appeal of this modest city really comes to life through an array of captivating, costless activities.

This article aims to reveal some of these well-kept secrets, navigating through the most exciting and complimentary ventures to embark on in Columbus, Georgia.

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We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Richard Tracy, Robert Fontenot, Jesus Hu, Jacob Burks, Julie Coleman, Michele Mackenzie and Raul Keck.

Immerse Yourself in History at The National Infantry Museum

Vietnam war exhibit in the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center
The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center from Columbus, GA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whenever rainy days have us cooped up at home, my family and I know there's no better place to venture than The National Infantry Museum.

Every visit to this extraordinary museum is like taking an immersive journey through America's rich military history.

What always amazes us is the sheer volume of exhibits, both inside and out. My personal favorite is the WWII Company Street.

It's so meticulously curated you can almost hear the footsteps of the brave servicemen who once walked those grounds.

The museum provides a thoughtful and comprehensive look at the history of the USA Infantry from its inception to modern times.

The displays are propped with artifacts that are plentiful and amazingly preserved.

Desert wars exhibit in the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center
The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center from Columbus, GA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Modern warfare and WWI sections are particularly noteworthy, always leaving us in awe of the bravery and sacrifice of our soldiers.

The best part is the entry is totally free. Although they leave a donation box at the entrance, it's just a humble reminder of all the work our military has done, is doing, and will continue to do for us.

Considering the caliber of exhibits and the priceless history housed within, we always make a point to donate—be it cash or card.

In fact, every trip to the museum inevitably ends with us in the gift shop, picking up souvenirs and books to extend the learning at home.

Every visit never feels enough. There's just so much to see and learn. You can easily spend hours there and still leave with more to explore.

It's not only an educational experience but a humbling one, too. And with the museum being wheelchair accessible, it's an experience everyone can enjoy.

Unearth Knowledge at Mildred L. Terry Public Library

Here's a secret: The best treasures of Columbus, Georgia, are not the rustic bricks and cobblestone streets but the shelves upon shelves of books at the Mildred L. Terry Public Library.

This is the place where my family and I have embarked on countless adventures, both fictional and historical, without ever leaving the comfort of our hometown.

The library isn't just a building with books; it's a community where the staff, like Silvia and Mrs Clark, are a part of your family.

I remember how Silvia once unearthed a book that ignited my curiosity about Black American heritage.

Imagine finding a book that feels like a mirror, where you can see reflections of your own story - this is what happened to my daughters and me at this quaint library.

You see, we are Jamaican immigrants settled in Columbus after my service in the Army.

But through the pages of literature, we found connection, understanding, and a warm embrace at Mildred L. Terry Public Library.

The library has a calming ambiance, perfect for completing your studies or simply getting lost in a good book.

Plus, the local coffee shops nearby are a bonus for all of us caffeine and snack lovers.

When it comes to variety, this library has got it all.

From children's books to adult novels, even DVDs - there's something for everyone in the family.

And the staff here are not just friendly, they are resourceful, helping us navigate the different apps and audiobooks available through the library card.

As the years have passed, the library has only improved.

Come 2023, the staff remain as friendly as ever and there's always a myriad of events happening.

Mildred L. Terry Public Library isn't just a part of our routine.

It's a part of our lives, a testament to the power of knowledge and community.

Gaze at Fantastic Art Pieces at The Bo Bartlett Center

There's something transcendent about stepping into The Bo Bartlett Center, the way the light filters through the skylight makes it feel like you're walking into another world.

I adore getting lost in the space, soaking up the intricate details that make Bo Bartlett's work a must-see, you can literally spend hours just marveling at his art.

The beauty of this place doesn't stop at his work, though, scattered throughout the center, you can find pieces from different artists, one of them being his wife.

My favorite piece, though has to be Bo's Brain, it's fascinating, to say the least.

For those who are tech-savvy, you'd appreciate the use of QR codes placed next to each piece, which leads to videos of Bartlett discussing his art and process.

It's like having a personal tour guide in your pocket!

What's more, the center has been thoughtfully designed to make navigation a breeze, so you're free to lose yourself in the art without worrying about getting lost.

I've had the pleasure of attending several events here and the energy is always electric.

The terrace is one of my favorite places to unwind, offering a picture-perfect view of Woodruff Park and the Chattahoochee.

Trust me, you won't want to miss the rotating exhibition, the lineup is simply breathtaking.

I remember the day I saw Warhol and Frankenthaler's pieces gracing the walls of Columbus!

No matter the time of day, the ambiance changes dramatically due to the ingenious use of natural lighting, making each visit a unique experience.

The Bo Bartlett Center is truly one of the hidden gems of Columbus, thanks to the efforts of Columbus State University.

Go Fishing at Waveshaper Island

Whenever I feel the need to unwind, Waveshaper Island always comes to mind.

This place has been my sanctuary, my retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

With its cool breeze and picturesque scenery, it's an ideal spot to rejuvenate and recharge.

Last weekend, I decided to spend my afternoon on the island - a decision I never regret.

As soon as I stepped onto Waveshaper Island, I could feel the calmness washing over me.

Strolling down the carefully maintained walk path, the gentle rustle of the leaves overhead provided me with the perfect soundtrack for my day out.

The small play area, always bustling with children's laughter and joy, brought a smile to my face.

It's the simple pleasures like these that make this place special.

For those seeking a bit more excitement, the splash pad provides an unexpected thrill.

It's always fun to watch the children's gleeful screams as they run around, getting drenched in the water.

Being an avid fisherman, I always make sure to pack my fishing rod for a chance to catch some fish.

The serene river is home to a variety of fish species.

It's a wonderful feeling to sit silently by the river, with the fishing rod in hand, watching the water ripple gently.

Conversations and laughter with friends and family make the experience even more delightful.

It's amazing how this place can effortlessly bring everyone together, creating endless memories.

Waveshaper Island is not just about the attractive landscape.

It's about the connections made, the memories etched, and the rejuvenation experienced.

Whether it's a family picnic, a friends' hangout, or a solo retreat, Waveshaper Island has something for everyone.

My love for this place only grows with every visit, and I can't wait for the next one.

Stroll down Memory Lane in the Columbus Historic District

A house at Columbus Historic District
Deutschlandreform, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every Saturday morning, I commence my day with a leisurely stroll through the Columbus Historic District, a time capsule of architectural beauty and rich history.

The serene ambiance of the district is a perfect backdrop to the grandeur of the old houses, each one standing tall with their own story to tell.

The district is a beautiful arrangement of houses, some dating as far back as the 1810s.

Each house boasts a sign with its date of construction, a testament to the preservation of history in our town.

A canopy of trees lining the sidewalks adds to the charm of the district, providing shade and a lush green touch to the palette of colors that is the Columbus Historic District.

The district proudly wears its history, with homes meticulously maintained and restored.

The Halloween decorations still hang from the houses, reflecting our town's spirit and love for festivity.

It's a sight that never fails to amuse me, blending the old and the new in a harmonious symphony.

The district also offers a fantastic selection of food options.

From classic Southern comfort food to modern culinary delights, there's something to satisfy every palate.

But the true gem here is the RiverWalk, a scenic pathway that runs alongside the Chattahoochee River.

It's the perfect place to unwind and soak in the beauty of the district.

Living here has also given me the opportunity to connect with our town's past and make amends for the injustices endured by the communities of brown-skinned people who were forced out of their homes, enslaved, or killed by the ancestors of the current inhabitants.

In my own small way, I try to honor their legacy and strive for a more equitable future.

Go Mountain Biking at Flat Rock Park

One of the most tranquil spots in my city, Flat Rock Park, is my absolute favorite spot to unwind.

Nestled amidst natural surroundings, the park's main feature is Flat Rock Falls, a natural water park where kids can frolic in the several little pools.

The falls also have areas with steeper drops, providing older kids with a bit of adventure.

Aside from the falls, the park has a playground equipped with slides and monkey bars.

Unfortunately, swings are noticeably missing, but that's not a deal-breaker.

If you're into disc golf, the park has a very nice course.

Also, it's a great place for mountain biking, with trails snaking throughout the park.

The park is teeming with picnic spots, ideal for family outings or a romantic date under the trees.

However, I've noticed that the picnic and grill areas can sometimes be not well maintained.

I'd also recommend keeping an eye out for signs since the trails for hiking and biking are not marked well.

Despite these minor drawbacks, Flat Rock Park's charm lies in its natural beauty.

During my hikes around the small lake, I've often come across deer.

The serene water cascading down the rocks, the lush greenery, and the tranquil pond create a peaceful environment that is simply irresistible.

Don't forget to bring your fishing gear; the pond is teeming with fish.

And if it's a windy day, the open areas of the park offer an excellent spot for kite flying.

Flat Rock Park may not be perfect, but its appeal goes beyond well-maintained facilities.

It's about embracing the outdoors, the joy of watching kids splash in the pools, the thrill of spotting wildlife, the serenity of the lake, and most of all, the feel of nature.

Discovering Hidden Gems at The Columbus Museum

I'm always looking for fresh ways to engage my art-loving soul, and I found that when I decided to spend a Saturday exploring The Columbus Museum.

Nestled within the heart of my hometown, this former private home turned museum has quickly become one of my go-to spots for a healthy dose of culture and history.

From the moment I stepped foot into the museum, I was met with a vast array of art that spanned different periods and styles.

Every corner of the museum was a visual feast, with beautiful pieces that narrated the rich history of Columbus.

It wasn't long before I found myself lost in the collection, absorbed in the complex narratives woven into each artifact and painting.

Beyond the art, the museum itself is an impressive sight.

The structure is expansive, with every room housing a different exhibit.

From historical weaponry to regional relics, there was so much to see that I spent hours on just one floor.

But it's not just the indoors that captivated me; the museum's lush gardens offered a picturesque setting for contemplative breaks between exhibits.

What made my visit even more memorable was attending their seasonal workshops.

I've been to the Fall and Winter workshops for glass blowing, and they were an absolute delight.

The museum's marketplace also offers unique local pieces that make for great gifts or keepsakes.

The Columbus Museum is truly a gem that offers something for everyone.

I find myself frequently returning, each visit uncovering a new facet that deepens my appreciation for my town's art and history.

Take Snaps with Kadie the Cow

You know, there's something about Kadie the Cow that captures the heart of Columbus, Georgia.

Our beloved fiberglass cow that has been standing tall since 1967.

I remember when she used to be at the old Kinnett Dairy Plant on the Manchester Expressway, a sight that always brought a smile to my face.

These years have seen Kadie move from her original spot to her new one at Waterfront Park.

A fitting location, I'd say, with the scenic view of the river providing a perfect backdrop for Kadie.

It's like she's taken on the role of guardian, watching over the city and the park's visitors.

Let me tell you, though, the transition wasn't all smooth sailing.

There was scaffolding all around her for a while, and Kadie was in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint.

But she's still standing, still an iconic part of our city's landscape.

And the park? It's become even more enjoyable, with Kadie adding that extra touch of charm.

Over the hill from the park, she can be seen from the abandoned Best Buy Building, a sight that's equally exciting and nostalgic.

I often find myself wondering about the story behind Kadie the Cow.

How did she come to be such an integral part of our city?

Even without the details of her origin, she's an enigma that never fails to intrigue.

Kadie's presence has turned our simple park visits into a little urban exploration.

She's always there, waiting like she's inviting everyone to share in the history and memories that she carries with her.

Take in the Views from Riverwalk

View of a bridge from Chattahoochee RiverWalk
ifoodijourney / Shutterstock.com

One of the genuine treasures in Columbus is the Riverwalk.

When the hustle and bustle of city life becomes overwhelming, this is my go-to place.

Its tranquility has a way of just washing away any stress.

Its tranquility has a way of just washing away any stress.

You can lose yourself in the beauty of nature as you take a leisurely walk along the trails.

Even our four-legged friends seem to enjoy it here.

You'll often see squirrels scurrying about, cheerfully playing their squirrel games.

When you're feeling adventurous, you could even bring a paddle board or kayak for a fun ride on the river.

But for me, just sitting on the rocks, taking in the calming sound of the water, is pure bliss.

It's especially beautiful on rainy days, there's something magical about it.

The moisture in the air, the gentle pitter-patter of rain on leaves, and the slight chill just make it all the more enchanting.

One distinctive feature is how elegantly the old mills blend with the dam, creating a beautiful historical backdrop.

This scenic combination has become a popular spot for capturing important life moments, like engagement or wedding photos.

But it's not just about the beauty and peace, safety is well accounted for, too.

There are strategic stop points along the way, designed to keep visitors visible and safe.

Catch the Sunset from Woodruff Riverfront Park

I've always found a peculiar sense of peace by the riverside, something that Woodruff Riverfront Park offers in abundance.

Nestled on the Columbus State University campus, this park has been my constant retreat from the hustle and bustle.

It's more than just a park to me.

It's my sanctuary.

Each time I visit, the ever-changing rhythm of the river soothes my soul.

Whether it's watching the rafters dance down the river or simply sitting on one of the many benches to watch the sunset, each moment is a memory.

My partner and I celebrated my birthday there, taking an evening stroll along the riverfront.

Woodruff Riverfront Park transformed into a beautifully lit promenade, painting an enchanting picture that still lingers in my mind.

But the park isn't all about relaxing.

It's a hive of activity, especially during college events.

The energy, the buzz, and the spirit of camaraderie are truly infectious.

The park also features a playground and a splash pad that are a massive hit with the kids.

My six-year-old grandson simply loves it there.

The area is clean, well-maintained, and quite safe for children of all ages.

However, keep in mind that it can get a bit crowded after 5 pm.

Go Kayaking at Lake Oliver

Have you ever wished for a day trip that feels like a vacation?

That's exactly what you get when you visit Lake Oliver.

Nestled within the city limits, it's a gem of a locale that's just a stone's throw away from the hustle and bustle.

One of the first things you'll notice when you arrive is the expansive reservoir.

It's massive, and it's easy to while away the hours just gazing at the tranquil waters.

My personal favorite activity? Kayaking.

There's something incredibly calming about gliding along the water, especially when you venture towards the dam.

The depths can fluctuate, so it does add a bit of thrill to the journey.

But if that's not your speed, paddleboarding is a great alternative.

If you're more of a landlubber, Lake Oliver has got you covered, too.

The shoreline stretches over 40 miles, offering ample space for picnics and family fun.

Plus, the boat ramps are spacious, and parking is usually a breeze.

More often than not, you'll find me there, barbecue grill in tow, ready to cook up a feast after a day of water activities.

Now, for the anglers out there, I can vouch that Lake Oliver is a dream come true.

Despite not being the biggest lake around, there's more than enough room for everyone - and the fishing is fantastic.

Tucked away are little creeks perfect for a small boat, providing a serene spot to cast a line.

Just remember to secure your fishing license beforehand, as it's not available onsite.

To top it off, the lake has a marina.

It's a great place to wind down, watch the boats come and go, or even set sail yourself if you have one.

But do mind the timings - the lake gate closes at 8 pm and all boats need to be off the water by 11 pm.

Have a Picnic at Riverwalk Amphitheater

Every evening after work, I make my way down to the Riverwalk Amphitheater for some peace and tranquility.

You see, it's the perfect place to unwind after a long day.

The serene vibe of the place is calming, and the historical charm of the old buildings in the area adds to its allure.

It's like taking a step back in time as you walk around and read the interpretive signs.

It’s akin to unfolding a treasure map, where each sign unveils a part of the rich history of our town.

The story may seem a bit disjointed at times, but that's the fun part: connecting the pieces.

During some weekends, I take my family there for a lovely picnic.

The grand expanse of the amphitheater provides plenty of space for the kids to run around.

The quiet rustle of the leaves and the chirping of the birds provide the perfect background score for our little adventure.

I particularly enjoy going for a bike ride as well; the rental service comes in handy for cruising up and down the walkways.

Everyone knows the Riverwalk Amphitheater is the place to be, especially for the picturesque views of the iconic Columbus Riverfront and rapids.

It's like our very own postcard-worthy scene right here in Phenix.

It's not just a place; it's a part of who we are.

As night falls, the area transforms into a rather romantic spot, though it might not be everyone's cup of tea after dark.

Discover Local Ecosystem at Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center

Exterior of the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center
Deutschlandreform, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/

There's this little gem in our city that I just can't get enough of.

Nestled conveniently across from the infantry museum on Lumpkin Road, the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center is a treasure trove of exciting experiences.

My kids and I frequent this place, and each visit is a new adventure.

Last time, we went to an amazing animal adaptation show that was not only super informative but also involved some hands-on experiences.

We got to see turtle shells snake skins, and even got to touch the live animals!

The kids especially loved this part.

Moving on, my girls attended a birthday party at Oxbow Meadows recently, and they had an absolute blast!

The highlight of the event? It was definitely the special show put on for the party.

The kids got to sit on stage in the auditorium and witness an array of reptiles up close while learning some really cool facts.

Don't even get me started on the Reptile Show that I took my 5-year-old son to one morning.

He was fascinated by the variety of specimens, dinosaur fossils, and the bee-keeping display.

What's more, there was an abundance of hands-on activities available on-site that kept his little hands busy and his mind engaged.

The staff at Oxbow Meadows are always so helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly, which makes every visit worthwhile.

Peruse the Herbs of Columbus Botanical Garden

Nothing quite compares to the lush and vibrant greenery of the Columbus Botanical Garden.

As someone who frequents this garden, I am constantly in awe of the variety of plants and flowers that color the space with beauty.

This 22-acre garden doesn't just hold an extensive collection of herbs, vegetables, and roses, but it also fosters a sense of community with its contribution to local charities and food banks.

The garden is cleverly designed to maximize the use of space.

The melons growing on the hillside are a testament to this.

Strolling through the garden, you'll not only witness the picturesque beauty of the plants but also learn about their growth in local conditions.

Whether it's the fragrant flowers blooming in the cottage garden or the varieties of herbs in the herb garden, there's always something to marvel at.

Beyond the plants, the garden also hosts a one-mile trail that offers an opportunity to appreciate the broader natural environment.

The trail is a great way to extend your visit and find tranquillity away from the bustling plant areas.

What's more, there's a quaint little library near the parking area where you can donate a book for others to enjoy.

Its vibrancy and dedication to the community make it a gem that colorfully shines in Columbus.

Observe Geese at Moon Lake

You know, I've always found something alluring about the calm sereneness of Moon Lake.

When the hassles of life become overbearing, this is my humble sanctuary, my tranquil escape right in the heart of our town.

Nestled amidst nature, it feels like a world away from the humdrum of daily life.

Moon Lake is a beauty to behold.

Its peaceful ambiance boasts of an understated elegance that soothes my soul every time I visit.

There's a lovely mile-long track around the lake which I love to tread on, soaking in the cool winds and the chirping melodies of the birds, offering a perfect balance of tranquility and fitness.

And if you are an adventurer at heart, there's a laid-out trail through the woods which is nothing less than a visual treat.

Oh, and how could I forget about the geese!

They are always there, adding life to the calm waters of the lake.

Watching them is a delight.

It's a sight to treasure, especially when you come across a duck perched on a tree - a rare sight but one that I've had the fortune of witnessing.

To all those seeking solace and peace, I'd say, come, take a stroll around Moon Lake.

It's a place that offers serenity, beauty, and a space to relax.

It's my own slice of paradise, right here in the heart of the town.

Play Tennis at Cooper Creek Park

Every weekend you'll find me at Cooper Creek Park.

It's my refuge from the city.

When I step onto the running trails, I leave behind the urban buzz and embrace tranquility.

This natural gem in Columbus is more than just a park, it's an experience.

Curious about this hidden treasure?

Cooper Creek Park boasts a picturesque creek, a dream for nature photographers like me.

I love how the sun's rays filter through the dense foliage, casting a magical glow over the water.

The park is also home to a variety of wildlife.

I can't count the number of times I've been held captive by the sight of geese, ducks, and a myriad of birds around the big lake.

Feeding them is an absolute joy, so don't forget to bring some bird food.

There is a bird food machine, but it's currently out of order.

The park is huge- a paradise for those who enjoy outdoor activities.

I've spent countless mornings jogging on the running trails, enjoying the serene scenery.

Often, you'll find families sprawled on the grass, picnicking under the shade of the trees.

There are also plenty of benches for those who wish to sit and soak in the beauty.

The children's playground at the front of the park is usually buzzing with activity.

I've seen kids' faces light up as they play on the modern and well-maintained equipment.

And for tennis enthusiasts, there's a tennis court that's always a hive of activity.

I've made Cooper Creek Park my holiday spot, a place to unwind and reconnect with nature.

It's an integral part of my community, and I feel fortunate to have such a haven at my doorstep.

Exercise at Chattahoochee River Walk

Aerial view of Chattahoochee RiverWalk
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

There's something incredibly serene about the Chattahoochee River Walk.

I take my daily strolls down this 8-mile scenic trail, which snakes along the Chattahoochee River.

It’s more than just a walk - it’s an adventure.

It's a perfect blend of history, nature, and fitness - you can explore the historic home district, the college district, and the river district at your leisure.

I often choose my route based on my mood, sometimes the college district, with its vibrant buzz, other times the peaceful river district with its captivating views.

The chirping of birds and the soothing sounds of the river are my constant companions.

Weekends are reserved for family bike rides.

It's our family tradition to pedal down the trail, checking out the scenery and stopping often to rest and have a picnic.

In the midst of the city's hustle-bustle, Chattahoochee River Walk feels like an oasis, a chance to reconnect with nature.

My post-walk routine is also set.

After burning off some calories, I always head to downtown, which is conveniently close.

The area is packed with fantastic dining options.

The hunger pangs after a good walk or ride always make the food taste even better!

While the parking space isn’t too large, it has never been an issue for me.

Remember, it's a long 12-mile stretch, so it's better to come prepared.

But I promise you, it's worth every step or pedal.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Discover Presidential History at FDR's Little White House

Exterior of FDR's Little White House
Jeffrey M. Frank / Shutterstock.com

Every weekend, I find myself drawn to the peace and serenity of FDR's Little White House.

This historic site, which was once the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, our nation's longest-serving president, has so much to offer.

As soon as I step into the museum, it feels like a journey back in time.

It's more than just a house; it's a rich tapestry of history filled with fascinating artifacts and displays.

The museum houses a theater and even a stagecoach display that never fails to capture the imagination.

The lush, manicured grounds are another attraction.

Each cottage on the grounds offers a different aspect of FDR's life, providing a comprehensive view of his time in office.

For the adventurous, the marine sentry posts scattered around the grounds provide a little treasure hunt.

It always amazes me to think that these posts were once manned by military personnel, protecting the president.

If you're a history buff or simply love nature, you'll also appreciate the neighboring therapeutic springs.

These springs, believed to have healing properties, were one of the primary reasons FDR chose this spot for his Little White House.

One of the things I appreciate the most about this historic site is the knowledgeable and friendly staff.

They always go the extra mile to ensure visitors have a memorable experience.

You can choose to explore on your own or opt for the guided walking tour, which costs $20 and lasts about an hour and a half.

Final Thoughts

In my many years living here, it never ceases to amaze me how Columbus, Georgia, manages to offer such a vibrant mix of history, culture, and natural beauty - all for free!

Whether it's the striking exhibits at the National Infantry Museum, the educational insights at Oxbow Meadows, or the tranquil moments of solitude at Woodruff Riverfront Park, there is something for everyone here.

Whether you are a long-time resident or a first-time visitor, rest assured that exploring the free offerings of this city will leave you enriched in ways you might never expect.

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