Spring is finally here, and along with warmer weather, we’re also seeing the return of normalcy after a pretty crazy year. After being trapped at home for so long, a little getaway is at the top of our to-do lists.
Columbus, Georgia, lives up to its tagline “We do amazing”. The city is just 90 miles south of Atlanta, nestled along the banks of the Chattahoochee River, and it’s the perfect place to get your toes wet - literally. It’s home to the country’s longest stretch of whitewater rafting in an urban area, which means you can enjoy a wild afternoon on the water, then follow it up with craft cocktails and live music in a bustling urban setting.
Best of all, since this amazing place is so close, you can have it all without even taking a day off work! Here’s how to make the most of a weekend in Columbus:
Day 1 - Friday
Pack up the car and leave a little early if you can. Columbus may be close, but no one wants to start their getaway stuck in Atlanta traffic! Once you’re clear of the city, it’s pretty much a straight shot down 85.
Upon arrival, check in at the Hotel Indigo Columbus at Riverfront Place, a brand new boutique hotel in the city’s hip Uptown neighborhood. With more than 100 unique rooms, many of them with incredible views of the river, a great restaurant and rooftop bar, 2,500 square feet of meeting and convention space, and a heated swimming pool and 24-hour fitness center, Hotel Indigo is more than just a great place to stay; it’s location on the Riverwalk makes it a perfect home base for exploring all of Uptown Columbus and its easily walkable attractions.
Once you’ve settled in, it’s time for something to eat. Indulge at Indigo’s Denim & Oak, where you’ll discover the freshest Gulf seafood, locally sourced catfish and produce from nearby W.C. Bradley Farms. For lighter fare, stroll down Broadway and check out Nonic Beer Bar & Kitchen for elevated pub fare and craft beers in a cool loft space (or try any of the other 45+ restaurants within walking distance of the hotel). Resist the urge to go exploring though - you’ll want a good night’s sleep for Saturday’s activities.
Day 2 - Saturday
Today is all about the river and RushSouth Whitewater Park is the star. The whitewater rafting journey in Columbus is sure to delight all with great rapids and an abundance of wildlife. In fact, REI Co-op called this the best rafting experience in the country!
Grab a coffee and some pastries at Iron Bank Coffee Co. or Fountain City Coffee (both are between Hotel Indigo and RushSouth, which is an easy 15 minute walk). Depending on how early you’ve booked your excursion at RushSouth, check out the enormous Saturday Market on Broadway.
The Chattahoochee is controlled by a dam in Columbus, so there’s a huge difference between RushSouth’s morning and afternoon offerings on the river. “Low flow” excursions in the morning are perfect for newbies and for families with younger children. The Classic excursion, for beginners, or the Ducky, a guided trip in inflatable kayaks, each take about two hours. Later in the day, when the dam is open, the easy-going river is transformed into thrilling Class III-V rapids. RushSouth’s Challenge trip shows off the River’s most exciting features, while the ominously named Carnage trip does it all in a lighter, faster four-person raft. An experienced guide accompanies each raft.
After you finish your morning rafting, or while you wait for an afternoon excursion, take advantage of RushSouth’s amazing Aerial Adventure. Starting with the Blue Heron Adventure, the only zipline in America that connects two states, you’ll be transported across the Chattahoochee into Alabama at 40 mph. Once there, you’ll discover 10 zipline obstacle courses and the Treetop Zip Course, which will fly you back across the river to your starting point in Georgia.
Back at Hotel Indigo, it’s time to rest up, dress up and head out! Start your evening with drinks at Indigo’s impossibly cool rooftop bar and restaurant, Eighteen85. Signature cocktails (try the Jack Daniels-based 85 Punch) have never tasted better than they do with a panoramic view of the city and the sound of rushing rapids. Next, walk down the charming Riverwalk to Banks Food Hall, where you’ll find the best of Uptown Columbus all under one roof, including nine popular local food vendors and a dedicated bar.
Afterwards, get out and explore the city’s nightlife. From live music at The Loft to axe throwing at Back That Axe Up to a night of clubbing at The Hooch, there’s something for everyone. For a more family friendly evening, the splash pad across from Banks Food Hall is open until 9 p.m. and sits next to a modern playground area with built-in musical instruments.
Day 3 - Sunday
Fuel up for the day ahead at Plucked Up Chicken & Biscuits. The city’s amazing Riverwalk is the perfect place to pass a not-so-lazy Sunday morning. Stretching more than 20 miles along the Chattahoochee, from Uptown all the way down to Fort Benning, the Riverwalk is a perfect mix of trails and parks, with plenty of great vistas along the way. The Dragonfly Trail is a dedicated pathway with more than 60 miles of trails connecting Uptown to other inland parts of the community. Cyclists can rent bikes at the Whitewater Express store or Ride On Bikes, which is just a couple of blocks away.
If you’re feeling lazy after Saturday’s exertions, consider a leisurely stroll through the Columbus Botanical Garden, check out the art at the Bo Bartlett Center on Columbus State’s campus or do some shopping in Uptown. You can also check out the cool sculptures and public art thoughtfully placed throughout Uptown, along with the numerous decorative fountains that earned Columbus its “Fountain City” nickname.
Before hitting the road for the trip home grab a bite to eat. Country’s Barbecue on Broad serves open-pit-cooked ‘cue in a restored 1930s Greyhound Bus station. Or head back to Banks Food Hall to try that food that looked so good last night if only you weren’t already full!