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Hit the Road: a 46-mile getaway to Columbus, IN

A red bridge

Enter Columbus, IN for architecture + stay for the food. | Photo via Don Nissen, Columbus Area Visitors Center

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Last month, we kicked off our summer road trip series, Hit the Road, with an outdoor adventure to Brown County. If you checked it out, we’d love to hear about it.

This month, we’re continuing the series with a 46-mile trip to Columbus, IN for a quick getaway. From its Modernist architecture to its small-town charm, this city offers a little bit of everything — making it the perfect end-of-summer vacay.

Before you start packing your bags, here’s everything you need to know about the area + our insider recommendations.

Drive time: ~50 min. from downtown

Est. population: 48,820

Avg. high in July: 85°

Trees surrounding church

The North Christian Church was designed in 1964 by Eero Saarinen. | Photo via Columbus Area Visitors Center

🎟️ Things to do

Architecture Tour

American industrialist J. Irwin Miller established the Cummins Foundation in 1954 + transformed the city of Columbus into an architectural mecca — paying the architects’ fees for new public buildings and hiring legends like Eero Saarinen (who designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis). There’s a lot to unpack about the city’s structures, so spend the day exploring with an audio tour.

Pro tip: The Miller House and Garden is a must-see for those who love interior design. The retro home books up tours fast, so schedule in advance.

Kidscommons

Though it’s not the world’s largest children’s museum like the one here in Indy, this community kids’ museum + offers three floors of hands-on exhibits, including a climbing wall designed to replicate the building’s exterior. Plus, did we mention its world-famous giant toilet?

Mill Race Park

Covered bridge anyone? Not only does this riverfront park feature 85 acres of land and lakes, it also hosts concerts at its amphitheater. It’s ranked in the top 100 parks in the nation for its design, reputation + accessibility, according to Landscape Management.

A patio of a restaurant

Patio season is alive and well at the 4th Street Bar & Grill. | Photo via Don Nissen, Columbus Area Visitors Center

🍔 Grub to eat

4th Street Bar & Grill

This Columbus staple has been serving up creative dishes + entertainment for over 30 years. With nightly drink specials and live music on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s perfect for patio season.

Zaharakos Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the 1900s when you open the door to this iconic shop, featuring soda fountains and mechanical music instruments. Grab a malt, sit back, and listen to the sounds of a Welte Orchestrion.

Lucabe Coffee

This caffeine dealer has two locations, but we recommend stopping by the one in the Mad Men-era Irwin Union and Trust Bank building, which the owners recently moved into. There you’ll feel all the Mid-century modern vibes while sipping a honey-ginger latte.

Interior of mid-century modern home

Okay, you can’t stay at the Miller House, but wouldn’t it be a dream? | Photo by INDYtoday team

🏨 Overnight accommodations

If you get a wild hair and decide to turn this quick day trip into an overnighter, here are some spots to stay.

The Inn at Irwin Gardens

The bed and breakfast has changed very little in the last 100 years, with original light fixtures, furniture + decor. It was home of Joseph Irwin (founder of Irwin Union Bank & Trust) in 1864 and was converted into an inn in 2009.

Pro tip: Even if you aren’t staying there, you can still walk around the Italianate sunken garden Tuesdays-Sundays from 2-6 p.m.

Hotel Indigo

This hotel is walking distance to Mill Race Park + the Columbus Indiana Visitors Center (which has a stellar gift shop and Chihuly glasswork). Your stay will be pet-friendly and include a heated indoor pool, and a gallery showcasing regional artists.

Cera Sports Park & Campground

Camp out at this outdoor recreation hotspot, which includes a sports park, summer concerts, and access to the water. Make your itinerary a little more active by checking out the park’s aquatic center, mini golf, and go-kart track.

Pro tip: The Cera Pass includes unlimited access to its recreational facilities, plus discounts on camping.

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