Aside from the more apparent amenities, Columbus offers a hearty helping of nooks and crannies for the finding. It only took me three months -- and an unprecedented amount of stamina -- to learn that the downtown Riverwalk winds its way all the way to Fort Benning.
As Im still relatively new to the area, I must admit Ive not yet made it to all of the museums and tourist attractions that dot the Fountain City. But having always suffered from an insatiable case of wanderlust, I can report with some degree of authority that one of the most endearing attributes of Columbus is its proximity to other interesting places.
Having grown up in the New Orleans area, my job at the Ledger-Enquirer means Im only about 6½ hours from home. (For planning purposes, dont forget you gain an hour heading that way.)
For an adventure that requires less than half a tank of gas, I can hop in my little black car and, in just an hour-and-a-half, be sipping coffee and people watching in a café in Atlanta. Another 90 minutes or so to the northwest and Im wandering through downtown Chattanooga, Tenn. It was even snowing a little when I arrived last winter.
To our east, I was pleasantly surprised with the ambiance -- and in many ways felt right at home -- in Savannah (roughly four hours away, depending on your bladder).
My previous job landed me in semi-arid West Texas -- several excruciating hours from a body of water or professional sports venue. So I couldnt feel more relieved now to reside within a mornings drive of the Emerald Coast. If Panama City Beach is too crowded or hip for your taste, Laguna Beach is quieter and just down the road.
The beaches are still pearly white and seemed to me to be largely unaffected by last years catastrophic oil spill. But watch out for malicious marine life if you go when the waters warm.
Closer to home theres Pine Mountain just north of Columbus on U.S. 27, a destination thats still on my short list of places to check out. Or maybe youd like to catch a concert or a Southwest flight in Birmingham, Ala. The possibilities are endless if you have the time and a GPS.
In Columbus, I try to escape to Lakebottom Park at least a couple times a week. The gravel walking path is easy on your knees and features verdant scenery. Theres also the track at Columbus High School if youre looking to run laps or sprints.
If youre bored and short on cash, I recommend the public libraries in town, particularly the main branch on Macon Road. Youll find a surprising amount of new releases, and even some of those travel books that will come in handy when planning your next day trip.
Ill try to leave a few of them on the shelf.