Summer is coming — or already here, depending on who you ask.
June 21 might be the first official day of summer but if temperatures hit around 100 degrees and the kids are out of school, hasn’t summer already come?
You’ll spend the next several months looking for things to do. You’ll want to splash in cool waters to combat the stifling Georgia heat. You’ll want to go and see things you haven’t seen. Maybe you’ll want to expand your mind — preferably somewhere air-conditioned. If you’ve got kids or young cousins or nephews and nieces, you’ll need something to hold their attention too.
We’ve got a few ideas on how to spend your summer days. Here are five trips in and around Columbus that might be what you’re looking for. Some of them are inside the city limits and the others are less than an hour away.
All distances are calculated from downtown Columbus.
F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Address: 2970 GA-190, Pine Mountain, GA
Distance: 41.1 miles, 47 minutes
Just a little north of Columbus is Georgia’s largest state park, F.D. Roosevelt State Park. Several of the 9,049-acre park’s facilities were built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
It’s $5 to park and look around but you’ll probably find other things you’ll want to do that cost a little money. There’s 21 cottages and 109 tent, trailer and R.V. campsites if you want to stay for a little bit. The park’s famed Liberty Bell Swimming Pool will keep you cool in the blistering summer heat.
You can also go horseback riding as Roosevelt Stables is set to re-open Memorial Day weekend. Rides range from slow-paced Creek Trail to the more adventurous Cowboy Trail, according to the park’s website.
Roosevelt himself often picnicked at the park’s Dowdell’s Knob. He was first brought to the state in 1924 to swim in naturally warm springs that offered relief for his polio. He built a home in the area, returning to it and the spring waters until he died at the home in 1945. The nearby Roosevelt’s Little White House State Historic Site is another must-visit.
General state park areas are open sunup to sundown every day but other facilities operate at different hours, so call ahead.
Address: 238 Eddie Martin Rd, Buena Vista, GA
Distance: 32.4 miles, 43 minutes
Heading south and east from Columbus, you’ll find Pasaquan — the 7-acre art compound built by Eddie Owens Martin, also known as St. EOM.
Martin, a native of nearby Marion County and the son of a poor white sharecropper, left home at the age of 14 and hitchhiked to Atlanta and Washington D.C. Martin eventually settled in New York where he worked as a street hustler, bartender, gambler and drag queen, according to a biography published on the Pasaquan website.
In 1957, after the death of his mother, Martin returned to Georgia and began his work. In about three decades, Martin created six major structures, mandala murals and more than 900 feet of painted masonry walls.
Martin died by suicide in 1986. The Pasaquan Preservation Society worked to maintain the site over the years. The society, along with the Kohler Foundation and Columbus State University, partnered to restore Pasaquan. The renovated site opened to the public in October 2016, and is maintained by Columbus State.
Columbus State describes Martin’s artwork as a fusion of “African, pre-Columbian Mexico and Native American cultural and religious symbols and designs, along with motifs inspired by Edward Churchward’s books about ‘The Lost Continent of MU.’”
Whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee
Address: 1000 Bay Avenue, Columbus
What better way to fight the summer heat than the waters of the Chattahoochee? It’s repeatedly said that it’s the largest urban whitewater rafting course in the world.
Whitewater Express, the outdoor rafting and zip line business located in downtown Columbus near the river, has several rafting options ranging from the low-water “classic/family” option to the high-water “carnage” option, according to Whitewater Express’ website.
The shop opens 9 a.m. every morning and closes after the last trip gets back to shore. Rafting goes year-round but the busy season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
You can book your rafting trip online at Whitewater Express’ website.
Museum hopping in Columbus
Address: Columbus Museum, 1251 Wynnton Road, Columbus
There are several museums in Columbus or right on its doorstep that are worth a visit. There’s the National Infantry Museum which chronicles the history of the infantryman from the American Revolution to present.
There’s the National Naval Civil War Museum which is home to artifacts like the C.S.S. Jackson, the largest surviving Confederate warship.
You can’t go wrong at the Columbus Museum. Founded in 1953, it tells the story of the Chattahoochee River Valley through art and history.
The museum’s tagline is “Always Changing, Always Free” but donations are certainly welcomed. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, according to their website.
Make a stop at one of Tuskegee’s historic sites
Address: Tuskegee University, 1200 W Montgomery Road, Tuskegee, Alabama
Distance: 44.2 miles, 59 minutes
About an hour west of the Georgia line is the east Alabama city of Tuskegee. Its historical importance can be traced back to Tuskegee University and Booker T. Washington.
The university’s accomplishments could fill several stories — so we won’t get into them here. But these sites, the George Washington Carver Museum and The Oaks, Booker T. Washington’s home, are two of many places you should consider stopping.
Carver, a former slave who later became one of America’s greatest agricultural scientists and inventors, taught at the university as Director of its Agricultural Department. The museum honoring Carver was substantially supported by another famous American, Henry Ford, according to the National Park Service.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (remember it’s central time over there).
You can also tour Booker T. Washington’s The Oaks — his red-brick, three-story Queen Anne Revival style home. Tours are given Tuesday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.