Columbus was a constant surprise with a number of excellent attractions from both ends of the quality spectrum. High end musts included the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center that was voted the country’s best free museum by USA today readers. Its presence here might be influenced by Columbus’ proximity to the Fort Benning Military Reservation, which dominates this city’s entire southeast side. The other must-see is the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus which will, among other things, explain why Columbus was one of The South’s 19th century economic powerhouses. At the other end of the spectrum was the very quirky Lunchbox Museum in Rivermarket Antiques where another customer, an African-American woman, exclaimed after looking at some old furniture, “I just saw my childhood!”
A third great Columbus attraction was The Columbus Museum that included several more surprises. Around the first corner of this free attraction was a boat full of Dale Chihuly blown glass sculptures. Inspired by watching children reach down into a river in Finland to collect his floating glass pieces, Boat Installation was totally unexpected. The next shock was a painting called “Homecoming” by successful local painter James W. “Bo” Bartlett, whom I had never heard of. The description of it explained that Bo likes to explore “the strangeness of everyday life”. I’ll say. Surprise #3 was a Rembrandt Peale painting of George Washington. Peale was obsessed with painting this President and was only 17 when he did his first Washington portrait. Many followed, and all of them have become sought after national icons. Even more surprising was the Peale painting of Martha Washington next to George. The surprises in this museum also included the unique way its often unusual display items were grouped.
Outside was an enormous metallic sculpture erupting from a fountain and the Bradley Olmsted Garden. The Olmsted Brothers firm created by the landscaping success of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park and the grounds around our National Capitol Building in Washington, DC, was responsible for this garden being in Columbus.
Check this town out!