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Columbus, Indiana, Trip Guide

One of America’s best displays of modern architecture waits in Columbus, which knows how to blend small-city hospitality with modern style. Architecture tours introduce visitors to many of the gems around the town of 45,000.

One of America’s best displays of architecture waits in Columbus, where the skyline mixes 20th-century masterpieces with 19-century structures. Names like I.M. Pei and Eero Saarinen left their mark here, earning Columbus recognition from the American Institute of Architects as America’s sixth-best city for architectural innovation.

How is a town of 45,000 people packed with buildings and art created by designers known even by people who know little about design? The answer: J. Irwin Miller. In the 1950s, the local Cummins Engine Company executive set out to draw world-class workers to Columbus by elevating the entire town’s attitude via design. He subsidized public buildings, as long as a renowned architect designed them, because he believed that, “Mediocrity is expensive.”

The result is a town filled with more than 70 buildings created by famed architects—including churches, fire stations, schools, homes and office buildings. That means the anchor of any weekend here (45 miles south of Indianapolis) should be an architecture tour. columbus.in.us

Large Arch

Henry Moore's Large Arch frames Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church

What to do

Architecture tours A free self-guided tour covers more than 70 works including public art such as Henry Moore's Large Arch. For a fee, bus tours with volunteer guides bring character to buildings around town. columbus.in.us

The Commons The glass-enclosed community space includes restaurants and a play area with a huge children's climbing structure. thecommonscolumbus.com

The Commons

The Commons

Miller House and Gardens Considered a leading example of modernist architecture, the 1950s Miller House and Garden feels like it could be a set for Mad Men; visitors gush over the groundbreaking conversation pit and the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the beautifully manicured grounds. imamuseum.org/visit/miller-house

Miller House

Miller House

Where to eat

450 North Brewing Company Beers like the Copperhead Amber pair with pizzas cooked in a brick oven at this gem surrounded by vineyards and farmland. 450northbrewing.com

4th Street Bar and Grill Breaded pork tenderloins share the menu with mahimahi tacos and burgers with kimchi. fourthstreetcolumbus.com

The Garage Pub and Grill Enjoy live entertainment with your standout pub food and 14 beers on tap. thegaragepubandgrill.com

Tre Bicchieri The name is Italian for "three glasses," but there's more to love than the extensive wine list. Don't miss the walnut-encrusted goat cheese appetizer. trebicchieri-columbus.com

Zaharakos Enjoy handmade ice cream served under the glow of Tiffany-style lamps at this 117-year-old soda fountain.  zaharakos.com

Where to stay

Hotel Indigo Midcentury modern touches show in the furniture, artwork and color scheme at this 85-room hotel. Rooms are gorgeous, with hardwood floors. hotelindigo.com 

Hotel Indigo

Hotel Indigo

The Inn at Irwin Gardens An early-20th-century Italianate-style inn features the original Edwardian furnishings and sunken gardens designed to resemble the ruins of Pompeii. Breakfast includes fresh-baked rolls, egg dishesand parfaits. irwingardens.com

Inn at Irwin Gardens

Inn at Irwin Gardens

For information: Columbus Area Visitors Center (800) 468-6564; columbus.in.us

Robert N. Stewart Bridge

The red steel supports and steel tension cables of the Robert N. Stewart Bridge form a dramatic entry into Columbus.

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