COLUMBUS, Ind. — As families pack their bags and plan vacations as we rebound from this pandemic, one city in Indiana hopes you will put their hometown on your bucket list.
Columbus just released a new walking tour app of their downtown which is world famous for its unique architecture. Before the pandemic, tour guides gave shuttle and walking tours of the city and while the city plans to eventually brings all of those options back, the app provides another option for guests and locals alike.
The app, Columbus IN Tours, is free to download on apple and android devices and anyone can rent a device from the visitor's center. The app also provides the walking tour in Spanish.
The self-guided experience uses GPS technology on your phone to walk you through different sights at 18 different locations around downtown and even utilizes audio from historic events to tell the stories of these buildings.
"I grew up in Columbus and I learned a lot the first time I took an architecture tour here," said Erin Hawkins, marketing director for the Columbus Visitors Center. "Columbus has had an architectural tour, a guided tour program, since the 70s."
The pandemic put a stop to many of their traditional tour experiences due to social distancing requirements, but as the city brings back in person tours, the self-guided tours provide more flexibility for the guests to plan their day.
"One of the big advantages of the app is that, ya know, it really does locate visitors throughout the downtown and so they are up close and personal walking by all of the storefronts of of our local businesses," Hawkins said.
Business owner Beth Stroh is ready to welcome back more customers to her bookstore.
Viewpoint Bookstore is the second oldest independently-owned bookstore in the state of Indiana and Stroh took over operations in 2016. The bookstore will celebrate 50 years in business in 2023.
This past year has been tough, but with the help of the community, Viewpoint Books survived the pandemic and continued to serve customers in Columbus and beyond.
During the early stages of the pandemic, Stroh and a few employees who could come in to the store curated curbside orders and door drops. They helped students get books and materials they needed to continue learning from home and provided activities for younger children at home with their extensive selection of toys, games and puzzles.
"We just felt like it was important for us to find a way to continue to serve our community, so we did," Stroh said.
But now as they are back open to the public, Stroh says she hopes the visitors using the new tourism app can find her store which is located near some of the attractions featured.
"Well several of the stops on the app are very close to us and as I said, we want to draw people down to kind of the edge of our downtown retail area," Stroh said. "It's a perfect place for families and we miss our visitors. we love chatting with people who come to Columbus and finding out their stories and sharing ours."