- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - As the last signs of winter disappear, the architectural landmarks in Columbus are unveiled.

It’s just in time for tour season.

The Columbus Area Visitors Center resumed its full tour schedule two weeks ago. Director of Marketing Erin Hawkins said the cold has not kept tourists away.

The Visitors Center led 796 tours and 11,794 people around Columbus last year. Hawkins said the center is off to a good start already this year.

Tours of the Miller House are already selling out on the weekends.

“People are just so ready to get out and start being outside again,” Hawkins told The Republic (https://bit.ly/1hrMkVn ).

The tours are so popular that she encourages tour-goers to register online in advance. She said scheduling becomes difficult in the busy summer months, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.

Guided tours are offered every day except for Monday, and offerings include:

- Columbus Architecture Tour, a two-hour bus tour.

- Miller House and Garden Tour, a 90-minute tour of the former residence of J. Irwin and Xenia Miller. Specialty tours are offered for an additional cost, which include the curator tour, landscape tour and photography tour.

- Downtown Walking Tour, a one-hour guided up-close look at downtown Columbus.

- Guide-by-Cell Tour, which allows tour-goers to explore the city at their own pace.

Last year was the first time the public was granted access to 301 Washington St., the personal office of J. Irwin Miller. That stop has returned to the walking tour this year. The Visitor’s Center has added a few additional interior stops to the walking tour, including a look inside First Christian Church and a quick peek at the kidscommons children’s museum downtown.

“If you don’t have kids, a lot of the times you feel like you just don’t have an excuse to visit,” she said.

Hawkins said the Miller House tour will reach its peak season during the summer when out-of-town visitors come to see the landscaping and garden, but now is a prime time for Columbus residents to visit.

She encourages long-time residents to take any of the tours.

Hawkins grew up in Columbus, so she never thought about taking the tour herself until about seven years ago.

“As a resident you’re going to be driving down the same streets that you drive down every day and seeing the same buildings, but there are a lot of interesting facts and stories behind our buildings,” she said.

She was pleasantly shocked when she took her first tour, and now she likes listening to the remarks tourists make about her hometown.

“It’s a cool experience for local people to see our community through the eyes of tourists,” she said. “It really reinforces how fortunate we are to live in such a great community.”


Information from: The Republic, https://www.therepublic.com/

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