New Columbia Welcome Center among investments county has made in local destinations.
Making Maury County a top spot for employers often starts on the “front porch” of regional marketing: tourism. These early interactions with visitors can set the stage for long-term economic sustainability.
“Tourism is the No. 2 industry in Tennessee,” said Kellye Murphy, tourism and marketing director for the City of Columbia. “It impacts almost every facet of our economy and plays a role in quality-of-life factors. Visitors want to feel that inviting ‘sense of place’ that makes them feel welcome. They want to explore destinations that are healthy, thriving, beautiful, clean and safe.”
To better engage visitors and make the perfect first impression, many investments have been made in the travel attractions and destinations around the area. The region just opened the new Columbia Welcome Center in November 2021. This center gives information on where to dine, stay and explore as well as on the area’s history.
Maury County is home to several establishments available for visitors who need a place to stay. While several traditional hotels are available, the area also boasts a few bed-and-breakfasts, which appeal to visitors and offer a unique experience. Blythewood Inn Bed & Breakfast, for example, is a historic mansion in Columbia where guests can stay in rooms that are decorated to take them back to the Victorian Era. Creekview Farm Retreat Bed and Breakfast in Santa Fe also draws visitors to the area. Located just 3 miles from Natchez Trace Parkway, this B&B is located on a working farm with animals.
The Airbnb scene is growing here, and many options are available to residents, such as The Loft in Mount Pleasant and All I Have To Do Is Dream in Columbia — both are luxury lofts. Demand for high-end residential units is partially driven by the quality experience visitors get when they come to the region.
“Residents consider those same factors for livability when choosing where to live and raise a family,” Murphy says. “Developments on the horizon include residential/mixed-use options for the downtown Columbia area, which helps build the sustainability and vibrancy of the downtown and adds to the appeal for visitors.”
It’s not just the residents getting in on the tourist action. Local businesses find ways of connecting with guests (aka “future residents”). First Fridays is a block party held at the beginning of the month in downtown Columbia that features special shopping opportunities, visiting vendors, live music and a caravan of food trucks.
Launched in 2017 to an audience of just a few hundred pedestrians, it today attracts more than 1,000 people each month, which has evolved into an experience where visitors can engage with businesses and local attractions, helping those organizations thrive.
“Downtown Columbia is the heartbeat of this town and the main attraction,” Murphy says.
Popular destinations include the Arts District, the Duck River and the President James K. Polk Home and Museum. In addition to the Polk Home, history buffs are sure to enjoy Rippavilla, a Greek Revival-style home in nearby Spring Hill that was built in the mid-1850s, and the Athenaeum Rectory, a facility built in 1837 that served as a former girls’ school in Columbia.
Also, tourists can take a walking tour and step back through time: 10 Civil War Trails historical markers pepper Maury County, alerting visitors to homes, churches and historic structures where significant events took place.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find an abundance of activities to enjoy. Murphy suggests the Duck River for canoeing and kayaking; Yanahli Park and Cheeks Bend Natural Area for hiking; Stillhouse Hollow Falls for exploring; and Chickasaw Trace Park and Berm Wood Park for mountain biking.
And each of Maury County’s three main cities has other specific attractions for visitors to enjoy. Columbia is home to a beautiful Riverwalk recreation area located just north of the downtown district, while Mount Pleasant houses a spacious 23-acre Williams Spring Park along with a nine-hole public golf course at Mt. Pleasant Country Club. In Spring Hill, the Rippavilla Plantation mansion on U.S. Highway 31 is one of the most visited antebellum homes in the South. In addition, many people like to shop while traveling or vacationing, and The Crossings of Spring Hill has a lineup of more than 70 stores and restaurants.
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