Growing up in Columbus, Indiana is a unique experience for small midwestern towns. You grow up in a small town, but for some reason this little town was blessed with businesses and philanthropists that care deeply about architecture. You mix that together, and you get what they call the “Athens of the Prairie”. I kid you not, that’s what they call Columbus, Indiana. This small town is world famous for being the home to more building than I can count that are built my world-renowned architects like I.M. Pei. I can still remember as a little kid, we’d be on a bike ride through downtown during the summer, probably heading to the library, and I’d see groups upon groups of people on walking tours from all over the world with their cameras out capturing all the beauty that Columbus has to offer.
Of course, I didn’t quite realize how special it was until I grew up and left for a few years. When Adam and I moved back to Columbus we were both so amazed by our hometown. The fact that all these buildings exist within steps from each other in a small midwestern town is truly incredible. As you drive into Columbus you’ll see a welcome sign that says “Columbus, Indiana: Unexpected. Unforgettable” and that is exactly what it is. And we love nothing more than sharing our hometown with our wedding couples for their engagement session. And yes, I’m preparing for my retirement job of being a tour guide so just be prepared for fun facts as we walk around!
1) Mill Race Park
Mill Race Park is one of the gems of Columbus, Indiana. This park is stunning during all season especially with beautiful falls leaves and bright spring colors. We love Mill Race Park for outdoor engagement sessions year-round because it features everything from wooded walking paths to beaches along the river. That doesn’t even begin to touch on all the structures within this park that set it apart. It has multiple bridges, one being a famous covered bridge, an architecturally famous pond pathway that was featured in The Columbus Movie, and an ivy wrapped terrace area.
One of our favorite things about Mill Race Park is that you have so many great options within the park right at your fingertips. The park offers a lot of variety while also being a short walk in total, especially when compared to hiking during a session at Brown County State Park or Holliday Park.
You can easily switch between outfits at Mill Race Park because there are multiple restroom locations spread throughout the park making it easy to quickly slip into different looks as we walk around!
One thing to be careful of with this park is that in late spring and early summer it floods often due to rain and the river rising. You’re in good hands with us if this happens because we can easily adjust to another location that has great scenery and would be perfect for your engagement session!
Check out this Mill Race Park Session
2) Donner Park
Donner Park is nestled in a quiet, historic part of Columbus, Indiana. The park is surrounded by beautiful homes from the early to mid 1900s. The park itself is home to a healthy amount of very happy squirrels who love living amongst the many trees in the park. Donner Park is beautiful year round, but like most midwest locations, it definitely shines during the fall when the leaves are changing!
Donner Park is also a really great alternative if the White River is high which will cause Noblitt Park and Mill Race Park to flood.
Check out this Lifestyle Session at Donner Park
3) Noblitt Park
We love that Noblitt Park is a quiet little park nestled just a short walk or drive from Mill Race Park and Downtown Columbus. It offers a romantic setting of tall trees and trails leading right along a portion of White River with clear water and bank side beaches just a few steps off the trail. This is a great spot to incorporate nature into your engagement session while limiting the number of people around during the session with this being a calmer park than Mill Race and Donner Parks.
Check out this Session Near Noblitt Park
4) Downtown Columbus
Columbus is well known for its architecture. We have world famous buildings and structures just about every few steps in our downtown. We love this about our little town because even though it’s a smaller city, it offers so many picture-perfect locations year-round. The city does an excellent job keeping the landscaping fresh and vibrant to match the seasons which can add beautiful elements to your photos.
Some of our favorite spots to stop on a Downtown Columbus engagement session are the Cummins Headquarters, Irwin Office Building, Irwin Gardens, and The Commons.
Check out this Downtown Columbus Session
5) Irwin Gardens
Irwin Gardens is a stately mansion right in the heart of downtown Columbus. The gardens boasts terraces covered in beautiful flowers, fountains, unique statues, quiet sitting areas, and so much more. We love this location because the groundskeepers ensure that it is always looking it’s best.
The gardens are a part of the functioning bed & breakfast and so the hours for visitors to the grounds are limited. The gardens are open to visitors for free on Sundays and Tuesdays from 2-6pm. However, the gardens are not open for free visitation during the winter with the open gardens time ending in October. The grounds are also available to rent for photos at a rate of $100/hour. We actually went this route on our wedding day so we could use the grounds for our first look! I was so glad we did, even though it was probably 96 degrees out on that very hot, humid July day!
Check out this Irwin Garden Session
6) Bonus: Brown County State Park
We love Brown County State Park for all session types and weddings but we especially love it for engagement sessions. We have had the opportunity to do a significant amount of engagement sessions at Brown County State Park during different seasons and have learned some of the best locations and times to shoot at the park.
This state park features the stunning rolling hills, or midwestern “mountains”, that give the photos a feel of being somewhere in the mountains while just being about 20 minutes outside of Columbus, Indiana. Even when the park is packed, which it typically is in the fall when leave change, it’s still possible to get great photos all over the park without having a lot of people in your photo.
There is a $5 entry fee to the park that goes to maintaining the grounds and keeping them beautiful for all of us. Otherwise, the park is pretty simple with hours dawn to dusk.
Check out this Brown County State Park Session
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