Skyline of Downtown Columbia

Skyline of Downtown Columbia SC
Credit: wikipedia

View of Columbia SC from Finley Park.

Ask any native from Columbia,  SC about great things to do and you'll surely get an eye roll.  The exasperation doesn't come from locals thinking there isn't anything to do, it comes from knowing what isn't there to do here.  Columbia, the state capital and largest city in the state of South Carolina, packs a little punch for being such a minor blip on the southeastern radar.  From the Carolina games to the awesome parties, there are always plenty of things to do and enjoy here.  Since you're visiting, I'll share with you some of the city's hottest spots, biggest events, and top to-do's for both locals and tourists.

Columbia has several hot districts, so lets focus on the five hottest areas of attraction.  There's a lot activities, restaurants, and shopping in many of these areas.   Some are known for their big annual events and others are just little known spots to kick back and enjoy yourselves with family and friends.  Whether you're into the nightlife or  southern history, you'll be able to satisfy those interests and many more.

Columbia and Surrounding Areas

Columbia, SC

Map of the City of Columbia and Columbia suburban areas.

The Five Hottest Areas of Attraction:

1) The Vista

Being an alum of good ole' Carolina, I'll say that if you're into partying, the Vista has you covered.  This area boasts some of the hottest nightclubs near the university and is known best as the old warehouse district of Columbia.  The Vista is also home to many thriving and eclectic businesses that are inhabitants of some of the old railroad stations and textile mills of the area.  If you're looking for family things to do the SC State Museum, Children's Museum, and EdVenture is in this area right off of Harden Street. 

2) Five Points

Five Points is another area that USC students like to frequent and is home to great local pubs, bars, and restaurants.  If you're into the bohemian chic vibe, there are plenty of specialty shops and restaurants that will tickle your fancy.  If you're into huge crowds and a good brew, join the fun at the annual St. Patty's Day events in March and be ready to see green for days. 

3) Main Street

Main street puts the hip into downtown.  This is the area where residents enjoy small city life in their condos and are within walking distance to great nightlife, southern cuisine, and after work fun.  You'll also find the State House on Main where you'll enjoy walking the beautiful grounds.  You'll also be just a few minutes from the University of South Carolina, which is pretty much the rest of the downtown area.

4) Harbison

Harbison is part of Lexington County and includes the small, but lovely areas of St. Andrews and Irmo.  This area provides the perfect suburban vibe with endless shopping and dining options.  Harbison is home to Columbiana Mall, one of the first things you'll see traveling down I-26 from Upstate SC, and the awesome Saluda Shoals Park. 

5.  The Village at Sandhill

The Villages are relatively new, but are growing rapidly.  There's a great sense of community there since many people are flocking out there to live, play, dine, and have fun.  Similar to other popular areas popping up in metro's around the country, this area features great shopping and residential areas all within in a skip, hop, and jump from each other.

Five Big Events in Columbia, SC

Before I get into a list of things to do, let's look at some of the biggest events hosted by some of the areas mentioned above. [1]

1.  St Patty's Day[2]

As mentioned earlier, St. Patty's Day is a BIG deal in Five Points every year.  Approximately 40,000 people cram their way into the small area sporting green and looking to have a good time.  There's a huge street festival, vendors, a parade, and beer of course.  If you're into green and beer, this particular day in Columbia could a good one for you.

2.  Irmo Okra Strut[2][3]

Every year, the little town of Irmo (Harbison Area) hosts the Okra Strut that's complete with all kinds of good fun. The event is held in the Irmo Village Shopping Center, however Irmo really isn't that big. I've just recently learned that it's best not to leave the house to head over yonder when folks are over there strutting their okra and stuff.  The strut began in 1973 as a fundraiser for the Lake Murray-Irmo Women's Club to raise money for a new library and it turned into this huge festival of over 100 artist, folks eating okra, contests, and entertainment.   If you don't know what an okra is maybe you should come and see what all the fuss is about.

3.  SC State Fair[2]

Way back in 1869, the State Fair began showcasing exhibits, food, and fun. [4] Held every October, folks from all over South Carolina come down for awesome entertainment, fried cookies, and all other kinds of greasy what-nots.   The kids get excited when there's a little nip in the air and it gets closer to Fall because they are well aware that candy apples and Ferris wheel rides are right around the corner. 

4.  Carolina Home Games

SEC football is a HUGE deal here.  People take their football seriously and if you're lucky enough to join us here during football seasons you'll see on any given Saturday folks driving down I-26, I-77, or I-20 with Gamecock football flags on top of their cars. If it happens to be home game time against our rival, Clemson, the city is shut down.  Not seriously, but seriously.  Again, football is huge here.  That is definitely worth repeating.

Things To Do Here

Now that you know we don't just sit around, drink sweet tea, and say "hey ya'll", I'll give you what I believe are a some of the best things to do here in Columbia, SC.

1.  Go canoeing at Saluda Shoals Park.

2. Play with lions, tigers, and bears at Riverbanks Zoo.

3.  Take a tour at SC State Museum.

4. Take your kids to EdVenture.

5. Visit Lake Murray.

6.  Take a Carriage Tour with Columbia Carriage Works.

7.  Enjoy a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at Finley Park.

8.  Get some history at McKissick Museum.

9. Go to a Carolina game.

10.  Take a Southern Patriot cruise on Lake Murray.

11.  Go and pretend to be scared on a Spirits and Spectres ghost tour.

12.  Get some culture at the Kroger Center for the Arts.

13.  Go to a basketball game or concert at the Colonial Life Arena.

14.  Get a good laugh, drink, and bite to eat at The Comedy House.

15.  Enjoy a show, concert, or play at the Township Auditorium.

16.  Enjoy some diabetic goodness at Cupcake in The Vista (seriously those cupcakes are very rich so beware!).

17.  Grab some chicken, okra, and sweet tea from Lizard's Thicket, kick your feet up, and enjoy the southern summer heat.

Now that's what you can look forward to if you join us here in Columbia, SC.   Join us sometime.