Columbia is the capital city and second largest city in South Carolina. It is in the approximate geographic center of the state, and was one of the first planned cities of the United States. It is also home to the main campus of the University of South Carolina, and to the Army's Fort Jackson.
Located in close proximity to two seemingly forever-growing metros, Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina, Columbia's recent rapid growth indicates South Carolina's capital city is beginning to blossom as other Southern cities have in the 21st century. As of 2018, estimates for the population of the city is 133,000, with an urban core population of about 550,000, and 833,000 in the metro area.
Columbia is easily reached by Interstate 20, Interstate 26 and Interstate 77, or by U.S. Highway 1.
- 1 Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE IATA) (7.5 miles southwest of downtown). There are non-stop flights to Columbia Metropolitan Airport from the following cities (some cities may be seasonal or only offer service certain days of the week): Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Newark, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
To get from the airport to downtown using public transport, Comet Bus Route #28 operates weekday-only service from the Midland Tech Airport campus, a few blocks from the airport. The bus leaves 3 times per day: at 7:39AM, 1:04PM, and 4:59PM. The journey downtown costs $1.50 and takes 30 minutes.
An Amtrak station is located at 850 Pulaski Street in the Vista. Columbia sits on the main north-south line on the East Coast. Trains depart daily for Miami and New York; however, most of the trains pass though Columbia at night and are frequently delayed.
Most people use a car to get around Columbia, but more pedestrian-friendly areas of the city include downtown, The Vista, the University Hill/USC area, and Five Points. There is bus service around town provided by provided by CMRTA. It is generally geared towards locals rather than tourists. In 2017 however, the city began a free bus route called the Soda Cap Connector, which provides bus transit between downtown hotspots. Taxi service is also available 24/7 if you call in advance, and can usually be hailed on the street in Five Points and The Vista at night. Columbia also has an active Uber and Lyft population.
Siebels House and Garden One of the best gardens in the city. It's free to walk through and surrounds the oldest house in Columbia.
- 1 Fort Jackson (off I-77; non-military-affiliated civilians must enter through gate 4 on Boyden Arbor Rd, Exit 13 Decker Blvd going north or Exit 15 Percival Rd going south). Fort Jackson is one of the major draws of visitors to Columbia. Essentially, there are three types of visitors to Fort Jackson: 1. the miserable private going through Basic Combat Training; 2. friends and family of graduating basic trainees; 3. A.I.T. (Advanced Individual Training) students. For those visiting for B.C.T graduation, graduation will be held at Hilton Field or, in the case of inclement weather, the Solomon Center. You should not surprise the soldier you're visiting, because he/she must report whether he/she is going home with a family member or by government expense. Failure to alert your soldier will cause him/her to be required to leave on government transportation. Furthermore, leave contact info with your soldier, so his/her drill sergeants can alert you to any changes in plans.
- 2 Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, 1615 Blanding Street, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-3PM; Su 1-4PM. One of the few houses left from antebellum Columbia, it was built in 1818 and has many authentic furnishings. For house: adults $5; age 65+, college students and military $4, ages 6-17 $3.
- 3 South Carolina Statehouse, 1100 Gervais St, ☏ . With a copper dome and bronze stars marking places where Sherman's cannonballs struck, the Statehouse is well worth the trip for fans of history and architecture alike. Though the Confederate flag no longer flies on the top of the dome, it stands atop a memorial directly in front of the building at the intersection of Gervais and Main. The grounds include several monuments and a small Italianate rose garden.
- 4 Riverbanks Zoo, 500 Wildlife Parkway (Located about a mile outside of downtown, and easily accessible by Interstate 126). Riverbanks Zoo has grown tremendously in the past decade. Recent additions include a gorilla habitat and koala bears donated from their native Queensland. Considered to be in the top ten US zoos, it has the added benefit of being small enough for those with difficulty walking to manage. Children will enjoy the petting zoo, pony rides, and demonstrations.
- 5 South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais Street (near the corner of Huger and Gervais (US 1) streets in a renovated textile mill), ☏ , ✉ PublicRelations@scmuseum.org. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1-5PM. Open Mondays Memorial Day through Labor Day. This museum is often visited by South Carolina school groups, and tourists on rainy days. Children may enjoy the hands-on exhibits, but parents will note that this place is long on reproductions and short on explanations. Come prepared for lessons on history, geography, industry, and economics. The gift shop has many South Carolina themed items.
- 7 Edventure Children's Museum, 211 Gervais St (located right near the State Museum), ☏ . Lots of fun for those with small children.
- 8 Columbia Museum of Art, ☏ . South Carolina's premier international art museum has 25 galleries of extraordinary collections of European, American and Asian fine and decorative art that span centuries. The museum's collection includes masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance through the 18th century from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, a strong collection of European and American furniture and decorative arts, as well as modern and contemporary art, art glass, and 20th-century design. Of particular interest are Sandro Botticelli's Nativity, Canaletto’s View of the Molo, Claude Monet's The Seine at Giverny, and art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The museum’s collection of Asian art and Antiquities has grown through generous gifts to the collection, including an impressive collection of Korean and Chinese ceramics and Roman portrait heads. The museum also offers changing exhibitions from renowned museums and educational programs that include group and public tours, lectures, films, and concert series. The Museum Shop is open during museum hours.
- 9 Thomas Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home.
- South Carolina Gamecocks, Rice Athletics Center, 1304 Heyward St. (central ticket office), ☏ , toll-free: . M–F 8:30AM–5PM. One of Columbia's great institutions is University of South Carolina sports. The Gamecocks compete in 9 men's and 12 women's sports, almost all in the Southeastern Conference. As with most large schools, their hot-button sports are traditionally football and men's basketball, although their most nationally competitive have been women's basketball (in which they routinely lead the entire NCAA in attendance, and often outdraw the men) and baseball. Most athletic facilities are on campus, with the best-known venues being Williams-Brice Stadium (football), Colonial Life Arena (both basketball teams), and Founders Park (baseball).
- Nickelodeon, 1607 Main Street, ☏ . For independent film in Columbia, this is your place. Also has several film festivals throughout the year and is a comfortable movie theater.
- Kayaking. Columbia has some of the best kayaking available in an urban area in the US. Put in the Saluda River at north end of the Riverbanks Zoo parking lot, get out in the Congaree just past the Gervais Street bridge, on either side.
- St Patrick Day Festival An Irish celebration that is in Five Points. Features an elaborate parade. There's a wide variety of family entertainment like petting zoos and rides for kids. There's three stages of music by local and national musicians, and great food from local restaurants and caterers.
- 1 Melton Memorial Observatory, 1429 Greene St. (Greene St at Bull St on the University of South Carolina campus, across from Russell House), ☏ . M 9:30-11:30PM. The Melton Observatory is open to the public every Monday night when the sky is clear. Drop by to see planets, stars, nebulae, or whatever else is visible in the night sky. Free.
- Ganden Kadampa Buddhist Center, 1202 Main St. #200, ☏ . Ganden Buddhist Center is a great place to learn about meditation and Buddhism. The Center is right across from the state capitol building and offers classes nearly every day of the week.
- Three Rivers Greenway (Riverfront Park) (Along both sides of the Congaree River). This series of trails is popular with joggers, dog walkers, bikers, skaters, etc. One can walk along almost the entire riverfront on the east and west sides of the river. Access via Laurel Street or Gervais Street. Beautiful views of the 3 rivers (Saluda and Broad combine to form the Congaree).
- Five Points, 532 Congaree Avenue. District of Columbia that features a wide selection of primairly locally-owned shops and boutiques, including a unique bookstore and music store. A must-visit for shoppers in Columbia.
- Dutch Square Mall, 421 Bush River Rd. Older, smaller mall that is good for bargain hunters at stores such as Burlington Coat Factory.
- 1 Richland Mall (formerly Midtown at Forest Acres), 3400 Forest Dr. Upscale shopping center including stores such as Belk, Barnes & Noble, and a Regal Cinemas.
- 2 Columbiana Centre, 100 Columbiana Circle, 29212 (Off Harbison Blvd). Columbia's largest shopping mall, anchor stores include Sears, Belk, Dillard's and J.C. Penney
- 3 Columbia Place Mall, 7201 Two Notch Road, 29223 (Off Parklane Road), ☏ . Mid-market mall on Columbia's north-central side, including Sears, Burlington Coat Factory and the only Macy's department store in the region
Some of the most popular restaurants include, the Blue Marlin, which features seafood prepared in the South Carolina Lowcountry tradition; Dianne's on Devine, an upscale fine dining restaurant offering Italian dishes; the Hampton Street Vineyard, best known for its extensive selection in fine wines; and SakiTumi Grill & Sushi, which specializes in Pacific Rim cuisine. In all, Columbia offers over 450 dining options. Terra in the West Bank/State St. area in West Columbia is a new upscale eatery that has caught the attention of locals.
- Rockaway's, 2719 Rosewood Drive. 11:30AM-midnight. Columbia Institution, best burgers in town and pimiento cheese fries. It's an unassuming brick building with metal shutters on Rosewood across from the Rite Aid. The service sucks and the wait staff is lacking but that is part of the experience. under $10.
Passable regional chain restaurants have locations in and near town, including Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Mellow Mushroom Pizza, Moe's Southwest Grill, Atlanta Bread Co, Firehouse Subs and Sonic Drive-In (many 24-hr).
Other cheap eats include:
- Blue Cactus, 2002 Greene St. #H (Five Points, next to Pavlov's Bar and Salty Nut restaurant), ☏ . Tu-Th 11AM-3PM, 5-9PM; Sa noon-9PM. A sassy, quirky slow-food cafe serving up Korean and Tex-Mex food, with an impressive hot sauce collection. Family run with lots of character. under $10.
- Beezer's, 919 Sumter St. #B (USC campus, across from the Horseshoe), ☏ . Undergrad guilty pleasure, features cheap salads and variety of simple but decent subs. Open late, usually until 3AM, also delivers. under $10.
- Groucho's Deli, 611 Harden St. (Five Points, across from Sharky's Bar and Red Hot Tomatoes). Original store of the mainly S.C.-based chain, serves liberally decorated deli sandwiches with tart dipping sauces. around $10.
- Delhi Palace, 1029 Briargate Cir (On Broad River Rd just off I-20), ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM; F Sa 11:30AM-10:30PM. Those in the know visit for the inexpensive but tasty Indian buffet.
- Nonnah's, 930 Gervais St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-2PM, 5-11PM; F Sa 6PM-12:30AM. Quirky drinking establishment is famous for its desserts.
- Pasta Fresca, 3405 Forest Dr. M-Th 11AM-9PM; F Sa 11AM-10PM; Su 5-9PM. Large portions of superior Italian fare at reasonable prices make this one popular with people who dine out for food rather than linen tablecloths.
- Yesterday's, 2030 Devine St, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-midnight; F Sa 11:30AM-1:30AM. Good moderately priced restaurant. Mostly American and Southern food. One of the more fun places to go in Five Points, with a large beer selection and plentiful food for a reasonable price.
Columbia has a diverse, extensive array of restaurants to choose from, most notably those in the historic Congaree Vista district, Five Points, and along Devine Street.
- Blue Marlin, 1200 Lincoln St (In the Vista), ☏ . Su 11:30AM-9PM; M-Th 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5-10PM; F 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5-11PM; Sa 4-11PM. One of the better seafood restaurants in Columbia, Blue Marlin specializes in Lowcountry style seafood such as shrimp and grits as well as she-crab soup.
- California Dreaming, 401 Main St, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM; F Sa 11AM-11PM. Good service; excellent salads and steaks, in addition to good desserts and a nice bar.
- Ristorante Divino, 803 Gervais St (in the Vista), ☏ . Su-Th 5-10PM; F Sa 5-11PM. Fabulous Northern Italian cuisine. Wine cellar on premises. Jackets recommended. Reservations are suggested.
- Hampton Street Vineyard, 1201 Hampton St, ☏ . M-F 11:30AM-2PM, 6-10PM; Sa 6-10PM. Outstanding food selection. Also has an excellent wine service and good service in general. Reservations are recommended for the restaurant is fairly small inside and is pretty popular.
- Mr. Friendly’s, 2001-A Greene St, ☏ . M-Th 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5:30-10PM; F 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5:30-10:30PM; Sa 5:30-10:30PM. People dress up to visit the celebrated (and busy) Mr. Friendly’s, known for its meaty Southern cuisine.
- Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar, 814-4 Sparkleberry Lane (in the Sandhills/Northeast), ☏ . Su-Th 5-10PM; F Sa 5-11PM. Describes itself as "New American," with an internationalist approach to Southern delicacies, Solstice is a trendy and professional restaurant in the Northeast. Owned by the same owner as the venerable Mr. Friendly's.
- Terra, 100 State St., West Columbia (in the West Bank), ☏ . Tu-Sa 5-11PM. Winner 2008 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Makes a strong effort to support local farmers and uses as many locally grown ingredients as possible.
- Five Points. Located around the intersection of Harden Street, Greene Street and Saluda Avenue, this neighborhood has numerous bars and eateries catering to the University of South Carolina students. It gets especially boisterous on Thursday nights. There are a few bars in this area that you'll find a more mature crowd and not so much the college scene. Places such as Speakeasy, BarNone, and Group Therapy generally cater to the recently graduated drinkers.
- The Vista. For the more mature crowd, dozens of bars and restaurants centered on the corner of Lincoln and Gervais. Carolina Ale House Rooftop Bar and Wild Wing Cafe make for a great place to go and watch sporting events as well as some great live music. Blue Tapas Bar and Cocktail Lounge is a good place for a special occasion outing with great service and really good drink specials during the week.
- 1 Comfort Inn & Suites (Comfort Inn & Suites Ft. Jackson Main Gate), 7337 Garner's Ferry Road (Exit 9 off of I-77), ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Comfortable hotel with a exercise room, pool, and free wi-fi connection.
- 2 Embassy Suites Columbia - Greystone, 200 Stoneridge Drive, ☏ . Just off of Interstate 126.
- 3 Graduate Columbia (formerly Inn at USC), 1619 Pendleton Street, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 4 Hilton Columbia Center, 924 Senate Street, ☏ . This hotel is in the Vista in walking distance of bars, restaurants, the State Museum, the Convention Center, and the central business district. It is a 4 diamond-rated AAA hotel and the on-site restaurant is Ruth's Chris.
- 5 Holiday Inn Express Harbison, 211 Lanneau Court (Junction I-26 and Harbison Blvd (Exit 103)), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Amenities include free breakfast, free internet, a business center and a fitness center. Microwave and refrigerator in each guest room. Free pass to Gold's Gym, across the street from Columbiana mall, directly next door to Bailey's Sports Grill and Carmike movie theater
- 6 Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel, 1400 Main Street, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Located in an architecturally pleasing building, but that's about the only good view of the hotel - the area surrounding the hotel essentially offers views of parking garages. Located in the central downtown area of Columbia.
- 7 Staybridge Suites Columbia, 1911 Huger St, toll-free: . Extended-stay suites. Free breakfast, 24-hour fitness center, indoor pool. Free internet, free evening reception Monday - Thursday, business center. Spacious guest rooms offer a fully equipped kitchen (microwave, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, cooking utensils), flat screen TV and free internet.
- 10 Congaree National Park, 100 National Park Rd, ☏ , fax: . The Harry Hampton Visitor Center is open from 8:30AM until 5PM. During daylight savings time (DST), the Harry Hampton Visitor Center will be open until 7PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Located about twenty miles south of the city, Congaree National Park, the nation's newest, doesn't even have admission gates yet, leaving you the pleasure of federally-protected landscape without the price. One of the last old-growth forests in the southeast, the swamp actually isn't a swamp at all, but a floodplain of the nearby Congaree River. Wild pigs, deer, turkey, alligators, and other wildlife abound; the largest cypresses in the world are located here. The cypress knees and tupelo trees create something that looks like a set of Lord of the Rings. The boardwalk is several miles long and handicapped accessible; the park contains great hiking trails and even the opportunity for canoeing (rent in Columbia). The visitor's center has useful information and a helpful staff, but if you're planning on returning to your car after five, be sure to leave it in the overnight parking lot near the entrance of the park. Entrance and tours are free.
|Routes through Columbia|
|Raleigh ← Southern Pines ←||N S||→ Savannah → Orlando|
|Augusta ← Lexington ←||W E||→ Jct N S → Florence → END|
|Asheville ← Spartanburg ←||N S||→ Orangeburg → Charleston|
|Charlotte ← Rock Hill ←||N S||→ END|
|Raleigh ← Rockingham ←||N S||→ Lexington → Augusta|
|Anderson ← Belton ←||W E||→ Sumter → Wilmington|
|Johnson City ← York ←||N S||→ Hardeeville → END|
|Athens via ← Lexington ←||W E||→ Sumter → Conway|