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The 20 Best Things To Do In Columbia, South Carolina

Our complete guide to the capital of the Palmetto State.

visit columbia south carolina

  • Food & Drink
  • Sporting Events

Columbia Culture

The great outdoors.

Courtesy of the University of South Carolina

When it comes to South Carolina’s regions, the Lowcountry and its beaches, live oaks, and coastal retreats tend to top most travelers’ lists. And while Charleston , Hilton Head , and Beaufort —among other smaller cities and towns—are definitely worth a visit, the 32,000-square-mile state also has plenty more to offer if you head inland. The capital, Columbia, lies squarely in the heart of South Carolina, in the region known as the Midlands. “Columbia is one of the few destinations where you can go to the mountains for sunrise and the beach for sunset,” says Tanya Black, the general manager of Graduate Columbia . 

The city’s location may be convenient to other parts of the state, but Columbia has its own unique appeal and distinct characteristics. “It’s the perfect mix of small-town charm and Southern hospitality while still having a rich and exciting city center,” Black adds. In historic downtown Columbia, you’ll find the lush, leafy University of South Carolina campus. Cheering on the Gamecocks during football season—unless you’re a fan of a rival team, of course—is an exciting way to spend a Saturday. Just don’t forget to wear your black and garnet.

Even if you’re not interested in college sports, Columbia’s options are vast and varied. “Columbia is fun, relaxing, growing, [and it] has lots of entertainment and other amazing events in the city to keep you busy,” says Kiki Cyrus, owner of Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles . “There is always something to do.” From barbecue and beer to museum tours and walks along the Congaree River, here are the best things to do when visiting Columbia, according to locals. 

Food & Drink

Courtesy of smallSUGAR

Order Your Favorite Caffeinated Beverage at Drip

Make your way to the Five Points neighborhood for a cup of coffee at one of the city’s best coffee shops. Along with a robust drink menu (which includes espresso drinks, matcha lattes, and hot chocolate), Drip also has breakfast and lunch offerings—perfect for grabbing something quick in the morning or keeping your energy up during the day. 

dripcolumbia.com , 729 Saluda Ave, Columbia, SC 29205

Enjoy Something Sweet at smallSUGAR 

If your sweet tooth requires a pre or post-coffee treat, a baked good from smallSUGAR should do the trick. “Their pastries, particularly their almond croissants, are incredible. It’s definitely a hidden gem,” says David Dickson, the public relations manager at the South Carolina State Museum. 

smallsugarsc.com , 709 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201

Get Your Taste Bud Bearings With a Food Tour

Like in most Southern cities, Columbia’s culinary scene takes center stage. If you’re only visiting for a few days (and still want to fit in as many bites as possible), Black says a walking food tour will ensure you can “try all of the delicious Southern cuisine options the city has to offer.” The Main Street Food Tour includes stops at five to seven downtown restaurants and occurs most Saturdays at 1:45 pm.

Reserve a Table at Terra

If you’re looking for a slightly elevated but still comforting meal, snag a reservation at Terra . “Chef Mike Davis cooks some of the best food in the city, and really anything at his restaurant won't disappoint,” says Josh Cox, the owner of Bricker & Beam , a custom furniture business in Columbia. “My personal go-to is always the Steak Frites.”

terrasc.com , 100 State Street, West Columbia, SC 29169 

Load Up on Barbecue 

No matter where you go in South Carolina, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find top-tier barbecue. Options in Columbia are extensive, but you can’t go wrong with Doc’s Barbeque , The War Mouth , or Little Pigs Barbecue .

docsbarbeque.com , 1601 Shop Road, Columbia, SC 29201

thewarmouth.com , 1209 Franklin St, Columbia, SC 29201

littlepigs.biz , 4927 Alpine Rd, Columbia, SC 29223 

Tuck Into a Plate of Soul Food

If you prefer fried chicken to barbecue—or want to try both during your visit—head to Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles . With a menu that includes honey wings, fried okra, grits, and a red velvet waffle, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling satisfied and full. “Try our Chicken and Waffles or the Kiki's Soul Food Plate,” says Cyrus. 

kikischickenandwaffles.com , 7001 Parklane Rd, Columbia, SC 29223

1260 Bower Pkwy A8, Columbia, SC 29212

Have a Sip at One of Columbia’s Best Breweries

Columbia has a rich craft beer scene, and its many breweries are the perfect places to celebrate happy hour or cool off in the thick summer heat. Not sure which ones to try? Add Columbia Craft Brewing Company and Hunter-Gatherer Brewery to your beer bucket list. 

columbiacraft.com , 520 Greene Street, Columbia, SC 29201 huntergathererbrewery.com , 900 Main Street, Columbia, SC 29201

Columbia’s Sporting Events

Courtesy of University of South Carolina Athletics Department

Attend a South Carolina Night Football Game  

During football season, don your school colors and prepare your voice to root for the Gamecocks. According to Cox, “Columbia is the capital city, but it's really dominated by the University, so night games at Williams-Brice [Stadium] are something the whole city gets into.” “Even if you’re not a University of South Carolina fan, the atmosphere… is thrilling,” says Dickson. 

gamecocksonline.com , 1125 George Rogers Blvd, Columbia, SC 29201

Cheer on the USC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Teams 

Basketball is taken seriously in Columbia, particularly at Colonial Life Arena , the state’s largest arena. “The atmosphere of Columbia on a game day is truly unmatched and something that is exciting and inspiring to be around,” says Black. “The USC Women’s Basketball games are the best, and we are on the way to winning our third National Championship,” adds Cyrus. 

coloniallifearena.com , 801 Lincoln St, Columbia, SC 29201

Courtesy of Soda Market Facebook

Stroll the Main Street District

If walking is your favorite way to explore a new city, don’t forget to visit Columbia’s Main Street District . Spread out over 36 blocks, the area features several restaurants—including Bourbon and Market on Main —and places to shop. Depending on the timing of your visit, you may get to experience some of the neighborhood’s exciting events. “I always look forward to First Thursdays on Main , where there is always a new mix of artwork to look at and buy, food to try, [and] music to listen to,” says Black. 

Spend a Saturday Morning at Soda City Market

To “see what Columbia is all about,” says Cyrus, spend a few hours at Soda City Market . “Every Saturday, Main Street transforms into a bustling street market filled with local artisans, food vendors, and South Carolina farmers,” explains Dickson. “Everything sold there is unique, handcrafted, and produced in the Southeast. I’ve been to lots of other cities with big farmer’s markets and street markets, but no one does it as well as Columbia.” Cox added Soda City Market to his Columbia favorites as well: “A bonus here is that once it ends, there are several good restaurants in the area for lunch."

Visit the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

If you’re bringing the whole family to Columbia, you’ll want to pack your itinerary with activities travelers of all ages can enjoy. Cyrus describes Riverbanks Zoo & Garden as “one of South Carolina’s top destination attractions,” as it features more than 3,000 animals and ​​more than 5,700 exotic and native plants. 

riverbanks.org , 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia SC 29210 

Soak Up Collegiate Nostalgia on Campus

Columbia claims the University of South Carolina and its green spaces as its own. Even if your college years are in the past, you can still feel a bit of that infectious school spirit as you walk through the urban forest that is the main campus. 

Schedule Your Trip Around a Festival

Celebrating is a year-round activity for Columbia’s residents. In the spring, the Rosewood Crawfish Festival comes to town, followed by the Columbia Shrimp and Grits Fest in June. As fall rolls around, the South Carolina State Fair and Jubilee: Festival of Black History & Culture mark the calendar.  

Explore the South Carolina State Museum

“This is the largest museum in the state," says Cyrus. "It's a great place to go to learn the history of South Carolina by seeing all the different exhibits.” The four-floor museum is “dedicated to exploring the cultural history, natural history, art and scientific achievements of the Palmetto State,” says Dickson, and it also features a newly upgraded planetarium, a 4D theater, and an observatory. 

scmuseum.org , 301 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201

Add More Museums to Your Agenda 

“Columbia really punches above its weight in terms of the quality of its museums, even as a state capital,” says Dickson, who also recommends the Columbia Museum of Art at the EdVenture Children’s Museum , “especially if you have little ones.”

columbiamuseum.org , 1515 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201

edventure.org , 211 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201

Courtesy of the National Park Service

Take a Boat Out on Lake Murray

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, “I'd recommend a boating or fishing trip on Lake Murray,” says Cox. For a full-day excursion, rent a pontoon boat —or, if you’re feeling less ambitious (and also want to fit in a workout), rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard . 

Meander Down the City’s Riverwalks 

Columbia is technically a waterfront city—with the Saluda and Broad Rivers meeting downtown to form the Congaree River. “Whether you’re trying to cool down from our ‘famously hot’ weather or taking the dog on a scenic walk, you can’t do wrong with any of the three rivers that flow through Columbia,” says Dickson. “The many beautifully maintained riverwalks across town make for a perfect stroll after lunch or dinner.” 

Practice Your Swing

South Carolina’s reputation as a golfer’s state is strong, with places like Myrtle Beach , Kiawah Island , and Bluffton attracting players from all over the world. Columbia’s public courses include Oak Hills Golf Club and LinRick Golf Course . 

oakhillsgolf.com , 7629 Fairfield Rd, Columbia, SC 29203

linrickgolf.com , 356 Camp Ground Road, Columbia, SC 29203 

Experience Congaree National Park 

South Carolina’s only national park, Congaree National Park , sits about 18 miles from downtown Columbia. Known for its old-growth bottomland hardwood forest (the largest continuous tract left in the country), the park is home to alligators, wild pigs, river otters, and more wildlife. “During certain times of the year there are phosphorescent insects that come together and create beautiful blankets of light across the forest—which I highly recommend checking out,” says Black. 

Explore Columbia

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Plan Your Trip to Columbia: Best of Columbia Tourism

Essential columbia.

visit columbia south carolina

Columbia Is Great For

Self-guided tours.

visit columbia south carolina

Eat & drink

visit columbia south carolina

  • Hyatt Place Columbia / Downtown / The Vista
  • Graduate Columbia, S.C.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Columbia Southeast Ft. Jackson
  • Hotel Trundle
  • Hilton Garden Inn Columbia - Harbison
  • Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
  • Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
  • South Carolina State Museum
  • EdVenture Children's Museum
  • Soda City Market
  • Columbia's Civil War & Street Art: A Self-Guided Audio Tour
  • Columbia SC Crusade Scavenger Hunt
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure in Columbia by Zombie Scavengers
  • Columbia Scavenger Hunt: Capital Culture
  • Fishing Charter

PlanetWare.com

15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Written by Michael J. Solender and Bryan Dearsley Updated Dec 24, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Southern hot spot Columbia, in South Carolina, is steeped in history and culture, and calls to tourists with heritage-filled neighborhoods, beautiful parks, world-class museums, and plenty of fun outdoor adventures. South Carolina's capital city since 1786, Columbia was physically and culturally transformed by the Civil War.

Today, the city is the vibrant home of the University of South Carolina; enjoys a diverse economic landscape fueled by high-tech, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing industries; and has emerged as a contemporary, shining New South city. A favorite place to visit in the southeast for tourists, Columbia is known for its compact, easily navigable streets, as well as its Southern charm, cuisine, and hospitality.

For the best sightseeing opportunities be sure to refer often to our list of the top attractions and things to do in Columbia, South Carolina.

1. Have Some Family Fun at Riverbanks Zoo

2. riverbanks botanical garden, 3. take a free tour of south carolina state house, 4. explore history at the south carolina state museum, 5. take a stroll along columbia canal & riverfront park, 6. see the artworks at columbia museum of art, 7. university of south carolina visitor center, 8. wander the waverly historic district, 9. explore historic columbia: robert mills houses, hampton-preston mansion & woodrow wilson family home, 10. take the kids to edventure children's museum, 11. south carolina confederate relic room & military museum, 12. catch a game at williams—brice stadium, 13. explore the past at south carolina military museum, 14. take in a show at koger center for the arts, 15. congaree national park, where to stay in columbia for sightseeing, map of attractions & things to do in columbia, sc, columbia, sc - climate chart.

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

More than 2,000 creatures make their home at this 170-acre zoo and garden. Especially well-suited for family outings, Riverbanks Zoo is a two-time recipient of the Governor's Cup Award for South Carolina's most outstanding tourist attraction, drawing upwards of a million visitors each year.

Dedicated areas like the Reptile House, Bird Complex, and Petting Zoo make it easy for visitors – particularly the wee ones – to get extra close to various species and learn through interactive exhibits. Want to find out what goes into beekeeping? You'll learn here in a special exhibit. At Riverbanks, you can even feed the giraffes lettuce that is provided for a small fee.

Official site: www.riverbanks.org

Riverbanks Botanical Garden

Be sure to also allocate some time to explore the zoo's Riverbanks Botanical Garden. While entry to this beautiful 70-acre gardens is included with admission to Riverbanks Zoo, it's certainly worth visiting separately if you can spare the time to explore everything there is to see here.

Set on the south bank of the Saluda River and connected to the zoo by a picturesque pedestrian bridge, the gardens are home to over 4,200 different species of exotic and native north American plants, along with numerous exotic examples from overseas. The gardens are easily navigable due to their being laid out by theme, and tours and workshops are available.

Visitors interested in the area's textile history should look out for the self-guided 0.3-mile River Trail . Beginning at the Saluda Bridge and winding along the river to the Saluda Mills Interpretive Center, the trail provides a close-up view of the first water-powered textile mills in South Carolina.

Address: 1300 Botanical Pkwy, West Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: www.riverbanks.org/botanical-garden/

South Carolina State House

One of the most visited tourist attractions in the state, the South Carolina Statehouse is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture that was in style during the pre-Civil War period in the South. While construction started in 1851, it wasn't completed until after the war. The highly-regarded design work of John Niernsee, the capital towers 180 feet high, with a patinaed copper dome.

Visitors exploring the vast capitol grounds get a sense for the complex state history here, viewing the Revolutionary War Generals Monument , American-Mexican War Monument , the African-American History Monument , the Confederate Monument , and other statuary honoring George Washington, S.C. Senators, and fallen State Law Enforcement Officers.

Be sure to look for the five stars along the building's exterior highlighting where Union cannonballs struck the façade during the Civil War, before the structure was completed. Free tours take visitors through the impressive inner corridors of the capitol building and provide views of both the state senate and house chambers. Hours vary depending upon when the legislature is in ession.

Address: 1100 Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: www.scstatehouse.gov/visit.php

South Carolina State Museum

Since it opened in 1988, the South Carolina State Museum has established itself as the go-to attraction for those seeking to learn more about this great state's history.

Spread across four floors of a 19th-century mill are a mix of displays of the museum's own collections, as well as rotating exhibits focusing on important events in the state's history, along with stories of its people through the lens of art, culture, science, and technology. There's also a great deal of information regarding natural history, too.

In addition to the exhibits, visitors can enjoy shows in the museum's state-of-the-art planetarium, as well as in its interactive 4D theater. Other highlights include an observatory, the first steam locomotive to be built in the US, as well as an early submarine.

Address: 301 Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: http://scmuseum.org

Gervais Street Bridge, Columbia

Columbia Canal & Riverfront Park is a popular linear urban park running along the Saluda River and the Columbia Canal. Miles of paved paths attract bikers, joggers, and walkers. This is an unusual city park in that it has an outdoor gym with seven pieces of equipment, and you can enjoy a free workout using the lat-pull, vertical press, rower, leg press, and elliptical machines.

Columbia Canal & Riverfront Park

This 14-acre downtown park is wheelchair friendly, and you'll find picnic tables, restrooms, and quiet river views here.

Address: 312 Laurel Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia Museum of Art

With more than 25 galleries and a global collection covering 5,000 years of history, the Columbia Museum of Art is one of the most highly regarded institutions of its kind in the southeast. The museum is a multiple award winner, capturing prestigious National Art Education honors, the Governor's Award for outstanding contribution to the arts in South Carolina, and the National Park Foundation Award.

Worth a special visit is the Press Collection , a world-class assemblage of Renaissance and Baroque art. Florentine master, Sandro Botticelli's Nativity Fresco is the sole such work outside of his native Italy. Impressionist Claude Monet's View of the Seine is considered the collection's crowning jewel.

The museum has an equally impressive American art collection, including works by portraitist Charles Willson Peale, sculptures by Frederic S. Remington, and marble work by Hiram Powers. Early and mid-century American decorative arts are also displayed, including furniture designed by Duncan Phyfe and ceramics by Victor Toothaker.

Address: 1515 Main Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: www.columbiamuseum.org

McKissick Museum in the University of South Carolina Visitor Center

With a sprawling 359-acre campus set close to vibrant downtown Columbia, University of South Carolina (USC) should definitely be included on your travel itinerary. Start your exploration at the university's visitor center. Located a short stroll from downtown attractions such as the Columbia Museum of Art, you can gather information not just about the history of the university, but of fun things to do while exploring.

Topping our list is taking a self-guided walking tour of the campus. Along the way, you'll follow a network of old brick paths and paved trails through the historic "horseshoe," a park-like setting and the original 1801 campus around which are some of the university's most important landmarks, including McCutchen House.

The visitor center is also home to the McKissick Museum, worth visiting for its large collections of cultural artifacts related to the American South. You'll find an excellent interactive map of this easy-to-follow tour on the university's official website.

Address: 1501 Pendleton St, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: https://sc.edu/visit/

Waverly Historic District

This self-guided walking tour takes visitors in and around Columbia's first suburb: Waverly. The community is well known as a diverse enclave encouraging black artistry, craftsmen and women, professionals, and social activists. Roughly bound by Hampton, Heidt, Gervais, and Hayden Streets, the neighborhood today is home to Benedict College and Allen University. These two widely acclaimed historically black colleges provided higher education during the time of segregation in the South.

Other highlights of the tour include Bishop's Memorial AME Church, built in 1885 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places . You'll also see Daddy Grace's Parsonage, Heidt-Russell House, and the Waverly Five & Dime, along with Carpenter's Hall and Carver Theater.

Check the official website link below for the full walking tour itinerary.

Address: 2222 Washington St, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: www.historiccolumbia.org/online-tours/waverly

Woodrow Wilson Family Home

Three of Columbia's most historic homes are lovingly restored and open for tours made available by Historic Columbia, a non-profit preservation organization.

Robert Mills House and Gardens was built in 1825 in the Classic Revival style as a private residence by Robert Mills, the designer of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Saved from the wrecking-ball in 1961, the home reopened as a historic museum and features an extensive collection of period pieces and decorative arts furnishings, many in the American Federal and French Empire styles. The gardens were a late post-restoration addition in the 60s and are in the classic English style.

The Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens has enjoyed many prior lives. Built in 1818 as a private residence and home to the prominent Hampton family, it went on to serve as a Union Army Headquarters during the Civil War and subsequently the Governor's Mansion. The home is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Antebellum Gardens surrounding the four-acre grounds were designed by former owners and mother-daughter duo of Mary A. Hampton and Caroline H. Preston.

The Woodrow Wilson Family Home is the only presidential site in South Carolina. This Italianate-villa-style manse was the boyhood home of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States. Exhibits, vignettes, and backstories tell about "Tommy," as Wilson was then known, and provide an early narrative (circa 1871) to the history of this great American.

Address: Historic Columbia, 1601 Richland Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: www.historiccolumbia.org

Play equipment outside the EdVenture Children's Museum

From the moment you step into EdVenture Children's Museum, you realize this is a special, one-of-a-kind attraction. Here, fun adventure awaits, with hands-on exhibits enhancing the experience for kids and adults alike. Eddie, the world's largest child, greets everyone upon arrival to the main atrium. The perpetually ten-year-old boy is 40-feet tall and weighs more than 17.5 tons. His wide grin and encouraging nature encourages kids to climb over and through his giant frame.

Dedicated exhibits include Wags and Whiskers, a simulated pet care lab, where the kids can learn about grooming and caring for their four-legged friends, here in plush-toy form. Marketworks is a fun and imaginative inventor's lab, where young tinkerers (age five and up) use blocks, Lego, and kid-friendly tools to work on various projects.

World of Work shows the young ones what may await them as they grow older and enter the workplace. They can visit (and climb upon) a real fire engine at Dalmatian Station, stock the shelves at the Neighborhood Market, and get behind the wheel of a tractor. Planet Putt & Play engages children of all ages using math and geometry combined with indoor miniature golf to conquer this tricky course.

Carousel Café has plenty of favorite child-friendly snacks and meals including mac 'n' cheese, burritos, and hot dogs.

Address: 211 Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: http://edventure.org/

US Civil War memorabilia

The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum is the third-oldest museum in South Carolina and tells the story of the state's military history from the Revolutionary War though the present-day war on terrorism.

Much of the collection focuses upon the Civil War and shares a vast and well-preserved grouping of uniforms, guns, medical gear, memorabilia, and artifacts that help tell the story of the "War between the States." More than simply remnants, the detailed letters, manuscripts, ledgers, and written documentation paint a graphic picture of life during the war.

The museum is established and maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution .

Official site: https://crr.sc.gov/

Williams—Brice Stadium

Famous as the home turf for the Gamecocks, the University of South Carolina's football team, Williams—Brice Stadium has been a fixture for sports fans in the South since 1934.

Located adjacent to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds, this state-of-the-art, fully renovated stadium hosts full crowds of upwards of 80,000 fans on game day and usually sells out in advance, so plan ahead if you're wanting to catch a game.

The stadium also regularly hosts rock and pop concerts, with such legends as U2 and Paul McCartney having performed here.

Address: 1174 George Rogers Boulevard; Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: https://gamecocksonline.com/feature/williams-brice-stadium

South Carolina Military Museum

A visit to the South Carolina Military Museum is definitely one of the top things to do for free in Columbia for history buffs. Formerly the National Guard Museum, the museum features a large collection of uniforms and artifacts related to the state's military importance.

A number of vintage vehicles are on display, along with a large collection of weapons dating from the pre-Civil War period. Interesting displays reveal a timeline of military history, along with background material and photos.

While the museum can easily be enjoyed with a self-guided tour, hour-long guided tours are also available with advance notice.

Address: 1 National Guard Road, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: www.scmilitarymuseum.com

Koger Center for the Arts

Located on the grounds of University of South Carolina, the Koger Center for the Arts has been providing world-class entertainment to students, visitors, and locals alike since it opened in 1988. Featuring an auditorium capacity of 2,256, it's a regular stop for everything from hit Broadway musicals to music stars and rock bands.

It's also the permanent home of the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra and Columbia City Ballet, both of which feature a rich year-round program of performances. The venue's location in Columbia's designated arts and entertainment district means it's close to numerous dining experiences.

Address: 1051 Greene Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Official site: https://kogercenterforthearts.com

Congaree National Park

Low-country outdoor splendor is on full display at the 26,000-plus acre Congaree National Park, where the nutrient-rich Congaree and Wateree rivers overflow onto the floor of this low-lying hardwood forest.

A good first stop here is the Hampton Visitors Center, where you can pick up trail, canoe, and kayak maps, chat with a ranger, and learn about the amazing biodiversity of one of the tallest deciduous forests in the world. The average tree canopy height is well over 100 feet tall. The center has some small yet interesting exhibits, along with scale models and a Junior Ranger Program to make the visit extra fun for the kids.

The nearby 2.5-mile Boardwalk trail will keep your feet clean and dry as you hike out into the hardwoods. Marked rails show numbers corresponding with your map providing descriptions of the park's ecology. You'll want sturdy boots and hiking gear on any of the other trails, as the lowlands can be wet and muddy. Cedar Creek flows through the center of the park and is well suited for canoeing and kayaking.

The park doesn't offer rentals, so you'll want to bring your own gear or check out a local outfitter . Some of the best can also organize tours at Cedar Creek and other nearby water attractions such as the Saluda River, Broad River, and Lake Murray.

Address: 100 National Park Road, Hopkins, South Carolina

Official site: www.nps.gov/cong/index.htm

If you're planning on spending vacation time – or perhaps a romantic couples' getaway – in Columbia South Carolina, be sure to check out these top-rated hotels first:

Luxury Hotels :

  • A favorite for those seeking a luxury hotel stay in South Carolina's capital, Hilton Columbia Center features exquisitely decorated rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows, an on-site steakhouse, plus a 24-hour fitness center.
  • A contemporary feel is very much the in-thing at the high-end Hyatt Place Columbia / Downtown / The Vista , which offers its guests not just a great central location close to museums and shops, but also bright modern rooms with plenty of living space, and pullouts.
  • The Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel is another reputable luxury hotel and features a mix of rooms and suites with classy fixtures and high ceilings, along with an on-site restaurant and a rooftop lounge.

Mid-Range Hotels :

  • For a great quality boutique hotel experience in the heart of downtown Columbia, consider staying at the trendy Hotel Trundle , featuring classy rooms with kitchenettes, plus a great free continental breakfast.
  • Although at the higher-end of the mid-range pricing level, the SpringHill Suites Columbia Downtown/The Vista is worth checking out for hotel deals due to its quality rooms, free breakfast, and great amenities.
  • Also worth checking out for deals, the Hampton Inn Columbia - Downtown Historic District features comfortable rooms and beds, plus amenities including a saltwater swimming pool.

Budget Hotels :

  • Although like most budget hotels and motels in Columbia it's located outside of the downtown area, the Sleep Inn at Bush River Road is well-regarded for its clean rooms with fridges and microwaves, plus free hot breakfast.
  • The Comfort Inn on Blush River Road is another good option, as is the Holiday Inn Express Columbia I-26 at Harbison Boulevard , both of them close to major highways.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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The Best of South Carolina : Just a short drive from Columbia, you'll find yourself in the picturesque old town of Charleston SC , largely unspoiled and one of the best places in the state to enjoy a waterfront walking experience. Prefer a beach vacation? Head to either Myrtle Beach for its endless stretches of sand and lovely boardwalks, or to Hilton Head Island for a relaxing walk on one of the widest – and longest – beaches on the East Coast.

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The Best of North Carolina : That other Carolina, North Carolina , is not without fun vacation destinations of its own. A favorite for historians for its well-preserved architecture and the battleship North Carolina , the picturesque old streets of Wilmington are worth exploring. So too is the state's largest city of Charlotte , home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Carolinas Aviation Museum.

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Top Places to Visit in the South : Few US cities are as attractive as Savannah, Georgia , popular for its well-preserved old homes and waterfront district complete with its original warehouses and cobbled streets. The much larger city of Atlanta, Georgia is also worthy of a getaway stay and is home to numerous attractions, including an aquarium and a fascinating civil rights museum. And you can't travel much farther south in the US than the tropical paradise of Key West , tucked away at the bottom of Florida and the perfect playground for couples and adults seeking a fun escape from the cold.

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Top Things to Do and See in Columbia, South Carolina

Visitors to Columbia, South Carolinas capital city, will find plenty to do there

Named after the explorer Christopher Columbus, the capital city of South Carolina is an American historical center brimming with sunshine and southern charm. Offering cool venues and cultural attractions such as the Columbia Museum of Art, the Columbia City Ballet and the world’s largest fire hydrant, Columbia is well worth exploring. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips , compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips .

The columbia museum of art.

Established in 1950, the Columbia Museum of Art is a non-profit organization and a pillar of the local community. It remains earnestly committed to showcasing the work of young, local artists and strongly supports art education in the city. There is something for every art lover here, with work encompassing Renaissance paintings, ancient Asian sculptures and contemporary canvases by artists such as Tatara Fire. As well as its sizable permanent collection, the museum hosts a number of regularly changing topical exhibitions.

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Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden

visit columbia south carolina

The Columbia City Ballet

Founded in 1961, the Columbia City Ballet originally performed twice every year to the local community. Since these humble beginnings, the company has flourished dramatically, becoming one of the best professional ballet companies in the southeast. It employs a number of highly accomplished dancers and delivers over 80 shows annually, the most popular of which have included Dracula , The Nutcracker and Peter Pan . The ballet has also developed a successful educational outreach program for both children and adults in South Carolina.

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visit columbia south carolina

Congaree National Park

The Congaree National Park is a lush, idyllic wooded area just outside of Columbia containing the largest area of old-growth hardwood forest left in the Southeastern United States. Blessed with rich biodiversity, walking trails, lakes, pretty clearings and hilled areas, this national park is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a fun day of activities. The natural beauty of its surroundings makes Congaree a great spot for a number of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking and picnicking.

visit columbia south carolina

Villa Tronco

As the oldest Italian restaurant in Columbia and one of the oldest in South Carolina, Villa Tronco boasts 75 years of experience in serving hearty and flavorful Italian fare. With its rustic exterior and warm, homely atmosphere, Villa Tronco combines an intimate dining experience with a taste of Columbia’s migrant history. The substantial portions of traditional Italian dishes ensure that guests do not leave on an empty stomach, and diners are highly encouraged to try the delicious chicken parmigiana and owner Carmella’s famous cheesecake, said to be the best in town.

Historic House Museum

Historic Columbia is a non-profit organization aiming to protect the city’s extensive cultural and social past, which it does by preserving a number of historical buildings and landmarks around the city. The Historic House Museum is one of these buildings, a site consisting of four different properties, all with fascinating and intriguing backstories. The Woodrow Wilson Family Home here, for example, was once the home of the USA’s 28th president, who lived in the mansion in 1871. Visitors can wander around the landscaped gardens and marvel at the wonderfully restored features of this handsome southern property.

Busted Plug Plaza

This unusual piece of artwork stands today as the world’s largest fire hydrant. Made of 675,000lb (306,175kg) of steel, it is over 40ft (12m) tall and is recognized for its artistic value all over the world. It was designed by South Carolina artist Blue Sky, whose other public artworks include the Levitating Dumpster and the Portable Parking Space mural. The working hydrant was commissioned in 1999 and was constructed by 75 professional architects, city planners and engineers. As one of South Carolina’s most well-known sculptures and artworks, Busted Plug Plaza is definitely worth a visit while in Columbia.

visit columbia south carolina

South Carolina State House

History and architecture lovers will enjoy a visit to the South Carolina State House, a refined 19th-century building established in 1851, and a structure that took over half a century to construct. Today it houses the state government of South Carolina, and until 1971 it was home to the Supreme Court of the USA. Originally designed by architect P. H. Hammarskold in a Greek Revival style, the building is a monumental landmark in the city. Visitors can stroll around the grounds and view its numerous monuments, or take a tour inside the building.

Good Life Cafe

One of the only organic, vegan restaurants in South Carolina, Good Life Cafe is a truly unique and original spot in which to grab a quick bite in Columbia. Serving an assortment of fresh fruit juices and an exciting menu of burritos, sandwiches, burgers and salads, this restaurant has something for all tastes. With the food being both healthy and flavorsome, diners are free to browse the substantial list of cold-pressed cocktails without feeling too guilty.

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

If you’re craving nature but can’t decide between waterfront or green grass, the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park will deliver. With miles of paved paths, it’s perfect for running, hiking, skateboarding, biking and even just walking. It’s also wheelchair-friendly. Those looking to get a workout in should head to the outdoor gym, which has seven pieces of free-to-use equipment including a vertical press, rower, leg press and elliptical machines. There are also picnic tables, restrooms and plenty of river views.

visit columbia south carolina

Waverly Historic District

Waverley is Columbia’s first suburb. It’s known as a diverse place that encourages activism, crafts and artistry from people of all sizes and backgrounds. It’s also home to two historical colleges, Benedict College and Allen University, which provided higher education during segregation in the South. You can take a walking tour of the area, highlights of which include Bishop’s Memorial AME Church – built in 1885 and on the National Register of Historic Places – the Waverly Five & Dime and the Carver Theatre.

EdVenture Children’s Museum

The ultimate children’s museum, this place is a dream for both big and small. You can climb through Eddie – the world’s largest child, standing at 40ft (12m) and weighing 17.5 tons (16 tonnes) – before starting to interact with the many hands-on exhibits. Make sure to stop by Wags and Whiskers, where kids can learn to take care of our four-legged friends in a simulated way. Young inventors should try out Maker Works, where you can create your own project out of Lego, blocks and other tools. Additional reporting by Alice Johnston

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See & Do

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Food & Drink

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Restaurants

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Must-Try Restaurants In Columbia, South Carolina

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32 Best & Fun Things To Do In Columbia (South Carolina)

By: Author Jerric Chong

Posted on Published: October 23, 2020  - Last updated: October 16, 2023

fun things to do in Columbia SC

Columbia is a bright and teeming city known for its heat, food, and community of artists.

It’s packed with so many places to go that offer wonderful opportunities for exploration and tourism.

If you’re planning a visit to the city, we’re here to help you choose the spots you should visit!

Here are our picks for the best and fun things to do in Columbia, South Carolina.

Table of Contents

1. Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden

Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden

Katherine Harward / Shutterstock

The Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden is one of the best Columbia attractions you can find.

Situated along the Lower Saluda River, it opened its doors back in 1974.

Spanning 170 acres, it is home to over 2,000 different animals of all kinds and is especially popular among families.

It has received the honor of being the most outstanding tourist attraction in South Carolina twice from the Governer’s Cup Award!

The Riverbanks Zoo area is divided up into multiple different sections, including the Petting Zoo, Reptile House, and Bird Complex, so you can fully immerse yourself in the world of each type of animal along the way.

You’ll learn from interactive exhibits about all sorts of things like habitats and beekeeping tactics, and even watch computer programs to find out about each animal.

You’ll get to meet unique animals and even feed the giraffes!

On the other hand, the Riverbank Botanical Garden takes up 70 acres of space and showcases 4,200 different kinds of plants from not just Columbia, but all of North America.

Lush gardens, rare collections of plants, thick woodland, and even ruins are waiting to be discovered.

Many are exotic, too!

Don’t forget to walk along the River Trail, which runs for 0.3 miles beginning at Saluda Bridge all the way to the Saluda Mills Interpretive Center.

This walk teaches you about the textile history of the town and how the textile mills work!

Address: 1300 Botanical Pkwy, West Columbia, SC 29169, United States

2. Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens

Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens

Historic Columbia , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens were first built in the year 1818 for Ainsley Hall, a rich merchant of Columbia, and has since passed many hands.

It earned its name from the Hampton family, which it served as a private residence.

It is the Hamptons who changed its style, shifting to Greek Revival architecture from the original Federal style.

It was used as a Union Army Headquarters, then the Preston family owned it next and eventually sold it when the Civil War was over.

It then became a South Carolina Governer’s Mansion.

Over the years, the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens has been the home of a whopping four colleges.

It was eventually partitioned up in 1970 following renovation for commercial use, as a part of the Midlands Tricentennial Exposition Center, housing events and activities.

It also got onto the National Register of Historic Places.

Now, the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens is one of the most fun tourist attractions in the city.

Its garden is packed with both local and international plants and the grounds stretch across four acres, giving you plenty of space to explore.

Address: 1615 Blanding St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

3. South Carolina State House

South Carolina State House

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The South Carolina State House is one of the most famous places to visit in Columbia and around its vicinity.

It’s a symbol of fine Greek Revival design and is one of the state’s most-visited locations by tourists.

Construction on the structure began in 1851, but couldn’t be completed till after the war; by that time, the Greek style was already outdated, but the building’s historical value and beautiful architecture make up for that.

Designed by John Niernsee, the towers of the State House reach 180 feet into the air and boast a regally painted dome of copper.

The grounds of the capitol provide a lot of historical context to Columbia and its state.

With monuments such as the American-Mexican War Monument, the Revolutionary War Generals Monument, the African-American History Monument, and multiple other monuments for State Law Enforcement Officers and even President George Washington.

If you walk along the building’s exterior, you’ll eventually find a pattern of five stars.

This is a mark of where cannonballs of the union hit the structure in the Civil War prior to its completion.

It’s a unique touch that adds a somber sort of awe to the atmosphere.

Naturally, there are tours available to take of the interior of the State House for free.

View chambers and halls at no cost!

Address: 1100 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29208, United States

4. EdVenture Children’s Museum

EdVenture Children's Museum

Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock

Of all the cool places to go , the EdVenture Children’s Museum is one of the most fun things to do in Columbia, SC, hands down!

The entertainment begins right at the door with a huge statue of museum mascot Eddie, a towering plastic structure measuring 40 feet in height and 17.5 tons in weight.

Better yet, he’s not off limits – he’s a hands-on educational tool.

Kids get to climb onto and into the statue and interact with his carefully made organs to learn more about bodily structure.

350 more enticing exhibits, all hands-on or at least interactive, decorate this Columbia, South Carolina museum.

Children aged 12 and younger are the target audience, though family can of course come with them.

EdVenture Children’s Museum aims to inspire children to love learning through play and unique methods of teaching complex concepts, and it certainly does that!

Among the exhibits is a pet care lab called Wags and Whiskers to learn about caring for pets and animals with the aid of plush toys.

There’s also an inventor’s lab for kids aged five and above called Marketworks, where tools, blocks, and more are used to innovate and create.

Next up is World of Work, which tells children about the adult world of jobs and careers, Planet Putt and Play that teaches geometry and math with miniature golf, and Dalmation Station that has a real fire engine to interact with!

If anyone gets hungry, just head to Carousel Cafe for simple kid-friendly favorite bites, like hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese.

Address: 211 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

5. Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia Museum of Art

The Columbia Museum of Art isn’t just one of South Carolina’s top 10 museums for modern art, but it’s also a hub for the city’s community.

More than 5,000 years of art history are here on display with over 25 world-class galleries and an incredible set of permanent collections.

It’s no surprise that this Museum of Art is one of the most renowned of its kind in the southeast.

It’s won awards like the National Art Education honors, the National Park Foundation Award, and the Governor’s Award for outstanding contribution to the arts in South Carolina.

Among the most delightful things to see at the Columbia Museum of Art is the Press Collection, continuing Renaissance and Baroque pieces that are here thanks to donations by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

The European collection is also completely stunning and very diverse.

In both, you’ll see great masterpieces like the Nativity Fresco by Sandro Botticelli the Florentine master and the View of the Seine by Claude Monet.

The American art collection is great too, with marble work by Hiram powers, ceramics by Victor Toothaker, portraits by Charles Willson Peale, decorative furniture by Duncan Phyfe, and even sculptures made by Frederic S. Remington.

Other great collections are the Asian, Modern, Vogel, and Contemporary exhibits.

Apart from showcasing these masterpieces, the Museum of Art also hosts block parties, kids’ programs, art classes, tours, concerts, and lectures.

If you’re here at the right time, you might be able to catch one!

Address: 1515 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Planning to explore other areas of South Carolina? Why not check out some of the fun things to do in Myrtle Beach  & some of the top Hilton Head attractions ?

6. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park is a wonderful linear urban park that you’ll see running along the Columbia Canal and Saluda River.

It’s 14 acres in size and located in the downtown area, designed to be accessible to all.

Walkways are paved for easy walking, wheelchair pushing, jogging, or biking, with all 2.5 miles of path offering lovely views of the rivers.

It’s a wonderful place to have a picnic or simply relax, and you can even workout at the interesting outdoor gym that is free to use.

It’s also one of the city’s interesting places to visit because it can teach you a bit about town history.

It’s where the world’s first textile mill was first opened and is the site of the state’s oldest plant for hydroelectric technology that is still in business today.

Address: 312 Laurel St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

7. South Carolina State Museum

South Carolina State Museum

The South Carolina State Museum is one of the best things to do in Columbia, SC due to its ability to educate visitors on the history of the state.

It opened in 1988 in a building that was once a 19th-century mill, with four floors dedicated to displays of all kinds.

The museum offers a mix of personal historical collections and rotating exhibits.

Stories are told about the history of the state, sometimes through lenses of culture, technology, people, and art.

One of the museum’s bigger draws is its 4D theater, which is interactive and much-loved by visitors.

Other fun stops on museum grounds are America’s first steam locomotive, an observatory, and a submarine.

There are more than 70,000 items exhibited in all, so take your time going through them all!

Address: 301 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

8. Robert Mills House and Gardens

Robert Mills House and Gardens

Dr. Blazer , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Robert Mills House and Gardens are truly amazing spots for sightseeing, especially if you see lots of fun in architecture and arts.

The home building is the creation of the titular Robert Mills, and it’s a townhouse in the style of Classical Revival elegance.

It was made in 1823 for a wealthy merchant of Columbia named Ainsley Hall and his wife.

Mills very rarely designed private homes, so catching a glimpse of this rarity should be on your list of what to do!

At first, after it fell out of private resident provision, the house was a bible college and seminary.

But in 1961, the home was restored completely and then opened up as a house museum for tourists and interested locals.

It was narrowly saved from being torn down, so the fact that it remains today is truly a blessing!

As a house museum, the Robert Mills House and Gardens showcase decorative arts from the 19th century.

French Empire, English Regency, and American Federal works, particularly of furniture, are displayed throughout the building.

Art exhibitions of all kinds also stop by and set up shop in the basement gallery now and then.

Address: 1616 Blanding St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

9. South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

SC Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum

SC Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum

The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is one of the oldest museums in Columbia.

In fact, it’s the third oldest in the entire state!

It’s dedicated to telling the history and tales of war, from the Revolutionary War and beyond until the current war on terrorism.

Most of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum focuses on the Civil War, with a range of memorabilia, guns, uniforms, artifacts, and medical gear that speak volumes about the so-called War between the States.

It’s more than just little bits and pieces of remnants, though; it’s also manuscripts, ledgers, detailed letters, and written documentation that truly entrenches you in the story of the war and what life was like back then.

The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

For history buffs, visiting here is one of the most interesting and educational activities in Columbia.

It’s one of the points of interest you shouldn’t miss!

10. Governor’s Mansion

Governor's Mansion

KudzuVine , CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Governor’s Mansion , situated in Colombia’s historic district, is home to the actual governors of the state of South Carolina.

It’s a stately, impressive mansion set upon nine well-cared-for acres of magnificent land.

Not only do all 30 of the state’s governors genuinely reside in this large and imposing manor to be near their offices, but it’s also a crucial public space to Columbia residents.

The publicly open rooms serve as a glimpse into the lives of previous and even current governors, containing all sorts of artifacts of significance.

Original paintings with considerable value, gorgeous pieces of china, historically rich documents, and even antique furniture all paint a picture of the history of South Carolina.

The building is also often used to entertain dignitaries and high-ranking visitors from across the globe.

If you’re looking for where to go, the Governer’s Mansion is a great way to experience the state’s hospitality and its regality, all at once.

Address: 800 Richland St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

11. Melton Memorial Observatory

Melton Memorial Observatory

Melton Memorial Observatory

The Melton Memorial Observatory is one of the coolest Columbia attractions for those with a love for astronomy and the great world beyond our world.

Located in the University of South Carolina and is a simple yet sophisticated spot for stargazers who want access to good equipment to seek out the celestial bodies.

Before heading over to the Melton Memorial Observatory, it’s best to check what the weather in Colombia will be like at the time.

You want clear skies so you have a good view of space!

Address: 1429 Greene St, Columbia, SC 29208, United States

12. Harbison State Forest

Harbison State Forest

Harbison State Forest

The Harbison State Forest is only about nine miles away from the heart of Columbia and, as far as tourist attractions go, it’s among the top options for nature-lovers.

The forest park covers 2,137 acres of land, bordering the Broad River and packed with over thirty miles of hiking trails and roads for bikers.

The forest is made up of hardwood and pine, interspersed with lush glades and relaxing streams.

It is primarily designed as an educational and recreational space, but some of its portions have a little more fun in them as they’re meant to demonstrate common forestry-relaxed practices.

This includes site preparation, planned thinning, planned burning, harvesting, and planning.

Address: 5600 Broad River Rd, Columbia, SC 29212, United States

13. Saluda Shoals Park

Saluda Shoals Park

Saluda Shoals Park

Saluda Shoals Park is only a few miles away from the downtown area of Columbia, and it’s one of the best places to visit if you’re seeking a little serenity or tranquility.

Lush and by the riverfront of Saluda River, it’s packed with different opportunities to enjoy yourself.

Spanning 400 acres, Saluda Shoals Park hosts many different rich experiences, from the cultural to the educational and, of course, to the recreational.

It’s the home of the Environmental Education Center and Exhibit Hall, which covers 11,000 square feet of ground, and the equally known Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission Headquarters.

No matter what it is you want to do, you can probably get it done here.

Canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, horse riding, biking, having a picnic, and simply hiking are all common options.

There’s also a lovely observation deck with plenty of space to view the world around you.

It’s a really good getaway option to consider this weekend for a more peaceful tourist experience.

If you’ve got kids, don’t forget to take them to the splash pad!

Address: 5605 Bush River Rd, Columbia, SC 29212, United States

14. The Columbia Fireflies

Columbia Fireflies

slgckgcFollow / flickr

The Columbia Fireflies are the city’s local Minor League Baseball team, based in Segra Park .

The team, which participates in the Class A South Atlantic League, used to be based in Savannah, Georgia before their 2015 relocation to South Carolina’s Greenville.

Watching a Fireflies baseball game is probably one of the most fun things to do in Columbia, SC, especially if you have kids!

The grass section allows for relaxed viewing and the Kids Play Zone keeps children occupied.

The laid-back, low-key, casual setting of their games is ideal for someone’s first baseball-watching experience, too, so don’t be intimidated if you’ve never spectated this sport before!

Address: 1640 Freed Street, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

15. South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra

South Carolina Philharmonic

South Carolina Philharmonic

If you’re looking for some musical entertainment, you’ll be thrilled to know that the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra is based in the city of Columbia!

Every year, it showcases an entire season of wonderful, talent-filled performances that is one of the greatest things to see in the city.

Occasionally, popular musicians from across the country – and, sometimes, the world – appear as guests and join in with the Philharmonic Orchestra’s performances.

If you’re lucky enough to catch such a guest appearance, you certainly won’t regret the trip!

Address: 1051 Greene St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Planning a road trip around South Carolina? Why not head to Charleston? Known for its beautiful streets, houses, and horse-drawn carriages, here are some of the best things to do in Charleston, SC !

16. Waverly Historic District

Waverly Historic District

Eastward Gypsy , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Waverly Historic District is the first suburb to ever be built in Columbia.

The community is incredibly diverse, an enclave packed with people of color who are social activists, crafters, professionals, and artists alike.

It’s also just one of the city’s fun and more vibrant places to visit, with lots of activities and options to keep you occupied.

Allen University and Benedict College, two historically black learning institutes of high acclaim, are here.

They were known for providing higher education during the segregation era.

A walking tour takes you to them and also to other spots of note, such as the 1885-built Bishop’s Memorial AME church that is among the locations on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other good areas to visit in Waverly Historic District are Carpenter’s Hall, the Heist-Russell House, Carver Theater, the Waverly Five and Dime, and Daddy Grace’s Parsonage.

Check out the official walking tour guideline and itinerary to find out where you’ll be heading!

Address: 2222 Washington St, Columbia, SC 29204, United States

17. Nickelodeon Theater

Nickelodeon Theatre

Nickelodeon Theatre

The Nickelodeon Theater , known simply as the “Nick”, is one of the most wonderful ways to catch indie films in Columbia, South Carolina.

It’s unique in the sense that it’s a small, intimate setting that only showcases three independent screenings on a daily basis.

The Nick is completely not-for-profit and has been since the year 1978.

With just 99 seats, it’s a hipster-like location with genuine class and great taste.

Sometimes, film festivals are also held here, which are some of the top things to do in Columbia, SC!

Address: 1607 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

18. Columbia Food Tours

Columbia Food Tours, LLC

Columbia Food Tours, LLC

Columbia Food Tours capitalizes on how quickly the city is becoming a haven for foodies packed with innovative and delightful eateries of all kinds.

As a walking tour, it is led by knowledgeable guides who bring you to between five and seven restaurants to try out the most fun and delicious offerings of this South Carolina city.

Along your way, you’ll learn about the history, culture, architecture of buildings near the trail, and even more about local cuisine as guides exposit and educate.

There are two tours to choose from, one lasting two and the other lasting three hours.

It only takes about ten minutes to get from one eatery to the next, so you’ll never get bored!

As far as what to do in Columbia, SC, experiencing local cuisine is one of the greatest ideas!

19. Sesquicentennial State Park

Sesquicentennial State Park

stunnafulphotos / Shutterstock

If you’re looking for stuff to do and you’re a fan of nature-loving activities, then Sesquicentennial State Park might be one of your best options in the South Carolina area.

It’s known for being a beautiful place for picnics and is generally loved by visiting families, due in part to its huge lake and many different trails.

If you do want to have a picnic here, you usually need to reserve a picnic pad in advance – that’s how popular it is!

Just twenty minutes away from vibrant downtown Columbia, Sesquicentennial State Park, often referred to simply as “Sesqui”, is accessible and great all year round.

A splash pad is open seasonally for kids, and you can go hiking, camping, or exploring at your leisure.

Address: 9564 Two Notch Rd, Columbia, SC 29223, United States

20. Tunnelvision

Tunnelvision

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock

Tunnelvision was created by Blue Sky, an artist from South Carolina who is also responsible for a number of other famous modern artworks in Columbia; you’ll read about some of them in a little while!

He was inspired to create it based on a dream, and the result is a whimsical, almost otherworldly sort of masterpiece that looks like a portal to a different world.

Located in downtown Columbia in an unassuming parking lot, Tunnelvision is painted across a large wall measuring 50 by 75 feet.

The mural depicts a “tunnel” into another world, the distinction clear by way of the different moon hanging in the sky.

It’s large enough to drive a car through – that is, if it were a real tunnel!

The optical illusion often makes the tunnel look genuine, which is why it’s on this list of what to see in Columbia.

Luckily, so far no cars have actually driven into it.

With one of the most casual sites, it’s an unorthodox attraction that you can drop by with no bells or whistles.

Address: 1550 Marion Street, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

21. Mr. Friendly’s

Mr. Friendly's

Mr. Friendly’s

Can you consider eateries and good food among Columbia attractions?

With fun, delicious places like Mr. Friendly’s , it’s tough not to!

It refers to itself as a new Southern cafe and serves cuisine fitting that theme.

Located in Historic Five Points, it might be the most loved restaurant in its area!

Not quite sure what new Southern food is?

Think of grits, fried tomatoes, chicken, and even special meals like Sesame Seared Yellowfin Tuna and Low Country Seafood Cakes.

Daily specials rotate regularly and showcase the chef’s incredible grasp of Southern flavors that are uniquely Columbia.

Go on Mondays to try out Mr. Friendly’s Moonpies, which have won awards and are as decadent as they come!

Address: 2001 Greene St A, Columbia, SC 29205, United States

22. South Carolina State Farmers Market

South Carolina State Farmers Market

South Carolina State Farmers Market

Farmers markets aren’t exactly typical tourist attractions, but you’ll forgive us for including the Columbia-based South Carolina State Farmers Market on this list for its charm and selection.

Fresh produce, gardening materials and supplies, and home-baked goods are all waiting at this Farmer’s Market this weekend.

Need to know what will be available in advance?

Check out the harvest calendar, which works in tandem, naturally, with the climate of Columbia, to see the specific produce types that will be for sale.

Address: 3483 Charleston Hwy, West Columbia, SC 29172, United States

Exploring other parts of South Carolina? Why not check out some of the things to do in Beaufort, SC ?

23. Mast General Store

Mast General Store

Mast General Store

The Mast General Store in Columbia is a delightful mix of all sorts of different products.

It’s one of the best places to visit when you have a wide range of shopping “genres” to take care of in one go.

It carries dozens upon dozens of brands and sells everything from candy to outdoor gear and from fashion to souvenirs.

The Mast General Store is also just a good place to go to get away from the heat of Columbia, South Carolina – but expect to get caught up looking around for a while, even when your intention was just a quick break from the sun!

Address: 1601 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

24. Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park

Zack Frank / Shutterstock

Known as one of the most beautiful places to visit in the US , sightseeing in Congaree National Park is one of the most fun things to do in Columbia, SC.

A whopping 26,000 acres of beautiful, lush land waits to be explored, its thick and plentiful nature, due to the Wateree and Congaree rivers that are both packed with nutrients, spill onto the hardwood forest floor.

The forest is also one of the world’s tallest deciduous forests!

There are so many different things to do here that it can get a little overwhelming.

Your best bet is to begin at the Hampton Visitors Center to grab maps, learn about the area’s biodiversity, and talk to guides for more information.

There’s a Junior Ranger Program for children and some small exhibits to take in, too.

Most people like the hiking trails at Congaree National Park.

They all require good boots and suitable attire in general, but some are easier than others.

The Boardwalk Trail is the simplest, elevated above the muddy ground and spanning 2.4 miles through the forest.

Some other great options are the Bluff Train and River Trail for those who love trees and nature, the Kingsnake Trail for bird-watchers, the Weston Lake Loop Trail to get good Cedar Creek views, and the Longleaf Trail to get to the campground.

Guided walks are available, too.

The Big Tree Hike is led by park founder John Cely, lasting three hours over five miles as you view some of the park’s biggest trees.

The Nature Discovery Walk teaches you about the flora and fauna of the park.

There are even Ranger Led Canoe Tours, which take you through the waters with an experienced guide.

You can also opt for your own personal things to enjoy, like canoeing, fishing, watching the fireflies, or camping.

All in all, there’s lots to do at this Columbia, South Carolina national park!

Address: 100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061, United States

25. Never Bust Chain

Never Bust Chain

Jason Eppink / flickr

If you’re looking for enthralling but unusual things to see in Columbia, you’ll want to check out the Never Bust Chain .

It’s a work of art by Blue Sky, an artist of South Carolina who also did Tunnelvision, located in downtown Columbia.

No city approval was sought, only approval from the owners of the buildings involved, but it gained immediate government approval thanks to the renown of the artist.

The Never Bust Chain was installed in the year 2000 between two big buildings of offices.

The huge chain provides an added industrial feel that is still whimsical and fascinating to behold.

2,000 pounds of hydraulic pressure were required to link the final parts of the chain together, as it had to be welded professionally for the sake of public safety.

It’s a good thing, too – the rather imposing artwork hangs over an alley that plenty of the public cross daily, ten feet above the ground!

Though viewing these modern works of art is one of the more unorthodox tourist activities in the city, it’s still very interesting to see.

Blue Sky said that he decided to install this work of art here because one of the buildings appeared to be leaning slightly – and whether that’s a complete truth or a vague metaphor, it’s pretty brilliant!

Address: 1502-1508 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

26. Good Life Cafe

Good Life Cafe

Good Life Cafe

Looking for vegan cuisine?

One of the most reputable places to visit for such fare in South Carolina is the Good Life Cafe !

It serves organic food that is fully plant-based and is one of Columbia’s only eateries to do so.

What’s the menu like?

The Good Life Cafe offers delicious smoothies, healthy and fresh juices, incredible cold-pressed cocktails, great sandwiches and burritos, and even some burgers and salads!

All servings are fun and colorful, perfect for a quick bite that tastes great without wreaking havoc on your body in the process!

Address: 1614 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

27. Lake Murray Dam

Lake Murray Dam

pim pic / Shutterstock

Lake Murray Dam is the top spot for romance in Columbia.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s that special place where couples go to put padlocks onto the gate that symbolize their relationship.

Usually, those padlocks will be decorated with the initials of the happy couple.

It’s such a popular date activity that it brings lovers from across South Carolina and beyond!

With a pedestrian walkway spanning 1.7 miles and a beautiful shoreline of 650 miles along Lake Murray itself that offers opportunities for kayaking, boat rental, and camping, this is a great vacation location.

Whether you’re looking to lock in – pun intended – your love with your partner or just get some entertainment out of looking through the already existing locks, this is one of the best things to do in Columbia, SC for the romantics at heart!

Address: 1832 N Lake Dr, Lexington, SC 29072, United States

28. Villa Tronco

Villa Tronco Italian Restaurant

Villa Tronco Italian Restaurant

Not sure what to do for a meal at night?

Why not eat in a place that serves delicious food with a side of history?

Villa Tronco is Columbia’s oldest Italian restaurant and is still among South Carolina’s oldest, too.

It boasts a homey and comforting atmosphere and rustic, old-fashioned exterior that mixes the migrant past of Columbia with intimate dining.

All portions at Villa Tronco are distinctly generous so you won’t leave without feeling satisfied!

Notable meals include the titular Chicken Villa Tronco, the Pollo Parmigiana, and the calamari.

There’s also the famous cheesecake often said to be the very greatest of the town’s and the scrumptious wine offerings, including those that helped Villa Tronco win the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence!

Address: 1213 Blanding St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

29. Soda City Market

Soda City

Soda City Market occurs every Saturday, effectively closing off Maint Street and bringing the locals of South Carolina rushing to pick up fresh produce, look at local art, and even catch a glimpse of cool street performances.

But why is it called the Soda City Market?

Well, that relates to the city’s own name of Columbia, which was shortened to Cola by locals and eventually jokingly shifted to the synonym Soda.

If you’re looking for places to go while you’re in town this weekend, this is a great way to have some fun and get a genuine taste of local life.

Address: 1300-1600 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Have more time and want to explore South Carolina? Why not check out Greenville? Packed with beautiful gardens and other fantastic attractions, here are some fun things to do in Greenville, SC !

30. Ra Obelisk

Ra Obelisk

The Ra Obelisk didn’t always look like something straight out of Egypt!

Its story begins in 1989 when this wall was a part of a trestle of an old railroad.

Construction workers went to the site in Olympia, Columbia to tear it down, but when the wrecking ball failed to knock down this pillar, they gave up and left it standing.

A few years later, Richard Lane, a muralist of South Carolina, began thinking about how it appeared a little like an obelisk of ancient Egypt.

This sparked his desire to create a mural upon it, and in 1993, he painted an image of the Egyptian sun god Ra, surrounded by hieroglyphs and symbols, upon its surface.

The symbols actually have translations.

Among them are glyphs that read out titles of songs by the Beatles, like All You Need Is Love and Here Comes The Sun.

There is also a mysterious message on the right that Lane refused to reveal, stating that the concept is an ancient one.

He even invited others to try and translate it, eventually leading to The State, a newspaper, offering a reward for someone who could translate it accurately.

The Ra Obelisk is now located in a pocket park, with a bunch of benches that circle it and a simple sidewalk for you to stride to it through.

Artists Georgia Lake and Jeff Donovan repainted the work of art with color-matching, symbol-aligning perfection to keep the mural well maintained.

Without a doubt, taking a trip to view the Ra Obelisk is one of the most unique things to do in Columbia!

Address: 900 Heyward St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

31. Woodrow Wilson Family Home

Woodrow Wilson Family Home

mogollon_1 / flickr

The Woodrow Wilson Family Home is South Carolina’s only presidential site.

It was the home in which Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th president, spent much of his boyhood years.

The home is a manse built in the style of an Italianate villa, standing out well from the backdrop of Columbia.

There aren’t many activities at the Woodrow Wilson Family House, but the main one is a treat for history buffs: vignettes and exhibits, complete with backstories regarding Wilson himself, that pepper the home.

They give you insight into 1871 and the history of Wilson, back then known by the nickname “Tommy”, and it’s one of the more special Columbia attractions as the last of its kind in the state.

Address: 1705 Hampton St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

32. Busted Plug Plaza

Busted Plug Plaza

Busted Plug Plaza is one of the most fun and unusual tourist attractions in Columbia.

Imposing and made of steel and concrete, the colossal sculpture depicts what is effectively the world’s largest fire hydrant.

It weighs a shocking 675,000 pounds and is more than 40 feet in height.

The Busted Plug in question was made by Blue Sky, a local of South Carolina and the same artist who created Tunnelvision.

The bottom of the large “statue” is made to look “broken”, with a fountain of water spraying out from there as if it were truly a damaged hydrant.

Ironically, the Busted Plug was made to be able to withstand the blow of natural disasters.

This is primarily a safety measure, allowing it to avoid harming anyone in the event of a hurricane or similar issue.

The plaza area and its land were recently purchased by new owners, though, but residents are hoping to have the beloved artwork moved to somewhere near instead of having it torn down.

Just in case, you’d better see it while you can!

Address: 1404 Taylor St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Start Planning Your Trip To Columbia, SC

Columbia, South Carolina is full of fun points of interest that should be added to your itinerary.

Hopefully, our list of the best that Columbia has to offer helps you to choose tourist locations that appeal most to you!

Travelsc

15 Best Things to Do in Columbia SC

South Carolina’s regions have amazing places and top attractions to visit and relax such as its beaches, the Lowcountry, live oaks, coastal retreats and many more are top of the list for travelers.

The smaller cities and towns like Charleston, Beaufort, Hilton Head and many others are worth a visit but the state has a lot more to see inland.

Columbia is the capital of the 32,000 square-mile state and it is situated in the heart of the state’s region known as the Midlands of South Carolina.

Visitors get to enjoy their stay whether they are on vacation or on a business trip such that they see the sunrise on the mountain and experience sunset at the many beaches.

The prestigious University of South Carolina’s campus is located in the historic downtown area of Columbia with its lush appeal.

Visitors get to excite themselves with college sports during football season. There are many restaurants, museums, gardens, and parks with many hiking trails, rivers and so much more.

If you want to make your vacation more special, travel Columbia SC. Here you will get different things to do in Columbia which make your journey memorable.

South Carolina State Museum

South Carolina State Museum

The state’s largest and most comprehensive museum, the South Carolina State Museum is located along the banks of the Congaree River.

The South Carolina State Museum is home to more than 70,000 pieces of art on display throughout the four floors of its building.

It is a great place to learn about the people, history, art, and natural resources in the state. It serves to tell the story of South Carolina’s history and features a number of both educational and entertaining exhibits.

It has an adjoining building with a rotating observatory state-of-the-art telescopes, 4D theatre for entertainment for both adults and kids.

There is also a café with great snacks and the museum shop offers cool souvenirs and gift items for your loved ones.

Address:  301 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia Museum of Art is a two-storey building with modern architectural design and layout.

It has an impressive collection of art pieces and other exhibits. Visitors are often marveled by the amazing quality of temporary exhibits like the M.C. Escher and Van Gogh, which travellers say rival art exhibits in the bigger cities.

The museum has the Cross Hatch which allows you to create your art, it is a great place for adults and kids alike. Entry is free on Free First Thursday events held in the district.

Address:  1515 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

EdVenture Children’s Museum

EdVenture Children's Museum

EdVenture Children’s Museum is the 7th largest children’s museum in the United States and the largest in the South.

Certainly, one of the best places to take your kids is Columbia, EdVenture Children’s Museum is a combination of education and adventure for kids with more than 350 activities.

The museum encourages playtime as a path to fast learning.

You will find six exhibit galleries, two resource centers, two outdoor galleries, several laboratories, a 200-seat community theater, two resource centers, two outdoor gallery spaces, a library, and other amenities.

There are more than 350 individual hands-on exhibits.

There are a lot of activities for kids to participate in such as taking up the roles of firefighters, mechanics, farmers, and many more during role play; there is the Bio Lab which allows kids to create concoctions; or crawl within the 40-foot-tall EDDIE, an interactive human body replica.

Other activities include playing in the full-size aeroplane cockpit, fire truck, and so much more.

Toddlers are not left out as they have a dedicated space to explore and learn socialization, communication, self-confidence, and creativity.

Address:  211 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Koger Center for the Arts

Koger Center for the Arts

Columbia undoubtedly has many museums and art centers, Koger Center for the Arts is one of those amazing places you want to be when in the city.

It is the prime facility for performing arts in Columbia and houses the University of South Carolina School of Music.

Aspiring professional musicians can enrol for any of the 20 programs offered by the school.

Furthermore, there are major events at the main theatre such as music, operas, ballets, and many more.

There are also orchestra concerts, jazz ensembles, choir recitals, and more open to the public. With a lot of free music school events, this is a great place to meet new people and socialize.

Address:  1051 Greene St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Finlay Park in Downtown Columbia

Finlay Park in downtown Columbia

Finlay Park is located in the downtown area of Columbia, South Carolina, USA.

The park offers the best and most amazing views of the city’s skyline with a panoramic point overlooking the Governor’s Mansion.

Termed the “crown jewel” of public parks in Columbia, Finlay Park has been around since the 1900s.

It is an 18-acre green area not too far from the Main Street district, which is the liveliest location in the city.

It features playgrounds, quiet walking paths around the small lake, a waterfall with a statue of the former mayor of the city, Kirkman Finlay, cool landscaping, and so much more.

Finlay Park is one of the best known parks in the state.

It hosts a little bit of everything from political events, festivals, the Summer Concert series, and more.

The park is named after park is named for Kirkman Finlay, Mayor of Columbia.

Address:  930 Laurel St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Memorial Park, Downtown Columbia

Memorial Park, downtown Columbia

Located just by the corner of Gadsden and Hampton streets, the 7-acre park is dedicated as a memorial to those who fought and died for America.

It features flowering bushes, benches, and winding paths, and it is a popular location to relax in the afternoons.

There is a Vietnam Memorial Monument with inscriptions of all the names of South Carolinians who lost their lives in battle during the Vietnam War.

Just a block away from Finlay Park, it honours USS Columbia Warship which served in WWII; December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor casualties and so many more.

Address:  700 Hampton St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is another wonderful place to be in Columbia, South Carolina.

Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Gardens is located just two miles from downtown, along the Saluda River.

It is famous all around the nation and a great spot for weekend stops.

You get to watch gorillas feed, lemurs play chase with each other, feed Giraffes during their lunchtime and so much more.

Over 2,000 animals call Riverbanks Zoo their home and you get to see over 6,000 animals and plants including: koalas, crocodiles, elephants, bears, tigers, and more.

The zoo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kids will have a swell time here with zip line tours, animal interactions, rock climbing, there is a splash park (Water Junction) to cool off during the hot summer, and so much more.

Address:  500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210, United States

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park is located 18 miles southeast of Columbia’s downtown area and offers travelers the rare opportunity to peek into the natural landscape around the city.

The park is home to the largest bottomland forest in America and visitors can also engage in paddle activities down the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail which runs about 15 miles.

There is wildlife to see such as bats, owls, deer, bobcats, foxes, otters, snakes, and so much more.

The most amazing thing to see in the park is after dark when the fireflies come out to play, also take note there are mosquitos so best prepare at dusk.

Be sure to stop at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center for more information about the best activities at the park.

Address:  South Carolina, United States

Lake Murray Reservoir Columbia SC

Lake Murray Columbia SC

Lake Murray is an enormous man-made reservoir covering about 55,000 acres with a 650-mile shoreline to explore on a boat.

There are boat rentals for you to see the islands, visit the beach or go for a picnic at any of the public parks with awesome views of the water.

Visitors who love fishing can also pass the time reeling out varieties of fish, while travellers who love exploring on land can go hiking and mountain biking on the trails and in public parks around the lake.

On the fourth of July, the community hosts fireworks on display over the lake with bars and restaurants open to drink and eat.

Though the lake was originally built in the 1930’s as a hydro-electric generation facility, Lake Murray is now a major recreation destination in the area.

It borders several cities including: Lexington, Chapin, and Irmo, only a short drive from Columbia, this is a great way to enjoy a number of outdoor activities.

Locations: Lake Murray Blvd, South Carolina, USA

Cycling in Columbia

Cycling in Columbia

The city of Columbia, South Carolina is filled with lots of top attractions which include many parks and gardens, hiking and biking trails to explore.

Bike rides are some of the best ways to explore this city to see most of the attractions and the Blue Bike stands are readily available around the city.

If you are on the Riverfront, you can get the bikes for a small fee which makes exploring simple and convenient.

Visitors are advised to keep their eyes open for wildlife as waterfowl and birds are most common at some of the small islands around, some attractions like the Congaree National Park, Lake Murray, and so many more.

Five Points Fountain

Five Points Fountain

Five Points Fountain is located just by the South Carolina University Campus and sees a lot of travellers, students, and locals.

The city often has year-round festivals one of which is St. Pat’s.

The festival is held at Five Points and it is the largest street festival in the Midlands and the southeast.

There are other festivals such as the Main Street Greek Festival, Irmo Okra Strut fried okra festival, and other places to see around like Mr Friendly’s a favourite restaurant in Columbia, and Drip one of the best Coffee shops in the city to name few.

Address:  728 Harden St, Columbia, SC 29205, United States

The Horseshoe

The Horseshoe

The Horseshoe is a historic spot on the University of South Carolina’s campus and it is a favourite for visitors, locals, and students for evening strolls.

It houses 12 historic buildings which date back to the 1800s surrounded by lush green spaces.

Horseshoe is the epicentre of the original university campus, the lush green areas feature brick walkways, manicured green lawns, old oak trees, and many monuments.

A few top things to do within the Horseshoe include a free visit to the McKissick Museum open to the general public, and McCutchen House a food service teaching facility and restaurant management also open to the public.

Address: Columbia, SC 29208, USA

Soda City Market

Soda City Market

The street fair is held on Saturday mornings and basically for a variety of growers, performers, and makers from all over the region to Columbia’s Main Street in the downtown area.

The market starts from 9 am to 1 pm.

It is a European-style market with lots of things on sale from fresh produce to flowers, food, antiques, dog food, and so much more.

More than 150 vendors set up shop to serve over 5,000 visitors weekly. It is a great way to socialize and meet new people in Columbia, SC.

Address:  1300-1600 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

Williams Brice Stadium

Williams Brice Stadium

Williams Brice Stadium is one amazing place for visitors to see football games during the season.

Although Columbia is the state capital of South Carolina, the University dominates when it comes to the night games at the stadium.

It is a thrilling experience even for those who are not fans of the University of South Carolina.

There are restaurants and food vendors to get some night snacks.

If you are in luck and visit the city in October, there is usually a state fair that hosts 20,000 people in attendance just south of downtown close to the stadium and a lot of fun things to do.

Address:  1125 George Rogers Blvd, Columbia, SC 29201, United States

South Carolina State House

South Carolina State House

The South Carolina State House is easily among the most beautiful statehouse complexes around the United States with its medieval architectural design.

Visitors can embark on the daily statehouse tours all year round to explore the architecture, and history of the complex and see the place where legislation takes place.

The surrounding areas are well-manicured and beautifully designed for a perfect stroll around.

Address: 1100 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29208, United States

Visiting Columbia, South Carolina is one of the best things for any traveler planning to enter the United States of America.

The city has so many top attractions to see and serves everyone from adults to kids, whether you love calm and quiet, boating, hiking, biking strolling, museums, drinks, food and so much more.

The Mian Street in the downtown area of Columbia houses some of the best nightlife spots in the city, there are also many parks and gardens to take a stroll and relax during the day.

Make sure to add these top things to do in the city to get the best fun out of your visit.

Kristina Wyatt

Travel Writer

Kristina Wyatt has a passion for travel and writing that began in high school, when she freelanced for her local newspaper. Since then, she...

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25 Best Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Last Updated By VacationIdea Staff on January 23, 2024

Columbia, South Carolina

  • 1. Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia Museum of Art

1515 Main St, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-799-2810

  • 2. Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden

Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden

500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-779-8717

  • 3. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Feel free to roam through the old mills, look at the old pump houses, or sit on the bank and throw your fishing line into the water. This lovely park also hosts annual outdoor music concerts such as Riverfest and Greekfest, along with a few smaller ones.

  • 4. South Carolina State Museum

South Carolina State Museum

301 Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-898-4921

  • 5. Governor's Mansion

Governor's Mansion

800 Richland St, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-737-3000

  • 6. EdVenture Children's Museum

EdVenture Children's Museum

211 Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-779-3100

  • 7. South Carolina Military Museum

South Carolina Military Museum

1 National Guard Rd, Columbia, SC 29201, Phone: 803-299-4440

  • 8. Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens

Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens

1615 Blanding Street, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-252-7742

  • 9. Columbia Food Tours

Columbia Food Tours

There are two different tours that last two to three hours and start on the steps of the State House. Walking from one restaurant to another will only take about ten minutes. This experience is all about food. Phone: 803-760-2618

  • 10. Mr. Friendly's

Mr. Friendly's

2001-A Greene St., Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-254-7828

  • 11. Il Giorgione

Il Giorgione

2406 Devine Street, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-521-5063

  • 12. Robert Mills House & Gardens

Robert Mills House & Gardens

1616 Blanding Street, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-252-7742

  • 13. The Oyster Bar Columbia

The Oyster Bar Columbia

1123 Park St, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-799-4484

  • 14. Motor Supply Company Bistro

Motor Supply Company Bistro

920 Gervais Street, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-256-6687

  • 15. Sesquicentennial State Park

Sesquicentennial State Park

9564 Two Notch Rd, Columbia, SC 29223, 803-788-2706

  • 16. Harbison Environmental Education Forest

Harbison Environmental Education Forest

PO Box 21707, Columbia, South Carolina, Phone: 803-896-8890

  • 17. Saluda Shoals Park

Saluda Shoals Park

You may also like: 29 Best Romantic Weekend Getaways in South Carolina .

  • 18. Tunnel Vision Mural

Tunnel Vision Mural

1550 Marion St, Columbia, SC, 29201

  • 19. World's Largest Fire Hydrant

World's Largest Fire Hydrant

1404 Taylor St, Columbia, SC 29201

  • 20. Finlay Park

Finlay Park

930 Laurel St, Columbia, SC 29201, 803-733-8691

  • 21. Columbia Craft Brewing Company

Columbia Craft Brewing Company

520 Greene St, Columbia, SC 29201, 803-799-6027

  • 22. Woodrow Wilson Family Home

Woodrow Wilson Family Home

1705 Hampton St, Columbia, SC 29201, 803-252-1770

  • 23. McKissick Museum

McKissick Museum

1501 Pendleton St, Columbia, SC 29208, 803-777-7251

  • 24. Mann-Simons Site & Outdoor Museum

Mann-Simons Site & Outdoor Museum

1403 Richland St, Columbia, SC 29201, 803-252-7742

  • 25. Blue Marlin

Blue Marlin

1200 Lincoln St, Columbia, SC 29201, 803-799-3838

The top attractions to visit in Columbia, SC & Fun things to do near me today:

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20 Best Things To Do in Columbia, SC (South Carolina) 2023

TravelRaval » Blog » 20 Best Things To Do in Columbia, SC (South Carolina) 2023

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S outh Carolina’s city of Columbia is rich in history and culture and beckons visitors with its historic districts, lovely gardens, top-notch museums, and abundance of exciting outdoor activities. 

Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina since 1786, saw physical and cultural change as a result of the Civil War.

Today, the city is the home of the University of South Carolina. Columbia also boasts a broad economic environment supported by the high-tech, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing sectors. 

The capital of South Carolina, named after the explorer Christopher Columbus, is a historical hub of America flaming with southern charm and sunshine. 

Columbia is a city worth visiting since it has hip venues and cultural attractions including the Columbia City Ballet, the Columbia Museum of Art, and the largest fire hydrant in the world.

Make sure to frequently refer to our list of the top attractions and things to do in Columbia, South Carolina.

1. Have Family fun at Riverbank Zoo

2. take a tour of the south carolina state house, 3. explore the riverbanks botanical garden, 4. go for a walk at columbia canal & riverfront park, 5. take a history tour at south carolina state museum, 6. go for a stroll at waverly historic district, 7. wander at the state’s largest university – the usc, 8. marvel the artwork at columbia museum of art, 9. it’s kid’s conquest at edventure children’s museum, 10 take a tour of columbia’s historic homes, 11. take a day out for congaree national park, 12. indulge in the wartime tales at south carolina military museum, 13. soak into the show at koger centre for the arts, 14. attend a game at william – brice stadium, 15. marvel at the architecture of the busted plug plaza, 16. experience the magical illusion at tunnel vision mural, 17. indulge in the wandering and shopping spree at main street, 18. indulge in the cycling & hiking at three rivers greenway, 19. spend family time at the picturesque lake murray, 20. spend an evening at the serene finlay park, best places to eat in columbia, south carolina, best places to stay in columbia sc, things to do in columbia, sc – frequently asked questions (faqs).

Things To Do in Columbia, SC at Riverbank Zoo

This 170-acre zoo and park is home to more than 2,000 animals. 

With over a million visitors annually, Riverbanks Zoo is a two-time winner of the Governor’s Cup Award for South Carolina’s best tourist destination. 

It is well-suited as family things to do in Columbia, South Carolina . 

Main Tourist Attraction

Visitors, especially young children, can get up close and personal with different species in designated locations like the Reptile House, Bird Complex, and Petting Zoo. 

They also learn through interactive exhibits. Are you interested in learning more about honey production? 

Here, a unique exhibit will teach you. You may even buy some lettuce to feed giraffes at Riverbanks.

hings To Do in Columbia in South Carolina State House

The South Carolina Statehouse is one of the most popular Columbia attractions. It is a remarkable example of the Greek Revival style of architecture that was popular in the South before the Civil War. 

The capital, an acclaimed design by John Niernsee, stands 180 feet tall and has a copper dome that has been tarnished.

Explore the expansive capitol grounds and get a sense of the complicated state history here. Some of the best highlights include the American-Mexican War Monument, African-American History Monument, Confederate Monument, and other statues honouring George Washington.

The Main Visitor’s Attraction

Be sure to search for the five stars along the building’s facade that mark the locations of the Union cannonballs that impacted the façade prior to the building’s completion during the Civil War. 

Visitors can observe the state senate and house chambers while touring the stunning interior hallways of the capitol building for free. 

If you’re looking for an attraction where you do not have to shell out any money, this is one of the free things to do in Columbia. 

hings To Do in Columbia in Riverbanks Botanical Garden

Don’t forget to set aside some time to see the Riverbanks Botanical Garden at the zoo. 

Although admission to the Riverbanks Zoo includes access to these lovely 70-acre gardens. 

If you can take out time, it’s definitely worth visiting and is one of the best things to do in Columbia SC.

The gardens here are located on the Saluda River’s south bank and are linked to the zoo by a picturesque pedestrian bridge. 

The lawns are home to over 4,200 distinct varieties of exotic and native North American plants, as well as a large number of exotic specimens worldwide. 

Due to their theme-based layout, the gardens are simple to navigate, and tours and workshops are offered.

The Main Tourist Spots

The self-guided River Trail, which is 0.3 miles long, should be noted by visitors who are interested in the region’s textile history. 

The trail offers a close-up view of the earliest water-powered textile mills in South Carolina. It starts at the Saluda Bridge and travels along the river to the Saluda Mills Observation Pavilion.

Riverfront Park

Riverfront Park was created around the city’s old waterworks and opened for public use in 1983. 

This park was designed around the location of the first textile mill in the world to be powered by electricity. 

It was also the first original waterworks and hydroelectric plant, which is still in use and the oldest in the state.

Famous Visitor Attraction

A popular urban park along the Saluda River and Columbia Canal is called Columbia Canal & Riverfront Park. 

Bikers, joggers, and walkers are drawn to the miles of paved trails. 

This park is unique since it features an outdoor gym with seven pieces of equipment. You can use the cable pull, lateral press, scull, leg press, and weight machines to get a free workout in.

There are wheelchair-accessible picnic tables, bathrooms, and peaceful river views in this 14-acre downtown park. This is one of the best things to do in Columbia SC with kids. 

South Carolina State Museum

The South Carolina State Museum has made a name for itself. This Columbia attraction is meant for people interested in learning about the history of this wonderful state. It first opened its doors in 1988.

Spread across four floors in a 19th-century mill, the museum offers a variety of displays from the museum’s own collections, as well as changing exhibits that highlight significant moments in the history of the state. It tells the stories of its people through the lenses of art, culture, science, and technology.

Columbia Main attraction

Visitors can see programs in the museum’s cutting-edge planetarium and interactive 4D theatre.  Other notables include a planetarium, the nation’s first steam train, and an early submarine.

Waverly Historic District

Waverly, the first suburb of Columbia, developed into a neighborhood of black professionals, artists, and populists. 

Many of the citizens contributed significantly to Columbia and the rest of the state. 

When racial discrimination prevented African Americans from pursuing higher education, the district’s concentration of educational institutions—Benedict College and Allen University—served them. 

Waverly is now a thriving urban community that honors the past and welcomes the future. It is one of the most visited Columbia SC tourist attractions . 

Main Tourist Attractions

The 1885-built Bishop’s Memorial AME Church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the tour’s other attractions. Along with Carpenter’s Hall and the Carver Theatre, you’ll also see Daddy Grace’s Manor house, Heidt-Russell House, and the Waverly Five & Dime.

USC

The University of South Carolina (USC), which has a sizable 359-acre campus nearby lively downtown Columbia, should undeniably be on your vacation itinerary. 

Visitor services at the institution are a good place to start and is one of the best places to go in Columbia SC. 

The Columbia Museum of Art and other downtown attractions are just a short stroll away. Here you may learn more about the university’s history as well as enjoyable activities to do while exploring.

Visitor Attraction

Our top recommendation is to take a self-guided campus walking tour. You’ll go through the historic “horseshoe,” a park-like environment and the original 1801 campus. It is the place where some of the university’s most significant landmarks, including McCutchen House, are located. 

Take a walk through a network of old brick roads and paved trails.

The McKissick Museum, which has a sizable collection of South American cultural relics, is also located in the tourist centre and is well worth a visit. 

Columbia Museum of Art

One of the most esteemed organizations of its kind in the Southeast, the Columbia Museum of Art has more than 25 galleries and a global collection spanning 5,000 years of history. 

It is one of the best things to do in Columbia SC this weekend . 

Papular Tourist Attraction

The Press Collection is a top-notch collection of Baroque period artwork that is well worth a special visit. 

The Italian maestro Sandro Botticelli’s Nativity Fresco is also on display. The collection’s most prized piece is View of the Seine by impressionist Claude Monet.

The museum boasts an equally significant collection of American art, which includes portraits by Hiram Powers, statues by Frederic S. Remington, and visual artist Charles Willson Peale. 

Also on show are early and mid-century American decorative arts, such as pottery by Victor Toothaker and woodwork by Duncan Phyfe.

You can tell that EdVenture Children’s Museum is a unique, exceptional Columbia attraction you have ever experienced!

Fun adventures are waiting for you here, and both children and adults will enjoy the interactive exhibitions. 

The largest child in the world, Eddie, the 40-foot tall effigy welcomes visitors as they enter the main atrium. Children are encouraged to climb over and over his enormous physique and is one of the fun things to do in Columbia with kids. 

Tourist Spots

Wags and Whiskers, a simulated pet care lab where children can learn about grooming and caring for their four-legged pals in plush toy form, is one of the best installations out there. 

Marketworks is a creative and entertaining maker space where young inventors work on a variety of projects using cubes, Legoland, and kid-friendly tools.

World of Work demonstrates to children what can be in store for them as they get older and start working. 

At Dalmatian Station, they can see an actual fire engine, restock the shelves at the Neighbourhood Market, and operate a tractor. 

Children of all ages are entertained at Planet Putt & Play by using indoor miniature golf and arithmetic to complete the challenging course.

Historic Homes

Historic Columbia, a non-profit preservation organization, has meticulously restored three of Columbia’s most historic mansions and offers tours of them. Taking a tour of these historic homes is one of the unique things to do in Columbia SC . 

The Robert Mills House and Gardens is a private residence of Robert Mills, the man who designed the Washington Monument in Washington DC. It is built in the classic Gothic style. 

In 1961, the house was spared from demolition and reopened as a historical museum. It now houses a sizable collection of antiques and decorative arts furniture, much of which are in the American Federal and French Imperial styles. The gardens, which were added in the 1960s after the renovation, are in the traditional English style.

Right next is the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Garden. Earlier incarnations of this historic home were quite pleasant. Built-in 1818 as a private residence for the wealthy Hampton family, it later served as the Governor’s Mansion and the Union Army Headquarters during the Civil War. Additionally, the residence is a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

The Main Visitor Attraction

In South Carolina, there is only one presidential site—the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.

One of the best attractions in Columbia SC, and most drawn to the visitors among the three historic homes is the boyhood refuge of Woodrow Wilson – the 28th president of the United States. 

Wilson was known as “Tommy,” and this Italianate-villa mansion is filled with displays, vignettes, and backstories that tell the life and times of this great American.

Things To Do in Columbia,Congaree National Park

Native animals and expansive views can be found in many national parks that witness high visitor traffic. But Congaree National Park is excluded. 

The park stands with noble Sufism as it awaits discovery. 

The distinctive environment of this lush landscape guards an ancient fluvial riverbank so deep and dense that it provided safe haven for slaves from surrounding plantations as they took their first steps toward liberation.

The only National Park in South Carolina covers 26,000 acres, making it the biggest intact area of shallow root hardwood forest still standing in the country. 

With one of the highest canopies in the world and rich biodiversity, the park has some of the tallest trees in Eastern North America.

Tourist Attraction

The Hampton Visitors Centre is a fantastic place to start because you can pick up a trail, raft, and maps there. 

You can also have a word with a ranger, and learn about the incredible biodiversity of one of the tallest deciduous forests on earth. 

The average height of the tree canopy is well over 100 feet. 

To make the visit even more enjoyable for the kids, the center features a Junior Ranger Program and other fascinating exhibits.

You may hike out into the hardwoods while keeping your feet dry and clean on the neighboring 2.5-mile Boardwalk route. 

The numbers on the marked rails match the descriptions of the park’s environment on your map. 

On any of the other paths, you’ll need thick boots and hiking equipment because the lowlands can be damp and muddy. 

The park’s Cedar Creek runs through its middle and is a great spot for kayaking. Congaree is one of the best places to visit in Columbia SC . 

South Carolina Military Museum

The South Carolina Military Museum is committed to preserving the history of the South Carolina National Guard and paying tribute to the men and women who served as citizen soldiers for South Carolina and the United States for more than 300 years.

Main Visitors Attraction

A visit to the South Carolina Military Museum is one of the free things to do in Columbia SC. 

The Museum covers the tale of the South Carolina militia, its transformation into the National Guard, and its significant role today as a reserve component and force multiplier for the US Army and Air Force. 

It has an extensive collection of artifacts, displays, and exhibits.

A timeline of military history is presented in interesting presentations coupled with background information and images.

Self-directed tours of the museum are simple to enjoy, but hour-long guided excursions can also be arranged in advance.

Koger Centre for the Arts

Since it opened in 1988, the Koger Centre for the Arts is nestled in the premises of the University of South Carolina, has been offering top-notch entertainment to both students and non-students alike.

The Main Tourist Attraction

The USC Dance Department, USC School of Music, including the Symphony Orchestra, and a number of regional arts organizations, including Columbia City Ballet, the South Carolina Philharmonic, and Columbia Classical Ballet, perform in the 2,254-seat theatre. 

Additionally, the theatre is pleased to be the home of Broadway In Columbia, which brings the best of the big apple to Columbia. This is one of the best things to do in Columbia SC this weekend. 

Brice Stadium

If you’re more interested in sports and entertainment than in history and culture, you’ll definitely need to catch a spectacular moment at the enormous Williams-Brice Stadium.

 It is the home of the Gamecocks, the University of Columbia’s college football team, and is frequently complimented for its electric atmosphere and entertaining pre-game cookouts.

Since 1934, Williams—Brice Stadium has served as a pilgrimage site for Southern sports fans.

Plan ahead if you want to attend a game at this cutting-edge, completely renovated stadium, which is close to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. 

It regularly sells out in advance and draws audiences of up to 80,000 fans on game days. And, it is one of the best attractions in Columbia SC.  

Rock and pop concerts are frequently held at the stadium, where legends like U2, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney have performed.

Busted Plug Plaza

The largest fire hydrant in the entire globe is currently this remarkable work of art. 

It is almost 40 feet (12 meters) tall, made of 675,000 pounds of steel, and is admired for its artistic worth all around the world. 

It was created by South Carolina-based artist Blue Sky, whose other well-known works of art include the mural for the Portable Parking Space and the Levitating Dumpster. 

Visitors Attraction

The functioning fire hydrant was built by 75 qualified architects, city planners, and engineers and put into service in 1999. 

Busted Plug Plaza, one of South Carolina’s most well-known sculptures and pieces of art, is unquestionably one of the best things to do in Columbia SC today.

Tunnel Vision Mural

Next to the Busted Plug Plaza, the artwork depicts a rocky entrance to a world under a different sun that, if it were genuine. And is wide enough for a huge car to pass through.  It is 50 X 75 feet in size and is one of the top things to see in Columbia SC.

The astonishingly realistic artwork, which was painted on a sizable blank wall next to a parking lot in downtown Columbia, was done by South Carolina artist Blue Sky. 

He also produced the close-by, equally sizable public artworks Busted Plug Plaza and Neverbust Chain. 

The artwork uses the trompe l’oeil technique to provide the appearance of depth, and because of the artist’s continued additions and adjustments over the years. The reality of the picture does not seem to deteriorate but rather gets better.

Main Street

One of the best things to do in Columbia is to explore the recently revamped Main Street neighborhood, which is located in the center of the city. This urban area is full of boutiques, chic stores, restaurants, and historical landmarks, and is one of the great places to go in Columbia SC. 

Main Tourist Spots

The Soda City Market and First Thursdays on Main street is just a couple of the numerous events and festivals that take place here all year long. 

The area is surrounded by some of the best cultural attractions the city has to offer. Some of them include the South Carolina State House, where you can take a free tour of the government buildings and collections of historical artworks. 

The other attractions include the 240,000-square-foot main branch of the Richland Library, which boasts stunning architecture. 

The Columbia climate is renowned for being hot, so be sure to visit the Sweet Cream Company to get some relief from the heat. There are 16 types of ice cream available at the locally owned business, which frequently uses locally sourced ingredients. 

Three Rivers Greenway

The 12 miles of this evolving regional trail network wind through several towns, including Columbia, and along three distinct rivers, providing an incredible chance for quick excursions away from the hustle and into nature. 

The paved trail is the perfect place to go for urban hiking because it is close to facilities like picnic tables, playgrounds, restrooms, and even pubs, and restaurants.

Primary Tourist Destinations

Walking, jogging or biking here is a terrific way to experience the breathtaking riverfront landscape. 

Along the route, there are a number of Blue Bike stations that provide a straightforward and practical bike sharing system.  

Keep a watch out for wildlife, particularly birds and waterfowl, as the waterways are littered with tiny islands that make excellent hatching habitats. It is one of the best outdoor things to do in Columbia SC.

Picturesque Lake Murray

Lake Murray is a massive artificial reservoir that spans 55,000 acres and has 650 miles of shoreline to explore. 

It is located about 15 miles northwest of the city. You can take a boat rental to explore the archipelago, lounge on the beach, or have a picnic in one of the many public parks with panoramic water views. 

Another popular activity is fishing, where anglers can catch a range of species all year long, including largemouth and woolly buggers.

Main Attraction for Travelers

Greenlanders have plenty of options including paths around the lake for hiking and mountain biking, The lake is famous for a plethora of taverns and eateries. 

The lake is known for its public events like the Fourth of July fireworks shows over the water.

Read more – Off-Grid Places for Fourth of July weekend getaways .

things to see in Columbia SC, Finlay Park

Since the early 1900s, Finlay Park has served as the jewel in the crown of Columbia’s public parks system. It is situated in the centre of downtown and provides one of the best and most famous views of the city skyline. 

Among the Most Popular Attraction

This 18-acre park features a tranquil strolling path surrounding a small lake, lush greenery, pavilions, a cascade fountain, and a statue of former Columbia mayor Kirkman Finlay, seated on a park bench. 

The park is only a short distance from the bustling Main Street neighborhood.

The southwest corner of the park is traversed by the Vista Greenway, a well-liked, kid-friendly regional route that takes visitors along an old railroad track to the nearby Vista town. 

On the park’s northern edge, along Laurel Street, there is a panoramic observation site that provides views of both the Governor’s Mansion and the setting sun.

Best Places to Eat in Columbia, South Carolina

The most popular destination for travelers visiting South Carolina is consistently Columbia. Given that it functions as both the county seat and the state capital.

Millions of tourists every year flock to Columbia for its historical landmarks and natural attractions. It is sure to satiate the desires of every traveler. 

Food lovers discovered this city to be a fantastic destination for a long-awaited gourmet adventure. You can indulge in some of the most delicious foods from American, Italian, Asian, and even fusion cuisines here.

The delicious cuisine at Columbia’s top restaurants will delight your palate and crave you to visit again and again. Utilize this list to learn more about what they have to offer.

  • The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli – This neighborhood bakery, located on Shandon, makes a variety of pastries with a specialty on cinnamon. Try the original vanilla with the black pepper pancetta pine frosting. The Big Max, which includes eggs, cheese, bacon, and whole grain mustard, is another option you might want to consider. The Pepper Jack Steak and Eggs is another fan favorite.

Address – 2617 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29223

  • Alodia’s Cucina Italiana – Alodia’s Cucina Italiana, which opened in 2008, draws its culinary inspiration from European cuisine. Traditional Italian cuisine and an old-school atmosphere are two of Alodia’s main draws for customers. Fried shrimp fritti with a cup of charred red pepper and goat cheese soup will tantalize your palate. If you prefer specialty foods or traditional Italian fare, order the Baked Spaghetti.

Location – 2736 N Lake Dr, Columbia, SC 29212

  • Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda – For locals and visitors to Columbia, this restaurant serves traditional Mexican cuisine.  Soft tacos, burritos, and many other traditional Mexican foods are available at the Real Mexico Restaurant. The XXL Jalapeno Quesadilla, which includes roasted chicken, asparagus, and mushrooms, is a must-try for cheese fans.

Add – 2421 Bush River Rd, Columbia, SC 29210

  • Bourbon – Visit Bourbon to enjoy the tasty dishes that they have made especially for you.  To sample real Louisiana cuisine in Columbia, choose a stew bowl and prawns & beans for the main course.

Location – 1214 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201

Best Places to Stay in Columbia SC

The city of Columbia, South Carolina, makes for a fantastic excursion, offering everything from warplanes and NFL games to state parks, woodlands, and old mansions. 

Whether you want to explore Columbia by staying in a historical villa or staying on a budget on the outskirts of the city, choosing the right lodging is essential. 

Here is our list of the top hotels, and inns in the area.

  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Columbia – The Doubletree Columbia offers a superb base for guests seeking Hilton-standard comfort and convenience in equal proportion. it is situated near two major interchanges. With surrounding outdoor attractions including the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Lake Murray, and Saluda Shoals Park, nature lovers will have no shortage of things to do.

Location – 2100 Bush River Rd, Columbia, SC 29210

  • The Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel – Another well-known luxury hotel is the Sheraton Columbia Downtown Hotel. It offers a variety of rooms and suites with elegant furnishings and high ceilings as well as an on-site restaurant and a rooftop lounge.

Address – 1400 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201

  • Hotel Trundle – Consider booking a night at the hip Hotel Trundle in the centre of Columbia for a fantastic boutique hotel experience. It offers stylish rooms with minifridges and a fantastic complimentary continental breakfast.

Best Places to Stay in Columbia SC

Add – 1224 Taylor St, Columbia, SC 29201

  • Marriott Columbia – The Marriott provides a comprehensive, upscale stay with many allusions to the local way of life. Get a hotel with a balcony for a fantastic view of the city, or go exploring on your own. The Marriott places you in the centre of the action, just steps from the Columbia Museum of Art.

Location – 1200 Hampton St, Columbia, SC 29201

Thanks to its friendly people, inspiring natural landscapes, and exciting culture, Columbia is a city unlike any other. From its regal history as the capital of South Carolina to its charming cultural attractions, the city has something for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Start exploring this vibrant city today and live a life of exhilarating adventure!

Columbia, the state’s capital, is home to numerous wonderful attractions, including top-notch museums, parks, and dining options. Explore the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, wander through the lovely Riverfront Park, pay a visit to the South Carolina Military Museum, and also appreciate arts at Columbia Museum of Art.

The capital city of the Palmetto State offers attractions for thrill-seekers and sight-seeing tourists alike. Some of them include whitewater rafting on the Saluda River rapids, planning a trip to the midlands of South Carolina, and more.  

The South Carolina State Museum, EdVenture Children’s Museum, and Saluda Shoals Park are some of the best family-friendly things to do in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to your visit, make sure to phone the attractions to confirm the most recent operating hours.

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16 Top Things to Do in South Carolina

From beaches to golf and historic sites to natural wonders, explore the Palmetto State's top attractions.

views and scenes at murrells inlet south of myrtle beach south carolina

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Riding the Ferris wheel at Myrtle Beach, hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains and dining on honey fried chicken are just some of the things to do in South Carolina.

The Palmetto State contains many surprises. It's the first state to open a library (1698), and its state fruit is the peach – it produces even more than Georgia. But beyond what you may not know about this coastal state, South Carolina has plenty of what you would expect, from historic estates and cultural tours to gorgeous shorelines and its ever-present oak trees. It's a state that blends old and new, land and sea.

For everything you plan to do in South Carolina, whether it's golf, a stroll through manicured gardens or a day at the beach , seek out something new; maybe it'll be a trolley ride through a tea plantation or a kazoo factory tour. Take some time away from the city – Charleston or Columbia – to tour an African village or spend a day learning about Gullah culture. You can also set off from the mainland to visit one of South Carolina's many islands, where a centuries-old oak or the brief home of a famous author may await you.

With hundreds of years of history and postcard-perfect landscapes, South Carolina has something surprising in store for any traveler.

(Note: Some of the following activities, attractions and locations may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)

Charleston's Historic District

Many of the sites and landmarks pivotal to South Carolina's story are clustered together in the historic district of Charleston. The Heyward-Washington House at 87 Church St. is notable because it was built in 1772 as the Georgian-style town house of Thomas Heyward Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The "Washington" part of the name comes into play because none other than President George Washington used the home for a weeklong stay in Charleston in 1791.

Meanwhile, the Aiken-Rhett House was built in 1820, and remains one of the best-preserved town house complexes in the country. In addition to its architecture, the attraction is also notable because it was home to a number of enslaved people. Visitors today can gain a better understanding of the conditions that enslaved workers lived in; original paint, floors and fixtures remain from the 1850s. Recent patrons of the Aiken-Rhett House praise its emphasis on the slave experience, saying that having the full context made the visit more meaningful.

Even the hotels here are historic. In 1852, a wholesale grocery business at 181 Church St. became the largest of its kind in the South, and its founder brought in his first store clerks as partners. That location is present-day Hotel Emeline, which features its own archive on display spanning collections from 1920 through World War II, as well as a coffee shop named Clerks.

Don't miss a stroll through the White Point Garden in the heart of historic downtown. Views of Fort Sumter and the harbor can be seen among the park's old oaks and Civil War cannons and monuments.

To see the best of Charleston, consider one of the city's guided tours. Charleston tour options include everything from harbor cruises to ghost hunts.

[See more of Charleston: Things to Do | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos ]

Congaree National Park

The boardwalk in Congaree National Park passing through the swamp lands.

Congaree National Park is home to the oldest bottomland hardwood forest in North America, and that means its biodiversity is astonishing, from its endangered indigo snakes and red-cockaded woodpeckers to its massive loblolly pines. Across its 20,000 acres, there are more than 25 miles of hiking trails, including 2.4 miles of boardwalk that wind over the Congaree floodplain. A marked canoe trail invites visitors to kayak or canoe their way through the park along Cedar Creek. More adventurous and experienced paddlers can take on the Congaree River Blue Trail, a designated 50-mile recreational paddling trail that stretches from Columbia to Congaree Park. The park's physical address is in Hopkins and it's free to enjoy.

Drayton Hall

Exterior shot of Drayton Hall in South Carolina.

There are many historic homes across the Palmetto State, but Drayton Hall has the distinction of being the oldest unrestored plantation home in America, dating back to 1738. The structure, which homed seven generations, has been stabilized rather than restored to its period decor. Founder John Drayton's wealth largely came from his 100 plantations and the enslaved people who worked them, estimated to have numbered in the thousands and included Native Americans. Visitors have noted that despite ongoing preservation-related construction, the archaeologists who work excavation sites at Drayton are fascinating to talk to.

Drayton Hall takes advance reservations for the main house tour − a self-guided audio tour that requires you to bring your own earbuds, or they can be purchased on the grounds for a fee. For an additional charge, hourlong interpreter-led house tours are available each operating day; online reservations are required.

Address: 3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414

Tour an African village

Covering 27 acres in Seabrook, the Oyotunji African Village is populated by families representing the Yoruba and Dahomey cultures of Nigeria and West Africa. The village, located in the woods, was founded in 1970 by "King" Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I (born Walter Eugene King). Referred to as Oba Waja, he was initiated into the Orisa-Vodun priesthood in Cuba in the 1950s. At this unique community, which seeks to celebrate and educate visitors on the cultural practices and societal contributions of these African tribes, you'll find monthly festivals, historical documents, original art and more. You can schedule village tours, which last up to an hour, through the OAV website, for an additional fee, with discounts for kids and groups of 10 or more.

Address: 56 Bryant Lane, Seabrook, SC 29940

Touch an ancient oak tree

The Angel Oak on John's Island outside Charleston, South Carolina.

John's Island is the largest island in South Carolina, and most of it lies within the jurisdiction of Charleston County. On the island there is a must-see oak tree that predates the Declaration of Independence. The Angel Oak is a Southern live oak tree that is believed to be at 300 to 400 years old. That means it's estimated to have been around since at least 1620. It stands nearly 67 feet tall with its longest branch extending about 187 feet and is known as "A Lowcountry Treasure." No trip to South Carolina is complete without a picture of the state's grand oak trees, and the Angel Oak is one of a kind.

Address: 3688 Angel Oak Road, Charleston, SC 29402

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, with a lit-up Ferris wheel, at dusk.

Myrtle Beach is known nationwide as a soft-sanded, family-friendly beach vacation that's home to 60 miles of coastline. It's also known for its golf and is often considered a contender for the title of "Golf Capital of the World." Myrtle Beach offers approximately 90 golf courses to choose from, with consensus from top golf publications that the courses are convenient and affordable. Dunes Golf and Beach Club has stunning ocean views and is consistently rated one of the top golf courses in the country.

Huntington Beach State Park is a gorgeous place in Myrtle Beach to take a walk or bird-watch – it's considered one of the best birding locations in the state. Among the park's waters and wildlife lies an unexpected estate: Atalaya Castle was the winter home of the Huntington family who lived on the grounds in the '30s. The Friends of Huntington Beach State Park host tours of the estate March through May.

[See more of Myrtle Beach: Things to Do | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos ]

Channel Edgar Allan Poe on Sullivan's Island

An early morning shot of the sun rising over the ocean on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina.

People often associate horror writer Edgar Allan Poe with the New England settings of many of his stories, but you may not know Poe was a college dropout who joined the military and briefly found himself on Sullivan's Island , South Carolina, in 1827. He only lived on the island for 11 months, but both the place and the man left a lasting impression on each another. In Poe's story "The Gold-Bug," he says Sullivan's Island "consists of little else than the sea sand and is about three miles long." Today, Sullivan's Island remembers the author with his namesake Poe's Tavern. Open daily, the tavern serves sandwiches with names like "Raven" and "Pit & Pendulum." Stop in, have a drink and soak in a tiny slice of little-known literary history.

Wander the oldest landscaped gardens in the country

Interior of Eliza's House, including white walls, a door in the middle, a cupboard with kitchenware on the right of the door and shelves to the left.

Courtesy of Middleton Place

First landscaped in 1741, the gardens at Middleton Place are still lovely to walk, but the grounds now provide a framework for the 280 years of history since. This National Historic Landmark in Charleston consists of a house museum; the slaves' quarters, called Eliza's House; working stable yards; and of course, 65 acres of gardens, which were inspired by Versailles . The three components of the house at Middleton Place were burned two months before the end of the Civil War, but have been restored and were opened as a house museum in 1975. In the years since, the curators have worked to incorporate the history of those who lived and worked on the grounds, in addition to the Middleton family. A 10-year research project commissioned by the Middleton Foundation recovered the names and stories of more than 2,800 enslaved people owned by the family over the course of 127 years.

There is a fee to access the gardens, with discounts available for students and children. If you stay at The Inn at Middleton Place, admission to the grounds is free.

Address: 4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414

Try honey fried chicken from Yogi Bear

Yogi might have been "smarter than the average bear," but his once-thriving fried chicken chain is down to just one location, and it can be found in Hartsville, South Carolina. In 1962, Gene Broome was the largest independent restaurant owner in the state, starting four national franchises, which later included Yogi Bear's, based around Broome's own recipe for honey-flavored fried chicken. But Hardee's interest in the chain eventually led Broome to sell it, and reports claim that once Hardee's had its honey additive, expansion of Yogi Bear's halted and the other franchises fell into disrepair.

Anyone craving that honey chicken today can still purchase a "Picnic Basket" of chicken or an individual "Boo Boo Basket." Adventurous diners can order fried liver and gizzards, as well.

Address: 14 S. Fifth St., Hartsville, SC 29550

Learn about Gullah culture on Hilton Head Island

There's more to Hilton Head Island than golf courses and beaches. This small island is home to a community of Gullah people, who are the descendants of enslaved West Africans brought to South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia to work on plantations. Their culture – including their Creole language and traditions – is still being preserved today. Descendants remain scattered across the Southeast coast, including South Carolina's low country islands. The area between Pender County, North Carolina, and St. Johns County, Florida, is referred to as the "Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor" and it encompasses a variety of places significant to the Gullah Geechee people. Gullah Heritage Trail Tours, which begin and end at Hilton Head's Coastal Discovery Museum , provide an authentic look into the modern-day Gullah way of life, as well as exposure to the language and customs of this South Carolinian community. Beyond Hilton Head, Charleston's McLeod Plantation Historic Site , once a cotton plantation, is one of many estates strongly associated with the emergence of Gullah culture in the low country.

While you're touring local homes, be on the lookout for "haint blue," a color painted on the ceiling of porches and believed by the Gullah to ward off evil spirits – it's particularly abundant throughout Beaufort. And if you're visiting Hilton Head in February, consider attending the annual Gullah Celebration festival.

[See more of Hilton Head: Things to Do | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos ]

Fort Sumter National Monument

A wide shot of Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The Civil War began with shots fired on the garrison of Fort Sumter in South Carolina's Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861. Today, visitors can learn about what led to the war with a tour of the National Historical Park; the site is a must-visit for history buffs, according to recent travelers. But first, you'll have to board a boat to get to Sullivan's Island, where Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are located. Fort Sumter Tours is the authorized concessioner of the National Park Service and operates ferry rides to the grounds, which include free ranger-led tours and a ride around the harbor on the return. Boats depart daily from Charleston or Mount Pleasant, and there are discounts for seniors, military members and children.

Address: 1214 Middle St., Sullivan's Island, SC 29482

[Read: The Best Tourist Attraction in Every U.S. State .]

Learn the history of the kazoo and make your own

When you think of things associated with South Carolina, kazoos are probably not the first thing to come to mind. However, in Beaufort, visitors will find one of the largest public collections of the buzzing musical instrument on the grounds of The Kazoobie Kazoo Factory. America's only plastic kazoo factory is proud of its product, with the museum, tours, a gift shop and a chance to make your own kazoo. Kazoobie was founded by Rick Hubbard in 1997 – Hubbard was a musician and gave away nearly a million kazoos during his lifetime at his traveling shows and became known as "The King of Kazoo."

Recent visitors to the factory say it's a great experience for the young and young at heart. Tours are offered for a fee and last up to an hour; visits to the museum and gift shop are free.

Address: 12 John Galt Road, Beaufort, SC 29906

South Carolina State Museum

Science and Technology gallery at South Carolina State Museum.

Courtesy of South Carolina State Museum

In Columbia – the state's capital – visitors will find an homage to all things South Carolina at this museum. Exhibits, along with a show in the planetarium, highlight the Apollo 16 lunar mission. South Carolinian astronaut Charles Duke is still the youngest person who has ever walked on the moon when he did so in 1972 at 36 as part of the Apollo 16 mission. Other state-centric exhibits include rotating displays on South Carolina history and a variety of topics. What's more, the permanent exhibits span prehistoric fossils, the Civil War, the Black experience throughout history and more. A trip to the on-site 4D interactive theater is one of the many features at the museum that will maintain kids' interest.

The South Carolina State Museum has general admission tickets and combination tickets can be purchased to include the planetarium and 4D theater. The South Carolina State Museum is just one of many things to do in Columbia, South Carolina .

Address: 301 Gervais St., Columbia, SC 29201

Visit one of the only tea plantations in North America

The majority of the world's tea comes from the delicate plants of China and India; North American tea is rare. One of the very few places it does grow is in South Carolina. Visit the Charleston Tea Garden, one of the only tea plantations on the continent, located on Wadmalaw Island just a few miles south of Charleston. The small island dates back to 1666, when it was claimed for the English. Today, 127 acres of the island are dedicated to growing 320 varieties of black and green tea. The property was purchased by the Bigelow Tea Company in 2003 and visitors today can take a free tour, ride a trolley through the fields or have a picnic under ancient oaks – accompanied by some tea, of course. Recent visitors said they found the tea-making process surprisingly interesting and insist on not skipping the trolley tour.

Tea lovers visiting the Charleston area might also enjoy Summerville, which is located about 25 miles north of Charleston and is the self-proclaimed birthplace of the South's famous sweet tea. Summerville takes its sweet iced tea seriously, with a trail that passes murals and Mason, the world's largest sweet tea that can hold more than 2,500 gallons. Sweet tea cocktail bar crawls are held throughout the year, and the annual Sweet Tea Festival takes place each September.

Address: 6617 Maybank Highway, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487

Explore the state parks and waterfalls of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Carrick Creek Falls in Table Rock State Park near Greenville, South Carolina SC and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Blue Ridge Mountains run through South Carolina, with the state's highest point at 3,560 feet on Sassafras Mountain. Located about 25 miles northwest of Greenville on the border of North Carolina, the mountain gets its name from the sassafras trees that grow on its lower slopes. South Carolina is home to eight stunning state parks that feature the natural beauty of this iconic mountain range across 17,000 protected acres and seen along 100 miles of the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway, also known as Highway 11. These parks include Lake Hartwell State Park in Fair Play and Table Rock State Park in Pickens. Hiking trails at most of these parks not only feature lakes and mountain views, but also waterfalls. Carrick Creek Falls can be found at Table Rock, and Rainbow Falls is located in Jones Gap State Park in Marietta. Fishing and camping are common pursuits year-round at the parks along the Blue Ridge Mountains. For peak fall colors, consider visiting in October.

Catch a game at the Fenway-inspired Fluor Field

Head downtown to catch a Greenville Drive game, a High-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. This minor league baseball team takes its affiliation seriously, and even the ballpark, known as Fluor Field, is designed to resemble Boston 's historic Fenway Park . Complete with its own Green Monster and Pesky's Pole – iconic structural features of Fenway – Fluor Field welcomes fans to enjoy the nation's pastime from April through September. At least one week of home games is scheduled every month in Greenville.

Address: 945 S. Main St., Greenville, SC 29601

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Historic Columbia

Visit Historic Columbia

Visiting historic columbia.

Five of Historic Columbia's house museums are open weekly for semi-guided tours. Located in the heart of the Robert Mills Historic District in downtown Columbia, Historic Columbia's gardens offer 14 acres of striking landscape featuring heirloom plantings inspired from the past two centuries. 

Semi-Guided

House Tours

Come see as we take you on a journey through our four historic house museums in the heart of the Robert Mills Historic District. Our houses explore the early 19th through mid-20th centuries.

Explore History and Nature in One Visit

Explore a garden modeled after 19th century English design or the grounds of popular gardens in 19th century Southeastern United States. Historic Columbia's gardens combine beautiful horticultural design with heirloom and native cultivars and plants to maintain historic integrity and benefit the environment.

Prepare for Your Visit

Read our FAQs to find out everything you need to know before visiting HC's gardens.

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Columbia, sc.

Robert Mills Historic House and Park

Visit Columbia

Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, sits at the confluence of three rivers. An orderly city made up of tree-lined streets and broad boulevards, the city’s attractions include antebellum homes, art galleries and museums with exhibits to suit all ages. Relax at riverside parks and explore one of the nation’s most renowned zoos as you make your way around the city. Founded in 1786 and all but flattened during the Civil War, today Columbia combines the elegance of a state capital with the youthfulness of a university town.

Start your visit with a tour of the South Carolina State House, which marks the heart of the city. Outside is the African-American History Monument, a commemoration of African-American contributions to South Carolina. From this point in the center of Columbia, streets lead in all directions to major attractions and historic landmarks. Peek inside the rooms of the Governor’s Mansion, one of the few buildings to survivor Civil War destruction.

Browse a comprehensive display of art, natural history, science and technology exhibits at South Carolina State Museum. See work by American and European artists at the Columbia Museum of Art and take the family to enjoy the hands-on and educational exhibits at the EdVenture Children’s Museum. Learn about South Carolina’s military history at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

Take advantage of the city’s extensive collection of green spaces. Spot colorful wildlife and plant species at Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden. Stroll along the banks of three rivers at the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park. Find picnic sites, sports fields and walking trails at Earlewood Park. Mingle with students on the lawns of Gibbes Green, at the University of South Carolina.

Columbia is a city that loves its sports. Experience some of this passion while watching basketball at the Colonial Life Arena, baseball at Founders Park or football at Williams-Brice Stadium. For a change of pace, take in some of the city’s cultural offerings at venues such as the Columbia Marionette Theatre or the Workshop Theatre. Spend an evening bar hopping in the neighborhoods of Congaree Vista and Five Points.

Reach the Columbia from other major U.S. cities via the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Amtrak train arrive from all corners of the state. With mild winters, hot summers and downtown attractions confined to a small area, Columbia is an ideal city to traverse on foot.

Where to stay in Columbia

Columbia

Downtown Columbia

Travelers come to Downtown Columbia for its lively bars, and you can see top attractions like South Carolina State House and Columbia Museum of Art while you're in town.

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University Hill

University Hill is well-liked for its restaurants. You can also take some time to explore sights in the surrounding area like South Carolina State House and Township Auditorium.

If you're looking for some top things to see and do in Rosewood and surrounding area, you can visit South Carolina State Fairgrounds and Williams Brice Stadium.

While Shandon might not have many sights to explore, venturing just a little farther will lead you to top things to see and do like Township Auditorium and South Carolina State Fairgrounds.

Lake Carolina

While Lake Carolina isn't home to many top sights, Village at Sandhill Mall and Plex Indoor Sports are some notable places to visit nearby.

Finley Park

Arsenal Hill

Unique features of Arsenal Hill include the restaurants and live music. Make a stop by Governor's Mansion or Matthew J. Perry, Jr. U.S. Courthouse while you're exploring the area.

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Check Columbia hotel availability

Popular places to visit, riverbanks zoo and garden.

Why not meet the animals who call Riverbanks Zoo and Garden home during your trip to Columbia? You can attend a sporting event while in the area.

South Carolina State House

Inspect the many monuments and political symbols that decorate the grounds and majestic mansion of the state’s most important structure.

Columbia Museum of Art

Bring kids to this fun gallery with a focus on medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art and fascinating traveling exhibits.

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Explore the great outdoors at Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park, a lovely green space in Columbia. Experience the area's acclaimed theater scene or attend a sporting event.

Fort Jackson

After visiting Fort Jackson, make a plan to see the other sights and activities in Columbia. You can attend a sporting event while in the area.

University of South Carolina

Take a campus tour or just explore the area of University of South Carolina, during your travels in Columbia. Experience the area's acclaimed theater scene or attend a sporting event.

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The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500

Remarks by President   Biden at a Political Event at South Carolina’s First in the Nation Dinner | Columbia,   SC

South Carolina State Fairgrounds Columbia, South Carolina

(January 27, 2024)

7:37 P.M. EST THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, South Carolina!  (Applause.) AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!  THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you. AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years! THE PRESIDENT:  It’s —

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, thank you, thank you. Look, it’s — it’s good be home with so many friends I’ve known for so long.  And tonight, I’m thinking of so many of my friends who are no longer with us, like Fritz and Peatsy Hollings.  And they were here for me when I first got started in a tough time of my life, when I didn’t want to stay in the Senate.  They embraced me.  They included me in everything and kept me going.  They’re always with me in spirit. The same goes for Emily Clyburn.  You know, Jim — Jim is the reason that I’m president, because he endorsed me and got all of you to help me.  (Applause.)  But I later learned Emily convinced him to endorse me.  (Laughter.)  Jim, we miss her.  And you’re the best friend anyone could have. Folks, I — if I were smart, I’d say “Thank you” and leave — (laughter) — because Jim made the case for me better than I can make the case for me.  (Applause.) Well, folks — and I love Columbia so much I asked your former Mayor to join me in the White House.  (Laughter.)  We’re fortunate to have Steve Benjamin at my side.  (Applause.)  But we’re really fortunate we put his better half on the federal bench.  (Laughter and applause.)  She’s doing an incredible job.  Just like I’m fortunate for my better half, Jill, who was here in Columbia last night — (applause) — with the women of Alpha Kappa Theta — Alpha Kappa Alpha, excuse me.  She had a wonderful time. And we’ve got so many real leaders here — two former Chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus: Joyce Beatty — and you heard Marcia Fudge.  Don’t mess with Marcia.  (Laughter and applause.)  And my home state senator, Chris Coons, who — (applause) — a real quick story.  When my son passed away, a — well, anyway.  Chris was just wonderful.  He wouldn’t take the jo- — he wouldn’t run until he knew it was okay.  We had to call Chris and say, “Chris, please run.”  Because it was “Beau’s chair,” he said.  Our great DNC chairman, Jaime Harrison, from South Carolina.  (Applause.) But the truth is I wouldn’t be here without the Democratic voters of South Carolina, and that’s a fact.  (Applause.)  So, I want to start with a very simple message: From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.  If you ever doubt that the power to change America is in your hands, remember this: You proved it.  You’re the reason I am president.  (Applause.)  You’re the reason Kamala Harris is a historic Vice President.  (Applause.) And you’re the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former President.  (Applause.)  You’re the reason Donald Trump is a loser.  And you’re the reason we’re going to win and beat him again.  (Applause.) Nearly four years ago, I came to Columbia to celebrate a primary victory, and I said then, and I quote, “For all those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign.” That same message has defined my presidency. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible) Palestinians (inaudible) —

THE PRESIDENT:  I am determined — AUDIENCE:  Four more years! THE PRESIDENT:  No, no — AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years! THE PRESIDENT:  I’m determined to give all those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind in America a shot again — a fair shot at making a living, taking care of their children, starting a business, being able to buy a home, build real wealth for generations to come. Now, maybe Donald Trump and his MAGA friends believe that they have — they — to — you have to hold us down to lift everybody else [themselves] up.  I don’t believe that.  I believe that America is big enough, strong enough, blessed enough for all of us to succeed.  (Applause.) And that’s why we’re finally building an economy that grows from the middle out and the bottom up, instead of trickle-down economy from the top.  Because when you do that, the poor have a ladder up, the middle class do well, and the wealthy still do very well.  We all do well. Just think back to the mess Donald Trump left this country in: a deadly pandemic, economic freefall, a violent insurrection. I promised to do everything in my power, I said at the time, to get us through one of the toughest periods in our history.  And together we are. We vaccinated America.  We created a record 14 million new jobs in three years.  (Applause.)  And let’s get something straight.  Trump talks about putting checks in pockets.  But in 2021, as soon as I came to office, I was the guy who sent every one of you those $1,400 checks.  (Applause.)  On top of that, I sent those $300 checks per child per family per month for hardworking families.  That was thousands of dollars in pockets to get people through a real crisis. And here’s what it did. AUDIENCE MEMBER:  You’re funding a genocide!  (Inaudible.) AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years! THE PRESIDENT:  And here’s what it did.  It helped cut Black poverty in half for Black children in America.  (Applause.)  Because no child in America should ever go hunger [hungry] — ever. When Trump pushed Black small businesses to the back of the line in the pandemic [relief] funding, I moved them to the front of the line.  (Applause.)  And today, Black small businesses are starting up at the fastest rate in 30 years.  (Applause.) But look, folks, things this country has — have been through have been pretty tough for a lot of people.  But we’re making progress.  There’s a lot more on the way. Inflation is coming down.  It’s now lower in America than any other major economy in the world.  (Applause.)  The cost of eggs, milk, chicken, gas, and so many other essential items have come down. But for all we’ve done to bring prices down, there are still too many corporations in America ripping people off:  price gouging, junk fees, greedflation, shrinkflation.  You see that article about the Snickers bars?  (Laughter.)   Well, it’s going to stop.  Americans, we’re tired of being played for suckers.  (Applause.)  And that’s why we’re going to keep these guys — keep on them and get the prices down. Folks, the bottom line is our economy has grown more in the last six months than it ever did in any point in Trump’s entire four years in office.  (Applause.) And for too long, we imported projects — products and exported jobs.  But now, thanks to all we’re doing, we’re exporting American products and we’re bringing American jobs back home to America — (applause) — where they belong. America is experiencing a manufacturing boom that no one thought was possible.  But I knew it was possible.  Eight hundred thousand new manufacturing jobs and counting — good-paying jobs.  (Applause.)  Record unemployment, including the lowest levels of Black unemployment ever recorded in American history.  (Applause.)  The racial wealth gap is at its lowest level in 20 years. Trump’s $2 trillion tax cut when he was president benefitted the super wealthy but was never paid for, and it completely blew up the federal deficit.  We’ve brought that deficit down.  And all the progress we’ve made comes down to a simple proposition: Promises made and promises kept.  (Applause.) I promised, as Jim pointed out, that we’d beat Big Pharma, that charges more for prescriptions drug prices in America than anywhere else in the world — the same company, the same prescription.  And we did.  Thirty-five-dollar-a-month insulin for seniors, instead of $400 a month or more.  (Applause.)  As Jim pointed out, we tried to make that $35 available to everybody, but the Republicans blocked us.  But with our vote in 2024, we’re going to make it happen for everyone — everyone.  (Applause.) As Jim pointed out, out-of-pocket costs for seniors for all their prescriptions will soon be capped at $2,000 a year, even for expensive cancer drugs that cost $10-, $12-, $15,000 a year.  (Applause.) I protected and expanded the Affordable Care Act, giving millions of families over $800 [a year] in premiums and protecting their care for preexisting conditions.  And, by the way, basically doubling the Pell Grants, which is another issue, but that’s — Look, today, more Americans — more Black Americans — have health insurance than ever in history.  (Applause.) A promise made and a promise kept. I promised to help ease accumulated student debt for millions of folks carrying during the crisis of the pandemic.  The Supreme Court blocked me, but it didn’t stop me.  (Applause.)  I found another way to help more than 3.7 million people — teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters — with $130 billion in relief.  And causing the economy to grow faster as a consequence of that.  (Applause.) And another 25,000 people a month, beginning next month, are going to start to get their student loans forgiven, because they’re getting notified with a letter from me — (applause) –you’re about to get that relief — because of their public service, so they can follow their dreams, start a business, buy a home, start a family. And I’m not done.  Promises made and promises kept.  (Applause.) I promised you we’d make record investment in HBCUs, including South Carolina’s eight HBCUs.  (Applause.)  HBCU students are just as talented as any student in America — (applause) — but their colleges and universities don’t have the funding and endowments for the cutting-edge laboratories and research centers. Well, I’ve invested, so far, $7 billion in HBCUs and counting — (applause) — to help support our brilliant HBCU students. And, again, a promise made and a promise kept. I keep my promises when I said no one — no one should be in prison for merely possessing marijuana or using it, and their records should be expunged. A promise made and a promise kept.  (Applause.) Folks, I made a commitment to have an administration that looks like America, to tap into the full talents of our nation.  And I’m proud we have the most diverse administration in the history of America, because I know — (applause) — I know our diversity is our strength in America. It was here in South Carolina that I promised to appoint the first Black woman to the United States Supreme Court.  (Applause.)  Her name is Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.  And, by the way, she’s smarter than the rest.  (Laughter and applause.)  I’ve appointed more Black women to the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals than every other president in American history combined — combined.  (Applause.) A promise made and a promise kept. And that includes Judge Michelle Childs — (applause) — of the D.C. Circuit, who is making South Carolina proud. I promised to take care of hundreds of thousands of veterans exposed to toxic materials and care for their families.  That’s why I wrote the PACT Act.  As Commander-in-Chief, I think we have only one sacred obligation — I’ve said it many times — prepare those we send into harm’s way and care for them and their families when they come home.  (Applause.)  Well, as Commander-in-Chief, I look at veterans completely differently than Donald Trump.  Think about this — especially here in South Carolina, a proud military state — Donald Trump, when he was Commander-in-Chief, refused to visit a cemetery — U.S. cemetery outside of Paris for fallen American soldiers.  And he referred to those heroes, and I quote, as “suckers” and “losers.”  He actually said that.  He said that. How dare he say that.  How dare he talk about my son and all (inaudible) like that.  (Applause.)  Look, I call them patriots and heroes.  The only loser I see is Donald Trump.  (Applause.) 

It makes me angry. AUDIENCE:  Loser Trump!  Loser Trump!  Loser Trump! THE PRESIDENT:  I apologize for losing my temper, but it really, really, really offends me.  In recent weeks, we’re starting to see real evidence that American consumers are facing [feeling] real confidence in the economy we’re building.  Let me tell you who else is noticing that:  Donald Trump.  (Laughter.) Did you see what he recently said about that wants to — that he wants to see the economy crash this year?  A sitting [former] President.  As they say in my faith, “Bless me, Father, for…” — (the President begins to makes the sign of the cross).  I mean, come on, man.  (Laughter.)  “When there’s a crash” — “Wh-” — he said, “When there’s a crash, I hope in the next 12 months,” he went on to say.  It’s unbelievable.  It’s un-American. How can anyone — especially a former president — wish for an economic crash that would devastate millions of Americans? Well, let me tell you what he really means.  Donald Trump knows this economy is good and is strong and getting stronger.  (Applause.)  He knows that while it’s good for America, it’s bad for him politically. Trump also said the one president he doesn’t want to be is Herbert Hoover.  Well, Donald, it’s too late.  (Laughter.)  There are only two presidents in American history who left office with fewer jobs than when they took office: Herbert Hoover and, yes, Donald “Herbert Hoover” Trump.  (Laughter and applause.) And, by the way, have you noticed he’s is a little confused these days?  (Laughter.)  He apparently can’t tell the difference between Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi.  (Laughter and applause.) Well, folks, we’re making real progress on one of the most important issues we’re facing: security at the border.  The first bill I introduced was for a massive change in security at our border.  Two months ago, my team beginning [began] to work with a bipartisan group of Senators to put together the toughest, smartest, fairest border security bill in history — the best one the nation has ever seen.  It would finally provide the funding I requested early on and again in October to secure our borders.  It includes an additional 1,300 Border Patrols — we need more agents on the border; 375 immigration judges to judge whether or not someone can come or not come and be fair about it; 1,600 asaylum off- — asylum officers; and over 100 cutting-edge inspec- — injec- — inspection machines to help detect and stop fentanyl coming in our Sou- — — our Southwest Border.  (Applause.)  It would also give me, as President, the emergency authority to shut down the border until it can get back under control.  If that bill were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.  (Applause.) The bipartisan bill would be good for America and help fix our broken immigration system and allow speedy access for those who deserve to be here.  And Congress needs to get it done.  (Applause.) Folks, we’re just getting started.  That’s why I’m so optimistic about our future.  Forty thousand projects across America and counting, rebuilding our roads and our bridges; affordable high-speed Internet everywhere in America; ripping out every poisonous lead pipe in America so every child can turn on a faucet, drink clean water without worrying about brain damage.  (Applause.) We passed the most significant gun safety law in decades.  (Applause.)  And I will not stop until we once again ban assault weapons, as I did once.  (Applause.) Now, look, I want you to imagine — to imagine the future nightmare if Trump is back in office.  I’m serious.  Given the nightmare when he was in office, you know what is likely to come.  Trump and his MAGA friends are trying again to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and ripping away the protections you have under that, even if you have a preexisting condition. I won’t let that happen.  Are you with me?  (Applause.)  I will not let that happen. And instead of saving Social Security for working people and the middle class — although he said he wanted to get rid of it or change it — cut it drastically and now he says he’s for it.  But guess what?  Trump and his MAGA friends will give another massive tax break to the super wealthy and the biggest corporations.  I won’t let that happen.  (Applause.)  Folks, I know you’re with me.  I know this: Trump and his MAGA friends are determined to take away your freedoms, like the freedom to vote.  Trump brags about taking away a woman’s freedom to choose.  And now, they’re hatching a plan for a national ban — a national ban. I won’t let that happen.  Are you with me?  (Applause.) I’ve made it clear: If the MAGA Republicans try to pass a national ban on abortion, I will veto it.  And consider that a promise made, and a promise will be kept.  (Applause.) And if you reelect me and Kamala with a Democratic House and a bigger majority in the Senate No- — this November, imagine a future where we restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again.  (Applause.) A promise made, and a promise will be kept. Let me close with this.  A few weeks — AUDIENCE MEMBER:  President Biden, you promised to (inaudible) — you promised to declare (inaudible) — AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years! THE PRESIDENT:  Let me close with this.  A few weeks ago, along with Jim, I spoke at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.  I said there are extreme and dangerous forces at work in this country — dividing us, not uniting us; dragging us back to the past instead of leading us to a future; refusing to accept the results of legitimate elections; seeking, as Trump says, to “terminate” the Constitution; embracing political violence and white supremacy. I said in Charleston, there is a second Lost Cause emerging in America.  The first Lost Cause perpetuated the lie that slavery wasn’t the cause of the Civil War.  And we’ve been paying a price for that lie for generations.  The second Lost Cause is Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.  We cannot allow that lie to live either, because it threatens our very democracy. Folks, there are truth, and there are lies — lies told for power, lies told for profit.  We must call out these lies with a voice that is clear and unyielding.  The Bible teaches, “We shall know the truth, and the truth shall set us free.”  (Applause.)  My friends, we must speak the truth, that America, we still — in America, we still believe in honesty, decency, dignity, respect.  We li- — we believe we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.  We leave no one behind.  Everyone deserves a fair shot.  We give hate no safe harbor.  (Applause.)  And we stand against the evil of racism, the poison of rite suprem- — of white supremacy — today, tomorrow, and always. And we will live in the light, not darkness.  We’ll stand with the truth and defeat the lies.  (Applause.) And when we do, we’ll be able to look back and say something few generations will have been able to say: America’s democracy at risk — was at risk, and we saved it. Are you with me?  (Applause.) Let’s finish what we started.  February 3rd is your primary — the first in the nation.  Organize.  Mobilize.  Vote.  (Applause.) And let’s remember who we are.  We’re the United States of America.  (Applause.)  And there is nothing — nothing beyond our capacity if we stand together. God bless you all.  And may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Applause.) Thank you.  Thank you.  8:02 P.M. EST

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Top Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Places to visit in columbia, explore popular experiences, tours in and around columbia.

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Columbia's Civil War & Street Art: A Self-Guided Audio Tour

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Columbia City Scavenger Hunt Excursion by Operation City Quest

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Tours & sightseeing.

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Top Attractions in Columbia

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1. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

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2. South Carolina State House

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3. South Carolina State Museum

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4. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

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5. University of South Carolina

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6. Columbia Museum of Art

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7. South Carolina Military Museum

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8. EdVenture Children's Museum

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9. South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

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10. Saluda Shoals Park

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11. Soda City Market

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12. Sesquicentennial State Park

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  • Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
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'All eyes will be on South Carolina:' Biden visits Columbia ahead of state primary

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President Joe Biden on Saturday joined South Carolina Democratic leaders to celebrate the state’s civic history and tout a record of “promises made and promises kept” ahead of the first Democratic primary with Biden’s name on the ballot in the 2024 presidential election.

The South Carolina Democratic Party hosted the First-in-the-Nation dinner at State Fairgrounds in Columbia for hundreds of attendees to celebrate that the first Democratic primary will be held in the Palmetto State.

South Carolina typically follows New Hampshire and Iowa caucuses in the primaries , but the Democratic National Convention approved Biden’s proposal to shift the primary calendar in hopes of gaining support from voters of color early in the presidential race .

Biden served as the keynote speaker and was joined by Congressmen James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), along with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge and Democratic National Convention Chair Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina native. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who is also chasing the Democratic nomination, also spoke.

When the president took the stage, attendees chanted "four more years" while holding Biden/Harris campaign signs.

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

"If you ever doubt that the power to change America is in your hands, remember this," Biden said to the crowd when he took the stage. "You proved it! You’re the reason I’m president."

Biden mentioned his efforts to cap insulin prices through the Inflation Reduction Act, promises to veto any total abortion bans and intentions to ban assault weapons. Throughout his speech, he called former President Donald Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination, a loser.

"You’re the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former president,” he told the crowd, who met him with enthusiastic cheers. "You’re the reason Donald Trump is a loser." 

Christale Spain, the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, began the evening by telling attendees that the nation is focused on South Carolina.

"For the rest of the week, all eyes will be on South Carolina," Spain said. "Because why? The South got something to say, and we’re going to say it on February 3."

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2024 SC Democratic Primaries:: Race for SC Democratic Party leadership begins

Spain said the party has been preparing for the primaries by visiting voters in a host of counties, from Oconee to Barnwell.

"We are also reminding voters that it doesn't matter if our incumbent president is in the race," Spain said. "We have got to put our nominee on the best possible footing to defeat whatever MAGA Republican comes out of that primary."

Party leaders note South Carolina’s diverse history 

Harrison, who challenged incumbent Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham for his seat in 2020, said he’d seen articles declaring "it was a mistake for South Carolina and the voters in South Carolina to be first, and that the state was not worthy of such an honor."

In response, Harrison told attendees about his life growing up in the state and values he learned from his grandparents, which he said he believes correspond with the goals of the Democratic party.

He shared how he was born to a teen mother and raised by his grandparents. His grandmother had an eighth-grade education and had picked cotton and cleaned houses, while his grandfather had a fourth-grade education and paved roads to support the family.

"You know, society often labels folks like my grandparents as simple people. But folks, they were rich," Harrison said. "They were rich in terms of their values: Hard work, loyalty, respect - values that underpin who we are as a Black community, who we are in South Carolinians."

More: Biden will visit Charleston church rocked by shooting, setting the stage for emotional appeal to Black voters

Harrison reflected on South Carolina’s history, including the states involvement in the historic Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case , and the story of Sarah Mae Flemming , a Black woman who was assaulted after taking the seat of a white woman who was exiting the bus she was riding in 1954. Flemming’s case provided the legal framework for Rosa Parks’ court case.

"This is the state in 2020 that launched Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House,” Harrison said. "The voters in South Carolina: The farmers in Bamberg, longshoreman in Charleston, the teachers here in Columbia…we all marched to the polls, and we did what we always do, South Carolina."

SC voter registration guide: How to check registration, early voting, what to know

Biden’s tenure praised, impact in the state 

Biden also thanked Rep. Clyburn and his late wife Emily for their influence on his 2020 campaign, saying Clyburn’s endorsement helped him win the election . 

Clyburn, in turn, commended Biden for his compassion, along with several of the President’s famous executive actions, including the American Rescue Plan and his efforts to mitigate climate change with the Inflation Reduction Act. The crowd cheered when Clyburn praised the improvement of “malfunction junction” where I-26 meets I-126, which he attributed to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal .

Clyburn also cited economic improvements in both Berkeley and Allendale counties following Biden’s CHIPS and Science Act .

More: In Spartanburg, Cory Booker repels fears of Biden trailing Trump, says abortion rights key

"We're now at the biggest industrial development in Allendale in decades. Why? Because of Joe Biden," Clyburn said. "Colleton County – new battery plant. Why? Because of Joe Biden's big bill that brings chips and science back."

Clyburn also lauded Biden’s efforts to cap insulin costs for senior citizens. While some states have passed insulin caps of their own, South Carolina has not , meaning it defaults to federal precedent.

Biden also cited economic improvements.

"The bottom line is our economy has grown more in the last six months than it ever did at any point in Trump's entire four years in office," he said.  

Data from the Pew Research Center show that Americans are more favorable now toward economic conditions than they have been in recent months, though Biden’s approval rating remains very low.

Biden said that under his administration, there have been more than 800,000 new jobs in manufacturing, as well as the lowest levels of unemployment among Black Americans on record.

Biden promised to invest in South Carolina’s eight historically Black colleges.

"All the progress we've made comes down to a simple proposition: Promises made and promises kept," Biden said. 

Promises made and promises kept would become a call-and-response refrain for the remainder of Biden’s speech.

While the majority of the crowd was enthusiastic about Biden’s achievements, protestors interrupted his speech three times.

While it was difficult to hear, one protestor spoke about the Israel-Hamas war while another referenced the climate crisis, saying that he was scared for his future. All three were quickly escorted out by security. Each time a protestor began to speak, attendees continued to chant "four more years."

2024 Elections: Nikki Haley looks for momentum with campaign stop in Mauldin ahead of SC GOP primary

Prep for the Polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

When and how to vote in South Carolina’s primaries 

South Carolina is an open-primary state, so registered voters can choose either party, regardless of the one they’re registered with. They can vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary.

The Greenville News put together a comprehensive guide for voters ahead of the primaries.

In 2020, 536,949 South Carolinians voted in the Democratic primary – about 15% of registered voters. Biden gathered 48.4% of primary votes . In the general election, Biden garnered 43% of the popular vote, though all nine of South Carolina’s Electoral College votes went to former President Trump.

Early voting for the Democratic primary began Jan. 22 and will continue through the date of the primary, Feb. 3.

Sarah Swetlik covers climate change and environmental issues in South Carolina's Upstate for The Greenville News.   Reach her at [email protected] or on X at @sarahgswetlik .

The Greenville News has a new environment and climate Q&A column. Have a question for Sustainability with Sarah? Ask  here  or email [email protected] .

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Biden returns to South Carolina to show his determination to win back Black voters in 2024

President Joe Biden returns to South Carolina ahead of the Democratic primary next week. (Jan. 27)

President Joe Biden speaks at South Carolina’s First in the Nation dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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President Joe Biden, right, greets a patron at the Regal Lounge barber shop and spa in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Audience members chant “Four more years” as President Joe Biden speaks at South Carolina’s First in the Nation dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden, left, greets patrons and staff at the Regal Lounge barber shop and spa in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., speaks at South Carolina’s First in the Nation dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Chynna Phillips, left, owner of the Regal Lounge barber shop and spa, greets President Joe Biden in Columbia, S.C. Saturday Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden, standing at right, greets patrons at the Regal Lounge barber shop and spa in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s First-in-the-Nation Dinner, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. President Joe Biden keynoted this year’s dinner. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minnesota, speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s First-in-the-Nation Dinner, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. Phillips is challenging President Joe Biden, the dinner’s keynote speaker, for this year’s Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Joe Biden doesn’t need to worry about his prospects in South Carolina’s Democratic primary next week. He’s got that locked up.

He also knows he’s not likely to win the solidly red state come November. It hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1976.

He’s spent the weekend in the state nonetheless, intent on driving home two messages: He’s loyal to the state that saved his campaign in 2020 and he’s determined to win back Black voters here and elsewhere who were central to his election last time but are less enthused this go-round.

“You’re the reason I am president,” Biden told attendees at the state party’s fundraising dinner ahead of its first ever “first-in-the-nation” Democratic primary on Feb. 3. “You’re the reason Kamala Harris is a historic vice president. And you’re the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is a loser. And you’re the reason we’re going to win and beat him again.”

South Carolina head coach Lamont Paris is congratulated by a fan while he waits to be interviewed after upsetting Kentucky during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina won 79-62. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)

Biden received raved applause and chants of “four more years” from attendees at the dinner, as he criticized his predecessor’s policies and highlighted his efforts to support Black Americans. He was set to spend Sunday in the state where politics and faith are intertwined at a political event at St. John Baptist Church.

Deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said of the primary that Biden’s team was working to “blow this out of the water” by running up the score against longshot challengers. The Biden campaign also wants to learn lessons about activating Black voters — the backbone of the party — ahead of an expected 2024 rematch with GOP front-runner Donald Trump .

Biden also reiterated his willingness to take extreme measures to curtail immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border, as lawmakers continue talks on a reform of the country’s immigration policies, saying that he would shut down the border “right now” if such a bill were to pass.

Calling border security “one of the most important issues we’re facing,” Biden said a ”bipartisan bill” would give him “the emergency authority to shut down the border until it could get back under control,” noting that it would fund additional border security agents, immigration judges and asylum officers. “If that bill were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly,” he said.

Saturday was the first time Biden shared a stage with Rep. Dean Phillips, a longshot challenger for the Democratic nomination, who called on the president, 81, to step aside for a younger generation of leaders to take on Trump.

“The numbers do not say things are looking good,” Phillips said of Biden’s poll numbers, at times struggling to hold the attention of the crowd, many of whom were holding Biden campaign signs ahead of the president’s appearance.

“My invitation to president Biden is to pass the torch,” Phillips said. Struggling to hold the attention of the crowd, many of whom were holding Biden campaign signs ahead of the president’s appearance, Phillips repeatedly asked the audience to quiet down and listen to him.

He told The Associated Press he did not interact with Biden at the event, saying of Biden’s staff, “No. I don’t think they want him to see me.”

Ahead of the dinner, Biden stopped into Regal Lounge Men’s Barber & Spa in Columbia, greeting, owners, employees and customers mid-haircut at the barbershop.

The president has been getting mixed reviews from some Black voters in the state that came through for him in 2020, including discontent over his failure to deliver on voting rights legislation and other issues .

Last year, at the outset of Biden’s reelection bid, conflicting views among the same South Carolina Democratic voters whose support had been so crucial to his nomination provided an early warning sign of the challenges he faces as he tries to revive his diverse winning coalition from 2020.

Overall, just 50% of Black adults said they approved of Biden in a December poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. That is compared with 86% in July 2021, a shift that is generating concern about the president’s reelection prospects.

APVoteCast, an extensive national survey of the electorate, also found that support for Republican candidates ticked up slightly among Black voters during the 2022 midterm elections, although Black voters overwhelmingly supported Democrats.

The Biden campaign is running TV ads in South Carolina highlighting Biden initiatives that it hopes will boost enthusiasm among Black voters.

“On his first day in office with a country in crisis, President Biden got to work — for us,” the ad states. “Cutting Black child poverty in half, more money for Black entrepreneurs, millions of new good-paying jobs and he lowered the cost of prescription drugs.”

The campaign is spending more than $270,000 on the ads through the primary, according to tracking data. The Democratic National Committee also launched a six-figure ad campaign across South Carolina and Nevada, which is next on the Democratic primary calendar, to boost enthusiasm for Biden among Black and Latino voters. And first lady Jill Biden was in the state on Friday evening to rally voters.

Biden’s campaign has also hired staff in South Carolina to organize ahead of the primary and through the general election, although for nearly 50 years the state has picked a Republican for president.

Meanwhile, a pro-Biden super PAC, Unite the Country, is airing an ad featuring Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina ticking through what he says are major Biden accomplishments such as reducing student loan debt and cutting insulin costs for older people.

It was Clyburn’s 2020 endorsement of his longtime friend Biden that helped the then-candidate score a thundering win in South Carolina’s presidential primary,

In the new ad, Clyburn references his late wife, Emily, who influenced his 2020 endorsement of Biden. She said “that if we wanted to win the presidency, we better nominate Joe Biden,” Clyburn says in the ad. “She was right then, and she’s still right today.”

Clyburn greeted Biden at the airport and accompanied him throughout his visit.

While Trump has seen slightly improving levels of support among Black and Latino voters, Biden’s team is more concerned that a lack of enthusiasm for Biden will depress turnout among voters who are pivotal to the Democratic coalition.

Biden’s team is using South Carolina as a proving ground, tracking what messages and platforms break through with voters.

South Carolina, where Black voters make up a majority of the Democratic electorate, is now the first meaningful contest in the Democratic presidential race after the party reworked the party’s nominating calendar at Biden’s call. Leading off with Iowa and New Hampshire had long drawn criticism because the states are less diverse than the rest of the country.

“It’s important for us to show up and to show out,” said Shivani Dahya, 22, a fellow with the state Democratic party from Rock Hill, asked about the import of Biden performing well with South Carolina’s non-white Democratic voters. “I think being first in the nation, we’ve set the example so other states can look at us and say, look at them, they’re voting, they’re getting out there, so let’s do the same.”

Moving up the South Carolina vote was also a political payback to the state and Clyburn for their role in sending Biden to the White House.

A co-chairman of Biden’s reelection campaign, Clyburn has remained one of the president’s most stalwart advocates in Congress, as well as in his home state. Frequently, he reminds people of the same message he delivered in his 2020 endorsement: “We know Joe, and Joe knows us.”

Biden’s decision to campaign in the state “helps solidify South Carolina’s place as the first in the nation primary moving forward,” said Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler.

It also provides Biden an opportunity to re-engage with Black voters who have connections that extend well beyond South Carolina.

“Obviously the diaspora is strong, familial ties are strong with other key swing states in the area like Georgia and North Carolina,” Tyler said.

This is Biden’s second trip to South Carolina this month. He spoke earlier in the month at the pulpit of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where nine Black parishioners were shot to death in 2015 by a white stranger they had invited to join their Bible study. In his speech, Biden denounced the “poison” of white supremacy in America and said such ideology has no place in America, “not today, tomorrow or ever.”

It was meant as a direct contrast with Trump, whom Biden accused of “glorifying” rather than condemning political violence.

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Hot february highlights: black history, mardi gras and hamilton, getting here.

Columbia SC has all the charm of a Southern destination with big city amenities, but none of the hassle. With three major interstates that intersect the city and a regional airport, getting here is straightforward. 

Driving to Columbia

Three major interstates run through Columbia: I-26, I-20 and I-77. I-95 connects to I-20 and I-26 for easy access from anywhere on the Eastern corridor.

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Flying to Columbia

Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) offers 25 non-stop flights a day from major airports across the country. The size and charm of CAE saves you time so you can spend more of your day experiencing this vibrant city. Find out more about CAE here .

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The Greyhound bus system brings passengers to the heart of the downtown area.

Amtrak 

The Columbia SC station (CLB) of the Amtrak is on the Silver Service/Palmetto line and includes arrivals from Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and dozens of other cities along the Eastern seaboard.

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    Tours. From food tours that walk you through Columbia's entertainment districts to historic house and garden tours to brewery and pedal parlor tours, there's something for everyone looking for someone else to show them around the city. Ready to be one with nature, but don't want to travel far from the city? Less than two miles from the city ...

  20. Visit Columbia: 2024 Travel Guide for Columbia, South Carolina

    Visit Columbia Where to stay Things to do Blogs Wander the wide boulevards of this graceful city to discover stately homes, galleries, museums, entertainment venues, recreational parks and a zoo with a botanical garden. Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, sits at the confluence of three rivers.

  21. Biden speaks on religious faith at South Carolina church

    COLUMBIA, South Carolina, Jan 28 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden spoke about his religious faith at services on Sunday at an African-American church in South Carolina, as he works to bolster Black ...

  22. Remarks by President Biden at a Political Event at South Carolina's

    South Carolina State Fairgrounds Columbia, South Carolina (January 27, 2024) 7:37 P.M. EST ... refused to visit a cemetery — U.S. cemetery outside of Paris for fallen American soldiers.

  23. Places to Visit in Columbia

    The South Carolina State Museum is a state-of-the-art facility featuring four floors of permanent and changing exhibits, a digital dome planetarium, 4D interactive theater and an observatory. The museum is located in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. Please visit the website for the most current and accurate operating hours and pricing.

  24. Biden aims to appeal to South Carolina voters in visit before primary

    In 2020, 536,949 South Carolinians voted in the Democratic primary - about 15% of registered voters. Biden gathered 48.4% of primary votes. In the general election, Biden garnered 43% of the ...

  25. Biden returns to South Carolina to show his determination to win back

    Updated 5:56 PM PST, January 27, 2024. COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Joe Biden doesn't need to worry about his prospects in South Carolina's Democratic primary next week. He's got that locked up. He also knows he's not likely to win the solidly red state come November. It hasn't voted for a Democrat since 1976.

  26. Getting Here

    The Columbia SC station (CLB) of the Amtrak is on the Silver Service/Palmetto line and includes arrivals from Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and dozens of other cities along the Eastern seaboard. With three major interstates and an airport, getting to Columbia SC is easy. Fly into Columbia Metro Airport (CAE), hop on a bus, or ...

  27. Biden seeks momentum boost in South Carolina

    First lady Jill Biden traveled to South Carolina on Friday for her first campaign visit to the state in 2024. She headlined a special South Carolina Educators for Biden-Harris event in Columbia.

  28. 'You're the reason I am president': Biden embraces ...

    01/27/2024 09:31 PM EST. COLUMBIA, South Carolina — President Joe Biden on Saturday returned to the state that sparked his 2020 comeback, where he's all but certain to win the first sanctioned ...