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Named for Christopher Columbus, the capital city of Columbia blends the best of the Old World with the new, with trendy restaurants that offer a new take on classic Southern cuisine cropping up amid the historic colonial scenery. If that's not enough, a highly walkable downtown connects the dots between the Columbia's humming music halls, celebrated art museums, and national landmark sites making South Carolina's second-largest city a coveted destination for travelers of all ages. Whether you're four or ninety-four, there's a reason to fall in love with the Soda City.
A quick 20-minute trip from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, the city of Columbia pulses with activity in neighborhoods like Main Street and the Congaree Vista District, while the University of South Carolina's palmetto-lined lanes provide look at a revered academic institution.
Governmental buildings stand at attention beside historic structures like the Woodrow Wilson Family Home in Columbia's civic center. Highlights include the South Carolina State House and the Governor's Mansion as well as popular bistros dishing up pimento cheeseburgers and bacon-infused bloody Marys.
Columbia's cultural heart and soul lies along Main Street, where residents and travelers flock to sites like the Columbia City Ballet, Tapp's Arts Center, and the Nickelodeon, which showcases independent films every night of the week.
University of South Carolina
A trip to Columbia isn't complete without a visit to the University of South Carolina campus. Peer into the past with a look at the 200-year-old Horseshoe—USC's take on the quad—or visit the Koger Center to see a ballet or opera performance.
Congaree Vista District
Industrial edifices give way to sushi bars, beer halls, and ice creameries in the hip Congaree Vista District, an enclave that's also home to EdVenture and the South Carolina State Museum.
Whether you want to soak up the natural splendor in South Carolina's geographic center or you’re looking to catch a play on an acclaimed community stage, there are a bevy of things to see in Columbia. Begin by heading to Sesquicentennial State Park for endless hours spent in nature. Drink in lakeside views while making use of the park's extensive hiking trails and dog run. Or, venture to the Columbia Stage Society's Town Theatre, a family-oriented performance space showcasing the talents of regional actors. Likewise, Music Farm is a popular spot to catch a concert located a stone's throw from the South Carolina State House.
From art museums to retail centers where you can shop until you drop, there are a plethora of things to do in Columbia. Art lovers can begin by heading to the Columbia Museum of Art, where permanent collections include masterpieces from the Americas, Asia, and Europe, in addition to featured contemporary exhibits. Or, make the trek to the southern edge of town where the 701 Center for Contemporary Art beckons. Inside, find artwork by regional, national, and international artists as well as workshops for aspiring creative types. On the other side of the river, the Riverbanks Zoo is a kid-tested destination that invites budding zoologists to admire animals from across the globe, while the neighboring Riverbanks Botanical Garden is filled with roses and lilies and is easily accessed via tram from the zoo. Those on the prowl for souvenirs should head to the newly renovated Village at Sandhill shopping center, an outdoor mall with the region's best boutiques and restaurants to satisfy every palate.
They say the best things in life are free. Make sure you explore the following around Columbia:
Columbia Fire Museum - Whatever your age, this place will rouse your imagination and hold your attention.
Tunnel Vision Mural - This is an essential stop for culture vultures wanting to add an artistic touch to their escape.
Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park - Make this your first stop if you're looking for fun during your escape.
University of South Carolina - Wander around this historic site and uncover a few secrets from yesteryear.
William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center - If you're eager to check out a few of the more important or interesting places in the community, this is a good place to start.
First Baptist Church - Mix a little spirituality into your trip with a visit to this religious attraction.
West Columbia Riverwalk - You're bound to feel connected with Mother Earth at this magnificent spot.
Finlay Park - Grab your picnic blanket, pick up a snack and find a shady area to relish Mother Nature.
Consider heading straight for University of South Carolina and South Carolina State House, two leading sights that draw travelers from all around.
You'll hardly have time to pull your wallet out of your pocket with so many free attractions: