Columbia is the capital city of South Carolina and the heart of the state, with exciting attractions such as museums, sports games and world-famous Southern cooking to discover. The first city in the United States to be named after Christopher Columbus, it also goes by a few other nicknames including the “Famously Hot” city, because of the humid subtropical climate that leads to scorching summers, and “The Soda City,” a nod to the Columbia Dispensing Company being the first to bottle Coca-Cola. This soda plant put Columbia on the map and brought major growth to the city.
With Columbia being the capital, you can expect some rich history to be brimming throughout. The city was established in 1786 and played a large role in the Civil War. Columbia is also home to the University of South Carolina, one of the nation’s oldest public universities. The exciting historic sites, beautiful year-round weather, and lively culture make Columbia a fantastic destination for a weekend getaway. Here are the best things to do in Columbia, South Carolina.
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Things To Do In Columbia
- 1- Visit The South Carolina State House
- 2- Enjoy Nature At Congaree National Park
- 3- Discover The Collections Of The Columbia Museum of Art
- 4- Watch A Gamecocks Football Game At Williams-Brice Stadium
- 5- Experience The Columbia Canal And Riverfront Park
- 6- Tour The South Carolina State Museum
- 7- Go Hiking On The Trails Of Harbison State Forest
- 8- Shop And Dine At The Vista
- 9- Attend A Live Performance At The Koger Center
- 10- See The Home Of A Former President At Woodrow Wilson Family Home
- 11- Kayak Or Paddleboard Through Lake Murray
- 12- Watch A Columbia Fireflies Game At Segra Park
- 13- Learn Some History Of The City At Hampton-Preston Mansion
- 14- Appreciate The Outdoors At Saluda Shoals Park
- 15- Check Out The Local Eats On Devine Street
- 16- Take The Kids To EdVenture Children’s Museum
- 17- Spend The Afternoon On The Three Rivers Greenway
- 18- Discover The Robert Mills House and Gardens
- 19- Catch One Of the Many Events Happening At Colonial Life Arena
- 20- Engage With The Animals At Riverbanks Zoo And Garden
- Things To Do In Columbia
Columbia, South Carolina
Things To Do In Columbia
1- Visit The South Carolina State House
The State House is a historical building that serves as the seat of the South Carolina General Assembly and the office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
The building was completed in 1907 and features impressive neoclassical architecture with an unmistakable copper dome.
Tours are available every hour on the half-hour beginning at 9.30 am and ending at 2.30 pm.
During these tours, visitors are able to get an exclusive look at monuments honoring the individuals and events that make up South Carolina’s history, as well as statues, gardens and the African American History Monument.
Walk-in tours are welcome, but reservations should be made for groups larger than 10.
The South Carolina State House is at 1100 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29208.
2- Enjoy Nature At Congaree National Park
This is one of the most pristine National Parks in the United States, famous for its preservation of the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest.
Congaree National Park is a great spot to explore diverse habitats on nature trails, spot wildlife and go camping.
You can canoe, kayak and fish on the Congaree River Blue Trail.
Conaree National Park is an “International Dark Sky Park” and one of the best activities is stargazing, made possible by the dark skies at night.
The park has events and educational programs for children.
Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, entrance to the park is free.
Congaree National Park is at 5590 McCords Ferry Rd, Eastover, SC 29044.
3- Discover The Collections Of The Columbia Museum of Art
Established in 1950, the Columbia Museum of Art is home to more than 25,000 works ranging from paintings to sculptures to decorative art.
The museum has a permanent and rotating collection of works, so even if you’ve been before, there is always something new to see.
You can also participate in art workshops to gain a deeper understanding of the works of art.
The Columbia Museum of Art is open Tuesday to Sunday (10 am to 5 pm).
The Columbia Museum of Art is at 1515 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201.
4- Watch A Gamecocks Football Game At Williams-Brice Stadium
The Gamecocks Football team at the University of South Carolina is the pride and joy of Columbia.
The Williams-Brice Stadium seats over 50,000 fans and is often sold out, with a record attendance of 85,199.
The games often rank for the highest attendance games in the nation, so you can tell Gamecock fans are loyal.
The first games start in early September and run through Thanksgiving each year.
If you are visiting during this time, be sure to get your tickets early in order to take part in this unforgettable sports fan experience.
Williams Brice Stadium is at 1125 George Rogers Blvd, Columbia, SC 29201.
5- Experience The Columbia Canal And Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park was built around the city’s waterworks and separates the Historic Columbia Canal and the Congaree River.
This is a popular spot for scenic walks and jogs, as well as picnics and concerts near the amphitheater.
You can also learn about the history of the Canal through informative plaques that line the park.
The Riverfront Park provides the perfect peaceful escape from the bustling city, whether you’re looking to enjoy lunch, let the kids play on playgrounds, or admire the city’s skyline, it is definitely a good idea to check out this spot.
Riverfront Park is at 1115 Gist St, Columbia, SC 29201.
6- Tour The South Carolina State Museum
The South Carolina State Museum is a state-of-the-art facility for all things history, science, art and fun.
The museum has four floors of exhibits with displays ranging from The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Planetarium, to The Carolina Art Gallery to the Rev. Dr. Solomon Jackson Jr 4D Theater.
You can easily spend an entire day here soaking up all the interesting information.
Admission starts at $8.95 for adults with add-ons for planetarium or 4D shows.
The South Carolina State Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm.
The South Carolina State Museum is at 301 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201.
7- Go Hiking On The Trails Of Harbison State Forest
Harbison State Forest is a lovely South Carolina state park covering over 2,177 acres (881 ha).
It’s a great post for outdoor activities such as hiking trails, fishing and paddling in the Broad River, mountain biking trails and wildlife viewing.
The park is open from 9 am to 4.30 pm and a parking permit is required for all vehicles.
Harbison State Forest is at 5600 Broad River Rd, Columbia, SC 29212.
8- Shop And Dine At The Vista
This area is one of Columbia’s best downtown districts.
The Vista, also known as the Congaree Vista, features an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, shops, and cultural attractions.
Located on Gervais Street, Columbia’s main street, puts you in the middle of the action for museums, galleries and other attractions.
If you are looking for a night out on the town, this is the place to be as there are tons of dining options, both chains and local restaurants.
Some of our favorites are Old Chicago, Gervais and Vine, and smallSUGAR.
The Vista is at 807 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201.
9- Attend A Live Performance At The Koger Center
This performing arts centre hosts cultural and artistic events, such as symphony orchestra concerts, ballet performances and Broadway shows.
The Koger Center features several event spaces, including a 2,256-seat concert hall and a smaller theater.
The Koger Center is at 1051 Greene St, Columbia, SC 29201.
10- See The Home Of A Former President At Woodrow Wilson Family Home
Woodrow Wilson’s parents built this family home during the height of the Reconstruction Era.
Today, this home-turned-museum serves as a hub for information on this time period, as well as a closer look into the childhood of the former president.
Tours of The Museum of the Reconstruction Era are available Wednesday through Saturday beginning at 10.30 am and Sundays at 1.30 pm.
Tickets can be purchased in advance online or in person at the Robert Mills Gift Shop.
The Museum of Reconstruction Era at Woodrow Wilson Family Home is at 1705 Hampton St, Columbia, SC 29201.
11- Kayak Or Paddleboard Through Lake Murray
South Carolina is full of natural beauty and you can immerse yourself in it by spending time outdoors.
Kayaking or paddleboarding is a popular spring or summer activity.
A great spot to admire nature is on Lake Murray, which is a 20-minute drive from downtown Columbia and a large body of water spanning 50,000 acres (20,234 ha).
Lake Murray is at 1832-1834 N Lake Dr, Lexington, SC 29072.
12- Watch A Columbia Fireflies Game At Segra Park
The Columbia Fireflies is South Carolina’s minor league baseball team, and are the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
If you are visiting during baseball season, these games are a great way to get in touch with the local community.
Tickets start at just $5 for an individual game, with advanced pricing for Home Run Porch Seating, Bullpen Boxes, and First Class Seats.
Segra Park is at 1640 Freed St, Columbia, SC 29201.
13- Learn Some History Of The City At Hampton-Preston Mansion
The Hampton-Preston Mansion is one of the foundational buildings of Columbia, meaning it is one of five on the National Register of Historic Places along with others such as the Woodrow Wilson Family Home and the Robert Mills House and Gardens.
The stunning mansion is a beautifully maintained example of Greek Revival architecture, which makes it extremely special.
You can take a guided tour of the Hampton-Preston Mansion Wednesday to Saturday at 12 pm and Sundays at 1.30 pm.
The Hampton-Preston Mansion is at 1615 Blanding St, Columbia, SC 29201.
14- Appreciate The Outdoors At Saluda Shoals Park
South Carolina and Columbia are filled with state parks that allow you to connect with nature and experience the natural beauty that flourishes within the state.
Besides hiking trails, kayaking and biking access, Saluda Shoals Park is also home to a Splash Water Park with water slides, splash pads and a lazy river.
There are also areas for disc golf, archery and horseback riding.
Saluda Shoals Park is at 5605 Bush River Rd, Columbia, SC 29212.
15- Check Out The Local Eats On Devine Street
Devine Street is a popular part of town for food and shopping.
Whether you are looking for a quick snack, casual eating, dessert or drinks, you will find it on Devine Street.
One of our favorite spots is The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli, which is famous around the nation, and if you are looking for casual eats, stop by Backstreets Grill for wings.
The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli is at 2617 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29223.
Backstreets Grill is at 2400 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29205.
16- Take The Kids To EdVenture Children’s Museum
EdVenture Children’s Museum allows children to explore their curiosity through hands-on, interactive exhibits including a journey through the human body, fire safety, medical adventure, aviation and outdoor exhibits.
The museum also has educational programs such as toddler time, biology labs and cooking classes to let your little one learn new skills.
It’s open Wednesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm. Admission is $8 for children and adults.
EdVenture Children’s Museum is at 211 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201.
17- Spend The Afternoon On The Three Rivers Greenway
The Three Rivers Greenway is a trail system that spans 15.5 miles (24 km) across three cities in the area including Columbia, West Columbia and Cayce.
The riverfront trails follow along the Broad, Saluda and Congaree Rivers.
It’s a lovely trail to stroll or bike through nature and enjoy the views.
There are four trail access points and each will put you in the middle of restaurants, boutiques and other fun activities, making the trail system a great way to enjoy all that the city has to offer.
Granby Park Acess is at 100 Catawba Street, Columbia SC 29201.
Olympia Park Access is at 1050 Olympia Avenue, Columbia SC 29201.
Riverfront Park Access is at 312 Laurel Street, Columbia SC 29201.
Saluda Riverwalk Access is at 650 Candi Lane, Columbia SC 29201.
18- Discover The Robert Mills House and Gardens
This historical home-turned-museum is a cultural landmark in Columbia that is listed on the the list of National Historic Landmarks.
The Robert Mills House and Gardens was named after its renowned architect, Robert Mills.
The home was constructed in the 1800s for a wealthy merchant and has since been preserved and restored to its original glory.
Visitors of The Robert Mills House and Gardens can take guided tours from Wednesday to Sunday at 3 pm.
The gardens around the Robert Mills House are open to the public, perfect for a picnic.
The Robert Mills House and Gardens is at 1616 Blanding St, Columbia, SC 29201.
19- Catch One Of the Many Events Happening At Colonial Life Arena
The Colonial Life Arena is a multi-purpose facility that puts on concerts, festivals and other events.
The arena is also home to the Gamecocks Men and Women’s Basketball teams, which brings college basketball games and NCAA tournaments.
The Colonial Life Arena is at 801 Lincoln St, Columbia, SC 29201.
20- Engage With The Animals At Riverbanks Zoo And Garden
The Riverbanks Zoo And Garden is an expansive zoo and garden home to over 3,000 animals including birds, mammals and fish.
The stunning gardens feature almost 6,000 species of plants.
In addition to exploring their permanent exhibits, the zoo also hosts seasonal events that extend the fun.
The zoo is dedicated to preservation and conservation efforts including groups that help the coral reefs, raptors and endangered species, compost and recycling.
The zoo is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with admission starting at $24.99 per adult.
Tickets for Riverbanks’ after-hour Signature Events are separate from daytime admission.
The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is at 500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210.
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