Although we love a good wine + dine, date night with your boo (or bestie!) doesn’t have to cost you a lot of cash. And if you get creative, it can occasionally cost you nothing at all! We’ve crafted 10 Columbia SC date ideas on the cheap, so you can treat the one you love sans the stress of an expensive outing. From farmers market strolls to river floats, we guarantee a good time + lots of laughs. Cheers to spending quality time without spending quality cash.
Soda City Stroll + State House Tour
Fill your basket with fresh local vegetables, pet a few puppies and share some street tacos on Saturday morning at Soda City—Columbia’s vibrant Main Street Market. We’ll even dare you to dance together to the sweet sounds of the buskers. After the market, head South on Main and tour the beautiful SC State House at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. It’s free, and walk-ins are welcome!
Congaree National Park
DYK that South Carolina’s only National Park is just 30 minutes from the heart of downtown Columbia? Share a canoe, take a hike or pitch a tent, make a fire and roast some marshmallows. Entry to the park is completely free and campsite reservations are only $5. Pro-tip: bring a camera and snap some cute pics of each other standing next to the dauntingly vast Champion Trees.
Tube down the Saluda River
Link up with Palmetto Outdoors and float 3 miles downstream on the beautiful and serene Saluda River. Prices range from $20-$25/person and include a life-jacket and free shuttle upstream. There’s also a $15 grab-and-go option for tubers who want to create a more flexible trip—allowing you to take your tube wherever there is public access. Optional but highly recommended: breakfast before you hit the water at Café Strudel on State Street. Hangover Hash Browns or Cinnamon Pancakes, plz.
Picnic on the University of South Carolina Historic Horseshoe
Pack your picnic blanket and some grab-and-go bites from The Gourmet Shop in Five Points (we recommend the pimento cheese, chicken salad and pesto pasta) and take a short stroll to the beautiful Historic Horseshoe in the heart of the University of South Carolina campus. Stop in to Papa Jazz Record Shoppe on your way to or from and find “your song” on vinyl.
South Carolina State Museum
Entrance to the museum is only $5 on Tuesday nights, when the museum stays open late (until 10 PM!) Look through the 12 3/8th-inch refracting telescope in the Boeing Observatory for closeup viewing of the moon, planets and stars. #Romance, amirite? Afterward, hit The Whig (Columbia’s only underground bar) for $1 tacos + local beers. Cheers!
A visit to Riverbanks Zoo is only $16.95/person (if you order online) and it happens to be one of the top zoos in the country—#HumbleBrag. Did we mention that it’s currently swarming with baby animals? Share a frozen lemonade and swoon over a baby gorilla (soon to be two!), lion cubs, a baby giraffe and a baby koala. Yes, it’s completely ok to squeal loudly at the cuteness. We sure did.
You might not expect an ample amount of opportunities to stroll waterside in an urban destination but get used to surprises in Columbia SC. With three rivers and a 55,000-acre lake, you’re never more than a few minutes away from a walk along the water. Near Irmo? Hit the Lake Murray Dam and snap a padlock to the Love Lock Bridge (yep, just like Paris!). Close to downtown? Head to Riverfront Park or one of the Riverwalks (in West Columbia and Cayce). Looking for something a little quieter and serene? Check out the beautiful Dreher Island State Park.
Up for an adventure? Grab your partner-in-crime and try to complete one of our scavenger hunts. With both walkable scavenger hunts and those that require a car, it’s a great way to see a lot of the city in a short period of time. Plus, who doesn’t love a riddle?
Public Art Tour
From murals on murals to the world’s largest fire hydrant, there’s art everywhere you turn in Columbia SC. Check out this comprehensive list of public art, courtesy of One Columbia, and let us know how many you manage to hit in one day. If you and your S.O. are strolling through the Vista district, check out the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center Self-Guided Art Tour, and don’t expect to find anything typical inside. Think more along the lines of abstract landscapes, light-catching glass sculptures and paintings of local landmarks. All by local artists!
City Roots Tour
South Carolina’s only urban farm, City Roots, offers $2 self-guided tours during their regular business hours (Mon.-Fri., 9AM-5 PM). Near the entrance of the farm store, visitors can find maps of the farm to serve as your guide. If you’re visiting Columbia on a Thursday, hit the City Roots farmers market to peruse local produce and listen to live acoustic music. Pro tip: head across the street after and watch the sunset with some beers at the recently-opened Hunter Gatherer Brewery at the Curtiss-Wright Hanger.
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