The dog days of summer have us daydreaming about fall and all it brings – sweaters, cider and the return of some of our favorite annual events and festivals. Plan ahead, book a trip and get in on the fall fun in Columbia SC!
If you’re planning a weekend trip to Columbia between the months of September through November, there’s a good chance Gamecock football is involved. Whether you’re a returning alumni or loyal fan of the opposing team, you’re sure to get swept up in the (Sand)storm of energy and hype surrounding Williams-Brice Stadium on game day. Be sure to check out our tailgating and game day guides.
Beers and brats, anyone? You don’t have to travel all the way to Munich to enjoy a good Oktoberfest. Grab some lederhosen (or come as you are!) and head to Columbia’s own River Rat Brewery for a day of good times and great brews from all over the region. Top it all off with a bratwurst and other German foods to round out the experience.
Opa! When the irresistible aromas of baklava, gyros and spanakopita fill the air, you know it’s September and the Greek Festival has returned to the streets of Columbia. The four-day festival is one of the liveliest in town with music, dancers, vendors and, of course, incredible food. Let the hard-to-miss golden dome of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral draw you in and expose you to the vibrant Greek culture.
Join Historic Columbia at the Mann-Simons Site for their annual festival celebrating South Carolina’s black history and culture. Take a tour of the Mann-Simons Site and Modjeska Monteith Simkins House, as well as a bus tour of other important African American sites throughout downtown Columbia. The festival features food and art vendors, musicians, dancers and storytellers in a family-friendly setting. The soundtrack of the event includes R&B, gospel, reggae and jazz.
If a day out on the farm picking out the perfect pumpkin with your family doesn’t get you in the fall spirit, then we don’t know what will. Seriously. Make a day of it with hayrides, a corn maze challenge and a cozy campfire.
Enter if you dare. Horror fans, test your nerve and get your adrenaline pumping for the most hair-raising Halloween experience you’ll find throughout the Columbia region. Work your way through a 3D nightmare, avoid the monsters waiting for you on the farm and then tread carefully through 2 acres of cornfields with nothing but the screams of others to guide you through. You’ll face your greatest fears as you never know what may be lurking in the darkness. Lower your heart rate with a game of zombie paintball and s’mores around the coffin fire pit or soothe your hoarse throat with a pint at “Deceased Brews.”
Try to name a vegetable more Southern than okra. We’ll wait. Fried, charred, pickled, stewed with tomatoes or however you like, there’s no denying it’s a staple side dish. But here in Columbia, we recognize okra’s star power and have centered a whole festival around this verdant veggie. Kick the weekend off by kicking up your heels at the Friday Night Street Dance, then keep the party going into Saturday with the parade, live entertainment, an okra eating contest and more.
Get a Soda City Market/Oktoberfest twofer. You get all the produce, handmade products, food vendors and true sense of the Columbia community that you’d find at Soda City Market on a weekly basis, but with the special added bonus of an Oktoberfest! Order up some knack wurst or curry wurst from The Wurst Wagen (and keep your fingers crossed they have the schnitzel) and raise a stein to fall at one of two biergartens that will be set up on Main Street.
Funnel cakes, corn dogs, carnival rides and hordes of happy faces? That can only mean the South Carolina State Fair is back! Pile your friends and family into the car for a day of spinning around the Ferris Wheel, trekking through the petting zoo and eating all the cotton candy and fried Oreos your sweet tooth will allow. And with previous headliners like Chris Young, Sabrina Carpenter and more, a good time is guaranteed.
If ever there were a time to explore Columbia’s culinary scene, this is it. Take advantage of special menus and deals at dozens of our local restaurants. You’ll be full and your wallet still will be, too! Don’t forget to pack a pair of loose-fitting pants, because you’ll definitely be needing them.
Help us paint the town pink in the name of breast cancer awareness and fundraising! Join thousands of other survivors, caretakers and supporters at Spirit Communications Park and walk or run to help beat breast cancer. Half marathon finishers will not only get to take home a sense of pride and service to a good cause, but also a gorgeous, rose gold medal.
Delight your little goblins and ghouls with an enchantingly eerie evening at Riverbanks Zoo. Come in costume and hop aboard the Spooky Spots & Stripes Railroad and enjoy a Trick-or-Treat Trail, Spooky Safari, Haunted Carousel, Frankenstein’s Foam Zone, Marshmallow Roast and Mummy’s Eeky Freaky Dance Party. There will even be a magician on site, though we think your children will already be plenty charmed.
With Thanksgiving and the Carolina-Clemson game comes the (un)official end to fall. Extend your stay an extra couple days and transition seamlessly into the next round of holiday celebrations with the 52nd Annual Governor’s Carolighting. Congregate on the grounds of the South Carolina State House for a festive night of carols, cocoa and, of course, the lighting of the state Christmas tree.
Stay tuned to our calendar for additions to a fall season chockablock with events. Ready to book your trip? Get hotel and restaurant inspiration with our set of listings. Or look for more things to do while you're here with our visitors guide.