Lake Days, Rosé and all the Adventures: The Ultimate Bucket List for Summer in Columbia SC
Thursday, April 26, 2018 1:00 PM by Holly Heaton
Cotton candy sunsets over Lake Murray. Tomato sandwiches with juicy local heirlooms. Sticky hands from melting ice-cream cones. A picnic at the park (with pimento cheese, of course). Floating down the river on a tube. Strolling through a local farmers market. A glass of rosé on an open-air patio. All of the above (and more!) epitomize a summer spent in Columbia SC—think you can check them all off before the temperatures drop in the fall? Pics or it didn’t happen. P.S. Use our hashtag #RealColumbiaSC to save us from serious summertime FOMO.
With not one but three major rivers crisscrossing through the region, opportunities for adventure aren’t in short supply in this Capital City. The rushing rapids of the Saluda and Broad intersect to form the serene Congaree, offering a range of on-the-water fun—from the killer workout of kayaking down rapids to floatin’ down the river on an inner tube (you know, for when you want the river to do most of the work). Grab your sunscreen and Chaco’s and meet us by the banks.
We anticipate lake days from the moment the water gets too cold to jump in (which isn’t typically until early October in Columbia SC—just saying’ 😉) Rent a boat or tow your own for smooth sailing on the shores of Lake Murray. Cast a line, take a deep breath + cannonball or hop on a standup paddleboard for a calming way to spend your day. Pro tip: you would be remiss in not making time for a bike ride along the dam at dusk—all the feels, guaranteed.
America’s Favorite Pastime
Baseball is kind of a big deal in Columbia SC. With the city’s official minor league team, the Columbia Fireflies and a summer collegiate team, the Lexington Blowfish, you have ample chances to take your boo or bestie out to the ballgame from May to September. At Spirit Communications Park, bring your pup along for Wag-along Wednesdays, sip on half-off craft beer on Thirsty Thursdays and make sure to save room for all the peanuts + Cracker Jacks (and hot dogs and nachos).
Summer heat in the South is no joke. But we aren’t complaining because, tbh, we consistently use it as an excuse to eat all the cool treats. A few of our favorites include the Instagram-worthy rainbow sprinkle cone from Rosewood Dairy Bar, Pelican SnoBalls (we’re high-key obsessed with Tigers’ Blood) or an artisan scoop of ice-cream at Sweet Cream Co. You don’t have to choose just one, though. Check out our roundup of Columbia SC treats to cool you off—there’s something for everyone.
Festival season is proof that Columbia SC is a small town that’s all grown up. Clink glasses at the Drink Pink Rosé Festival, sample all the ‘maters at the Tasty Tomato Festival (date TBA!) or add a little spice to your life at the Rosewood Crawfish Festival. And be sure to wear your cutest summer digs because, trust us, you’ll want to take all the photos. #Doitforthegram
Calling all brew connoisseurs—the beer scene in Columbia SC is officially on the up and it isn’t coming down anytime soon. With breweries + brewpubs popping up all over town, we recommend rounding the troops and embarking on a self-guided brewery crawl (or, let our friends at Columbia Brew Bus do it for you.) Be sure to tell us which beer you love the most. And if you need us to join you for, you know, research purposes, we’d be happy to. All in a day’s work 😉
We really want to bring back the picnic this summer—we’re big fans. And trust us, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to lay down a picnic blanket across the city. Stop by Soda City Market and grab some bread, spreads + locally grown produce and have a picnic in the sun, Columbia SC-style. Share (or don’t) a pimento cheese sandwich on the banks of Riverfront Park or lunch among the trees at the historic University of South Carolina Horseshoe. Regardless of where you land, you can’t lose. Promise.
Hit the Trail
Feeling like hanging out with Mother Nature? Lace up your boots and hit the trail in Columbia SC—where city meets nature. Just pick an outdoor oasis (Congaree National Park, Saluda Shoals Park, Sesquicentennial Park….shall we go on?), grab a buddy and your backpack—preferably filled with snacks. Cheers to free fun, amirite?
Pitch a Tent
S’mores, stargazing, ghost stories… a few of the many reasons we love camping. Yeah, you’re right, it’s mostly about the S’mores—but beautiful views and connecting with nature doesn’t hurt, either. Make the 5-mile trek to the secret campsites at Congaree National Park or skip the work and set up camp lake-side at Dreher Island State Park. If you’re not into roughing it, RV campers are welcome at Sesquicentennial State Park, in addition to our more traditional tent pitching friends.
One of the best ways to experience the remoteness of Congaree National Park is by paddling down Cedar Creek and spending a night in the backcountry. We had to portage three times due to fallen trees, so when we set up camp we had the place all to ourselves - more or less. Tent walls afford you the luxury of hearing every imaginable sound during the night, and your imagination does a nice job of confusing those sounds with the snarls of vicious beasts.
Roll up your Sleeves
Would it be a summer blog without mentioning barbecue? Whether you like it pulled or shredded, doused in tomato-based sauce or drizzled with Carolina Gold, barbecue is in abundance in Columbia SC. From traditional hole-in-the-wall joints like Big T’s and Hite’s to elevated creations like the epic barbecue sandwiches at Southern Belly, we’ve got you covered on the pulled pork front. Extra napkins required.
Have you checked out the Columbia SC Instagram lately? We’re kind of famous for our cotton-candy sunsets—sure to make you stop dead in your tracks. Setting over Lake Murray, paired with a Twisted Lemon Wheat at River Rat’s brand-new rooftop, or kissing the skyline when driving over the iconic Gervais Street Bridge, a Carolina sunset is worth slowing down for.
Farmers Market Finds
Summer in Columbia SC promises an abundance of fresh produce. From peaches and watermelon to the best dang sweet corn you’ve ever had, farmers market finds in Columbia SC are a pure treasure. It doesn’t stop with fruits, veggies, local meat + eggs, though. At several of the many markets in town, visitors can peruse local art, jewelry, soap, candles, and food trucks. If you hit Main Street’s premier market, Soda City, keep an eye + ear out for the buskers. It’s arguably the best part.
When it comes to keeping your kiddos cool in the summertime heat, Splash Pads (and ice cream cones) to the rescue! Head to Riverbanks Zoo, Saluda Shoals Park or Sesquicentennial State Park and watch your little ones splash around in the Columbia SC sunshine.
For more information on fun things to do in Columbia SC, check out our calendar of events. Use our official hashtag #RealColumbiaSC to be featured on our website + socials.