The Ultimate Guide to Your First Time in Columbia SC
Tuesday, August 1, 2017 12:00 PM by Andrea Mensink
With a never-ending roster of live music events, festivals and sporting events (Go Gamecocks!), it’s hard to be bored in Columbia SC. With so much to see and do, knowing where to start can be daunting – especially for first-time visitors. Fret not, friend. We’ve put together a First Timer’s Guide to Columbia SC just for you.
DYK - People from more than 200 countries who speak over 90 languages call Columbia SC home. Lucky for you, Soda City Market brings our region’s vibrant diversity to three city blocks every Saturday, rain or shine. From South American arepas and Korean bulgogi bowls to German bratwursts and Caribbean jerk chicken, you can experience something new every week. Once you’re full, check out local artisans like Nana by Sally handbags and Carolina Soapworks.
Centrally located on Main and Gervais Streets, the capitol is the quintessential stage for history in the making. See damage caused by artillery shells by troops under Sherman’s command, and do not miss the African-American Monument that chronicles African-Americans in South Carolina from arrival to the modern age. Insider tip: admission and tours are free.
If a visit to the State House leaves you hankering for more local history, head to the South Carolina State Museum, itself on the National Register of Historic Places. The state-of-the-art facility houses four museums in one: art, history, natural history, science and technology plus a planetarium, 4D theater and observatory.
Follow the locals to Bone-In Barbeque for specialty barbecue items like Brisket Stuffed Mac & Cheese, Bone Chips, or a Classic Carolina Pork Plate. Or, dig into some traditional 'que at Doc’s BBQ and Southern Buffet for a taste of pulled pork barbecue smothered in Columbia’s legendary mustard-based sauce. A healthy dose of brown sugar makes our signature ‘cue sweet and tangy. Dig into a side of catfish stew or fried okra and wash it all down with cold glass of sweet tea (of course). Save room for the banana pudding. Doc’s isn’t the only one serving up the golden sauce. Find more joints here.
More than 200 pieces of public art dapple the region bringing surprise and delight to all who discover them. Don’t miss the artist and makers district on State Street in West Columbia or the murals on the side streets of the Main Street neighborhood. Snap a photo and use #RealColumbiaSC to be featured on the website! Learn more about our robust arts scene with One Columbia for Arts & History.
With over 2,000 animals, behind-the-scenes tours and several hands-on activities (like feeding the giraffes), you can keep your tribe as busy as you want it to be at Riverbanks. When you’ve had your fill of lions, tigers and bears, head for free play in their 3-acre interactive children’s garden, Waterfall Junction. From splash pads and dino digs to treehouse adventures and open space, this is the perfect spot for youngsters to burn off any remaining energy.
Here’s one you may not know about: pimento cheese is a Southern favorite and the pimento cheeseburger was invented in Columbia SC. Sure, if you’re from the South you know all about pimento cheese. But melting it onto (or into) a juicy burger? Well, that streak of brilliance happened here in 1954 when J.C. Reynolds slathered it on a burger and sold it at the (now closed) Dairy Bar. Several local eateries quickly followed suit. Order one up today at Roackaway Athletic Club, Pawley’s Front Porch, The Kingsman or Henry’s – just to name a few.
Columbia SC lies at the confluence of the Saluda and Broad Rivers which merge right in town to form the Congaree. Escape the bustling city and get lost in your thoughts amidst fresh air and cool waters with a paddle or float downriver. Several local outfitters make getting on and off the water easy. Pro tip: paddle the rivers between late May and early June to see the rare Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in bloom.
Check out our website for more fun things to do in Columbia SC.