Music & Nightlife

Talk about varied. Whether you’re into live music, lively bars or a quiet corner, you’ll find a rollicking good time after dark in Columbia. 

Few places showcase Columbia’s live music scene better than downtown, where a stroll of just a few blocks puts you within easy striking distance of acoustically-blessed, state-of-the-art venues that have welcomed artists including Bela Fleck, Pearl Jam, Bruno Mars, Bob Dylan, Jason Isbel, Widespread Panic, Luke Bryan and Flavor Flav. The largest is Colonial Life Arena, an 18,000-seat behemoth that handles concerts, sporting events like University of South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball games and other events. Other, more intimate venues—the Koger Center, Tin Roof, Music Farm, Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor, and Township Auditorium—ensure a variety of experiences that range from seated concerts to dance parties. Then there’s the University of South Carolina’s School of Music, which offers a plethora of concerts, recitals and other performances each week during the school year, many of which are free. “There’s a lot of great energy stoking Columbia’s music scene right now,” says Trae Judy, who owns Music Farm. “Downtown is dynamic and the variety of venues makes it easy to find great music.”

If you’d rather let your ears guide you, consider a post-dinner stroll along Gervais Street in the Vista, State Street in West Columbia, Main Street downtown or through Five Points, where pubs, bars and restaurants like Hunter-Gatherer, Art Bar, Delaney’s, Jake’s and New Brookland Tavern bring everything from country and blues to rock, jazz and bluegrass to their guests. Two of the most unique venues are Chayze Lounge in Nonnah’s and the Upstairz Lounge at Pearlz Oyster Bar, both of which showcase local jazz talent in a jazz club-like atmosphere. Many fine-dining restaurants offer live entertainment as well, often without requiring a cover charge. 

Beyond live music, you’ll also find quiet wine bars and coffeehouses — don’t miss Lula Drake Wine Parlour or Nonnah’s – trendy cocktail lounges like Motor Supply and Bourbon; Nickelodeon, the city’s an arthouse theater, as well as a host of lively nightclubs and outdoor cafes throughout the city.