South Carolina is teeming with history, culture, and nature and no visit to Columbia is complete without taking some time to see what our neighboring cities have to offer!

For the Equestrian Fan

Love horses? Just a short drive from Columbia are the equestrian-centric cities of Camden and Aiken. Camden is well-known for its two major horse races, the Carolina Cup in the spring and the Colonial Cup in the fall. During those races, people from all over pour into Camden dressed to the nines and hauling a cooler full of gourmet tailgating food. And you should join them if you happen to be visiting Columbia during a Cup. If you’re not visiting during a race, be sure to explore the National Steeplechase Museum, also in Camden, it’s the only museum in the country that’s entirely dedicated to the sport. If the museum has you itching to see a steeplechase in person, plan your trip around the Aiken Spring Steeplechase, which typically happens in March. For a truly behind-the-scenes look at the sport, you can book a Backstretch Experience through the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum where you can watch the horses train, learn about the equipment and horses’ diet, and the track.

For the History Buff

You can’t throw a rock in South Carolina without hitting something of historical significance. In the Midlands, Camden is famous for its role in the Revolutionary War and there’s a 107- acre outdoor museum in the area that will take you back in time to understand the city’s significance. Military history buffs will also want to visit the Military Museum in Sumter, SC where you can reflect on over 4,000 individual photos and artifacts depicting our military’s past and present. If you’re not into military history, head over to Aiken and take a Trolley Car Tour through town to hear about Aiken’s history and see its historic homes. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Center for African American History, Arts, and Culture, which guide you through the history of slavery to present day and even let you research your own genealogy. History buffs and children will both have a blast visiting the South Carolina Railroad Museum near Winnsboro SC. Here you can walk through historic trains, visit the Southern Post Office car, and get your souvenirs at the gift shop. You can even take an hour-long train ride in either a passenger car or an open-air car. The trains have special events for Halloween and Christmas, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly!

For the Outdoors Lover

We have so many beautiful landscapes in our area and there’s plenty to keep the outdoors lover busy on a day trip from Columbia. If you take a short drive to Aiken, you can romp through Hitchcock Woods, one of the largest urban forest in the nation. If water sports are more your style, head over to Sumter, home to both Lake Wateree, a 19-square mile reservoir that’s great for boating and recreation and the Swan Lake Iris Garden. And if you’re looking for an even shorter trip, you can explore a new section of Lake Murray in Saluda. For those of you who like their nature a little less wild, head up to Newberry and stroll through the beautifully crafted Wells Japanese Garden before you enjoy a tasting at the Enoree River Winery.

For the Arts and Culture Lover

If you love film and music, there are plenty of great day trips from Columbia. Head up West to Newberry and check out the Newberry Opera House, which was built in 1881 and quickly became the entertainment center of the Midlands. Or you can head East to the Sumter Opera House, which was built in 1895 and has served as everything from an opera house to a jail. Today you can visit either venue for movie series, concerts, and other events. Tea lovers should be sure to check out two of our state’s authentic tea rooms, Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway and Cornwallis House Tea Co. in Winnsboro. It’s a great outing for a girl’s day or to make your child’s tea parties come to life. Laura’s even has fancy hats for you to dress up in. If you want the full experience, be sure to make a reservation for high tea, which will include your drinks and some goodies to snack on.

For the Motor Sports Lover

We can’t talk about day trips from Columbia without mentioning the Darlington Raceway, home to the Southern Five Hundred. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to the race, that’s the best way to experience the raceway, but even if you aren’t you can still enjoy it. Book a driving experience with a company like Race with Rusty and see what it’s like to speed around the track!

There’s plenty to see and do in the area so be sure to incorporate these great cities into your visit to Columbia.