Columbia has a rich history—and you’ll find evidence of that history everywhere you turn. As the center of state government, Columbia is central to South Carolina’s history. But Columbia wasn’t the first capital of South Carolina, Charleston was. In 1786, the State Assembly voted to move the capital and Columbia became the first planned city in the United States. If you’re a history buff, a trip to Columbia won’t disappoint.
You've finally arrived, and you've settled in at the Hampton Inn Downtown Historic District, but before you can move onto what's next, lunch is in order. Head to the historic Vista district for the best of all things local at Motor Supply Co. Here, the daily-changing menu is dependent on what the local farms are serving up, making everything farm-to-table (even the cocktails). After you've cleaned your plate, walk the streets of the the Vista, and you'll find historic warehouses and train stops have been transformed and filled with modern businesses.
Now, it's time to make your way to The University of South Carolina, where the Gamecock reigns and the fans bleed garnet. Columbia and its colleges have long been intertwined, and our city boasts five institutions of higher learning founded before the turn of the nineteenth century, and each one has a history worth exploring. The oldest, UofSC, was established in 1801. The center of the university, known as the Horseshoe, is a beautiful place to take a stroll or sit for a spell. Interested in a tour? The South Caroliniana Library near the entrance of the Horseshoe offers historic tours for those who want to learn more about how the Horseshoe has evolved. The heart of campus is also home to university president, Robert Caslen and his wife Shelly, so smile and wave if you see them.
Sitting right across the street from one another, Allen University and Benedict College also give way to educational and historical powerhouses. Allen University was founded in 1870 in Cokesbury, SC. Ten years later it moved to Columbia, where it's called home ever since. Benedict College, also founded in 1870, was founded by a woman as a place for the recently freed people of African descent to get an education and to be a "power for good in society."
Just a few minutes from all of the universities, you’ll find yourself on the lush grounds of the South Carolina State House. Explore the monuments and find the six bronze stars on the outside of the impressive structure, each marking a spot that was hit by General Sherman’s cannons during the Civil War. You can take free guided and self-guided tours of the State House Monday through Friday, and you may even spot Governor Henry McMaster and his bulldog Mac.
After a jam-packed afternoon, it's time to take it easy. Freshen up at the hotel, and then head on over to Main Street for something savory and delicious at Hunter-Gatherer. As you cheers with a cold, craft beer, to the weekend ahead, be sure to ask how these brewers have mastered their craft. If time permits during your stay, a visit to their second location is a must. The historic airplane hangar turned brewery, has welcomed some famous visitors in its day (do the names Earhart, Orville and Wilbur ring a bell?).
Time to conquer the day, but first, breakfast. Enjoy something sweet and caffeinated at Immaculate Consumption on Main Street. With a drink in one hand, and something to munch on in the other, head back to the historic district and get ready to dive into the rich history of the heart of SC.
Historic Columbia is the ultimate authority on our city’s journey through time. Whether you want to walk or ride, you can choose from one of the many tours they offer, including house, garden, and neighborhood options as well as a roster of special behind-the-scenes tours. You may even be able to catch them for a happy hour walking tour, where you’ll learn about Columbia and make a few new friends as you see architectural styles spanning three centuries.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you to carve out some time for this Columbia favorite, the South Carolina State Museum, where you can explore South Carolina’s history, from culture and art to science and technology. Breathe in the history of South Carolina as you tour the museum looking at artifacts and artwork from throughout the state. And when you need a real breather? Take a break in the State Museum’s 4-D theater or the planetarium.
Eat, sleep, and breathe history, with a meal at Villa Tronco, a downtown Italian spot located in a historic fire station whose claim to fame is that they’re the longest continuously operating restaurant in Columbia. Well, that and they have a full menu of delicious traditional Italian meals, many of which come from original Tronco family recipes. The Tronco family started serving up Italian favorites during World War II, so Italian American soldiers at Fort Jackson could enjoy a little home cooking. What better way to celebrate the end of a whirlwind weekend?
Before heading back to the reality of your world, take some time for the most important meal of the day with a stop to The Gourmet Shop in the Five Points district. Take bliss in the classic brunch selections and the mouth-watering paninis. Be sure to browse around their shop for decadent cheese and wine selections so you can take a taste of Columbia SC back home with you.
However you enjoy your stay, don’t miss the historical markers you see along the way. In Columbia, you can learn something new everywhere you go.