Columbia Welcomes You!
The 2019 South Carolina Governor's Conference on Tourism & Travel will be held in Columbia, SC.
Things to Do in Columbia SC
With so much to see and do in Columbia SC, knowing where to start can be daunting. Fret not, friends. We’ve put together a list of options to help you while away a few hours in the real Southern hot spot.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
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. Five lion cubs, two baby gorillas and a young giraffe up the cute factor and the botanical garden is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring in the country.
Take a Tour
Centrally located on Main and Gervais Streets, the South Carolina State House 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. Oh, and did we mention 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, listed 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. Or, visit one (or more!) of four historic houses operated by Historic Columbia. Meander through the Robert Mills House & Gardens, the Hampton-Preston Mansion & Gardens, the Mann-Simons Site and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.
Scope out the recently-renovated Columbia Museum of Art. Peruse the permanent collection, where you’ll find Warhol, Monet and the only Botticelli to be displayed in a museum outside of Italy, among others. Then make your way through the rotating blockbuster exhibits, like Jackson Pollock: Mural and Midcentury Masters: Jasper Johns’ Gifts to the CMA.
City Meets Nature
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. Local outfitter, Palmetto Outdoor Center, sets up shop at the West Columbia Amphitheater to help make getting on and off the water easy.
Take to the trails! Nestled on the banks of the Broad River, Harbison State Forest offers more than 20 miles of trails that are perfect for a hike, bike or run. Offering varying levels of difficulty, you can opt for anything from the Learning Trail for a quick outdoor adventure, to the Midlands Mountain Trail that takes you on a climb before descending to the river bottom, to the Spider Woman II trail for some difficult mountain biking with steep climbs and a natural rock garden.
As part of the Cayce Riverwalk, the Timmerman Trail is a 3.5-mile paved trail that runs through the woods with breathtaking views of the Congaree Creek and a few bridges and boardwalks for photo opportunities. While it’s only 15 minutes from downtown, don’t be surprised by the wildlife you might see along the way. Bonus – it comes with free parking and easy access for wheelchairs and strollers.
Just 30 minutes outside of downtown, you’ll find South Carolina’s only national park, Congaree National Park. With old-growth trees and a charming boardwalk, it’s a magical forest that surrounds the Congaree River. Hop on the boardwalk for an easy hike with benches for resting. And, contrary to its name, the Kingsnake Trail is known for its ample bird watching due to its diverse vegetation and proximity to Cedar Creek.
Here’s the thing about Southern lakes – you can generally do something on the water 365 days a year. And we don’t mean ice skating. Partake in boating, fishing, paddling, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, hiking and more at Lake Murray.
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, galleries and studio space in the Vista or the many murals transforming humdrum spaces into unexpected places. Learn more about our robust arts scene with One Columbia for Arts & History.
Take home something to remember your time in Columbia by with our Rookie’s Guide to Shopping in Columbia SC.
With numerous breweries (and more on the way!), plus several brewpubs and taprooms scattered throughout the region, Columbia is a low-key beer town. We’ve compiled a list of just some of the top places to sip on hops and clink your pint glasses in the air.
Take in the killer rooftop view at River Rat Brewery. For an added dose of history, flock to Hunter-Gatherer Brewery at Owens Field, located inside the historic Curtiss-Wright airplane hangar. Pop in to Columbia Craft for an extensive offering that’s already collecting awards in its first year of operation. Get a taste of lake life at Angry Fish Brewing. Check out Cottontown Brew Lab for inventive seasonal selections or the largest brewery in the Midlands, Steel Hands Brewing. And sustainability’s the name of the game at Hazelwood in Lexington.
Or, kick back at a bottle shop like Craft and Draft or The Casual Pint and try craft beers from all over.
Barbeque and Pimento Cheeseburgers
Follow the locals to one of our many barbeque joins for a taste of pulled pork smothered in Columbia’s legendary mustard-based sauce. A healthy dose of brown sugar makes our signature ‘que sweet and tangy. Dig in to a side of fried okra or hash and wash it all down with a cold glass of sweet tea, of course. But make sure to save room for the banana pudding! Might we suggest Doc’s BBQ and Southern Buffet, The War Mouth, Bone-In Barbeque, The Southern Belly BBQ or Hudson’s Smokehouse?
Alternately, did you know that Columbia is the birthplace of pimento cheeseburgers? Melting that Southern caviar onto a juicy burger was first done 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 Rockaway Athletic Club, Pawley’s Front Porch, The Kingsman or Henry’s, just to name a few.