I didn’t know how much I wanted to visit Columbia until the first time I visited. South Carolina’s capital city features block after block of fine dining and dive bars, museums and entertainment venues, outdoor recreation and unique shopping. The city has a little bit for everybody and a lot for anybody, and it certainly left an impression on me with a three-day visit. But what could you do with just thirty-six hours?
Check-In at Aloft Columbia Downtown8pm
Aloft is a relatively newcomer to the hotel industry and they’ve made a big splash doing so (“splash” is what the hotel chain calls their swimming pools). The modern minimalist design of the rooms are just as comfortable as the beds. Visitors can enjoy full amenities or simply use the space as a place to lay down each night. Aloft Columbia Downtown is right in the heart of downtown between in The Vista district and within walking distance to lots of great attractions, restaurants, and entertainment.
823 Lady Street, Columbia, SC | 803-445-1900 | http://www.aloftcolumbiadowntown.com/
Dinner at Motor Supply Company9pm
The Motor Supply Company has been around since 1989 serving a variety of amazing meals made with food from local sources. The farm-to-table approach means diners will have the freshest ingredients possible and a menu that changes almost daily. You can read today’s menu here before heading over to enjoy a fantastic meal in a comfortable farm-style dinner setting.
920 Gervais St, Columbia, SC | 803-256-6687 | www.motorsupplycobistro.com
Drinks at Tin Roof10pm
Ever since the first Tin Roof location opened near Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee, three things have been true about all their locations: there is live music every night, the drinks are top notch, and the atmosphere buzzes with fun and excitement. Sit at the bar or grab a table while you sit back and enjoy the local musicians jamming through the night until last call.
1022 Senate St, Columbia, SC | 803-771-1558 | www.tinroofcolumbia.com
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden9am
Start the day off with a walk through the thrilling Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Arrive early to beat the traffic and the summer heat as you begin a journey to discover the 350 species spread throughout the beautiful zoological park. Duck inside the aquarium building to cool off and enjoy the display of aquatic life from various parts of the world. Be sure to head out toward the Saluda River and walk across the pedestrian bridge to catch a shuttle to the botanical garden. This secluded part of the zoo is a real treat with paths winding through different gardens, around water fountains, and to a splash pad perfect for the young ones.
500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC | 803-779-8717 | www.riverbanks.org | Admission is $15.95 for Adults, $13.50 for Children ages 2-12, Free for Children younger than 2, and $14.95 for Military (with ID) and Senior Citizens age 62 and up
Five Points District12pm
After all that walking around you might be a bit hungry and the Five Points district has you covered. You’ll find just about every kind of cuisine in this little district of Columbia so the difficult part will be choosing where to go. Here are a few local favorites but you can also visit the Five Points Columbia website to see all your options. After you finish lunch you can do some shopping at one of the boutique shops.
Southern Belly BBQ
This dive bar will satisfy your the craving for BBQ you didn’t know you had. They have several BBQ sandwiches on their menu and they make their own sauces in-house each day.
819 Harden Street, Columbia, SC | 803-764-3512 | http://southernbellybbq.com
This cocktail bar and restaurant will make you feel at home while serving you some delicious meals and kickin’ drinks. The menu includes items like buffalo fried oysters, poutine, lobster mac n’ cheese, and an oyster po-boy sandwich.
2017 Devine Street, Columbia, SC | 803-708-4495 | http://goats2.com
Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe
Southern cafe is right at this restaurant with a lunch menu that includes grits, catfish, chicken, and a fried green tomato-pimento cheese sandwich. You can enjoy the local artwork on the walls while finishing off your delicious lunch in a casual dining environment.
2001 Greene Street, Suite A, Columbia, SC | 803-254-7828 | http://mrfriendlys.com
Tour the South Carolina State House3pm
Free guided and self-guided tours are offered through the South Carolina State Parks at the State House, but that’s not all there is to do. The State House grounds actually include dozens of walking paths around monuments, memorials, and gardens allowing you to enjoy the outdoors and beauty of the city. Inside the State House visitors can explore two levels of the beautiful and historic building and when legislators are not in session you can even get a peak inside some of the meeting rooms and lobbies. A nice gift shop will help you find a souvenir or gift.
1100 Gervais St, Columbia, SC | 803-734-2430 | http://southcarolinaparks.com/historic-sites/state-house.aspx
South Carolina State Museum4pm
If you arrive just before 4p.m. you can walk in and catch a 4D Theater show in the movie theater before exploring the rest of the museum. Ride the elevator to the top floor and work your way down through the various exhibit spaces. Learn about the Best Friend of Charleston, how lasers operate, explore some automotive history, and see some dinosaurs. The top floor includes a collection of antique telescopes and the observatory where visitors can pop in to see sun spots and solar flares.
301 Gervais St, Columbia, SC | 803-898-4921 | http://scmuseum.org | Admission ranges from $8.95 – $19.95 for Adults, $7.95 – $18.95 for Seniors (62+), $6.95 – $17.95 for Children (3-12), and Free for Children (2 and under)
Conquest Brewing Company6pm
Before heading off into the night head over to Conquest Brewing Company to see what’s on tap in their tasting room. They usually have about a dozen beers on tap and you can order them in flights of 4, 6, or 10 (which they call the Paddle of Glory). You can also order individual pints when you find your favorite and you can fill up a growler to take some home with you.
947 South Stadium Road, Columbia, SC | 803-814-1992 | http://conquestbrewing.com
The Congaree Vista District7pm
The Congaree Vista District covers a few square blocks along Gervais Street and offers some of the most vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment in the city. Easily walk from one local shop to the next as the smell of different cuisine tickles your senses and live music fills the air. Do some late shopping or head straight for a restaurant to claim your table for the night. After dinner has settled seek out some live music or take a stroll along the eclectic city streets.
The Pot Smoker BBQ
If you don’t mind getting your fingers dirty head to The Pot Smoker BBQ for delicious pulled pork, wings, sandwiches, and sides. The casual dining atmosphere is great for a laid back meal after a long day.
931 Senate St, Columbia, SC 29201 | 803-400-2251 | www.thepotsmokerbbqcolumbia.com
The Oyster Bar
Grab a half dozen oysters, Alaskan snow crab legs, or steamed shrimp at this local joint. The staff helps you find a seat at the bar or small tables quickly so you don’t waste any time before ordering a seafood meal.
1123 Park Street, Columbia, SC | 803-799-4484 | www.oysterbarcolumbia.com
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
The only thing better than the “hand to mouth” food is the beer at this large pub. The menu includes items like delicious burgers, nacho appetizers, and a few German style meals. They have an enormous selection of beers on tap and plenty of seating with indoor and outdoor tables and a small social area.
931 Senate Street, Columbia, SC | 803-256-2055 | www.beerknurd.com/locations/columbia-flying-saucer
The Oak Table
The Oak Table is one of Columbia’s most popular fine dining experiences. Sit in comfort with low mood lighting and dark, rich decor as you enjoy entrees like handrolled trofie pasta, Carolina heritage pork chop, and a 14oz. ribeye steak. Browse the wine list or order a cocktail to go with your meal.
1221 Main Street, Columbia, SC | 803-563-5066 | http://theoaktablesc.com
After dinner head over to the Music Farm venue to catch a live concert. Tickets range from around $15-$20 per person and the doors open an before the performance. They have a full service bar with beer, wine, and liquor and a standing room only main floor to enjoy the music.
1022 Senate St, Columbia, SC | 803-252-9392 | www.musicfarm.com/venues/music-farm-columbia/upcoming-shows/
Breakfast at Wired Goat Cafe10am
After checking out of the hotel walk just two blocks away to find this nice hole in the wall coffee shop and cafe for breakfast. They have a great breakfast menu of sausage, eggs, and cheese, oatmeal, and bagels. Sit outside on the covered patio on comfortable days.
709 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC | 803-201-5348 | http://wiredgoat.cafe/
Make your last memory of Columbia a great one with a walk along the Broad River and Columbia Canal at Riverfront Park. This hidden destination just north of the city is a local favorite for fishing, walking, jogging, and sightseeing. Walk across a small dam to an island between the river and canal for a chance to see dozens of blue herons and great egrets feeding in the shallow waters of the Broad River. Sit back for awhile and enjoy the peacefulness of nature before leaving Columbia behind.
Traveler. Writer. Photographer. Born and raised in Virginia, living most my adult life on the coast of the Carolinas, I am the Southeastern Traveler. I'm always looking for the next great travel story to tell. What's your story?