At the heart of downtown Columbia the South Carolina State House is the seat of government in the state. The beautiful building houses the governor’s office, House and Senate chambers, and dozens of other rooms. It is also recognized as a South Carolina state park and visitors can take free guided tours of the building to see the gorgeous interior, learn about the history of the building, and visit different rooms.
Touring the State House was one of the last things I did after spending three days in Columbia. I knew I had to get here if I were to say I had “done” Columbia right. Fortunately for me the government was on recess so I pretty much had free roam of the building to explore on my own.
The state park offers free guided tours Monday – Saturday through almost the entire year. But visitors are also allowed to explore on their own. I knew I wanted to capture some photos and didn’t want to hold up a tour, or miss an opportunity, so I struck out on my own. The main lobby area was ornate with a marble floor and massive, beautiful staircase. But if the lobby wowed you just wait til you get to the second floor!
The second level of the State House is a huge, open space with a third level balcony wrapping around the interior, plush leather furniture, and a giant statue dedicated to John C. Calhoun, South Carolina’s first governor, in the middle. The open air space makes it feel bigger than it is even though it’s already a big space. Doors along the wall lead to different rooms and chambers. While the government is on recess some of these doors are left open so visitors can poke inside and explore a little further.
The free guided tours last just under an hour and if you decide to walk around on your own you can pretty much stay as long as you like. It’s a great thing to do on a rainy day or, like I did, a place to duck out of the hot and humid summer heat for a little air conditioning. On my way out I stopped by the tiny gift shop and picked up a few souvenirs; they had everything from shot glasses to coffee mugs, clothing, jewelry, maps, all of it covered with the palmetto tree symbol of the state of South Carolina.
Whatever you do don’t neglect the grounds surrounding the State House. Before or after you tour the interior be sure to enjoy one of the hiking trails or botanical gardens surrounding the build. The State House grounds feature four hiking trails: the .25-mile Carolina Wren Trail, .5-mile Spotted Salamander Trail, .75-mile Boykin Spaniel Trail, and 1-mile White Tailed Deer Trail.
1100 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC | 803-734-2430 | http://southcarolinaparks.com/historic-sites/state-house.aspx | Admission and Guided Tours are Free