101 Things To Do In Columbia, South Carolina

I have lived in South Carolina for over 25 years, and Columbia, SC, is by far one of my favorite cities to visit. Columbia has something for everyone: a romantic weekend or a day trip with the kids. Yes, I love the Mountains of the Upstate and the beaches of the Lowcountry, but smack in the middle of the State is the amazing city of Columbia.

I have written many articles about Columbia, from where to eat, who to hire, and what to do, but I thought it would be fun to make a massive list of my favorite activities and adventures around Columbia.

  1. South Carolina State Museum: Visit the state’s largest museum.
  2. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden: Discover a world of animals and plants.
  3. EdVenture Children’s Museum: Enjoy interactive exhibits for children.
  4. Columbia Museum of Art: Immerse in various art exhibits.
  5. South Carolina State House: Explore this historic building.
  6. Congaree National Park: Spend a day hiking or camping.
  7. Soda City Market: Shop at the city’s largest street market.
  8. Columbia Fireflies Baseball: Catch a local baseball game.
  9. Five Points: Discover a lively neighborhood for shopping and dining.
  10. Lake Murray: Enjoy a day of water sports and fishing.
  11. Historic Columbia Foundation: Learn about the city’s history.
  12. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park: Take a walk alongside the river.
  13. Sesquicentennial State Park: Spend a day outdoors.
  14. Robert Mills House and Gardens: Visit this historic house.
  15. Finlay Park: Relax in this popular downtown park.
  16. Columbia Food Tours: Sample local cuisine.
  17. Huntington Beach State Park: Go for a beach day trip.
  18. Frankie’s Fun Park: Enjoy a family-friendly amusement park.
  19. The Vista: Explore Columbia’s entertainment district.
  20. Columbia City Ballet: Catch a ballet performance.
  21. South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum: Learn about the state’s military history.
  22. Governor’s Mansion: Tour this historic home.
  23. Colonial Life Arena: Catch a concert or sporting event.
  24. Columbia Marionette Theatre: Watch a puppet show.
  25. Trustus Theatre: Enjoy a live play.
  26. Cayce Historical Museum: Visit this local history museum.
  27. Koger Center for the Arts: Watch a performance.
  28. Harbison State Forest: Enjoy a day of hiking.
  29. Town Theatre: Catch a community theater show.
  30. Woodrow Wilson Family Home: Tour the home of a former US president.
  31. Columbia Classical Ballet: Attend a ballet performance.
  32. River Rat Brewery: Taste local beers.
  33. Columbia City Farmers Market: Enjoy fresh local produce.
  34. Earlewood Park: Have a picnic or play some sports.
  35. Palmetto Outdoor Center: Have fun with outdoor activities.
  36. Columbia Brew Bus: Tour local breweries.
  37. Palmetto Falls Water Park: Spend a day at the water park.
  38. Hampton-Preston Mansion: Visit this historic mansion.
  39. Seven Oaks Park: Enjoy outdoor recreation.
  40. Columbia City Ballet Offstage: Learn about ballet.
  41. Cayce Riverwalk: Take a stroll along the river.
  42. Melrose Park: Play at this community park.
  43. Columbia International Festival: Experience cultural diversity.
  44. Saluda Shoals Park: Spend a day in nature.
  45. South Carolina State Farmers Market: Shop fresh, local goods.
  46. Columbia Speedway: Watch a car race.
  47. Tartan Day South: Attend a Celtic celebration.
  48. Crafty Feast: Shop at an indie craft fair.
  49. Comedy House: Enjoy stand-up comedy.
  50. South Carolina Philharmonic: Listen to orchestral music.
  51. Congaree Vista: Explore galleries, shops, and restaurants.
  52. Carolina Wings & Ribhouse: Enjoy local food.
  53. Drip Coffee: Sip locally brewed coffee.
  54. Hunter-Gatherer Brewery: Try local brews.
  55. Rosewood Market: Shop at a local grocery.
  56. The Nick: Watch an indie movie.
  57. Village at Sandhill: Shop at a premier outdoor mall.
  58. Motor Supply Co. Bistro: Dine at a popular local restaurant.
  59. Columbia Museum of Art Shop: Buy art-inspired gifts.
  60. Columbia City Jazz Dance School: Take a dance class.
  61. Main Street Public House: Enjoy a meal and live music.
  62. Blue Moon Ballroom: Take a ballroom dance class.
  63. Midlands’ Plant and Flower Festival: Attend a flower festival.
  64. Book Tavern: Browse a local bookstore.
  65. Main Street Bakery: Enjoy local pastries.
  66. The Whig: Visit the city’s dive bar.
  67. Columbia Marionette Theater: Enjoy a puppet show.
  68. Spotted Salamander Cafe: Have a meal at a local favorite.
  69. Benedict College: Visit this historic college.
  70. Cafe Strudel: Enjoy breakfast or lunch.
  71. Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center: Attend a local event.
  72. Hyatt Park: Enjoy this city park.
  73. Columbia Down Under: Explore this subterranean speakeasy.
  74. Saluda River Club: Visit this upscale residential community.
  75. Mast General Store: Visit a classic general store.
  76. The Vault: Explore a creative coworking space.
  77. Columbia Fire Department Museum: Learn about firefighting history.
  78. Owens Field Skate Park: Try out skateboarding.
  79. Jillian’s: Enjoy a game of billiards.
  80. Allen University: Visit this historically black university.
  81. Fishing at Dreher Island State Park: Spend a day fishing.
  82. Fairfield County Museum: Learn about local history.
  83. Stone River: Attend an event at this premier venue.
  84. Newberry Opera House: Catch a performance.
  85. Wavering Place: Visit a historic plantation.
  86. Indah Coffee Company: Enjoy local coffee.
  87. Columbia Empowerment Zone, Inc: Visit this local community development corporation.
  88. White Mule: Enjoy live music.
  89. City Art: Explore local art.
  90. SakiTumi Grill & Sushi Bar: Enjoy sushi and grill dishes.
  91. Tin Roof: Enjoy live music.
  92. Motor Supply Company Bistro: Dine at a farm-to-table restaurant.
  93. Al-Amir Restaurant: Taste Middle Eastern cuisine.
  94. The Barnyard Flea Market: Shop at a flea market.
  95. Blue Marlin: Enjoy seafood and southern cuisine.
  96. South Carolina State Farmers Market: Buy fresh local produce.
  97. Aloft Columbia Downtown: Stay at this modern hotel.
  98. Pearlz Oyster Bar: Enjoy seafood.
  99. Gervais & Vine: Enjoy Mediterranean tapas.
  100. Za’s Brick Oven Pizza: Try some local pizza.
  101. Columbia’s Cooking: Take a cooking class.
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Columbia, SC: A Rich Tapestry of History and Culture

The Importance of Understanding Columbia’s Rich History

Columbia, South Carolina is a city with a rich and storied past. Located in the heart of the state, it has been the capital of South Carolina since 1786.

It boasts a diverse population, with roots in European settlers, African slaves and Native Americans. Today, Columbia is a hub for arts and culture in the region.

However, to truly appreciate everything that Columbia has to offer today, it is important to understand its history. This article will take a closer look at the history of this fascinating city.

A Brief Overview of Columbia

Columbia has had many names throughout its history – including “The Capital City,” “The Nickel Town” (due to the five-cent fare for riding streetcars) and “Famously Hot.” It was originally founded in 1786 as a planned capital city – an important point on trade routes between Charleston and Augusta. Over time, Columbia became an industrial hub for textiles and manufacturing. The University of South Carolina was founded here in 1801, adding another layer of culture to an already rich tapestry.

Today, Columbia continues to be an important economic center for South Carolina. Its downtown area has undergone significant renovations over the years that have transformed it into a vibrant place with plenty of attractions – including museums, theaters and parks.

Why Understanding Columbia’s History Matters

Understanding the history behind any place will help you gain deeper insight into its present-day character. With its unique blend of cultures and influences from throughout American history – including Native American tribes who once inhabited this land – there are many layers that make up what we know as “Columbia” today. By gaining an understanding of how events like slavery impacted both individuals and society as a whole in this region during different periods in history such as Jim Crow segregation laws – which were enforced until the 1960s – we can better appreciate just how far the city has come.

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In addition, learning about major events that took place in Columbia throughout history, such as its role in the Revolutionary War, Reconstruction and Civil Rights Movement will give a broader perspective on American history itself. It will also prepare us to navigate contemporary debates about race relations and social justice accurately.

The Early History of Columbia, South Carolina

The Native American Tribes in the Area

Before European settlers arrived, the area that is now Columbia was home to several Native American tribes. These tribes included the Congaree, Saluda, and Catawba. The Congaree were the largest of these tribes and were known for their farming and hunting skills.

The Saluda were skilled fishermen while the Catawba were skilled potters and traders. The Native American presence in this region can still be seen today through archaeological sites such as the Congaree National Park.

Visitors can view artifacts that have been preserved from these early cultures. It is important to acknowledge their history and contribution to the land where Columbia now stands.

European Settlement and Founding of Columbia

In 1786, Colonel Thomas Taylor was sent by the South Carolina General Assembly to survey a site along the Congaree River to establish a new state capital. Eventually, this site became known as Columbia after Christopher Columbus.

The city was officially established on March 22, 1786, with less than a dozen families living in wooden huts at first. However, once a bridge was built over the river and more people began moving into the area in search of work opportunities or education (as it became an educational hub), growth quickly followed.

Role in Revolutionary War

During the Revolutionary War era, Columbia served as an important point for British troops during their campaign against American forces across South Carolina. In fact, British General Cornwallis used Columbia as his headquarters for a time. Patriots also used what is now known as “Palmetto tree” logs from nearby Fort Moultrie (Charleston) to fortify their defenses against British attacks on Fort Sullivan at Sullivans Island (now called Fort Sumter).

The Palmetto tree was able to absorb cannonball impacts without shattering the wood, thus saving lives and making it a symbol of South Carolina’s resilience. Ultimately, the Patriots were successful in their defense against the British troops trying to invade Columbia.

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The Antebellum Era: Slavery, Economy, and Secession

Economic Growth and Development

During the Antebellum Era, Columbia saw significant economic growth and development. This was due in large part to the city’s location at the confluence of three major rivers, which made it an important transportation hub. Cotton was the most important crop in South Carolina during this time, and Columbia became a major center for cotton trading.

The city’s wealth grew rapidly as a result of the cotton trade. Many merchants became very wealthy from trading cotton with Europe.

They invested their money back into the city by building grand homes and impressive public buildings such as theaters and churches. The State Capitol Building is one such example, built in 1855.

Slavery and its Impact on the City

Slavery played an integral role in the economy of antebellum Columbia. Enslaved Africans were used to cultivate cotton on plantations throughout South Carolina, including those surrounding Columbia.

Many slaves were brought to Columbia to work on public projects such as building railroads or digging canals. Slavery also had a profound impact on the social structure of antebellum Columbia.

Enslaved Africans were treated as property rather than people and had no rights or freedoms. They lived in squalid conditions with little access to education or healthcare.

Secession and Civil War

In 1860, tensions between North and South reached a boiling point when Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States on a platform opposed to slavery. When South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20th of that year, it was one of several states to do so. Columbia played an important role during the Civil War as both a Confederate supply hub and strategic target for Union troops seeking control over key transportation routes.

By 1865, Union forces had captured Columbia and burned much of the city in retaliation for Confederate attacks on Union troops. The Antebellum Era was a time of great change and strife in Columbia’s history.

While economic growth brought prosperity to the city, it was built on the backs of enslaved Africans who suffered greatly under their masters. The Civil War would ultimately tear the city apart and leave a lasting impact that can still be felt today.

Reconstruction and Jim Crow Era

Rebuilding After the War

After the Civil War ended, Columbia was left in ruins. Nearly one-third of the city had been destroyed during the war, and it was up to the people of Columbia to rebuild their city from scratch. The task was daunting, but many were up for the challenge.

As rebuilding efforts got underway, new businesses sprang up and old ones were revived. Cotton mills became a major industry in Columbia, providing jobs for many residents.

Schools were built, churches were restored, and homes were reconstructed. The city slowly but surely began to take shape once again.

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African American Political Power During Reconstruction

During Reconstruction (1865-1877), African Americans gained significant political power in South Carolina and throughout the South. In 1868, South Carolina became the first state to elect a black man as governor when Republican candidate Robert Smalls won a landslide victory. African Americans also held seats in both houses of the South Carolina legislature during Reconstruction.

They passed laws that helped improve education and infrastructure for all citizens of South Carolina. However, these gains were short-lived when federal troops withdrew from the state in 1877.

Segregation Laws and Racial Violence During Jim Crow Era

After Reconstruction ended, Southern states enacted laws that mandated racial segregation known as Jim Crow laws. These laws institutionalized discrimination against African Americans in nearly every aspect of life including education, housing, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations such as restaurants and theaters.

Racial violence was also rampant during this era. Lynchings were common occurrences throughout the South with at least two recorded incidents taking place in Columbia between 1880-1930s according to research by University of Georgia Professor Emeritus James C. Cobb.

While Reconstruction brought progress to African Americans politically, their gains were short-lived as segregation laws and violence took hold in the Jim Crow era. The legacies of these dark times can still be felt today, but Columbia’s resilience is what has allowed it to overcome its troubled past.

Civil Rights Movement in Columbia

The Struggle for Equality in the Capital City

In the 1960s, Columbia was a hotbed of activity during the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans in the city had been fighting for equal rights for decades, but it was during this time that their efforts began to bear fruit. One of the most notable events occurred in 1961 when students from Allen University staged a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter at Rich’s Department Store.

The protest ended with several arrests, but it also drew national attention to the issue and helped spark further protests and demonstrations across the city. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. led a march through downtown Columbia that drew thousands of people from all over South Carolina.

Despite significant progress being made towards equality in Columbia since then, there is still much work to be done to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and justly. In recent years, there have been renewed calls for greater police accountability and reform, as well as efforts to address disparities in education and healthcare access.

Economic Growth and Development

From Cotton Mills to Technology Startups

Columbia has experienced significant economic growth and development over the past few decades. The city has diversified its economy beyond textiles and agriculture, attracting high-tech industries such as software development and cybersecurity firms. At the heart of this transformation is Innovista – a research park located on USC’s campus – which aims to bring together academia with industry partners to create new technologies and businesses.

The park has already attracted major companies such as IBM, Boeing, and Siemens Energy. But despite these successes, there are still parts of Columbia that have not benefited from economic growth as much as others – particularly low-income neighborhoods where residents struggle with poverty and unemployment.

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Cultural Landmarks, Festivals, and Events

From the South Carolina State Fair to the Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia is home to a wealth of cultural landmarks, festivals, and events that showcase the city’s unique history and culture. The South Carolina State Fair is one of the most popular events in Columbia, drawing millions of visitors every year with its rides, games, and food.

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is another popular attraction, featuring exotic animals from around the world as well as a beautiful botanical garden. For art lovers, there’s the Columbia Museum of Art which houses an impressive collection of European and American art from ancient times to modern day.

And for music lovers, there’s the Cola Jazz Festival which brings together some of the best jazz musicians in the world for a weekend-long celebration. Overall, Columbia offers something for everyone – whether you’re interested in history, culture or just having fun with friends and family.

Preserving Columbia’s History for Future Generations

As we look back on Columbia’s rich history, it’s important to remember that the city is not just a collection of buildings and landmarks, but rather a living, breathing entity shaped by the people who call it home. By preserving and sharing stories about its past, we can inspire future generations to engage with their city and work towards creating an even brighter future. Efforts such as preservation of historic sites and monuments, local museums, and educational programs that teach about local history help us understand where we came from and how to move forward.

The Role of History in Shaping Identity

Knowing about Columbia’s past is not only important for preserving memories. It can also help shape identity.

Understanding our shared experiences as Columbians creates a sense of community that goes beyond mere geography. This shared history creates a common bond between us all – one that inspires us to come together in times of crisis or celebration.

The Power of Historical Remembrance

Ultimately, understanding the history of our city enables us to create social change by informing our present-day decisions – from electing officials to choosing policies and programs. We must learn from past mistakes so we don’t repeat them in the future. By exploring what has worked well in the past (as well as what hasn’t), we can build upon successes and avoid pitfalls.

The power of historical remembrance means that while we will never be able to change what happened before today, we have control over how this knowledge informs our actions moving forward. Examining Columbia’s rich history demonstrates how each generation has contributed unique elements that have enabled it to become the vibrant place it is today.

Learning from its diverse experiences will help ensure prosperity for many more generations yet to come. Let’s continue to preserve and learn from our past so that we can create an even brighter future for Columbia!

Blair Witkowski
Author: Blair Witkowski

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