Centrally located in South Carolina, Columbia is a capital city with plenty to do, see, and shop. It is dotted with monuments, has a world-renowned zoo, a celebrated art museum, and one of the most thriving philharmonic orchestras in the South. Less than two hours from the beach and mountains, it is also the perfect outpost for a day-trip to Appalachia or the Atlantic.
Things to Do and See
Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden
This 170-acre zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden is home to over 2,000 animals. Open seven days a week, it is the fascinating place to see dynamic natural habitats and riverfront views. Check out the gorilla base camp and the sea lion landing at this 7th best zoo in North America.
With works by Daddi, Boucher, and Chihuly, the Columbia Museum of Art is a must-see during any visit to Columbia. The museum houses a significant collection of Western and Mediterranean art, including the only Botticelli fresco outside of Europe. With fourteen galleries of rotating exhibits thematically curated, the museum is one of the top cultural destinations for ancient, classical, and modern art in the South.
Every Saturday morning, the downtown of Columbia transforms into an outdoor food and street fair. Interact with local business owners and food purveyors while enjoying live music and entertainment. The free weekend parking also makes it easy to shop and taste your way through the best Columbia has to offer.
Places to Eat
Located in the heat of Five Points, this upscale restaurant has been serving elevated Southern cuisine for over twenty years. The restaurant is famous for its shrimp and grits as well as fried green tomatoes. Have a drink at the bar before you eat to enjoy a signature cocktail handcrafted by their mixologists.
Motor Supply Company and Bistro
Located in what once was a automotive garage, Motor Supply Company and Bistro is one of Columbia’s best kept secrets for casual fine dining. Locals love the constantly changing menu of seasonal produce, wild caught seafood, and house-butchered meats. Every day the menu changes, but the farm-to-table deliciousness is always the same.
Don’t let the word “diner” fool you—BLD serves a modern take on made-from-scratch favorites like fried chicken and patty melts. Try the breakfast poutine or the reverse-seared French toast. Or, if you’re in the mood for something “fancy,” the seared scallops and lobster pappardelle are decadent and delectable.
Where to Stay
This Columbia retreat was envisioned by unique collaboration of incredible local artists, craftspeople, and business owners. Located in the Main Street District, this 41-room hotel resides inside of three historic buildings combined into one. Its eclectic, 20s-era Art Deco style along with the Southern hospitality of its staff makes it the quintessential place to stay in Columbia.
Chesnut Cottage Bed & Breakfast
Converted to a bed and breakfast over thirty years ago, this Pre- Civil War home is historically significant because it was the residence of Mary Boykin Chesnut and her husband General James Chesnut that served as the habitual visitation home for Jefferson Davis. Its 1850s architecture was spared in the great fires of General Sherman. Quaint and cozy, a stay here offers a historical context to the past of the city.
Located right in the heart of downtown Columbia on the scenic campus of the University of South Carolina, Graduate Columbia blends historic grandeur with pops of color. The bright and bookish décor feels homey and fun. Enjoy a caffeinated beverage at the lobby-level Poindexter Coffee before you head out for a day of sightseeing.
Places to Shop
This massive, 300-acre mega-shopping center is the best place to shop and eat all in one place in Columbia. With two major department stores, a cinema, and numerous boutiques, you’ll find anything you want to buy, eat, or see. Check out the Marble Slab Creamery for custom-made scoops of ice cream or stop by Reed’s Jewelers to pick out a gift for a friend (or yourself).
Devine Street is a shopping destination for any Columbia local in the know. Opening just a little over a year ago, Duck Duck Goose has enamored shoppers with its boutique fashions for babies and children. With brands like Kissy Kissy and Beaufort Bonnet, you can pick out a cute pair of pajamas, “john-john,” or sweet dress for the little people in your life.
Designed by Columbia native and creative director AnnaBelle LaRoque, this colorful collection of tops and dresses has captured the attention of national press including Southern Living, The New York Times, and Fox News. LaRoque gathers inspiration from growing up in Charleston, South Carolina and has paired it with her love of fashion and travel. The result is an easy and sophisticated fashion line that can be worn to work or out on the town.