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Columbia, SC is not only the state’s capital city, but is also the second largest city in the state. Even though it may be most well-known as the home to the University of South Carolina, it is also packed with a wide variety of things to do, including sports, arts and entertainment, outdoor recreation, dining and nightlife.
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If you happen to be visiting Columbia during basketball season, you have to take in a game at the USC campus. The Gamecocks are number one in the tough Southeastern Conference for student athletes on the academic honor roll, have had three national coaches of the year and are NCAA National Champs for Women’s Basketball and appeared in the NCAA Final Four for Men’s Basketball. No matter where you went to school, once you step into the sea of red and black and catch the wave of excitement, you’ll feel like an alumni too!
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is South Carolina’s leading destination attraction and combines two popular tourist attractions into one – with one of the nation’s most beautiful botanical gardens located on the same site as one of the largest mid-size zoos in the country. On the garden side, you’ll find 70 acres of themed gardens with more than 4,200 species of native and exotic plants. It has been named by HGTV as one of 20 Great Public Gardens Across America and includes a variety of different gardens including a rose garden, Asian garden, the 34,000 square foot Walled Garden and Waterfall Junction – a three acre children’s garden that features giant tree houses and a splash zone. On the zoo side, visitors can see more than 350 species of animals from around in the world in geographic habitats like Australia, Asia, Africa and North America.
The South Carolina State Museum is the state’s largest and most comprehensive museum with over 70,000 artifacts that tell the story of the state’s past, present and future through art, biology, science & technology and culture. When you visit, you’ll learn about everything from South Carolina’s natural habitats, to the invention of the laser, to Civil War History. There is also a 4D high definition theater and one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, with a massive 55-foot dome that features both educational and entertaining films.
If you’re visiting Columbia with children, make sure to check out the EdVenture Children’s Museum – a non-profit institution that encourages children of all ages to learn through museum experiences, camps and afterschool programs. From the moment they step inside, your little ones will be enthralled, starting with the 40-foot tall statue of “Eddie,” a boy learning about a firefly in the museum’s front lobby, who just also happens to be the world’s largest child. Then, it’s off to learn about flight, cooking, inventions, animal care and more. There’s even a news room where aspiring newscasters can practice their skills.
The best way to taste and tour Columbia’s craft breweries is aboard the “Brew Bus.” Starting at the Liberty Tap Room in the Vista District, the bus takes visitors on a tour of Columbia with stops at three of the area’s breweries. At each stop, guests will have a facility tour and a tasting session, as well as a chance to ask questions of the staff and take home some brewery merchandise. In between the stops, there will also be plenty of fun on the bus with sightseeing of local landmarks, beer trivia and plenty of snacks. The company also offers a second tour that makes stops at several craft distilleries and a wine bar.
Although Soda City may sound like a supermarket that only sells soft drinks, it’s actually the name for Columbia’s downtown market that’s held on Main Street every Saturday, from 9 am to 1 pm, all year long! Here, you’ll find a wide variety of vendors carrying everything from fresh produce to local and regional foods, crafts and gift items. Plus, in addition to the market vendors, you’ll have the opportunity to shop all of the businesses along Main Street including clothing and jewelry stores, fabrics, books and more. One must-see is Mast General Store – a Southern favorite that offers a unique variety of gifts, clothing, outdoor gear and of course, penny candies.