Are you planning to explore South Carolina? Then, make sure to visit the state capital, Columbia. Look at our article on ‘Things to Do in Columbia‘ to learn about the finest places in Columbia, SC.
1. Best Things to Do in Columbia, SC
Columbian history and culture, scenic parks, heritage-filled neighborhoods, world-class museums, and fun outdoor adventures draw tourists toward it. As you stroll through the southern town, you will see magnolia, oak, and pecan trees that give you the taste of the town’s rural flavor. And in downtown Columbia, you can experience the urban appeal.
Wandering around South Carolina’s capital city’s narrow streets, shops, bars, and cafes is easy. You will have a great time with its rich cuisine, trendy shops, bars, and restaurants.
This guide to things to do in Columbia, SC, has something everyone can enjoy. Compared to some of the state’s more iconic coastal towns, we often need to pay attention to vacation spots. So, let’s get started with fun things to do in Columbia, SC
1.1 Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens
The first spot in the list of top things to do in Columbia is visiting the Hampton-Preston Mansion And Gardens. Located near the northeast of the center, you can see the gorgeous gardens of Hampton-Preston Mansion. Hampton-Preston Mansion gives you a fascinating insight into life, times, and history.
Hampton was the Union Army’s headquarters during the Civil War before becoming the Governor’s Mansion. Nowadays, this residence is a registered historic place.
1.2 Woodrow Wilson Family Home
The Woodrow Wilson Family Home, a historic and unique attraction one block south of the renowned Robert Mills House in Columbia, still stands tall today. Erected in 1871, it remains the sole surviving residential house in the state. Visitors can immerse themselves in fascinating exhibits, which showcase invaluable historical artifacts and interactive displays. These exhibits particularly focus on and commemorate the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
Woodrow Wilson Family Home isn’t full of many outdoor activities. However, it is still a treat for history buffs as it is full of vignettes, exhibits, and backstories surrounding Wilson himself.
1.3 Robert Mills House and Gardens
Columbia’s rich cultural history includes many historically significant buildings. As a private residence, Robert Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument, built the Robert Mills House and Gardens in 1825 in the Classic Revival style.
As one of Columbia’s five major national historic landmarks, Robert Mills House and Gardens deserve special attention from tourists. Visiting Robert Mills House and Gardens is among the best things to do in Columbia. It has terrific spots for sightseeing, especially if you are into architecture and the arts.
1.4 South Carolina State House
The South Carolina Statehouse is the state’s most visited tourist destination. It is a superb illustration of Greek Revival design. The construction project of the State House, which began in 1851, finally concluded post the civil war. Designed by John Niernsee, the copper dome over the capital towers is approx. 180 feet high.
Downtown Columbia is filled with shops, restaurants, magnificent buildings, and historic sites, including the vintage-inspired Mast General Store. There are a lot of exciting things to do in Columbia, including visiting this urban area. The vast capital area grounds give visitors a glimpse of the state’s history as well.
Did your tour leave you thirsty? The Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse is a few blocks south of Main Street. It is one of the famous hangouts around the city.
1.5 Columbia Museum of Art
The Columbia Museum of Art must be included in your list of things to do in Columbia, SC. South Carolina’s Columbia Museum of Art isn’t just a top 10 museum for modern art; it’s also a community center. The museum houses an extraordinary collection of American, European, and Asian decorative and modern art.
At the museum, exhibitions take place throughout the year. Both the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits are sourced from the institution and other institutions. Also, the Columbia Museum of Art has many educational programs. You can spice up your trip with painting, glasswork, and regular lectures and performances.
The museum features more than 5,000 years of art history and 25 world-class galleries. Unsurprisingly, the Columbia Museum of Art is the most renowned in the area.
1.6 South Carolina State Museum
In Columbia, a top-rated attraction is the South Carolina State Museum. By exploring this facility, guests can learn about the state’s past. Located on the Congaree River the museum is the top attraction.
Four exhibit areas are spread across four levels at the South Carolina State Museum, located in a former textile mill. The museum offers various exhibits from various disciplines, including natural history, history, art classes, and culture.
The South Carolina State Museum also has personal historical collections and rotating exhibits. State history is told through art, culture, technology, and people. And one of the popular attractions of museums is the 4D theater. An observatory, a submarine, and the first steam locomotive are also displayed on the museum grounds.
1.7 South Carolina Military Museum
Lover of military history? Put this museum on your Columbia bucket list. Cause you don’t want to miss the chance to visit the South Carolina Military Museum if you are in the city.
As Columbia, SC’s oldest history gallery, innovated in 1896, this top magnet is one of the finest lodestones in the state. It’s one of the premier lodestones for those who indeed have a fleeting interest in U.S. military history. Several temporary shows are also on display, so each visit is different. The gallery can also be enjoyed via tone-guided tenures or a guided stint with advance notice. It’s over to you!
1.8 EdVenture Children’s Museum
Thinking of taking a family vacation down to Columbia? Include EdVenture Children’s Museum in the Columbia list of things to do. The museum is the largest award-winning children’s museum in the area. The museum features many hands-on educational activities for children ages ten and younger.
The EdVenture Children’s Museum is not far from the Riverfront Park and Columbia Canal. Visitors can participate in educational activities and experiments at this interactive museum. Various topics are covered in the museum, from math to science to nature and space to fun-themed areas for kids, such as Wags and Whiskers, the World of Work, and Maker Works.
As soon as you step into the EdVenture Children’s Museum, it is evident that this is an attraction unlike any other. With hands-on exhibits, kids and adults alike will enjoy this fun adventure.
1.9 West Columbia Riverwalk Park
As part of the Three Rivers Greenway, West Columbia Riverwalk Park is something nature lovers won’t want to miss. Located just five minutes from downtown Columbia via the Gervais Street Bridge, the 4.5-acre park sits on the west bank of the Congaree River.
Outdoor activities abound at Riverwalk Park.
Walk along its river trail, ride a bike on the river trail, or cast a line for some fish. There are so many different things to do in Columbia Riverwalk Park. And if you’re looking for something more fun, try the water adventure of a lifetime by booking yourself onto a tubing, kayaking, or SUP adventure with Palmetto Outdoor. Located just outside the park, the outfitter offers many services.
In addition, many nearby outfitters give guided tours, shuttle services, and equipment rentals along the Saluda River near the Riverbanks Zoo. Several amenities make Palmetto Outdoor popular, including a grab-and-go tube rental station and an hourly shuttle service.
1.10 Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park is definitely a must-see attraction in South Carolina, for anyone visiting the state’s capital. Within the park, approximately 15,000 acres are designated wilderness areas. Cultural heritage can also be found in Congaree National Park because it was used by slaved African Americans after escaping slavery.
Congaree National Park is 30 minutes from the city and has beautiful landscapes, scenery, and nature. The place is very pretty and popular. There are some beautiful trails to explore and various animals to see, including deer, raccoons, and opossums.
You will find miles of hiking and biking trails waiting to be explored. The park’s Cedar Creek offers kayaking and canoeing opportunities too. Visiting the Congaree in summer is one of the best things to do in Columbia, as it essentially offers many outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, and camping. Fireflies in the night sky are so magical during the summer.
1.11 Sesquicentennial State Park
Sesquicentennial State Park is an amazing spot for reunions and gatherings and you can also South Carolina’s natural beauty there. Approx. twelve miles from downtown Columbia, the state park spreads over fourteen hundred acres in the Sandhills region.
Sesquicentennial State Park was built by the Conservation Corps in 1930 and donated to Columbia to celebrate its 150th anniversary. The retreat center offers a kitchen, dormitory-style accommodations, and tent camping sites for overnight stays. Reservations are also available here.
Sesquicentennial State Park, frequently called “Sesqui” is just 20 min from the town of Columbia. Sesquicentennial State Park is a perfect destination for a picnic. There’s a splash pad for kiddies, and you can hike, camp, or explore at your rest.
1.12 Dreher Island State Park
The next spot we feature in our list of ‘things to do in Columbia, SC’ On Lake Murray, Dreher Island State Park, consists of 3 islands connected by a causeway and two bridges. In addition to offering the southern charm, the island is an excellent recreational outdoor park. Fishing, hiking trails, and camping opportunities are available along twelve miles of shoreline.
Featuring an extensive nature trail traversing thick pine and hardwood forests, Dreher Island State Park covers approximately 348 acres. Getting lost will be easy if you keep to the path and follow the simple signs that guide you. In the park, pets are also allowed, so you can bring them too.
1.13 Columbia Food Tours
A tour is the best way to learn about the town’s food culture. A walking tour with a local expert of the best food places in the city is a great way to experience its flavors and see some of its best spots too. With Columbia Food Tours, you will surely taste some of the city’s best dishes from locals to perfect restaurants at each stop.
The tour offers generous portions at each stop, leaving reviewers stuffed full. We recommend arriving on an empty stomach. During the 2hr tour or the 3hr tour (you can choose between them), you’ll never get bored cause the journey from one place to the next only takes ten minutes. Experiencing the local cuisines is the most fun among the things to do in Columbia SC especially if you are a foodie.
1.14 Soda City Market
As the market’s motto indicates, “Brain, Body, Belly, “you can expect to see many things on any weekend.
Every Saturday, Soda City Market closes down Main Street in Charleston, effectively closing it off to the public, bringing the locals of South Carolina rushing to the street to pick up fresh produce, see local art, and even catch a glimpse of relaxed street performances.
Almost anything, from flowers to food trucks to antiques and accordion players, is available for viewing at the event and mingling with dogs and strollers throughout the event.
In the market, you will find an average of 100 vendors and 5,000 visitors each week, so be prepared to watch the people as you browse samples and enjoy the market culture and shopping. Also, downtown parking is free during the market so you can enjoy your time there as much as you like there!
1.15 Oyster Bar Columbia
What isn’t it like? Enjoy an oyster like no other at Oysters Bar Columbia, whether you’re in Columbia for a day or longer. At Oysters Bar Columbia, you’ll appreciate the taste of dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Take your time to go there and check out by yourself. Located in a casual feasting climate, it’s an extraordinary place to unwind with buddies after visiting and shopping.
At Oyster Bar Columbia, you can enjoy different fresh seafood dishes that will leave you with an experience of amazing food. Take a bite out of yourself and tuck into things like raw oysters, scallops, shrimp & grits. Located in a casual dining atmosphere, it’s a great place to relax with friends after a day of touring and shopping. You’ll make your evening memorable with an ice-cold drink and a delicious meal.
Can’t stand seafood? Don’t worry cause there are a bunch of other restaurants and bars nearby. Located nearby, Motor Supply Company Bistro offers upscale American farm-to-table cuisine, while Bourbon serves delicious Creole and Cajun cuisine and cocktails.
2. Other Spots to Visit in South Carolina
2.1 Lake Murray Dam
If you want to go somewhere close to nature, Lake Murray Dam should be on your list of things to do in Columbia. The Lake Murray Dam area in Columbia is home to 50,000 acres of land and approximately 650 miles of shoreline. If you like walking, jogging, or some outdoor activities, then this area is just for you. There are also fun activities to enjoy while visiting Lake Murray, such as boating, diving, and swimming.
Formerly the world’s largest earthen dam, it now stands as a striking sight. It stands over sixty meters high with an unending expanse of water surrounding it. Read more about Lake Murray Dam here.
2.2 Nickelodeon Theater
Whenever you’re in Columbia, South Carolina, catch one of the best indie films at the Nickelodeon Theater. Uniquely, there are only three independent screenings here daily in a small, intimate setting.
A gorgeous building and an extensive movie collection are among the things travelers rave about. A dialogue and discussion period happens before and after the screenings and anyone participates in that.
2.3 South Carolina State Fair
Spending time at a state fair with your family or friends is among the best things to do in Columbia if you want to understand the culture. A few miles south of Columbia’s downtown, the State Fair is near the Williams-Brice stadium.
Approximately 20,000 people attend the fair daily, enjoying carnival rides, games, 4-H activities, and live entertainment. Here, food vendors serve literally everything. And honestly, the food here is the biggest attraction for most visitors.
Although the “fair” happens in October, the fairgrounds host several other events, such as a winter holiday light show and a food festival in springtime.
3. An End Note
Lastly, some of the above activities, attractions, and locations might be affected by past incidents. Depending on the policy change, capacity restrictions or mask mandates may be in place. So consult with the Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of the U.S., and tourism boards before traveling to avoid any troubles.
Our thing was to name as numerous delightful effects to do in Columbia, SC since numerous options were available, but we tried to pick the stylish one for you. Read more of us here. Hope you have a fantastic time in your life in SC Columbia. Also, if you want to read or learn more about Columbia, visit the best bookstore and have a splendid time.