Columbia SC, The Top 10 Sights, Bites, and Tourist Attractions
Known as “Cola” to the Locals and Home to the GameCocks!
By Rachel Bergan, University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina — or better known by the locals as “Cola” — is the state capital of the Palmetto State, home of the beautiful University of South Carolina, and is a city filled with history, tradition, and that wonderful Southern charm. If you’re wondering what to do on your first visit to Columbia, look no further; I’ve got the top 10 sights, bites, and tourist attractions for you to check out!
1. Go watch some SEC football at Williams-Brice Stadium: SEC football is argued as the best football in the country, and what better place to see a game than up close and personal at a SEC stadium! SECspots.com has voted the atmosphere at Williams-Brice on game days as “the best” on numerous occasions. Feel the stands sway during Sandstorm (remember, “if it ain’t swayin’, we ain’t playin’”), and make sure you bring your loudest cheering voice to make the stadium echo — fans on the west side of the stadium shout “GAME!” while the east side follows behind with “COCKS!” Don’t forget the big pre-game tailgating! Game days at the University of South Carolina are truly like no other.
2. Float away: Columbia is known as being “famously hot.” What better way to cool off in the summer (and spring…and fall) heat than to float down the river? Rent a tube from Palmetto Outdoors, grab a group of friends, and spend a leisurely day cooling off (best you can) from that famous heat.
3. Attend a food and beer festival: In the mood for some delicious food and drink? Columbia has some great festivals come to the Vista (a main dining area of Columbia). From Italian and Greek festivals, to Chili cook-off festivals, World of Beer sponsored events, and crawfish boils, you are sure to find something that your taste buds will thank you for!
4. Spend the day (and night) in Five Points: If you’re looking to have a delicious meal, do some great shopping, or have a few drinks, look no further than Five Points, the main shopping, restaurant, and nightlife area in Columbia. Five Points is home to delicious restaurants, chic boutiques, and numerous bars. For University of South Carolina students looking to go shopping by day and bar hopping by night, Five Points is the perfect area.
5. Visit Carolina Stadium: The newly built Carolina Stadium is a beautiful sight in itself. Pair that with a back-to-back national championship baseball team and you’ve got yourself a great Saturday afternoon. Go cheer the Gamecocks on to another road to Omaha!
6. Eat some traditional Southern barbeque: Looking for the perfect pulled pork sandwich? Columbia’s got you covered. Southern barbeque can be found left and right, from Doc’s, to Maurice’s, to Rease’s. If you are looking to make it true South Carolina barbeque, use mustard based sauce, which is the favorite in the midlands.
7. Spend a night at the South Carolina State Fair: The South Carolina State Fair is held every October in Columbia. You can ride traditional fair rides, play games, and eat the most traditional “Southern state fair” food you can imagine: fried Oreo’s, fried candy bars…even fried butter get cooked up at the state fair. There is even great entertainment, as the fair brings numerous artists: Darius Rucker, Thompson Square, Trace Adkins, Eli Young Band, and Miranda Lambert have all made appearances to the Pepsi Grandstand. You are sure to have a good time when the fair is in town!
8. Visit a historic home: Columbia is a historic city, and is the ground for many homes that have made their way through South Carolina’s history. During your stay in Columbia, make your way to the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, and the Robert Mills House and Gardens. These homes have stood the test of time as well as outlasted the Civil War.
9. Grab a burger at Pawley’s Front Porch: We’ve all heard of Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Well, he recently made a stop in Columbia at Pawley’s Front Porch. Pawley’s does hand-made burgers topped with an array of cheeses, buns, and various toppings, as well as the most delicious fried pickles and fried green tomatoes — I could spend a meal just eating the fried appetizers!
10. Visit the beautiful and historic USC campus: Founded in 1801, USC is the flagship institution of the University of South Carolina System. In 1862, the Confederate took possession of the campus buildings, and they were converted into a hospital. This conversion, however, ultimately helped the campus survive the war, as its status as a hospital is what prevented it from being destroyed. Today, the picturesque Horseshoe is listed on the National Register as a historic place, and the majority of the buildings are still standing as pre-Civil War landmarks.
Ultimately, what brought me — and many others like me — to Columbia is the University of South Carolina. It is home to the fighting Gamecocks, the number one international business school in the country, and the 30,000 students that bleed garnet and black. It is a place where it is appropriate and accepting to wear clothing donned with the word “cocks,” and where Southern charm and hospitality sweep you off your feet. Make the trip to Columbia, watch some SEC football, and see what this city is all about. And remember, go cocks!!