17 Best Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Columbia, SC
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Columbia is a beautiful city full of history and culture.

Columbia was established in 1786 after State Senator John Lewis Gervais introduced the bill to the General Assembly.

Columbia is the capital and largest city in South Carolina, with a population of 134,057 as of 2020.

The city serves as the county seat of Richland County, and a portion also extends into the neighboring Lexington County.

There are plenty of things to do in Columbia, from visiting popular tourist destinations to exploring the city's fascinating historical landmarks.

Here are the best things to do in Columbia, South Carolina:

Visit the Historic South Carolina State House

Outside view of South Carolina State House
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The South Carolina State House is along Pendleton Street in Columbia, South Carolina, and it's the oldest state house in continuous use in the United States.

The state house was built between 1822 and 1826 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The state house has been used for various purposes, including as a hospital during the Civil War.

Interior view of South Carolina State House
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Today, it serves as the home of the South Carolina General Assembly.

The South Carolina State House is a beautiful building full of history and culture.

If you are visiting Columbia, stop by and take a tour!

House of representatives at South Carolina State House
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See the Animals Up Close at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Giraffes at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
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If you're looking for a fun day out with the family, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is a great place to visit.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to a variety of animals you can see up close.

There are various things to do at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, including exploring the zoo and checking out the gardens.

Fountain at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
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The zoo is home to various animals, including flamingos, lions, rhinoceros, bears, and gorillas.

You can also see sea lions and penguins at the aquarium.

It's a great place to learn about animals from all over the world!

Bright Yellow flowers at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
David.Cole, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's also a children's area where kids can play and a petting zoo where they can get up close and personal with some friendly animals.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is an excellent place for families to visit, and there's something for everyone to enjoy!

Spend the Day at the Columbia Museum of Art

Signage of Columbia Museum of Art
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The Columbia Museum of Art is a museum located in Columbia, South Carolina.

It's home to various artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and textiles.

The Columbia Museum of Art is home to various exhibits, which change regularly.

To give the art pieces a whole new context, the collections at the museum are arranged thematically.

It showcases how renowned artists from different eras and continents focus on common themes such as heroism or vice and virtue.

Entrance to Columbia Museum of Art
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Some popular collections are related to the Art and Identity theme, with works from Sigmund Abeles, Michaela Pilar Brown, and Henri-Francois Riesener.

They also have a variety of educational programs available, including guided tours, lectures, and workshops.

The Columbia Museum of Art is the perfect place to learn more about art and appreciate its beauty!

Take an Afternoon Stroll Down Main Street District

View of the skyline from Main Street District
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Main Street District is home to various restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.

There are many things to do in the Main Street District, including eating at delicious restaurants, shopping at unique shops, and checking out entertainment venues.

There are a variety of restaurants in the Main Street District in Columbia, and they are all delicious!

Buildings at Main Street District
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Some of the famous restaurants in the district include Cantina 76, a Mexican-inspired Taqueria and Bar, and Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse, an award-winning "Churrascaria" serving prime cuts of beef, lamb, and chicken.

Main Street District is the perfect place to eat tasty food and explore some of the best shops in Columbia!

Visit the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Exterior view of South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum
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The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is a museum located along Gervais Street in Columbia, South Carolina.

It's home to various Confederate artifacts, memorabilia, and military equipment from other wars.

Some things you can see at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum include uniforms, weapons, flags, and photographs.

Several exhibits cover specific topics, such as the Civil War and World War II.

Anyone interested in history will love to check out the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum!

Tour the Historic Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens

View of Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens
Historic Columbia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens is a historic house built in 1818 by wealthy Columbia merchant Ainsley Hall and his wife, Sarah.

The Hall family later sold it in 1823 to Wade Hampton I, one of the South's wealthiest plantation owners.

The mansion has been restored to its former glory, open to the public since 1970.

The Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens is open for guided tours, and it's now owned by Richland County and managed by Historic Columbia.

The mansion is home to various exciting rooms, including the Dining Room, the Parlor, and the Bedroom.

It also has a beautiful garden, which you can explore while you're there.

Watch a Game at the Williams-Brice Stadium

Exterior view of Williams-Brice Stadium
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The Williams-Brice Stadium, also known as "The Cockpit," is a Columbia, South Carolina stadium.

It's the home of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks football team, and it can seat up to 80,250 people.

The Williams-Brice Stadium is beautiful, and it's one of the best things to do in Columbia if you're a college football fan.

Football game at Williams-Brice Stadium
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The stadium has existed since 1934, and it's seen some fantastic games over the years.

If you're visiting Columbia during football season, check out a game at the Williams-Brice Stadium!

Aerial view of Williams-Brice Stadium
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Enjoy the Art and Architecture at Robert Mills House and Gardens

The Robert Mills House and Gardens is a historic site along Blanding Street in Columbia, South Carolina.

Robert Mills designed the house, considered the first native-born American architect.

The Robert Mills House and Gardens are open for guided tours.

It houses a permanent collection of around 6,500 historical artifacts from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

There's also a collection of locally made textiles, including decorative art pieces, tools, and historical images.

Check out the Robert Mills House and Gardens during your visit to Columbia.

Take a Campus Tour at the University of South Carolina

Signage of the University of South Carolina
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The University of South Carolina is a public university in Columbia, South Carolina.

It's the University of South Carolina System's flagship institution, the largest university in the state.

Museum at the University of South Carolina
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The University of South Carolina offers a variety of things to do on its campus, including touring the campus, visiting the art museum, checking out the library, and more.

If you're interested in getting a taste of college life, take a tour around the University of South Carolina campus during your visit to Columbia.

You won't regret it!

Campus of the University of South Carolina
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Take the Kids on Educational Adventures at the EdVenture Children's Museum

Entrance to EdVenture Children's Museum
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The EdVenture Children's Museum is a museum located along Gervais Street in Columbia, South Carolina.

It's open to the public and offers various exhibits and activities for children of all ages.

The EdVenture Children's Museum is an excellent place for kids to learn and have fun.

Art installation at the entrance of EdVenture Children's Museum
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Some of the EdVenture Children's Museum exhibits include the Bio Lab exhibit, which teaches kids about science.

There's also the Maker Works exhibit, which teaches kids about what it's like to build things.

Likewise, the News Room exhibit lets kids explore their creativity and express themselves as news reporters and anchors on TV shows.

Take a Tour of the Historic Homes in Cottontown

If you're looking for a dose of history during your visit to Columbia, South Carolina, check out the historic homes in Cottontown.

Cottontown is a historic district located along Grace Avenue, Bull Street, Elmwood Avenue, and Main Street in Columbia.

It was initially settled in the 1890s and featured several historic homes that have stood for centuries.

Take a tour of the historic homes in Cottontown and learn about the history of Columbia.

The neighborhood has some of the most well-preserved architectures of one of Columbia's earliest suburban homes.

Spend a Relaxing Afternoon at Finlay Park

Fountain at Finlay Park
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Finlay Park is a large park located along the streets of Assembly, Taylor, Gadsden, and Laurel, in the heart of downtown Columbia.

It's a great place to spend an afternoon, and there are several things to do there.

The park was renamed in 1992 in honor of Kirkman Finlay, one of Columbia's mayors whose works have reenergized the area of downtown Columbia.

Lawn at Finlay Park
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A statue of Mayor Finlay at the park depicts him sitting on a bench.

Some things you can do at Finlay Park include taking a walk, playing on the playground, having a picnic, checking out the sculptures, and more.

Check out Finlay Park for a fun and chill afternoon with friends and family.

View from the Finlay Park
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Take a Walk or Bike Ride on the Three Rivers Greenway

If you're looking for a fun and active way to spend your time in Columbia, South Carolina, check out the Three Rivers Greenway.

The Three Rivers Greenway is a 20-mile-long trail system that runs along the banks of the Congaree, Saluda, and Broad Rivers.

The Three Rivers Greenway is a great place for a walk or a bike ride.

It's perfect for people of all ages and fitness levels and a great way to see some of the best sights Columbia offers.

The Three Rivers Greenway is also great for running or walking with your dog.

There are several parks and open spaces along the trail where you can bring your furry friend!

Visit the South Carolina State Museum

Exterior view of South Carolina State Museum
Akhenaton06, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The South Carolina State Museum is a museum located in Columbia, South Carolina.

The museum is open to the public, and it offers a variety of exhibits that teach about the history and culture of South Carolina.

Some exhibits include a textile mill from 1894 and the American History exhibit, which tells the story of America from its colonial beginnings to the present day.

The Natural History exhibit features several exciting things about the natural history of South Carolina.

The South Carolina State Museum also features a planetarium, a vintage telescope, and a multisensory 4D movie theater that kids all love.

See a Country Music Performance at the Township Auditorium

View of Township Auditorium
Eastward Gypsy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Township Auditorium is a performance venue located in Columbia, South Carolina.

It's the largest performance venue in Columbia and a great place to see a country music performance.

The Township Auditorium has a seating capacity of 4,500 people and features a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system.

It's the perfect place to see a country music concert, a night you'll never forget.

Don't miss out and see a show at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Check Out the Congaree National Park

Scenic view of Congaree National Park
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Congaree National Park is a great place to visit if you're looking for a fun day out in nature.

Located in Columbia, South Carolina, Congaree National Park is home to a variety of outdoor activities that you can enjoy.

There are various things to do at Congaree National Park, including hiking, biking, and fishing.

Boardwalk at Congaree National Park
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The park is also home to several interesting historical landmarks, which you can explore while you try out some exciting outdoor activities.

If you're looking for some outdoor adventure, be sure to check out Congaree National Park!

Turtle swimming in a pond at Congaree National Park
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Head to Harbison State Forest for Outdoor Fun

If you're looking for a fun day out in nature, check out Harbison State Forest in Columbia, South Carolina.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, and bird watching at one of the largest greenspaces within the eastern city limits of the Mississippi River.

The forest features 18 miles of trails that are perfect for mountain bikers.

Hikers and joggers will enjoy the views of the 2,137 acres of forestland filled with pine trees and leafy glades that wind down the river.

There are also several picnic areas throughout the forest, so you can take a break and enjoy a bite to eat between activities.

Check out Harbison State Forest for some exciting forest picnic adventures!

Final Thoughts

Columbia, South Carolina, is a great city with plenty of things to do.

It's the perfect destination for history buffs, nature lovers, and sports fans.

There are a variety of tourist destinations and historical landmarks to explore, and the city is also home to the University of South Carolina.

Discover the best things to do in Columbus, South Carolina!

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