Mayor Benjamin and his family visiting Mast General Store; credit Columbia Metro CVB




   What makes a visit to Columbia, capitol of the Palmetto state, interesting? Most people begin their visit of loved ones at the University of South Carolina, a mega-campus, or Fort Jackson, one of our nation’s largest army bases. If you need a break from endless conversation about your daughter’s college friends or son’s Army buddies, you can safely find interesting refuge for a few days in town.

   As a destination with similar terrain and natural beauty, Downtown Columbia compares well to another state capital-college town, Raleigh, in the number of pubs, restaurants, and arts attractions. In general, you can’t go wrong starting with major cultural sites. Sample Nickelodeon Theatre for the latest in Indie Cinema, Columbia Museum of Art for a touch of the European masters, Koger Center of the Arts for Jazz to Rock to Hip-Hop concerts, or check out the latest performance by the innovative and diverse Columbia City Jazz Dance Company. Social forces at the colleges and Fort Jackson have ushered Columbia into the 21st Century to embrace all walks of life. As a result, many art galleries have opened in the last 5 years.

    South Carolina State Museum is both a time capsule of the state’s checkered past and a harbinger of the state’s turn to an enlightened future. While sampling the history of the region, check out the Big Apple (a historic Black nightclub), Mann-Simmons Cottage (for a look at 19th century Black Middleclass life), and the Millwood Plantation Ruins. Old Black churches in the region also give praise the spirit-filled, old-fashioned way.

    EdVenture Children’s Museum and Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden will keep young kids happy without boring you. Both would be equally comfortable in much larger metro areas. Without leaving the urban area you can jog Riverfront Park or Finlay Park and enjoy a visual feast of wildlife at the same time.

    College football fans, depending on which team they support, either love or dread visiting University of South Carolina at William-Brice Stadium. There’s also sporting events at Benedict College and Allen University, two of the nation’s oldest Historically Black Colleges & Universities.

    By now you’re ready for some smothered meat loaf, collard greens and corn bread. Anyone who loves Soul Food in large portions will not be disappointed at the United House of Prayer Cafe and Mac’s on Main. Both tantalize palate.

    Add a growing economy to the mix and you’ll know why Columbia is undergoing an image makeover. Though it has a long way to go for nightlife, families will find the day times filled with heritage destinations, soulful dining and a diverse range of art.

Kalin Thomas
Sheila Umolu

Thomas Dorsey




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