Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, offers many enjoyable things to see and do, including excellent museums, parks, and restaurants. The downtown area is ideal for guests who want to to be in the center of all action, and best of all, Columbia's downtown is extremely affordable. This walkable city exhibits southern charm and hospitality at every turn and is home to a booming arts scene, an enthusiastic nightlife, and lots of family-friendly attractions for daytime adventure.
The rural areas boast historic monuments from the Old South, such as former plantations and antebellum mansions, Southern America artifacts in museums, and music venues dedicated to country and bluegrass. Columbia is a city where you can relax one day and explore to exhaustion the next.
Columbia exudes fun!
While here, visit the top things to do in Columbia. Check out the Museum of Art, stroll along the scenic Riverfront Park, stop by the South Carolina Military Museum, and explore Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Youngsters will especially enjoy the South Carolina State Museum and EdVenture Children's Museum. Visit idyllic Saluda Shoals where this 400-acre park allows children and adults to splash in the waterpark feature, enjoy horseback riding, and Fifi can run openly in the dog park.
Stay at the best Columbia hotels!
Closest to USC: Clarion Hotel Downtown
Located at the corner of Gervais and Bull Streets, the affordable Clarion Hotel is close the the Columbia Museum of Art and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. With free WiFi and parking, a sparkling pool, and in-room coffee service, the Clarion Hotel Downtown provides everything a traveler on a budget needs. And, it's located right across the street from the University of South Carolina.
Best Amenities: Hilton Columbia Center
Most Romantic Hotel in Columbia: Inn at USC Wyndham Garden
Most Character: Inn at Claussen's
Best Cookies: Hampton Inn Columbia - Downtown
Most Historic: Sheraton Columbia Downtown
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Best Cleanliness: Holiday Inn Expresss & Suites Columbia - Downtown
Now that you've envisioned your stay at one of Columbia's top hotels, check out these fun things to do!
Observe zebras, ostriches, and giraffes roam their 2-acre African savanna and watch baboon and lions in their exhibits. The Asian natural habitat features endangered species including tapir, Komodo dragons, babirusas (pig- deer), siamangs (Gibbons), and tigers. In Australia, interact via a walk-through exhibit with red kangaroos and wallabies. Help feed the friendly Lories in the lorikeet aviary, and take the time to view the Koala Knockabout, an exhibition featuring cute koalas, Australian fish, and reptiles.
The zoo and botanical gardens also offer train rides, pony rides, has a 4-story sky-high safari walk, endangered species carousel, and several zip lines.
South Carolina State House
Room Escape Games
South Carolina State Museum
Also, enjoy the spectacular 145-seat dome theater inside the Planetarium which offers a multi-media presentation about astronomy and the earth. Too, explore the permanent NASA gallery in the planetariums lobby featuring interactive displays and artifacts of four South Carolina astronauts.
Recently, the museum launched the first permanent 4-D theatre in the state and will run shows to complement museum exhibits. The 4D effect combines on screen 3D technology and real-life sensations to add to the fourth dimension. Blasts of air simulating the wind, water spray to appear as rain, vibrating seats and a sense of smell provide a sensory experience for all to enjoy.
Another museum in Columbia worth highlighting is the EdVenture Museum
The 400-acre Saluda Shoals Park is located on the Saluda River and offers outstanding cultural and recreational opportunities. Here, find both paved and unpaved trails for biking, hiking, and riding horses. There is a river observation deck, and even a ramp to launch your kayak, canoe or boat. Visit the education center, exhibit hall, picnic shelters, and the seasonal Saluda Splash water feature. Plus, if Fifi needs a little exercise, take her to the two-acre fenced Barking Lot Dog Park. This grassy area provides two bone-shaped pools for dogs to splash in, and there is access to a drinking fountain designed for canines. Why not take a few hours to enjoy this great Columbia park?
Or — as a nature lover you will have oh-so much fun traversing the natural wonders of Congaree National Park. The large, towering forests are gorgeous and untamed, with trails the weave through the trees. There are rugged hiking trails, several places to camp and rest, and creeks for kayaks, canoes, and fishing excursions. The perfect idea? Bring a loaded backpack, do a little walking around to find the perfect campsite, cook your freshly caught fish over an open flame, and spend the night under the stars. This huge, beautiful park covers well-over 26,000 acres, so there is plenty of outdoors fun to be had. Bring Fido but be sure to clean up after him and dispose of waste in the designated trash bins. Keep the park clean for everyone!
And hey --- If you love good food with sweet twists, take a chance on The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli, located on Devine Street. Aside from famous, homemade cinnamon rolls, this café serves up American favorites with foodie spins, like pita chips dipped in bourbon caramels, a bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado breakfast sandwich, and classic grilled cheese with tomato bisque soup.
Bonus: ALL sandwiches come with a delicious, fresh-made “mini” cinnamon roll for dessert. Keep in mind that this deli is open for breakfast and lunch, so get there before 2pm for some good eats and decadent treats.