Before I started traveling, I lived in South Carolina for several years. I loved filling my weekends with Charleston trips, Myrtle Beach adventures, and of course, trips to Columbia, SC.
With my sister and friends in tow, we spent plenty of long weekends discovering what to do in Columbia, South Carolina. This post will cover 13 fun things to do in Columbia, SC to help you plan your perfect trip!
13 Fun Things To Do In Columbia SC
Let’s take a look at some of the best Columbia, SC things to do! Whether you prefer spending time in the great outdoors, learning about history, or indulging in fine dining, Columbia South Carolina has something for everyone.
Visit Finlay Park
Finlay Park is a large green space with a lake in downtown Columbia SC. There are walking trails, benches, playgrounds, and in the summer months, the park hosts community activities.
Because it’s located just a few blocks from a popular restaurant and shopping area, it’s easy to dip into Finlay park and see what’s going on. On my trip to Columbia, we walked into the park after dinner and found a performance of Shakespeare In The Park happening at the Amphitheater!
Compete in Operation City Quest
City Quest is a scavenger hunt that takes you all over the city and it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Columbia SC for history fans! I didn’t realize how much history there could be in just a few city blocks, and this scavenger hunt revealed all of it.
As you explore the city and solve the clues, you submit answers and photos of your progress with your phone. It’s a great way to get outside, enjoy a beautiful day, and explore local history. They have City Quest for lots of cities too! I’ll definitely be playing it again.
Explore the University of South Carolina Campus
The City Quest scavenger hunt took us all across the University of South Carolina campus, at which point we became very distracted participants. City Quest had to be temporarily put on pause because we kept finding awesome things to look at and read around USC. Put simply, the USC campus was beautiful.
It is peaceful on weekends – a few students hang out in the quad or toss a frisbee. There are tons of trees to relax under with friends or a good book if you’re traveling solo.
The heart of the campus is called the Horseshoe. This is where the first university buildings were built over 200 years ago. Many of the buildings have been restored and preserved to maintain their architectural history. Walking around the USC campus is one of my favorite free things to do in Columbia SC.
If you’re visiting Columbia, SC with kids, the Edventure children’s museum can’t be missed! Packed with hands-on science exhibits that will make kids and adults alike excited to learn, EdVenture is a great way to beat the heat and learn something new at the same time!
Explore exhibitions about bees farms, flight simulation, and even take a tour through the body of a 40 foot-tall boy named Eddy to learn about anatomy!
EdVenture is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm. Tickets for kids and adults are $11.95.
Get Back To Nature At Riverbanks
Head across the Broad River to the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens. With over 4,000 species of plants covering 70 acres, we could have easily spent all day wandering around Riverbanks. They even offer a waterfall splash park for kids, educational camps, and gardening classes for adults!
Catch a film at the Nickelodeon Theater
Okay, I’ll be honest. When my friend first suggested we go to the Nickelodeon Theater, I thought it would be a theater that only played original Nickelodeon Cartoon TV Shows or something. I was expecting a screening of Rugrats in Paris, but the Nickelodeon Theater turned out to be much more than I expected.
The Nickelodeon Theater turned out to be one of my favorite things to do in Columbia SC at night. This theater prioritizes culturally relevant, independent films that leave you thinking. The films they show are enriching and important to the community, so if you get a chance I highly recommend you stop by.
Check out their website to see what’s showing now.
Enjoy Beer and Games at Casual Pint
One of my favorite things to do in Columbia SC at night? Casual Pint!
Craft beer lovers will be in heaven at Casual Pint. Not only is there an impressive selection of beers on tap, there’s also a substantial refrigerator section and an even bigger dry shelf section of exclusive, delicious beers.
The atmosphere of the Casual Pint is laid back and friendly. You can chat with friends or play one of the many board games tucked away on the bottom shelves. If you’re feeling competitive, check their website for the next Geeks who Drink Pub Quiz Trivia Night.
Hang out at the Congaree Vista
The Congaree Vista is the place to be in Columbia, SC. The Vista is an outdoor shopping, dining, and events area located just a few streets between Finlay Park and the University of South Carolina. A few of the restaurants and events I mention below are located here, and between the music venues and bars, there’s always something going on.
Whether you want to grab a quick lunch or are hitting the town, the Congaree Vista is a great place to start.
Best Foodie Things To Do In Columbia, South Carolina
In this section, we’ll look at some of the best restaurants, cafes, and food-related things to do in Columbia, South Carolina.
Eat a giant burger (or veggie burger) at Pawleys Front Porch
Okay, I was so excited when my enormous and delicious veggie burger arrived that I forgot to take a picture… and I really should have. Their burgers are served with a knife stabbed through the top and come with any variation of southern toppings you could imagine.
The vibe at Pawleys is laidback and cool. If burgers aren’t your thing, they have tons of delicious southern fare (read: fried green tomatoes.) Guys, I’m a real sucker for a good fried green tomato. I even tried to make them myself once… it didn’t go well.
But the fried green tomato Napolean at Pawleys was amazing! Giant, beautiful slices of tomato layered with cheese and crab dip… yeah, they didn’t last long at our table.
Motor Supply Co Bistro
If you’re looking for a farm-to-table dining experience for the record books, you have to stop by Motor Supply Co Bistro. I had friends who lived three hours away recommend this spot, saying that they would sometimes drive into Columbia just to eat here.
Their menu changes daily depending on what’s fresh and what’s in season. You can check their website to get an idea of what to expect, but be warned, it might make your mouth water!
Eat brunch at the Original Pancake House
This place is one of my favorite brunch spots because of the variety! You can basically get any sweet breakfast item with any fruit topping and any flavor syrup. So, no pressure right?
After pouring over the different combinations of bananas and strawberries and blueberries and fancy syrup and whipped cream and Nutella, I remembered that I ate a ton of cake last night and decided to go savory. I got the eggs benedict with hash browns and turkey bacon. Everything about it was perfect.
For good measure, I also stole quite a few bites of the apple cinnamon dutch baby my friend ordered.
Try a famous cinnamon roll at the Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli
The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli is one of those hidden gems that makes you wonder what you’ve been doing with your life before you discovered it. They are known for their creative and luxurious flavor combinations and have even been featured on the Food Network!
Make sure you come to Columbia, SC hungry and ready to get your sweet fix. You won’t want to miss out on any of these awesome treats.
Grab a late-night dessert at Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe
Because cake at 2:00 AM is the best kind of cake.
Kaminsky’s has every dessert imaginable. They have cakes, cheesecakes, and pies all made fresh daily and displayed in one big tantalizing display case. You can order special coffees, fancy teas, even adult milkshakes with delicious things like rum and Baileys in them.
Honestly, there were so many good options here it was almost stressful. Like, how am I ever going to be able to try all the amazing things? It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in Columbia because I have a feeling I’d find myself here quite often, convincing myself that it’s totally okay to have three slices of cake for breakfast.
I highly recommend going with a friend or two and ordering a few different things to split. The portions are big and you will definitely want to try everything.
Where to Stay in Columbia, SC
Before planning what to do on your trip to Columbia, SC, you’ll need to book a place to stay. I usually start by checking out home-share sites like Airbnb for personal touches and unique accommodations. I love Airbnb and use it on almost every trip I take, at home and abroad.
You can also find deals on hotels in Columbia, SC on Booking.com. These spots are close to the city center so you don’t lose time commuting in and out.
- Hampton Inn Columbia Downtown Historic District – Walking distance to the attractions of downtown with a pool to beat the summer heat
- The Graduate Hotel – Awesome location right on the USC Campus with colorful, vintage-inspired rooms
- Columbia Marriott – Top-notch downtown location with high ratings on TripAdvisor
Related Post: Read about the 7 best hotels in downtown Columbia SC
Resources For Visiting Columbia SC
I was pleased to find plenty of interesting, beautiful, and tasty things to do in Columbia, SC. I know I can’t wait to come back and explore some more.
If you’re planning a trip to Columbia, you might like exploring the events calendar by ExperienceColumbiaSC. This calendar will help you see what’s going on while you’re in town!
You can also see a list of upcoming events and activities on SCIWAY.net.
Have you been to Columbia? What are your favorite things to do there?