Columbia, South Carolina, USA – By Louise Hudson http://onetwoski.blogspot.com/p/publications.html
Because Columbia is South Carolina’s administrative and political capital, smack in the middle of the state, it is more of a locals’ town than a tourist destination. This means that what it may lack in amusement parks and novelty attractions, it makes up for in authentic venues that locals – including the 30,000-strong student population – enjoy after work and at weekends. Here are some of the hedonistic highlights:
1) Soda City Farmers’ Market – Every Saturday morning along the recently regenerated Main Street (http://sodacitysc.com/), browse with the locals, see pavement artists, pick up farm fresh veggies for $10 a box, and watch the world go by with creative smoothies and vegan delicacies on The Good Life Café patio (http://goodlifecafe.net/).
2) Tapp’s Arts Center on Main – Embracing all artistic avenues, the Tapp’s Arts Center has been promoting budding community talent since 2011. Visitors can see local artisans and performers at work in 31 glass-fronted studios, view monthly exhibitions and attend events for as yet undiscovered artists. Current Artist in Residence is Scenario Collective, an interconnected group of multi-genre artists and performers (http://www.scenariocollective.com/). They are putting on an exciting multi-media music festival in March 2017.
3) Cool Culinary Quarter – Decadent downtown dining encompasses Main Street, the Vista, Five Points and Devine Street. Although the Vista houses over 60 restaurants in its renovated warehouses, it is Main Street that is the latest, hip happening area anchored by fine dining at the opulent Oak Table in view of the State House (http://theoaktablesc.com/). Just opposite is Bourbon, an upscale Cajun-Creole eatery complete with wicked whisky bar. Try pre-dinner drinks on the roomy rooftop at The Sheraton, underground at The Whig, or happy hour at the new Main Street Public House (http://www.bourboncolumbia.com/).
8) Culture Vultures – Sporty, musical and culinary events are growing in Columbia. Whether it’s the tailgating extravaganza at the William Brice Stadium or avant-garde action at the Indie Grits Film Festival run by Main Street’s Nickelodeon Theatre, there’s something for every generational genre. For artistic appreciation, both ancient and edgy, check out the Columbia Museum of Art. And dance devotees will love the Columbia City Ballet which re-interprets ballet through contemporary media such as Dracula and Beauty and the Beast. Their performance of Cleopatra included a real camel, snake, cat and even a baby.
9) Brew Pubs – Although competition has sprung up lately, it was Hunter Gatherer Brewery that started the brew pub trend in Columbia in 1995 with recipes from Hampshire, UK. A gastro-pub, too, emphasizing regional home cooking, it is decorated with rustic, salvaged lumber and hunting weaponry. To make the most of both beer and vino venues in town, try the Columbia Brew Bus (https://columbiabrewbus.com/).
10) Nightlife – All cities offer prancing and posing possibilities in their youthful entertainment districts. But Columbia goes further, offering multi-generational gyrating. Tucked away on Lady Street in the Vista is The Woody, a more diverse dance club run by a local radio DJ icon, Woody Windham and his daughters, Jennifer and MacKenzie. Wednesday is Salsa Night, Thursday is Beach, Boogie and Blues followed by Fri and Sat night dance parties. Expect oldies up to 10 pm, followed by more current hits spun by his offspring.
11) Back to School – The University of South Carolina is not just for students and faculty! Encircling tranquil gardens, the Horseshoe is a three-sided enclave of historic buildings, including a free museum at McKissick House. You can lunch on burgers and salads with the profs at McCutchen House (Tues-Fri during fall and spring semesters) at the Garden Grille or inside the 1813 mansion, served by catering students (http://sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/hrsm/for_the_community/mccutchen_house_dining/)
Updated: October 7, 2016