Columbia, South Carolina is a hidden secret. It sits in the shadows of its more popular neighbors, Charleston, and Greenville, the South Carolina city doesn’t get too much attention unless it’s college football season and the town is cheering on USC. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Columbia. It’s a little in size but has a big ole’ southern soul with a sprinkle of hipster youth.
A must do: Find the famous Chicken Man in town. Ernest Lee paints beautiful, abstract chickens on wood. Each abstract chicken is different in color and shape. The Chicken Man is a local celebrity and sells his art at different art festivals and on the side of the road. Bring cash and select the abstract chicken that represents you the most.
Where to eat breakfast/brunch: DI Pratos. It’s always crowded, and the staff treats you with extra southern hospitality. Order the Pimento Cheese appetizer and the Eggs Charleston if you like crab cakes. The Pimento Cheese small appetizer could be enough for one meal! Top it off with some sweet tea and a “see Y’all again soon” because the food will bring you back for a second, third and fourth visit.
Where to eat dinner: Pawley’s Front Porch. Sit outside and enjoy the cool, evening South Carolina breeze. Pawley’s is not the place to be on a diet, so be prepared to break your diet if you go. People watch as you eat one of their famous burgers. The Isle of Palms, a burger topped with South Carolina’s famous pimento cheese, and Sullivan’s, a burger topped with grilled pineapple and citrus jalapenos, are great menu choices. Top of your meal with a side of their sweet potato fries tossed in cinnamon sugar. Sit back, relax and be prepared to be overfed.
Where to Grab a Drink: Craft and Draft. Craft and Draft is a craft beer store and bar. Enjoy a craft beer and buy some to take home. The owners are extremely friendly and love to interact with their customers. You’ll probably leave with a new friend or two! Follow their Instagram to see which craft beers they have on tap and for special promotions.
Where to cool off and get a tan: Float down the Saluda, Broad, and Congaree Rivers. Be prepared to pass through around seven rapids and spend around 3 hours floating. Rent an extra tube for your cooler of beverages! The officials tend to look the other way when they see alcohol, just be sure not to litter the rivers. And wear sunscreen!
Where to shop: Columbia is known for its clothing boutiques. Just a Thing, Entourage and M Boutique are great places to shop or browse. Check out Entourage’s jewelry sale bin by the cash register and stock up on the 2 dollar pearl earrings!
Where to explore on foot: While all of Columbia is quaint, full of history and beautiful, the downtown area, and Shandon neighborhood are a must for explorers on foot. Downtown offers a history lesson. Visit the capital and state government buildings. Stop inside if it’s a weekday. Explore the gardens and beautiful outdoor landscaping and gardens. Shandon is a neighborhood about 2 miles from downtown. It offers beautiful, historical homes. It’s a highly residential area, but it’s worth take a walk around if you enjoy old architecture.
Avoid: Avoid the city during football season, unless you’re a USC fan. A lot of tailgaters will surround you. The city is less crowded during the offseason.