31 Best Places and Things To Do in Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From historic sites and museums to outdoor adventures and vibrant entertainment options, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this charming southern city.

1. Congaree National Park

A slightly elevated wooden boardwalk passes through an old growth forest of bald cypress and water tupelo trees

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Just a short drive from downtown Columbia, Congaree National Park is a true gem for nature enthusiasts. This stunning park boasts one of the largest intact hardwood forests in the United States, with towering trees, picturesque boardwalks, and diverse wildlife. Hiking, birdwatching, kayaking, and camping are popular activities in this tranquil natural oasis.

2. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

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Located along the scenic banks of the Congaree River, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is a must-visit attraction for families and animal lovers. The zoo houses more than 2,000 animals from around the world, including elephants, giraffes, lions, and koalas. Adjacent to the zoo, you’ll find the lush botanical gardens, offering a beautiful setting for leisurely strolls and picnics.

3. South Carolina State House

SC State House at evening.jpg

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As the seat of the state’s government, the South Carolina State House is a significant historic and architectural landmark. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the grand interiors and learn about the state’s history. The grounds surrounding the State House are adorned with monuments and memorials, making it a great place for a leisurely walk.

4. The Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

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For outdoor enthusiasts, the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park provide a picturesque setting for recreational activities. Take a leisurely stroll or bike ride along the scenic trails, go fishing or kayaking in the canal, or enjoy a picnic with a view of the river. The park also hosts various events and festivals throughout the year.

5. Lake Murray

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Located just outside of Columbia, Lake Murray offers ample opportunities for water-based activities and relaxation. The lake is ideal for boating, fishing, swimming, and even jet skiing. You can also explore the Dreher Island State Park, which features hiking trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas.

6. The South Carolina State Museum

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Located near the historic Congaree Vista district, the South Carolina State Museum is the largest museum in the state. It offers a fascinating blend of art, history, natural history, and science exhibits. Explore the museum’s diverse galleries that cover topics ranging from the state’s history and culture to space exploration and paleontology. The museum also features a 4D theater and a planetarium, offering immersive and educational experiences for visitors of all ages.

7. Finlay Park

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Situated in the heart of downtown Columbia, Finlay Park is a beautiful urban park that provides a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. It features lush green spaces, a large lake, a cascading waterfall, and walking paths. The park hosts various events and concerts throughout the year, making it a vibrant gathering place for locals and visitors alike.

8. EdVenture Children’s Museum

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Perfect for families with young children, EdVenture Children’s Museum is a hands-on learning experience that combines education and fun. The museum features interactive exhibits and themed galleries where kids can explore, create, and engage in imaginative play. It’s a great place to foster creativity, curiosity, and discovery.

9. Segra Park

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Besides hosting baseball games for the Columbia Fireflies, Segra Park is a versatile venue that hosts a variety of events throughout the year. From concerts and festivals to community gatherings and sports events, there’s always something happening at this dynamic outdoor stadium.

10. Columbia Museum of Art

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The Columbia Museum of Art is a cultural gem in the heart of downtown Columbia, South Carolina. This vibrant museum showcases a diverse collection of artwork spanning several centuries and artistic styles. The museum’s collection encompasses over 7,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, prints, photography, and decorative arts. From European Old Masters to American Impressionism, contemporary art, and African art, the collection offers a comprehensive representation of artistic movements and cultures.

11. South Carolina Military Museum

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The South Carolina Military Museum is a fascinating destination that showcases the rich military history of South Carolina. Located in Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, the museum offers a comprehensive collection of artifacts, exhibits, and educational programs that honor the state’s military heritage. The museum displays a vast collection of military artifacts and memorabilia, including uniforms, weapons, equipment, medals, flags, photographs, and personal items.

12. South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

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The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is a unique institution located in Columbia, South Carolina. It is the oldest museum in the state and is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the military history of South Carolina, with a particular focus on the Confederate period. Here’s what you can expect when you visit the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

13. Saluda Shoals Park

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Saluda Shoals Park is a picturesque and expansive recreational area located in Columbia, South Carolina. Situated along the banks of the Saluda River, this park offers a wide range of outdoor activities and amenities for visitors of all ages. The park features several well-maintained nature trails that wind through its lush landscapes. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a more challenging hike, the trails offer opportunities to explore the natural beauty of the area. Keep an eye out for native wildlife and enjoy the serene surroundings.

14. Sesquicentennial State Park

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Sesquicentennial State Park is a beautiful and tranquil oasis located just outside of Columbia, South Carolina. This state park offers a wide array of outdoor activities and recreational opportunities, making it a popular destination for nature lovers and families. The park features a 30-acre lake that offers opportunities for swimming and water-based activities. Take a refreshing dip in the designated swimming area, or rent a kayak or canoe to explore the calm waters of the lake.

15. Robert Mills House & Gardens

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The Robert Mills House & Gardens is a historic landmark and museum located in Columbia, South Carolina. It is named after Robert Mills, the renowned architect who designed the building. The Robert Mills House is an architectural masterpiece and one of the finest examples of Federal style architecture in the United States. The building’s elegant design features a grand portico with Ionic columns, beautiful symmetry, and exquisite detailing. The exterior is made of stuccoed brick, while the interior showcases period furnishings and decorative arts.

16. Fort Jackson

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Fort Jackson is a United States Army installation located in Columbia, South Carolina. It is the largest and most active Initial Entry Training Center in the United States Army, playing a critical role in training and preparing soldiers for military service. Fort Jackson is primarily known for its Basic Combat Training program, where new recruits undergo rigorous training to develop the skills, discipline, and physical fitness required to serve in the Army. BCT focuses on basic soldiering skills, physical conditioning, weapons training, and teamwork. Thousands of soldiers complete BCT at Fort Jackson each year.

17. Harbison State Forest

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Harbison State Forest is a natural gem located in Columbia, South Carolina. Spanning over 2,177 acres, it is one of the largest urban green spaces in the Southeastern United States. Harbison State Forest offers an extensive network of trails, making it a paradise for hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. With over 20 miles of well-maintained trails, visitors can explore the diverse ecosystems and enjoy the beauty of nature. The trails vary in difficulty, catering to both beginners and experienced outdoor enthusiasts.

18. Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens

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The Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens is a historic site located in Columbia, South Carolina. It is a beautifully restored antebellum mansion that offers a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy families who once resided there. The Hampton-Preston Mansion was built in 1818 and served as the home of several prominent South Carolina families.

19. First Baptist Church

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First Baptist Church has a rich history dating back over two centuries. The church building itself is a magnificent example of Gothic Revival architecture. The stunning steeple and intricate stained glass windows make it a notable landmark in downtown Columbia.

20. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

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Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is a vibrant religious and cultural institution located in Columbia, South Carolina. As a Greek Orthodox church, it serves as a spiritual home for the Greek Orthodox community in the area and welcomes individuals from all backgrounds who are interested in exploring the faith and traditions of the Orthodox Church. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church offers regular worship services that follow the rich liturgical traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church.

21. Seven Oaks Park

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Seven Oaks Park is a popular community park located in the Seven Oaks neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. This well-maintained park offers a variety of recreational amenities and green spaces for individuals and families to enjoy. Seven Oaks Park is known for its excellent sports facilities. The park features multiple soccer fields, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, and basketball courts. These facilities provide opportunities for both organized sports leagues and casual play, catering to sports enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels.

22. McKissick Museum

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The McKissick Museum, located on the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia, is a cultural institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history, art, and culture of the South Carolina and the Southeastern United States. The McKissick Museum was established in 1976 and named in honor of James Rion McKissick, a former university president who was a strong advocate for arts and culture. The museum’s mission is to collect, preserve, research, and interpret artifacts and exhibits that reflect the diverse history and culture of the region.

23. Mann-Simons Site & Outdoor Museum

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The Mann-Simons Site & Outdoor Museum is a historic property and outdoor museum located in Columbia, South Carolina. It holds significant historical and cultural importance as it was once the home of the influential African American Mann and Simons families, who made significant contributions to the local community.

24. Heathwood Park

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Heathwood Park is a neighborhood park located in the Heathwood community of Columbia, South Carolina. This park offers a range of recreational amenities and a peaceful setting for residents and visitors to enjoy. The park features a playground area equipped with swings, slides, climbing structures, and other play equipment for children. It provides a safe and fun environment for kids to engage in active play and socialize with others.

25. Columbia Fire Museum

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The Columbia Fire Museum, also known as the Columbia Fire Department Museum, is a fascinating museum located in Columbia, South Carolina. It showcases the history and heritage of the Columbia Fire Department and offers insights into the evolution of firefighting in the city. The museum features a collection of artifacts, equipment, and memorabilia that highlight the rich history of the Columbia Fire Department. You can explore displays of vintage firefighting tools, uniforms, photographs, and documents, providing a glimpse into the past and the challenges faced by firefighters throughout the years.

26. 701 Center for Contmporary Art

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The 701 Center for Contemporary Art (701 CCA) is a non-profit visual arts organization located in Columbia, South Carolina. It serves as a platform for contemporary artists, exhibitions, and educational programs, contributing to the local arts scene and fostering cultural dialogue. The center hosts a variety of contemporary art exhibitions featuring works by local, regional, and international artists. These exhibitions showcase a diverse range of artistic mediums, styles, and themes, providing visitors with a dynamic and thought-provoking art experience.

27. Strom Thurmond Monument

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The Strom Thurmond Monument is a memorial dedicated to Strom Thurmond, a prominent political figure in South Carolina’s history. Located in Columbia, South Carolina, the monument honors Thurmond’s legacy and contributions to the state.

28. Maxcy Gregg Park

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Maxcy Gregg Park offers a range of outdoor recreational activities for visitors of all ages. The park features walking trails, jogging paths, and open green spaces where you can enjoy a leisurely stroll or engage in physical activities such as running, biking, or playing catch.

29. Frankie’s Fun Park

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Frankie’s Fun Park is a popular entertainment venue located in Columbia, South Carolina. It offers a wide range of activities and attractions suitable for individuals, families, and groups of all ages. Frankie’s Fun Park is their go-kart tracks. They offer various types of go-karts, including single-seaters for adults and double-seaters for younger children, allowing you to enjoy the thrill of racing on the tracks.

30. Oak Hills Golf Club

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Oak Hills Golf Club features an 18-hole golf course set amidst beautiful natural surroundings. The course offers a mix of par-3, par-4, and par-5 holes, providing a diverse and engaging playing experience. The fairways are well-maintained, and the greens are kept in excellent condition, ensuring a quality golfing experience.

31. Harbison Neighborhood Trails

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The Harbison Neighborhood Trails, also known as the Harbison State Forest, is a beautiful natural area located in Columbia, South Carolina. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a variety of trails for hiking, biking, and exploring. The Harbison Neighborhood Trails span over 18 miles (29 kilometers) of trails, making it one of the largest urban green spaces in the Southeast. The trails are well-maintained and vary in difficulty, catering to hikers and mountain bikers of all skill levels. There are options for both shorter, easier hikes and longer, more challenging treks.

Columbia, South Carolina, has a wealth of attractions and activities to suit a variety of interests. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or family-friendly fun, this charming city has something to offer every visitor.