Support Us Button Widget
Sponsored Content

How to spend 48 hours in Columbia (share this with your visiting friends).

Sponsored by
Table of Contents

This content was created in partnership with Experience Columbia SC.
We’ve all been there – you have an acquaintance reach out that they’re coming to Columbia for the weekend for a wedding or a work conference or a football game.What should they do in their down time?,” they ask.

Locals know that’s a loaded question involving interests, beer preferences, swimming abilities, budget, etc. Plus, in a growing city like ours, there are so many new businesses popping up that it’s hard to keep track (raise your hand if you forget to visit the newest restaurants because you love your long-time favs? 👋)

So, we went ahead and put together a 48-hour guide to Columbia that you can send to actual friends + Facebook friends alike when they ask. (Bonus: Take this as your own staycation guide. Because it never hurts to change up your weekend routine.)

And if your friends need more convincing to visit? Tell them that in the last few years, Columbia has been named South Carolina’s best-kept waterfront secret (Garden & Gun), one of the best small cities in the U.S. (National Geographic Traveler) + a travel destination that’s “about to blow up” (Thrillist). And last year, Cola attracted the second-largest number of millenials moving to new cities (next to #1, Seattle). Oh, and you can still buy a house here on a $50K salary. But we digress.

Disclaimer: We tried to pack as many activities into the schedule while still keeping it as realistic as possible; so we couldn’t include everything we wanted to (if only we could all be in three places at once).

Day One (Friday)

3 p.m. | Check-in

Because the only way to do a proper staycation is to truly check out – er, check in. Go the Airbnb route and stay in someone else’s downtown neighborhood digs or Lake Murray vacation house. Or play like Eloise and book a room at one of these hotels:

Hotel Trundle | 📍 1224 Taylor St. (Main St. District)

Starting rate: $179

Recently opened, locally-owned boutique hotel in a merger of 3 renovated historic buildings, right around the corner from busy Main St. The hotel’s mascot/logo is a unicorn, so you can imagine how cool the decor is – and nearly everything featured in the hotel is handpicked + local: from the art + photos on the walls to the welcome drink and nightly Sip ‘n Nibble reception + the morning coffee and breakfast pastries. They’re now offering themed packages (think: foodie, brewery, romance, etc.); call 803-722-5000.


Hotel Trundle | photo by @hoteltrundle

Aloft | 📍 823 Lady St. (The Vista)

Starting rate: $166

Modern + trendy hotel chain in The Vista district. They have an X YZ bar and a cool cityscape mural on one of their outdoor patios. Next door is COA, which should be your first stop after check-in for a tequila cocktail (from their list of 22+).

Hampton Inn | 📍822 Gervais St. (The Vista)

Starting rate: $189

Classic hotel digs – with a saltwater pool – in the heart of The Vista. 25+ restaurants and bars within a two-block radius. A good bet for families.

More options in The Vista: Hilton (924 Senate St., $226) + Hyatt Place (819 Gervais St., $199).

Sheraton | 📍 1400 Main St. (Main St. District)

Starting rate: $174

Beautiful building right on Main Street with the city’s highest rooftop bar (go for the views). Also has a martini bar in a bank vault on the main floor next to the lobby, and downstairs is a (surprisingly cool) Starbucks.

Marriott | 📍 1200 Hampton St. (Main St. District)

Starting rate: $179

Another good option right around the corner from Main Street. This one has an indoor pool and a full-service restaurant if you need a drink + snack while your other half handles check-in.

The Inn at USC | 📍1619 Pendleton St. (UofSC campus)

Starting rate: $179

Small yet plush hotel set in an old Southern home in the middle of the historic campus of the University of South Carolina. Walk to sightsee on campus (must-do: The Horseshoe); drive to your downtown destinations.

Find more hotels here.

Or “rough it” on Dreher Island Park at Lake Murray. Their new (not rough) camper cabins look like a ton of fun + start at $105/night. Choose this option if you’re mostly here for the outdoor adventure… but not if you want to be nearby to downtown.

3:30-6:30 p.m. | Self-guided brewery tour

Get an Uber + head toward UofSC’s Williams-Brice Stadium – the central location for Cola beer.

First, hit River Rat brewery. Check to see if they’re doing any summery, limited-edition releases, or go for a classic like the River Rat Red. If you’re not into beer or want to mix it up, get a Prosecco Pop – a.k.a. a pint of bubbly with your flavor choice of King of Pops popsicle dipped in.


Prosecco Pop at River Rat Brewery | photo by @magster_doodle

Then head to Conquest Brewing for beer, games + a stop into Crouch Distilling next door if you’re feelin’ frisky.

Next is Swamp Cabbage to chill under the shaded pergola. All of these are dog-friendly.

Choose your own adventure next:

Option 1: Head ~7 mins down the road to HG Hangar, the new, second location of Cola’s classic brewpub Hunter Gatherer, set inside the historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar. Have a beer + a snack. If you want to stay longer, grab a pizza for dinner + watch a killer sunset from the second-story patio.

Option 2: Make your way back downtown toward the developing BullStreet District, where Columbia’s minor league baseball team, the Columbia Fireflies, play at Spirit Communications Park. Catch the game (most start around 7) – and a local craft beer while you’re at it. If you want to stay for most of the game, go next door to Bone-In Barbeque in the 7th inning for dinner + sit on their patio to catch the post-game fireworks.


Columbia Fireflies game at Spirit Communications Park | photo by @dkinglouis

Swing by your temporary digs after brewery hopping (you’ll probably be a little sweaty) to freshen up for dinner.

7 p.m. | Dinnertime

Columbia’s dining scene is so much more than classic Southern food now (but you can find that here, too). If you can, make a reservation to check out some of the forward-thinking, chef-driven menus offered around town. Our suggestions:

🍴 Bourbon (Cajun dishes + bourbon cocktails)

🍴 The War Mouth (Southern camp fare with a twist)

🍴 Il Giorgione (authentic + affordable Italian)

🍴 Motor Supply (craft cocktails, challenging apps + modernized classic entrees)

🍴 Bone-In Barbeque (BBQ, reimagined)

🍴 Cellar on Greene (small plates + wine)

🍴 Lula Drake (wine bar with fancy pastas)

🍴 Baan Sawan (authentic Thai)

🍴 116 State (Spanish-inspired)


The War Mouth | photo by @columbiasc

Or go slightly more casual with one of these spots:

🍴 Publico (Mexican-Asian fusion menu; also good for brunch)

🍴 Henry’s on Devine St. or in Cayce (burgers + kid-friendly fare)

🍴 Publick House (wings + beer)

🍴 Thirsty Fellow (pizza + a covered porch)

🍴 Rosewood Market (healthy market + cafe with outdoor seating)

🍴 or one of these outdoor dining spots.

9:30 p.m. | Find the live music

Maybe you’ll run into some live music on Main Street or at a brewery. Or you’re here on a weekend where a big, national act is performing at Colonial Life Arena or Township Auditorium.

But if you want to catch some live music the locals’ way, here’s where to look:

🎤 The Senate (mid-sized music venue; formerly Music Farm) | schedule

🎤 Tin Roof (bar with live bands) | schedule

🎤 New Brookland Tavern (dive bar/music venue; look for these top-notch local bands) | schedule

🎤 Chayz Lounge at Nonnah’s (dessert bar with jazz lounge) | schedule

🎤 Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor (old-school bluegrass + line dancing spot) | schedule

🎤 Pearlz Upstairz Lounge (jazz + blues club above Pearlz oyster bar) | schedule

🎤 Delaney’s (Irish bar ft. occasional local bands) | schedule

🎤 Art Bar (funky, divey bar with occasional shows of various genres) | schedule

🎤 Foxfield Bar and Grille (hole-in-the-wall, locals-only dive bar ft. local bands) | schedule


New Brookland Tavern | photo by @vannahjuliet

If you’re more of a live theatre or performance arts-lover, check out these spots.

11 p.m. | Nightcap

An authentic weekend night out in Columbia wouldn’t be complete without a stop into Main Street’s signature dive bar: The Whig. It’s underground in an old bank vault and everyone is moody and they serve possibly the best gouda mac (add broccoli) and burgers (the Berger Burger) in town. You’re welcome.


The Whig | photo by @messykitchgirl

If you want something a little nicer, try Goat’s in Five Points or Kaminsky’s in The Vista for cocktails + desserts. And if you didn’t make it there for dinner, Motor Supply, Bourbon and Terra are known as three of the best cocktail spots in the city.

Day Two (Saturday)

9 a.m. | Brunch + shopping

Make your way to Soda City, Columbia’s rain-or-shine farmer’s market ft. food vendors, fresh produce + groceries and goods + gifts, running every Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

But first, coffee: So hit Drip’s new coffee bus for an iced latte or Indah’s coffee stand for an iced chai. Both have brick-and-mortar locations that serve as locals’ go-tos during the week.


Soda City | photo by @allieroyall

Stroll the 3+ blocks of vendors + maybe even bring back a local gift. When you start to get hungry, reach for a local baked good from Ally + Eloise or Rosie Girl Bakery; get an acai bowl from Roots + Fruits or Yoghut; or go savory with Mary’s Arepas or Mimie’s Delect-A-Bowls.

11:30 a.m. | Lunch + more shopping

If you want to continue the eating + the shopping elsewhere, choose one of two options:

📍 West Columbia | antiquing + thrifting (guide here); lunch at Cafe Strudel (get the Hangover Hashbrowns and a single cinnamon pancake)

📍 Five Points | shopping for clothing, accessories, menswear + goods (guide here); lunch at Gourmet Shop (get the chicken salad croissant with pesto pasta salad and a mimosa kit)


Papa Jazz Record Shoppe in Five Points | photo by @thestyleodyssey

Want to spend the entire day shopping? Here’s your guide to boutiques across Columbia.

1:30 p.m. | Outdoor adventure

Here, you’ll meet your true Sophie’s Choice: rivers, lake or parks? You may only be able to do one over the course of this trip, so choose wisely.

Lake Murray | 🕒 ~25-45 mins from downtown

Lake Murray is huge (~500 miles of shoreline) and spans several towns, so the drive time downtown varies depending which “side” of the lake you’re doing. But it’s fun when you get there. Rent a boat, jet ski or kayak, try SUP paddleboarding, visit the beach or Dreher Island State Park – or stick to dry land to eat, drink, listen to music + people-watch somewhere like Frayed Knot, Rusty Anchor or Liberty on the Lake.


Lake Murray | photo by @jarrettsholmes

Congaree/Saluda/Broad Rivers | 🕒 convergence ~3 mins from downtown (runs between Columbia + West Columbia)

If you’re feeling adventurous, definitely go with a guided tubing or kayaking tour from the pros at Palmetto Outdoor Center or Adventure Carolina. (If you want to do a DIY tubing trip, here’s an unofficial guide. Park at your own risk, y’all.) Make sure to carve out some time after or before to walk the West Columbia/Cayce Riverwalk. If you’re feeling lazy, bring your Eno hammock or beach blanket to chill along the Riverwalk, or find a shallow alcove to set up a cooler + tunes and hang out in the middle of the river on the rocks for the day.


Floating the river | photo by @oliviancooley

Congaree National Park | 🕒 ~37 mins from downtown

This is South Carolina’s only national park and it’s such a hidden gem. Walk the 2.4-mile boardwalk, canoe the river that runs through the park or take a themed, guided tour if they’re offering. We’ve done both the “count butterflies” and the “big tree” tours. Bring plenty of bug spray + water.

For hiking + biking, visit Sesquicentennial Park (~17 mins from downtown) or Harbison State Forest (~23 mins). Saluda Shoals Park (~21 mins) has a ~2 acre dog park if you brought your dog with you. And Riverbanks Zoo and Garden (~10 mins) is the perfect place for kids – visit the new baby animals at the Zoo or go to Waterfall Junction splash pad.

Here are more tips on maximizing all the kid-friendly fun in Cola (there’s a lot).

6:30 p.m. | Dinner + drinks

Do a casual dinner from one of the spots we listed in Friday’s dinner guide. Or if you have time to freshen up, do dinner + drinks at one of Cola’s brand-new Asian-fusion restaurants, 929 Kitchen or Kao Thai, both in The Vista and an easy walk to your next move. (Fun fact: Kao has a popular sister-restaurant in Asheville.)

8 p.m. | Sunset spotting

Catch the ~8:30 p.m. sunset on a rooftop. The Sheraton rooftop bar is a must-do for the best downtown views and basic bar drinks. Or if you didn’t make it there yesterday, try the second-story rooftop at the HG Hangar brewery in the Rosewood neighborhood. Everything the light touches is yours.


Sunset at the Sheraton rooftop | photo by @chloerodgers

9 p.m. | Close out the night

It’s 9 o’clock. You’ve done a lot today. You can:

🎳 Press on. Go bowling or play board games on big, comfy couches at Main Street’s boutique bowling alley, The GRAND. They also have a patio, big food menu + self-pour beer taps. Or catch a late-night flick next door at The Nick, S.C.’s only nonprofit art-house theater. They also serve beer + wine.

🍷 Have one more drink. Lula Drake is right on Main Street, and a must-do for a glass of wine to cap off the night if you haven’t been yet. The building has the neatest historic backstory (ask the bartender) and the menu has the funniest wine descriptions.

💤 Go home. We don’t judge.

Day Three (Sunday)

10:30 a.m. | Brunch

Check out of your hotel, pack up the car, and – yes – go back out to eat. Columbia is a brunch town, so we have just a few recommendations…

🍳 Tazza Kitchen | get the huevos rancheros

🍳 Spotted Salamander | only does brunch on Saturdays in the summer, so lucky you

🍳 Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli | giant, specialty cinnamon rolls

🍳 Michael’s on Main | fun for groups + sitting outside

🍳 Za’s on Devine | hello, brunch pizza

🍳 DiPrato’s | deli-style cafe with great pancakes + eggs Benny

🍳 Original Pancake House | fresh-squeezed OJ + pancakes are a must

🍳 Good Life Cafe | raw/vegan restaurant with pressed juices + some cooked items

🍳 Twisted Spur Brewing | get the chicken and waffles


Spotted Salamander brunch | photo by @colatoday

12:30 p.m. | Arts stroll

Columbia is covered in public art, and there seems to be more popping up every day. Take a self-guided driving arts tour from the Main Street District to West Columbia. 🎨 (Not an arts fan? See Saturday’s outdoor adventure section and do what you didn’t get to yesterday. 🌲)

First, visit Columbia Museum of Art on Main St. Admission is half-price since they’re renovating the permanent collection space. Then go a block up to take photos with the three murals on Taylor St. Don’t forget to use #muralsofColumbia when you post.


Waterlines Mural on Taylor St. | photo by @colatoday

Cross Assembly St. to walk through the latest gallery in the lobby of Richland Library – and to marvel at how tech-forward and cool our library is. Go westward into The Vista to spot more murals off Lincoln St. (Most of The Vista’s art galleries + studios are closed on Sunday – but check these out if you’re doing this another day.)

Cross the bridge back into West Cola/Cayce to visit the area’s new collective art studio, Stormwater Studios, open Sundays 1-4 p.m. Peek into acclaimed artists studios like David Yaghjian and Eileen Blyth. Next door is Lewis and Clark handcrafted lighting and One Eared Cow Glass, where you can catch some live glassblowing if you’re lucky.

3:30 p.m. | Ice cream + roll out

Stop for ice cream before your weekend is up. Here are some good options all over town, but we recommend 🍨 Sweet Cream Co. on Main Street for handmade ice cream with fresh, offbeat ingredients (ask for the secret handshake flavor), 🍧 Scoopy Doo Gelato in Five Points for gelato with toppings (including alcohol-infused concoctions for 21+), or 🍦 Rosewood Dairy Bar for a good ‘ol fashioned cone of soft-serve, dipped in a hard chocolate shell or rainbow sprinkles. If you’re dairy-free, try one of the 10+ Pelican’s Snoballs locations around town for some fruity shaved ice.


Rosewood Dairy Bar | photo by @montetheminidoxie

Now you’re ready to call yourself a Cola regular. We’ll see you back here soon.

More from COLAtoday