8 spots to grab a hot dog in Columbia, SC

Jimmy’s Mart hot dog | Photo by @chloerodgers

Sun’s out, buns out — hot dog buns, that is. From community grillouts to baseball game brats, summer really is the season of the hot dog. That’s why we’ve rounded up eight local spots to get your frank fix

Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli, 2617 Devine St. | Where else will you get a giant hot dog that will fill you up with a renowned cinnamon roll on the side? 

  • Pro tip: The Devine Street restaurant is working on renovations, but it’s still open and takes online orders

Drake’s Duck-In, 1544 Main St. | Fried chicken isn’t all the downtown staple serves — grab a hot dog, ask for it to be all the way, and drink a pink lemonade on the side. 

  • Editor’s pick: If you’re ever in the mood, the chicken salad is one of the best low-key menu items. 

Jimmy’s Mart, 9900 Two Notch Rd. | Located in an Exxon gas station, this spot is regarded as one of the best places to grab a hot dog in the Midlands.

Mack’s Cash Grocery, 1809 Laurel St. | It’s hard not to order the cheeseburger, but the downtown eatery that’s only open for breakfast + lunch serves a great hot dog. 

  • Pro tip: Look like a local and enter through the back door where the line starts. 

The Other Store, 4130 Bethel Church Rd. | A basic hot dog made behind the convenience store counter is a perfect afternoon snack in our book. 

  • Pro tip: Separate from the restaurant in the back, this basic hot dog will hit the spot.

Rosewood Dairy Bar, 3003 Rosewood Dr. | The classic walk-up spot on Rosewood serves delicious classic dogs. 

  • Editor’s pick: If a slaw dog is your thing, this is the perfect spot to snag it. 

Rush’s, Various locations | Rush’s is the answer when you’re craving a hot dog, but don’t want to get out of the car

  • Editor’s note: Rush’s lists the hot dog under sandwiches. Do with that what you will. 

Zesto West Columbia, 504 12th St. | Locals know Zesto is the place to go for a great hot dog and a dipped cone for dessert. 

  • Pro tip: Hold your hot dog high, take a picture with the cone in the sky and tag #Colatoday

Side hustles to make extra money in Columbia, SC

Rent out local parking + storage to bring in the big bucks | Photo by COLAtoday

Good people of Columbia, ever wish you had more spending money lining your pockets? If the Sushi + beer fund has been looking a little low, we’ve got four leads for a side hustle that you can implement now.

And for those of you already bringing home the bacon —  if you need extra storage space, a place to park your car, or help with your summer lawn, this conversation is for you, too. 

💸 Turn that empty garage, attic, or shed into moola

  • A parking spot near Main Street is practically worth gold. Become a storage host on Neighbor to rent out anything from closets to parking spots + driveways to sheds. Listing your space is free + you’ll give another Soda Citizen the storage space they’ve been needing (if that’s you, surf the local listings here). 

💸 Convert your hobbies into services for hire 

  • Picture this: You’re leading a yoga class on the State House grounds or snapping graduations photos at one of our riverfronts, and you’re getting paid. Land local gigs by advertising your services for free on Thumbtack. You can list pro skills like dog training, notarizing, and assembling furniture — basically, the sky’s the limit. And for those looking for hired hands, browse local pros for jobs like house cleaning or interior painting.

💸 Get into the Airbnb game

Deliver delicious The Hideout in WeCo coffee on your own schedule. | Photo by COLAtoday

💸 Dash dinners for dough

We all know hungry Soda Citizens love nothing more than getting their Midwood Smokehouse and The Hideout in WeCo delivered, so sign up to be a Dasher with Doordash. You can choose your own hours and ride around town on your car, scooter, or bicycle. If all that food talk just made you hungry, here are the highest-rated restaurants available for delivery near you.

Firework displays and rules around the Soda City

Segra Park is home of the Columbia Fireflies. | Photo provided

Unless you love bonding over a cul-de-sac cleanup, it’s nice to let someone else handle the Independence Day spectacle. Plus, local orgs are pros at showing off some incredible displays. 🎆

Consider us your one-stop firework shop. Read on for public firework displays, your favorite vantages to watch the lights, and tips to DIY. Bonus: If your pup is sensitive to sound, we’ve got some spots for you, too.

Public firework displays

Where to watch

  • You may be asking, what’s better than seeing one display? Seeing all of them. Follow the map for our favorite vantage points to get a bald eagle’s eye view of the festivities.

Firework safety

Did you know that larger fireworks explode at a diameter of 800+ feet (bigger than Williams-Brice Stadium.) Pretty incredible — until they go off on your lawn. Luckily, there are rules in place so you can contribute to the spectacle safely.

Fireworks are legal in Richland County, Lexington County, and even in the City of Columbia. If in doubt, check out our breakdown of fireworks laws in the Midlands. If you decide to DIY, follow these guidelines.

Celebrate some peace + quiet

Before you spend the night trying to lure your four-legged friend out from under the bed, you may want to get as far from the commotion as possible.

Your best option is a nearby park, like Congaree National Park or Poinsett State Park. Pack some food and water and go stargazing, or even camping.

UofSC’s 2022-2023 fiscal year budget breakdown

UofSC’s campus near the Russell House | Photo by COLAtoday team 

The Board of Trustees at UofSC released its fiscal year 2022-2023 budget, it’s essentially the university’s plan for various investments that align with its vision + provide services that enhance its academic reputation, the student experience, and contribute to the economic + societal health of SC.  

The budget, which focuses on everything from each one of the university’s campuses and tuition to athletics, infrastructure, and more — was approved on Fri., June 24

We know number crunching is not everyone’s cup of tea + the FY22-23 document is not exactly light reading, so here’s a brief rundown of what’s inside

💸  Let’s see what we’re working with

An overall look at the budget 

  • Tuition will not increase for the fourth year in a row across all eight campuses
  • 1,804,281,809 — the total budget to be used across the UofSC system 
  • 76.5% of the total budget is allocated to UofSC Columbia.
  • 48.1% of the total budget comes from tuition and fees across the system

💸 Let’s hit on some of the “budget biggies” for Columbia’s campus

Ya know, the things we know you’re already scouring for

  • $6,344 — Undergraduate tuition per semester for in-state resident students
  • $16,964 — Undergraduate tuition per semester for non-resident students
  • 56% of UofSC’s net tuition is comprised of nonresident tuition whereas 44% is brought in by resident students.
  • 4% — the proposed increase for overall total current funds revenue for the Columbia campus in FY2023

💸  Let’s check out a few updates coming this year

The nitty gritty stuff

  • UofSC is going to allocate $25 million toward the development of the new Health Sciences campus that will be located in the BullStreet District.
  • The university will also allocate more than $10 million toward existing renovation projects on the Columbia campus.

An in-depth document outlining this year’s budget can be found here, on the University’s website.

SolFest RollFest brings bike powered stage to Cola

The music festival will take place at the ampitheater in Earlewood Park. | Photo by COLAtoday

Solfest Rollfest, a sustainably-inspired outdoor music festival, will bring the rock and roll to Earlewood Park on Saturday. Featuring 10 acts on two stages, this will be Cola’s first festival with a bike-powered stage and a zero-waste goal

🥤 What to bring

In addition to the good vibes, come out early and make a day of it. A bicycle valet will be available to keep your bike safe and attendees are encouraged to bring a container for drinksa blank t-shirt to be printed with festival graphicsand a blanket + sunscreen.

🚴 How can I participate?

If you’d like to ride and help power the stagesign up to volunteer or assemble a team of up to six riders. If you’d like to sit back and enjoy the music, the festival will host a group ride at 10:30 a.m. to kick off the day. Riders are encouraged to decorate their bikes for a 2.6-mile ride around the Earlewood neighborhood for all ages and skill levels.

Pro tip: If you sign up to ride and power the stage, you’ll get free entry to the festival.


Grab your tickets today for $15 or $20 day of festival. Children 13 and under get in free.

A breakdown of Columbia, SC’s fiscal year 2022-2023 budget

The Columbia skyline | Photo by COLAtoday team

The City of Columbia released its fiscal year 2022-2023 budget. It’s essentially the city’s blueprint for various services that will be provided to the community via funds allocated + approved by City Council.

The budget — which focuses on everything from economic growth and improving public safety to beautification, infrastructure, and more — is set to go into effect on Fri., July 1

We know number crunching is not everyone’s cup of tea + the FY22-23 document is not exactly light reading, so here’s a brief rundown of what’s inside

💸  Let’s cash you up to speed

A look at amounts compared to last year

  • $164,810,594 — this year’s general fund, which is a 6% increase compared to last year’s budget
  • $141,835,914 — the projected revenue, which is a ~6.4% increase compared to last year’s budget
  • $75,731,932 — the amount budgeted for Public Safety, which is a 7.9% increase compared to last year’s budget
  • $21,080,911 — the allocated budget for Public Works, which is a 9.5% increase compared to last year’s budget

💸 Let’s hit on some “budget biggies” for this year

Ya know, the things we know you’re already scouring for

  • There will be no tax rate or fee increases this year.
  • 64% of the city’s total revenue will likely come from property taxes, licenses, and permits.
  • The allocated parking fund is $10,238,702 and the projected revenue is $9,238,702 — which primarily comes from parking meters + city owned monthly parking garages

💸  Let’s see a snapshot of how the city will allocate its spending:

The nitty gritty stuff

  • $185,048,681 — Water and Sewer operating fund 
  • $16,121,055 — Stormwater fund 
  • $12,772,297 — Hospitality Tax budget 
  • $2,660,000 — Accommodations (State) Tax Revenues budget

An in-depth document outlining this year’s budget can be found here,  on the City of Columbia’s website.

Plan a Soda City picnic

Picnic under the historic live oaks on the horseshoe.

When it comes to scenic locations to picnic, the Soda City’s got them. From historic gardens and riverfront spots, to convenient options for a quick bite to eat, it can be easy to plan an outdoor meal with friends + family. 

🧀 Build your menu with local charcuterie boards

  • Abundant Graze | Choose from a variety of prebuilt boxes that include cheeses, pickles, nuts, and crackers. Try this: Order a dessert box of sweets for a balance of salty + sweet snacks. 
  • The Art of Charcuterie | Options range from Tuscan pizza to individual boxes filled with fresh fruits and veggies. 
  • Salt and Oak | Fill out the online form and choose the box that fits your needs filled with artisan ingredients and a seasonal arrangement.

💐 Pick out the decor

  • Set the scene at your picnic with a colorful bloom of flowers from Fern or choose from the summer bouquets at Blossom Shop.
  • What’s a picnic without a vintage basket? Stop by Old Mill Antique Mall and choose from the selection of baskets, or pick up a vintage blanket or quilt
  • Mast General Store on Main Street has you covered with picnic-related items ranging from sweets + spreads to blankets and a wide selection of outdoor items

🌳 Choose the perfect spot 

  • Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park, 312 Laurel St. | It’s just a short walk to the riverfront where you’ll find a field next to the river to unfurl a blanket and soak up some sun. 
  • Page Ellington Park, 2220 Gregg St. | Bring your dog and let them play in the dog park while you set your spread under one of Bull Street’s old oak trees
  • Robert Mils Historic District, Seibels House, Robert Mills, Hampton-Preston | Choose a scenic spot in the gardens among the heirloom plantings of native plants. Pro tip: Each location has different hours and days when the gardens are open to the public, so be sure to check before you go. 
  • UofSC Horseshoe | Bring a book and a snack to enjoy the historic horseshoe shaded by 26 varieties of trees

🍿 Picnic Hacks

  • Picnic Popup SC | The perfect option for picnic parties, Picnic Popup SC will set up a private outdoor experience for you complete with food + activities. 
  • Gourmet Shop Charcuterie Box | When you preorder your custom cheese + charcuterie trays and pick up a pound of the renowned chicken salad, you’re halfway to your outdoor dining experience. 

Cromer’s | Peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs, Cromer’s has you covered if you want to grab some picnic snacks on the way to the park.

Bonus: Don’t forget to grab sunscreen, bug spray, and a camera to capture the memories (you’ll thank us later).

Remember to use #COLAtoday when you post your picnic pictures for a chance to be featured on our page.

12 questions with Allen Robertson in Columbia, SC

Allen Robertson | Photo provided

This piece is part of our COLAtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

Though originally from Columbia, Allen began his real estate career in Orlando, FL, inside of the Disney Corridor. He’s worked as a business development manager + spent time specializing in investment real estate before moving back to Columbia.

He currently works as the Market Manager for the Lake Murray branch and is a broker with The ART of Real Estatea local real estate brokerage that specializes in residential housing.

We asked Allen 12 questions about the real estate market in Columbia, including how interest rates are affecting Columbia, how he would describe the current market, and which neighborhoods are hot right now. 

(Read time: 5 minutes.)

  1. Describe your perfect day in Columbia in a few sentences.

I would head into Columbia from Lexington, stop by Piecewise Coffee Co. to grab a black coffee, take my kids to Riverbanks Zoo, grab lunch at Tazza Kitchen, and end my day at a Columbia Fireflies game. There’s no better place to take your kids in Columbia.

  1. You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it and why? 

Tazza Kitchen — because that chicken sandwich they have is awesome…and I’m takin’ the drink menu with me too. 

  1. How would you describe Columbia’s current housing market in your own words?

It’s a healthy market still, people do think the sky is falling, but we aren’t projected to have any kind of crash or bubble. House prices are still projected to increase 6-7% year over year. A lot of people want to think back to the housing market crash in 2008, but there were a lot more factors that went into that crash than we’re dealing with today.

  1. Name 3-5 other local leaders, influencers, or movers + shakers you’re watching.

I always keep up with Travis Wright at Mortgage Network because he has really good information on rates + ideas for mortgages. I follow Chamal Mediwaka because he highlights stuff around Columbia — like where to go and what to eat. I also keep up with the local real estate happenings, specifically CCRA and other local realtors. 

  1. What were the last 3 things you did locally? 

  1. How will — or how are — rising interest rates affecting the housing market in Columbia?

Rising interest rates affect buyers with affordability. Basically, when interest rates rise, the amount a buyer can purchase decreases — but that’s not always bad. There are some caveats to that. It opens up some inventory issues we’ve been having. So in a market with rising interest rates, it can be less competitive when buyers are looking to purchase homes.  

Interest rates are projected to keep rising, but if we look at the history of interest rates, we’ve never seen them as low as we did last year. Interest rates used to be like 15%. As a community, we think they are crazy high, but they are still considered “low” if you put our current rates into perspective. 

  1. What’s something every local real estate agent can expect from Columbia’s housing market?

The inventory is going to open up and we’ll see some more available houses. 

It’s still considered a seller’s market — and we can’t really predict the market in the future — but traditionally, the market always fluctuates and the market usually favors one side or the other as it fluctuates. We’ll begin to see the seller’s market transition back to a buyer’s market. 

But if you’re looking to buy a house currently, I wouldn’t necessarily wait because you know the interest rates are around 6%. We can’t promise that the market will be the same a year from now. You may be looking at a higher interest rate in a year and not be able to afford the house that meets your expectations or needs then. 

On the flip side for sellers — you can still capitalize on the fact that it’s still considered a seller’s market for now and the property you own is probably worth more now than when you purchased it. If you were to wait when it becomes a buyer’s market, you may not have the same demand that you currently have when you list your property. 

  1. We’ve heard, “the housing market is currently “bad” in Columbia right now.” Can you explain a little more about what that means and whether you agree or not?

I wouldn’t consider the market bad because interest rates are still low when looking at the history of interest rates for buyers. Sellers can sell their houses for more than what they originally bought it for and there’s still a great demand for houses as inventory is still relatively low. 

Sure, it can be competitive for buyers, but that’s why it’s so important to find the right agent that really knows our local market intimately to meet your needs. 

  1. Which neighborhoods are hot right now in Columbia? 

Forest Acres is always a hot market and desirable, but if you get priced out of that area, I would look more toward Avenues, Rosewood, West Columbia, and Cayce areas.

  1. Is all of Columbia being affected the same way by the housing market or are you seeing different trends in different areas?

It’s pretty much all the same — even nationwide. I think Columbia is a little more incubated so you’re not going to see drastic changes like you would in larger states or cities. 

Traditionally there are three things that drive a real estate market:

  • Local + state government
  • Universities 
  • Military bases 

If you look at Cola as a whole, we have all of those things in one location. 

  1. What’s something that every Soda Citizen should know pertaining to the housing market?

That the market is not bad and it is still a good time to purchase + sell real estate no matter what the rhetoric is. 

  1. What do you think Cola will be known for in 10 years?

There’s currently a lot of growth happening in Cola. So in ten years, people will look back and say, “Man, they’ve done a lot in that city.”

A quick history of Columbia’s Arcade Mall

Where you see chandeliers now, you used to see blue sky — a partial roof was added around 1932 and the mall was fully inclosed in the mid-20th century. | Photo by Colatoday

Inspired by the open-air shopping arcades of Italy, the Arcade Mall on Main Street has stopped passersby in their tracks for over 100 years. Built in 1912 and completed a week before the Titanic sunk, the Arcade Mall has changed over the past century. In 2016 it underwent a renovation + began welcoming several new businesses. 

Today we’ll take a closer look at the history of the Arcade Mall and the businesses that make it a modern-day bustling lunchtime spot.

Located next to the Barringer Building, Cola’s first skyscraper, the Arcade Mall was Columbia’s first indoor shopping center. The two-story, L-shaped mall is just a block from the State House in a well trafficked area of Main Street, especially during 9-5 business hours. 

The mall has been updated several times since opening, each time maintaining the Renaissance Revival style of architecture original to the building. 

Where you see chandeliers now, you used to see blue sky. A partial roof was added around 1932 and then the mall was fully enclosed in the mid-20th century. Thanks to a skylight, the sun illuminates the indoor architecture and revives the open-air feel of the original design. 

Down Under Columbia 

Ever been curious about those giant metal doors that lead beneath the arcade? The basement of the Arcade Mall has intrigued Soda Citizens for years.

From 1972 until 1977 Down Under Columbia sought to mimic the popular Underground Atlanta — a development of underground bars that attracted 3.5 million visitors in 1972. While it was short-lived, the abandoned clubs are now filled with dust and memories, but Historic Columbia offers occasional underground tours. If your curiosity won’t allow you to wait, you can experience the basement tour in virtual reality thanks to Jacob Cohen

Open for Business

Unlike traditional malls, the Arcade Mall is home to several types of businesses. The second floor has law offices and artists studios, while the ground floor offers everything from Odd Bird Books and Le Chic Hair Salon to Ophidian Tattoo parlor, the first in the Main Street District

From 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Mon.-Fri., Swanson’s Deli is the mall’s main attraction. Diners fill tables lining the center of the mall and patrons queue up out the door for the popular lunchtime spot that serves a variety of signature sandwiches. 

Try this: One of those sandwiches is the “Underground Club” — a Roast beef, turkey, bacon, and swiss sandwich that pays homage to the mall’s basement + history. 

Ally & Eloise Bakeshop

Genius Repair Solutions

His & Hers Tailoring

Le Chic Hair Salon

Odd Bird Books

Ophidian Tattoo

Sage Massage Studio

Salon Sole

Shoe Repair

Stoner’s Pizza

Swanson’s Deli

The Waxing Parlor

What’s next? 

With the addition of Stoner’s Pizza in January 2019, the mall opened more to a post lunch-time crowd. The pizza joint is popular for lunch and dinner because of its convenient location to student housing in the downtown area. With even more downtown student housing on the horizon, the Arcade Mall could continue to benefit from the extra evening foot traffic

Coming (back) soon is Takosushi, a restaurant and bar rooted in southwestern and Asian cuisine, that will become the new anchor restaurant for the building with the windows of the dining + bar area open to Main Street. No open date has been announced, but when you glance through the glass, the bar area is well put together with the restaurant’s logo prominently displayed on the wall. 

Hit the Road: an outdoor adventure to Asheville, NC

Mountain view
Views while hiking Black Balsam Knob | Photo by Find Yara Photography

We’re kicking off our summer road trip series — Hit the Road — with an outdoor adventure-themed trip to Asheville, NC. With panoramic hikes and award-winning restaurant options, this city is a great destination for experienced adventurers + novice nature seekers alike. 

Before you start packing your bags, here’s everything you need to know about the area + our insider recommendations.

Drive time: ~2.5 hours

Est. population: 92,328

Avg. high in June: 82º

🥾Things to do

Bearwallow Mountain Trail 

The Bearwallow Mountain Trail is the perfect picnic hike. You can drive most of the way up the mountain + take a one-mile trail from the gravel lot that includes a series of steep switchbacks. Don’t let the steep switchbacks deter you. When you reach the top, you’ll be standing 4,232-ft above sea level, have 360º views of surrounding mountains, and may see cows grazing amongst the wildflowers. Yes, cows. 

Black Balsam Knob

Black Balsam Knob is part of The Art Loeb Trail and begins at the trailhead at milepost 420. This hike is considered easy-moderate, is ~2 miles out + back, reaches an elevation of 6,000-ft with panoramic views, and leashed dogs are welcome. If you’re up for the challenge, take this five-mile loop. Pro tip: This part of the parkway is usually closed during the winter.

Brevard, NC

If you’re chasing waterfalls, add ~45 min. to your road trip and pop over to Brevard, NC — known as the “Land of Waterfalls.” Brevard is home to 250+ waterfalls, some of which were backdrops for some shots in The Hunger Games movies. 

Sloppy Jai (Kheema Pav) dish from Chai Pani  | Photo by COLAtoday team

🍽️ Fuel up after hiking

Cúrate Bar de Tapas, 13 Biltmore Ave.

Cúrate means “cure yourself” in Spanish and is a Spanish-inspired tapas bar and restaurant. This restaurant received a 2022 James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality. Order snacks, small plates, large plates, and cheese + charcuterie dishes that celebrate authentic Spanish culture. Try this: Pair your dessert plate with a glass of wine from an all-Spanish wine list.

Chai Pani, 22 Battery Park Ave. 

Chai Pani received a 2022 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant and is described as “Mindblasting Indian Street Food.” The restaurant hosts Meherwan Irani, a five-time James Beard-nominated chef. Guests can expect a variety of traditional Indian nibbles, dishes, and bright flavors that highlight India’s culinary diversity. Pro tip: This restaurant does not accept reservations.

Salsa’s, 6 Patton Ave.

Salsa’s is a Mexican-Caribbean inspired restaurant that offers a daily, curated menu in the heart of downtown Asheville. The dishes are made from local ingredients and are cooked by local Chef Hector. Try this: This restaurant is known for its eclectic style and killer margaritas, so we recommend sippin’ some

Tiny home
This tiny home has 10 breweries within a three block radius. | Photo via VRBO

🏕️ Cozy campsites + cabins

Downtown Asheville Tiny House, located in the central business district

This tiny cottage sleeps up to two with one bedroom + one full bathroom located within an 11 min walk to downtown. It has a 4.5-star rating, an outdoor patio, and is $155 a night

Guest House on 10 acres near Downtown Asheville, located in Jenkins Valley

This vacation destination used to be hay barn located five miles from downtown Asheville. It sleeps up to two with one bedroom, one bathroom, and is $132 a night. Guests can enjoy peace + quiet while watching deer, horses, chickens, and possibly a peacock in the pastures. 

2 Bedroom Vacation Villa, located on the Crowne Plaza Resort’s golf course 

This vacation home is about a mile west of Asheville. It sleeps up to six guests with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. This getaway comes with a hot tub,pets are welcome for an additional fee, and is $299 a night

Looking for more recommendations? Head to the link below. Plus, stay tuned for the July installment of our Hit the Road series. We’ll be highlighting a 30-mile road trip.