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Skyline of tall buildings with lights on at night time in Columbia, SC.

11 Things to Know About Living in Columbia

Thinking of moving to Columbia? South Carolina’s capital city is a fast-growing metro that offers a small town feel and affordable cost of living—and with a friendly culture, incredible art scene, and fantastic restaurants, it’s no wonder why Cola Town is one of the top 100 best places to live in the U.S. Check out these 11 things to know about living in Columbia!

Experience Affordable Southern Living

Cars driving on street next to tall buildings. Photo by Instagram user @adam1465

Photo via @adam1465

When you move to Columbia, you’ll see for yourself why Soda City ranks sixth in the top 25 most affordable places to live and work! The cost of living in Columbia is 4% lower than the national average, and the cost of housing is 11% lower than the national average with median home prices around $164,200 and median rent around $853. But budget-friendly living isn’t all this South Carolina city offers! With major employers like Prisma Health, BlueCross BlueShield, AT&T, and the University of South Carolina, there are plenty of job opportunities in Columbia for those who want to work in the healthcare, technology, and education industries.

Earn Your Degree at a Top-Rated College

Tan building with pillars at University of South Carolina. Photo by Instagram user @uofsc

Photo via @uofsc

Columbia has dozens of colleges and universities, so it’s easy for students seeking higher education to  find a program that suits their interests and goals here! Attend the University of South Carolina—which is America’s 44th best public college—and choose from over 80 distinct undergraduate programs and 250 graduate programs, ranging from anthropology to visual communications. Experience a thriving student life and individual-focused education at Columbia College, one of the best colleges for veterans and best value schools. Or apply to the private Christian institution Columbia International University, which offers online degrees for non-traditional students and on-campus classes for a variety of majors. Whatever career path you choose to pursue, Columbia schools can meet your needs!

Enjoy Warm Columbia Weather All Year

Close up of pink cherry blossom flowers. Photo by Instagram user @magscars

Photo via @magscars

Say “hello” to sun! Columbia has an average of 217 sunny days each year, which is nearly two weeks more than the national average! And while Columbia is known for its humid, subtropical climate, the heat is far from being too much to handle. Summer highs are usually around 94 degrees. Plus, those moving from colder climates will be happy to know that seeing snow isn’t out of the question when living in Columbia—the city receives an average of 0.8 inches of snowfall in January.

Explore the Great Outdoors

Outdoor recreation in Columbia will give you tons of opportunities to explore the natural wonders in and around South Carolina’s capital city! Hike through the Southeastern United States’ largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest via footpaths like the River Trail and Boardwalk Loop Trail at Congaree National Park. Set up camp at Sesquicentennial State Park and spend an evening under the stars amid 1,400 acres of pines. Get up close and personal with stunning botanical exhibits and animal life from across the globe at Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens. Take a day trip to Lake Murray—the city’s largest manmade lake—and kayak around 50,000 acres of tranquil water. Or for a more laid-back excursion, pack a picnic and dine by the riverbank at Columbia Canal & Riverfront Park.

Cheer on the Local Sports Teams

Looking for fun things to do in Columbia? Join in the local sports fun! Take yourself out to the ballgame to watch the Columbia Fireflies (MiLB) play at Segra Park. Catch a match featuring the SC United Bantams (USL2) soccer team, which plays at a variety of fields throughout Richland County. Are college sports more your thing? Paint your face garnet red and cheer on the University of South Carolina Gamecocks when they play baseball at Founders Park. Or tailgate with fellow fans before finding your seat among a crowd of 80,000 atWilliams-Brice Stadium for a Gamecocks football game!

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Attend Unique Annual Events

Soda City is home to all kinds of fun annual festivals! See where the city’s love of food and passion for community meet at the Rosewood Crawfish Festival—an annual Columbia summer event featuring live music, the Crawdaddy Dash, and more than 10,000 pounds of freshly-prepared Louisiana crawfish. Wet your whistle on unique pints at Columbia’s independent craft beer celebration, Soda City Suds Week. Satisfy a different kind of craving entirely by attending the Deckle Edge Literary Festival, where you can feed your imagination with a day of poetry, prose, song, and discussion. Watch works from some of the Southeast’s most talented visionaries play out on the screen at the Indie Grits Labs Film Festival. And don’t miss the food, fun, and fireworks at Columbia’s Famously Hot New Year celebration!

Check Out the Incredible Art

Two sculptures of people rising up from ground. Photo by Instagram user @colamuseum

Photo via @colamuseum

Columbia’s art scene is a must if you’re looking for some of the best things to do in the city! Browse ever-changing collections and exhibits from around the globe at Columbia Museum of Art. Give your inner artist a chance to shine by taking an art class at City Art, a three-in-one gallery space, workshop, and supply store. Visit 701 Center for Contemporary Arts and see what the local artists have been working on. Drop by if ART Gallery for one-of-a-kind events and exhibitions featuring prints, sculptures, paintings, and other contemporary pieces from artists in Columbia. Or get in touch with a more intimate side of Soda City’s art with a trip to The Village Artists, where local artists display their work and teach classes on photography, painting, basketweaving, and more!

Visit World-Class Museums & Historical Sites

Red and white brick Victorian-style museum. Photo by Instagram user @famouslydapper

Photo via @famouslydapper

As one of the first planned cities in America, Columbia has made its mark in American history, and there are several museums and historical sites where you can discover it! Tour the Mann-Simons Site, the former home of African-American entrepreneurs like midwife Celia Mann and boatman Ben Delane, who helped grow the local community. Visit the Museum of Reconstruction at Woodrow Wilson’s family home to learn more about Columbia’s early racial, social, and political landscape. Connect with River City’s roots by walking through late 18th-century and early 19th-century period rooms and focus galleries at Robert Mills House—one of the five National Historic Landmarks in Columbia. Check out the University of South Carolina’s curation of Southern history, including folk art and the mineral collection of naturalist Thomas Cooper with a free trip to McKissick Museum. Or see artifacts and other incredible displays focused on the Revolutionary War and the Civil War at South Carolina State Museum.

Get Your Fill at Must-Try Restaurants

Plate of eggs and bacon and cake. Photo by Instagram user @cafe_strudel

Photo via @cafe_strudel

Another great way to get to know the area is by visiting some of the best restaurants in Columbia! Start your day with a Breakfast Quesadilla or Cinnamon Pancakes from Cafe Strudel. Savor Southern comfort food in the form of elevated dishes like BBQ Glazed Salmon at Cola’s Restaurant. Get your hands on some of the South’s best BBQ with sandwiches like the Wookie or Southern Belly Dipper from Southern Belly BBQ. Try a new take on ramen with the Miso Ramen at Menkoi Ramen House. Crush your hunger with a Triple Decker Corned Beef Reuben from Di Prato’s Delicatessen. Or reserve a table at Saludas for Filet Mignon, Seared Scallops, and other delicious dishes from the farm-to-table menu.

Grab Tickets to Live Music

People attending concert with bright lights. Photo by Instagram user @colemanrojahn

Photo via @colemanrojahn

You don’t need a special occasion to have fun in River City! Sip on cocktails while watching musical acts from all genres at The Senate—one of the most popular live music venues in Columbia. Jam out like a true Southerner at Red Beans and Rice Jazz Cafe for a taste of the venue’s soul music. Get your jazz and blues fix in a more elegant atmosphere at Chayz Lounge—the perfect place to relax with friends or to wine and dine a special someone. Or take a trip to Downtown Columbia to see big-name performers like Diana Ross and REO Speedwagon at Township Auditorium.

Hit Up Columbia’s Nightlife

Glass of wine sitting on table at bar. Photo by Instagram user @goats2sc

Photo via @goats2sc

If you’re searching for things to do on the weekend or on weeknights, Cola Town is teeming with great nightlife spots! Grab a stool at Craft & Draft—one of the best bars in Columbia—and take home a bottle of Black Out Days stout from their in-house craft beer store. Keep the good times rolling at The Whig, and find out for yourself why they call themselves America’s Greatest Dive Bar. Settle in for an evening at Lula Drake Wine Parlor, where the expert staff will help you pair rare vintages and small plates from their carefully curated menu. Or stop in at Goat’s for a more relaxed atmosphere and wider menu of drinks, including wine flights like the Rose All Ways. In the mood to dance? Hit up Social Bar & Lounge and let loose to the music of high-energy resident DJs or top club artists like Skrillex.


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