Thinking of moving to Columbia? South Carolina’s capital city offers an incredible art scene, friendly culture, fantastic restaurants, and more—making Soda City one of the best places to live in South Carolina. Check out these 13 things to know about living in Columbia!
Experience Affordable Southern Living
When you move to Columbia, you’ll see for yourself why Soda City ranks among the top 10 most affordable places to live! Despite being a large metro, the cost of living in Columbia is low—and median housing falls 11% below the national average. So, those looking to buy a home in Columbia can find excellent options, with median prices falling around $234,000. Renters, on the other hand, can expect to find an average monthly rental rate of $1,340. Residents of Columbia also benefit from savings in several other categories, including healthcare and transportation.
Join the Thriving Job Market
Budget-friendly living isn’t all this South Carolina city offers! Columbia boasts a low unemployment rate of 3.3%. Major employers like Prisma Health, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, AT&T, and the University of South Carolina create plenty of job opportunities in Columbia for those who want to work in the healthcare, technology, and education industries. Living in Columbia also provides quick access to Fort Jackson—one of the largest military installations for Basic Combat Training. And with a handful of Fortune 500 companies like CBRE Group, Northwestern Mutual, and IBM, Columbia is a great city for young professionals to grow their careers!
Earn Your Degree at a Top-Rated College
With several nearby colleges and universities, it’s easy for students living in Columbia to find a program that suits their interests and goals! Attend the University of South Carolina—one of the best public colleges in America—and choose from over 60 undergraduate and 250 graduate programs, ranging from anthropology to visual communications. Check out Benedict College for an accredited degree in fields like business, social work, studio art, and more! Explore a variety of career paths—like STEM, manufacturing, business, or education—by attending Midlands Technical College, a two-year community college with multiple campuses throughout the capital. Experience a thriving student life and individual-focused education at Columbia College, one of the best colleges for veterans and best value schools. Looking for faith-based education in Columbia? Study popular programs like business, social sciences, biology, and more at Allen University. Or apply to private Christian institution Columbia International University, which offers online degrees for non-traditional students and on-campus classes for a variety of majors.
Enjoy Warm Columbia Weather All Year
Say “hello” to sunshine! While living in Columbia, you can experience an average of 217 sunny days each year—nearly two weeks more than the national average. And while Columbia has a humid, subtropical climate, the heat is far from being too much to handle—summer highs are usually around 92 degrees. Be sure to pack your rain boots when moving to Columbia, as Soda City sees an annual average of 46 inches of rain. Plus, those moving from colder climates will be happy to know that seeing snow isn’t out of the question, since the city receives an average of 1 inch of snow per year.
Explore the Great Outdoors
Living in Columbia will give you tons of opportunities to explore the natural wonders in and around South Carolina’s capital city! Spend summer days tubing, fishing, or biking the trails at Three Rivers Greenway. Picnic, kayak, or canoe for a day of family-friendly fun at the riverfront Saluda Shoals Park. See thousands of synchronous fireflies light up, or hike 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. Take a day trip to Lake Murray—the city’s largest manmade lake—and kayak around 50,000 acres of tranquil water. Pack a picnic and dine by the riverbank at Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park. Or take an educational trip to Harbison State Forest to practice identifying trees, learn about natural resources, and more!
Cheer on the Local Sports Teams
Looking for fun things to do in Columbia? Join in on the local sports fun! Bring the whole family to watch the Columbia Fireflies (MiLB) play at Segra Park. Catch a match featuring the SC United Bantams (USL2 and USLW) soccer teams, which play 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 at Williams-Brice Stadium for a Gamecocks football game!
Attend Unique Annual Events
Soda City is home to all kinds of fun annual festivals! Ride a Ferris wheel and rollercoasters, and indulge in fried foods at the South Carolina State Fair. Enjoy live music, a variety of activities, and 10,000+ pounds of freshly-prepared Louisiana crawfish at Rosewood Crawfish Festival. Spend an evening outdoors soaking up soul music during the annual Jazz Fest. Gather with thousands to catch live music, a parade, and a road race during St. Patrick’s Day in Five Points. Join fellow whiskey lovers at the largest whiskey tasting in the Southeast, the Great American Whiskey Fair. Honor Greek culture through live music, traditional folk dances, local food, and more during Columbia’s Greek Festival. Or celebrate Pride Month in Columbia with Famously Hot South Carolina Pride events like Outfest, the Get Lit concert, and the SC Pride Parade.
Check Out the Incredible Art
Columbia’s art scene is a must if you’re looking for things to do! Enjoy a performance from one of two professional ballet companies that call Soda City home, the Columbia Classical Ballet or Columbia City Ballet. Catch an amazing performance from the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra at Koger Center for the Arts. Browse ever-changing collections and exhibits from around the globe at the Columbia Museum of Art. Give your inner artist a chance to shine by taking a class at City Art, a three-in-one gallery space, workshop, and supply store. Visit 701 Center for Contemporary Art 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. See comedy shows, community plays, musicals, and more at the Trustus Theatre. Or see indie films, documentaries, international movies, classic flicks, and more at The Nickelodeon.
Visit World-Class Museums & Historical Sites
As one of the first planned cities in America, Soda City has made its mark in American history. There are several museums and historical sites that you can discover while living in Columbia! 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 the Reconstruction Era 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 Thomas Cooper—with a free trip to McKissick Museum. Or see artifacts and other incredible displays focused on the American Revolution and Civil War at South Carolina State Museum.
Find Family-Friendly Fun
Looking for family fun in Columbia? Get up close and personal with stunning botanical exhibits and animal life from across the globe at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Stop by the arcade, mini golf course, or laser tag arena at Frankie’s Fun Park. Let the kids explore all things science with exhibits at the EdVenture Children’s Museum, the largest children’s museum in the Southeast. Give the kids a head start on their acting careers by signing them up for workshops at the Columbia Children’s Theatre. Host a puppet birthday party surrounded by sharks, dinosaurs, and other favorite creatures at Columbia Marionette Theatre. Find free kids activities in Columbia like splashing in the sprinklers at Elmwood Roy Lynch Park—or head to Finlay Park for kid-friendly fun during community festivals and neighborhood block parties.
Get Your Fill at Must-Try Restaurants
Another great way to get to know the area is by visiting some of the best restaurants in Columbia! Start your day with a Smoked Salmon Bagel, Brisket Hash, or Cinnamon Pancakes from Cafe Strudel. Crush your mid-day hunger with a Triple Decker Corned Beef Reuben, Rosemary Ham Sandwich, or Meatball Hoagie from DiPrato’s Delicatessen. Savor Southern comfort food in the form of elevated dishes like Chicken Parmigiana, Shrimp and Grits, or Braised Beef at Cola’s Restaurant. Sample a rotating menu with sustainably-farmed, house-butchered meats and farm-to-table veggies at Motor Supply Company Bistro. Try a new take on ramen with Miso Ramen, Spicy Ramen, or Shoyu Ramen at Menkoi Ramen House Gervais. Reserve a table at Saludas for Sweet & Spicy Fried Oysters, Filet Mignon, or Grilled Pork Belly.
Grab Tickets to Live Music
You don’t need a special occasion to have fun in River City! Head downtown to see big-name performers like Lil Wayne and Little Big Town at Township Auditorium. Sip cocktails while watching musical acts from all genres at The Senate—one of the most popular live music venues in Columbia. Discover up-and-coming country music stars during the “Nashville Hits The Roof” concert series at Tin Roof. Get your jazz and blues fix in a more elegant atmosphere at Chayz Lounge, a perfect place to relax with friends or enjoy an evening with a special someone. Spend your weekends at Breakers Live where there’s always a band on stage. Discover local, regional, and national Jazz and Blues bands with a Saturday-night trip to The Joint. Or head to The Venue in Downtown Columbia for dueling pianos, local musicians, karaoke, and more!
Hit Up Columbia’s Nightlife
If you’re searching for things to do on weeknights or the weekend, moving to Columbia gives you plenty of great nightlife spots! Spend the night dancing, singing karaoke, or playing trivia with friends at Art Bar. Grab a stool at Craft and Draft—one of the best bars in Columbia—or take home a custom selection from their in-house craft beer store. 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. Stop in at Goat’s for a more relaxed atmosphere and a wide menu of drinks, including signature cocktails, draught beers, wine flights, and more! In the mood to dance? Hit up Social Bar & Lounge and let loose to the music of high-energy resident DJs.
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