Charleston is one of the darlings of the South with stately homes and harbor views. It’s consistently voted a top tourist destination and romantic get-a-way. Poor Columbia stands in its sister’s shadow, yet there are some things Columbia does better.
Columbia is more Affordable
Chic is rarely cheap. Guests staying at those quaint harborside B&Bs of Charleston are probably paying almost double of what the night will cost you in Columbia. Columbia hotels can be found throughout the city, including the downtown historic district.
Food is also less expensive. The University of South Carolina’s presence means many affordable restaurants, which serve large portions. Dine on traditional dishes like great barbecue and shrimp and grits for less than an appetizer costs in Charleston.
Columbia has a Youthful Energy
While Columbia has its history, it’s also undergone some explosive development recently. Five Points Association is a multi-generational neighborhood filled with eclectic boutiques, hotels, casual bistros, and exciting nightlife. Columbia also has a colorful, and affordable arts scene, thanks to USC.
More Direct Flights into Columbia
The Columbia Metropolitan Airport is serviced by most major airlines and offers direct service to/from 24 US cities, with 40 non-stop flights daily, plus it’s less than an hour flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, a hub for US Airways. In a little over an hour, guests can touchdown in Atlanta, Delta Airlines’ hub and the busiest airport in the United States.
Visit the World Beer Festival
The events calendar in Columbia kicks off in January with one of the premier beer events in the country. Held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, visitors from across the country come to sample 150+ beers including IPAs, pale ales, ciders, and stouts. There’s also a special South Carolina section featuring Palmetto State brewers and their crafts.
Columbia is Easier to Access
Columbia is one of only ten cities in the US that has three major interstates running through it – 1-20, 1-26, 1-77. 1-95 and 1-85 are within 90 miles.
State’s Only National Park
The Congaree National Park is South Carolina’s only National Park. There are several Historic Sites, National Monument, and Military Parks throughout the state. A day spent exploring some of the largest trees in this part of the country is worthwhile. However, the best way to see the park is in a canoe.
Columbia is the capital of the State of South Carolina. For travelers who want a little political intrigue and lively debate, it’s not in Charleston,at least not during this century… or the last. Don’t miss a visit to the stunning South Carolina State House. It’s one of the country’s most ornate and survived a union attack during the Civil War. A close look at its exterior reveals pockmarks from cannon fire.
While I found Charleston just as delightful as the next visitor, Columbia has an understated appeal to it. It feels very much like the underdog in the rivalry of the cities, and everyone loves an underdog.
Christina R. Green is a freelance travel writer originally from the East Coast and now living on the sunny Gulf coast of Florida. She loves kitschy tourist attractions and literary haunts. If she could figure out a way to drive something the size of an RV, she’d take off and write from the road.