Stroll: Set up on Main Street every Saturday, rain or shine, Soda City Market is Columbia’s downtown farmers market. Local and statewide vendors sell their cuisine, produce, and handmade goods. Families, students, young professionals and more flock to the market each weekend and many bring their dogs as well. Soda City Market (on Facebook, search for “Soda City”) also opened a brick-and-mortar store called Nest that’s inside the Columbia Marriott. Nest sells some of the same goods from regular Soda City vendors like Wood Expressions cake stands, Indah Coffee Company coffee, and Nana by Sally clutches. It’s open seven days a week for those who can’t stroll Soda City Market on Saturdays.
Shop: One of Columbia’s shopping, restaurant, and nightlife districts near the University of South Carolina campus, Five Points (www.fivepointscolumbia.com) is home to a number of locally-owned shops and is currently celebrating its centennial. The Gourmet Shop (www.thegourmetshop.net) boasts an incomparable selection of cheese, wine, bread, kitchen items and more. Bohemian (www.shop-bohemian.com), Revente (www.shoprevente.com), and Sid & Nancy (www.shopsidnancy.com) feature eclectic clothing and more.
Home to some of Columbia’s most interesting shopping institutions, Devine Street (www.devinestreetcolumbiasc.com) is a quaint corridor for a leisurely stroll. LaRoque (www.shoplaroque.com) keeps Southern belles looking stylish, while Brittons (www.brittonsofcolumbia.com) is the name on every dapper man’s lips. Columbia’s premier craft beer store, Craft and Draft (www.craftanddraftbeer.com) possesses an on-site consumption license so consumers can enjoy a pint and fill up a growler at the bar, or pull a bottle right off the shelf and pop it open.
Hike: The only national park in South Carolina, Congaree National Park (www.nps.gov/cong) is free to the public and has hiking trails that are open 24/7. Marvel at some of the tallest trees in Eastern North America, as well as the largest intact tract of old-growth, bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the nation. Waters from the Congaree River and Cedar Creek sweep through the park’s floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish the ecosystem and support the growth of state and national “champion” trees.
Lexington County’s Peachtree Rock Preserve (search for it at www.nature.org) features 460 acres of diverse ecosystems that make for a popular hiking destination for visitors seeking to observe exotic plant life and animals.
Bike: One of only 16 cross-state bike trails in the U.S., the Palmetto Trail (http://bit.ly/1MD9tHM) project is about two-thirds complete, with more than 350 miles of trail already open to the public. It is the state’s largest bicycle and pedestrian trail system and will run from the mountains to the ocean once complete. The heart of the trail cuts through Columbia, utilizing city sidewalks to see the State House, the University of South Carolina, historic Main Street and renowned Riverfront Park on the Broad River. It was the first urban section of the trail to open.
Harbison State Forest (www.friendsofhsf.org) encompasses more than 2,000 acres just nine miles from downtown Columbia, making it one of the largest public greenspaces inside city limits in the eastern U.S. The park is a big attraction for cyclists, with 15-plus miles of trails that range from moderately easy to difficult. Lynn Seldon
West Columbia’s Terra (www.terrasc.com) is the long-time go-to spot for farm-to-table food in Columbia. Chef Mike Davis creates a seasonally-rotating menu to offer the freshest local ingredients around. Nearby, Café Strudel (www.cafestrudel.com) is known for its eclectic menu and vibe. The Southern Belly BBQ (www.southernbellybbq.com) features pulled pork sandwiches and a choice of seven sauces that represent the various regions of the South.
Bourbon (www.bourboncolumbia.com) is home to 150-plus whiskies and Cajun-Creole cuisine. River Rat Brewery (www.riverratbrewery.com) features an indoor tasting room and an outdoor space for games and drinks. Head barman Josh Streetman at renowned Motor Supply Co. Bistro (www.motorsupplycobistro.com) is nothing short of a mastermind, thanks to a constant rotation of crafty beverages made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.