Sam Webber and Deborah Smith went on a "happy hour" history tour of the Vista to find out more about the town where they're putting down new roots.
Along the way, they picked up the name of a good real estate agent, found out which neighborhoods to avoid when house-hunting and heard about some restaurants and art galleries they'll want to check out.
"We had a really good group of people," Webber said.
This fall, the Historic Columbia Foundation added Friday evening walking tours of the arts and restaurant district, allowing people to admire structures that date to 1850.
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Tonight's 90-minute tour is the last of the season, though the series will resume in March, director of programs Sarah Blackwell said.
The historic district is "a good area to showcase how Columbia has embraced preservation," she said, by reusing warehouses and storefronts as modern-day shops and galleries, bars and restaurants.
"It started off as an industrial area. It moved into a residential area and a not-so-savory area, and then in the last 20 years it has really blossomed," Blackwell said.
"And now it's an entertainment area. It's a place to be - and see."
On a recent Friday evening, participants gathered between 5 p.m. (if they wanted a drink after work) and 5:30 p.m. (if they didn't) for a five-block tour up Gervais Street.
The group included a couple of longtime residents, a group of friends who belong to the same book club, history buffs and young professionals looking to meet new people.
All were hometown tourists.
Smith, 47, became the center of attention after she mentioned she had just moved here from California.
She got the impression "people here are just that way," she said - friendly, outgoing, willing to offer advice.
"You guys have so much history here," her partner, Webber, said as the group paused beside a building where women brought comfort to injured soldiers during the Civil War.
"California is just a new state. Fifty years for a building, they tear it down, want a new building."
For some, the walking tour was all about group dynamics.
"One of the draws was the social aspect," said 34-year-old Katherine Jumper. "Just to go out. Meet new people."
Jumper said she would like to know more about architecture in a town where much has been destroyed.
"I enjoy history in general, and I'm taking more notice as I get older," she said. "I think it's becoming one of my 'things.'"
At three points along the way - Carolina Wings, Jillian's and Z Pizza - participants had an opportunity to pause, buy a drink and visit.
Outside, the history lesson, provided by Brian Cuthrell, an archivist at South Caroliniana Library, could be difficult to discern over the din of traffic.
At one stop, a musician played on a nearby patio as dusk fell and neon signs flickered on, a counterpoint to the enduring brick and tales of the past.