For the fourth consecutive year, Columbia was shot through the heart — online. According to Amazon.com, the capital city gives love a good name.
Last week, the website released its annual list of the nation’s most romantic cities and Columbia was No. 9, one place ahead of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a spot behind Murfreesboro, Tenn. Knoxville, Tenn., was No. 1.
The ranking was determined by the number of romance novels, relationship books, rom-com movies, love songs and — don’t blush — sex toys residents purchased on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents. (Something must be brewing in Knoxville, because it’s the second straight year that city has been at the top of the list.)
It should be expected that a city with such a romantic pedigree as Columbia’s would blossom on Valentine’s Day. But where does one go to share a romantic moment?
There are walks by the river, a reservation at one of the local fine dining restaurants or a stroll through Guignard Park in Cayce to carve initials into the park’s “Love Tree.”
The State asked people to share their thoughts on the most romantic places in Columbia. Here are the 10 best answers we received:
“The Horseshoe, because it’s gorgeous to take a walk with a loved one at night,” said Alexis Stratton, co-director of “The Vagina Monologues,” which runs at 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the USC Law School.
“I find it romantic in the spring in that little hiding place behind the South Caroliniana Library,” said Debi Schadel, half of Flock and Rally, the public relations and event-planning company. The library is at the intersection of Sumter and College streets on USC’s Horseshoe. “There’s a lush green spot there with a fountain. I know, cheesy.”
Schadel’s business partner, Tracie Broom, provided a list of places “for getting romantic with your honey or getting bro-mantic with your bestie.” She included the bar at Motor Supply Company; Cayce Riverwalk; a booth at Rosso Trattoria Italia; the patio at Terra; the bar at Cellar on Greene; the State House grounds; the bar at Baan Sawan; a movie at the Nickelodeon Theatre and walking on Main Street after; mussels at the bar at 116 State; browsing at the Old Mill Antique Mall; and eating at the sushi bar at Inakaya Japanese Restaurant before singing karaoke love songs in a private room at Tsubaki Restaurant Lounge. The most intriguing places on her list, though, were the old state hospital grounds (“creepy, but in a beautiful, nostalgic way”) and Elmwood Cemetery (“again creepy, but in an awesome way”).
Mayor Steve Benjamin prefers a picturesque view that invokes nostalgia. “Simply standing there with my wife watching as the Broad and Saluda rivers join together, their waters flowing into one another forming the Congaree, seems to wash away all the fuss and frenzy of our modern lives,” he said. “All of a sudden I’m 24 years old again, meeting for the first time, and I’m reminded of how much we really love each other and how happy we are together.”
How about the campus of another school in the city, like Columbia International University? “If you drive through... toward the back of the campus and the president’s house, there is a little park in front of it with a vast panoramic view of the Broad River. Great for a picnic,” said Willson Powell, the events coordinator at Nelson Mullins who also offered locales from St. Matthews to Sumter.
Local musicians are in especially high demand this week and trumpeter Mark Rapp is one of the busiest. He’ll be playing in the What’s Love house band tonight at 701 Whaley, and he’ll be at Pearlz Oyster Bar Friday and Saturday night. His choice: Saluda’s, the Five Points restaurant with a balcony that overlooks Five Points. “I recently had an amazing dinner date at Saluda’s,” said Rapp, who will debut what he calls the Psycho Jazz Contingency at 9 p.m. Saturday. “We enjoyed the open, loft-like room with enough space between fellow diners that your privacy was maintained. The wait staff was courteous and attentive, but not all over you. With all that being said, what made this evening and this dinner so romantic was the awesome, nearly orgasmic flavors of the food.”
“Up on the Roof ,” the 1962 hit about rooftop escapism by The Drifters, is applicable 50 years later in Columbia. “Personally, I love sitting in a car on the rooftop of the convention center parking garage looking at the Adluh building during a sunset,” Merritt McHaffie, executive director of the Five Points Association, said.
Apparently, garage rooftops are popular in the city. “Don’t underestimate the power of a rooftop view. For all those ballers on budgets, grabbing a blanket, preparing a picnic and taking your honey bunch up to a vacant parking garage roof is very unique and sure to win some major cool points,” said Kim Jamieson, the director of communications for the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism. “For the hipster lovers out there, this is also a great location for skateboarding or longboarding with the one you love.”
Columbia can impress big-city transplants. “While my husband and I were dating and I was thinking of moving from New York to Columbia, our first date in this town included a film at the Nick and a trip to the Columbia Museum of Art to see the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit,” said Katie Alice Walker, who owns an eponymous communications firm. “Those spots helped me fall in love with my city.”
For some, romance is where you choose to find it. “When I did have a boyfriend, we’d get a six-pack or a bottle of wine and go to Owens Field and watch the planes take off,” said Courtney Reeve Phillips, of Sid and Nancy, the Five Points retail shop celebrating its sixth birthday with a sale from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.