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Here are the five best things to happen in Columbia in 2016

Gambit, a harbor seal, is part of the Sea Lion Landing attraction at Riverbanks Zoo.
Gambit, a harbor seal, is part of the Sea Lion Landing attraction at Riverbanks Zoo.

No year is perfect, but there was a lot of fun to be had, seen and heard in Columbia in 2016.

Here are a few of the city’s memorable wins.

Three brothers to open new wine bar in location downtown once occupied by a saloon.


5. More to love on Main

Main Street continues to evolve with more dining options than ever, including two bakeries, Blue Flour and Ally and Eloise; Lula Drake, a wine saloon with a menu of offbeat by-the-glass options in a savvy space; and Public House, which opened in August. The restaurant’s Wednesday Night Jazz Series has become an instant classic, thanks in part to trumpeter Mark Rapp, whose passion and energy are infectious.

Sights and sounds from the Columbia Fireflies' inaugural game in the the new Spirit Communications Park Thursday. The fans filled the seats to watch their new team play the Greenville Drive.


4. Play ball!

The Columbia Fireflies baseball team lit up Spirit Communications Park in its inaugural season with 1,106 hits, 118 doubles, 81 home runs, 575 strikeouts and 27 fireworks shows. “Our first season of Columbia Fireflies baseball was wildly successful on many fronts,” said team president John Katz. “We are forever grateful for the way that Columbia and the entire Midlands region has embraced us.”

Pearl Jam performs in an April concert at Colonial Life Arena. Tracy Glantz tglantz@thestate.com

3. On stage

Columbia welcomed more than a dozen national acts to the region in 2016, including Pearl Jam, Maroon 5, Widespread Panic, Bob Dylan, Jason Isbell, Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, Moody Blues, Flavor Flav and Jackson Browne. “Shows that are taking a chance on Columbia are being rewarded with large and enthusiastic crowds,” said Andrew Horne, assistant general manager of The Township. “2017 looks even better. We have a variety of big shows on sale including (comedian Jerry) Seinfeld, ZZ Top, Chicago, and Earth, Wind & Fire.”

Sea lions and harbor seals made a return to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden as zoo members got a special look at the new Sea Lion Landing, Monday, May 16, 2016. The new habitat is home to four male sea lions and a male harbor seal.


2. Sea lions at Riverbanks Zoo

With the opening of Sea Lion Landing, California sea lions and harbor seals have returned to Columbia after a seven-year absence. A giant 35-foot-long panoramic window gives kids a place for nose-to-nose encounters. The amphitheater and upper-deck seating are the places to be to watch the twice-daily feeding shows, held at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Shelley Smith, coach of the No. 2 Gamecocks women's soccer team reflects on the season and looks ahead to a showdown with No. 17 Florida.

1. USC women’s sports

The University of South Carolina women’s soccer team rewrote the record book, winning the SEC Tournament and entering the NCAA Tournament as the top seed. An end-of-season No. 5 national ranking was the best finish in school history. “We are all extremely proud of the accomplishments of this team and this coaching staff,” said Judy Van Horn, executive associate athletics director. In basketball, the women’s team won the SEC title for the second year in a row and joined softball, tennis and golf teams with post-season play.