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Graduates: What’s on your Columbia bucket list before you leave town with a degree?

kkfoster@thestate.com

This weekend, thousands of students attending local colleges will throw their graduation caps in the air and enter the real world. So, what should they do in their (possible) last days in the Capital City?

“We all have that small bucket list of things we want to do before we end up leaving Columbia,” said Thom Bell, who is graduating from USC with a degree in public relations. “I think it’s important we try to complete those bucket list items so we don’t have any regrets once we’re gone and you won’t be able to get back to the city for a while.”

Not sure what to put on your bucket list? Here are some favorites, from Columbia’s graduates themselves.

Dine and Drink

USC students spend four years looking at the Top of Carolina restaurant perched atop Capstone House.

“I’ve always passed it and said I wanted to eat there but I’ve never gotten around to it,” said Chris Rosa, who is graduating from USC with a degree in public relations.

The 18th floor circular restaurant slowly revolves to show a panorama of the city while diners enjoy food much better than even the finest Russell House Chicken Finger Wednesday.

The popular restaurant only serves two meals each week: Friday and Sunday brunch. Reservations are a must, and the form can be found at sc.edu/dining.

With a plethora of unique and tasty restaurant options in downtown Columbia, graduation is a prime opportunity to explore eateries that have been on your to-do list.

“There’s all these restaurants in Columbia I haven’t eaten at,” said Donnie Iorio, a supply chain logistics and marketing graduate at USC. “I made a Yelp list last week, and I’m trying to hit them all.”

BELOW: Graduating students share their farewell bucket lists

Instead of fighting the rush of graduation night, try to grab dinner on Thursday or lunch on Friday, before ceremonies take place, or wait until Monday, when graduation and Mother’s Day festivities have ended. On many students’ culinary bucket lists are Vista favorite Motor Supply Company, Main Street’s Oak Table and Saluda’s in the heart of Five Points.

Soon-to-be graduates may also want to trade in their Natural Light for unique craft beers brewed right in Columbia. Conquest Brewing, River Rat Brewery and Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company are all a stone’s throw from Williams-Brice Stadium – and the tailgate lots where students have spent many a Saturday swilling less palatable brews. Want to hit all three in one night? Hop aboard the Columbia Brew Bus for just $50 and get up to 16 ounces of each brewery’s beer, plus transportation and snacks.

See the Sights

Between rushing to class, studying in the library and sleeping off hangovers, many students may not have seen much of the Capital City besides their routes on campus. Graduating seniors still have time to explore Columbia’s urban and natural settings.

The recently revitalized Main Street has a host of attractions, big and small. Chris Daughtry, who will graduate from Benedict College with a degree in music, wants to check out the Columbia Museum of Art, which is showing an exhibit of Charles Courtney Curran’s impressionist paintings until May 17. The museum also offers a student rate of $5, so seniors still have time to save a few dollars on their visit.

Drip, a local favorite coffee shop, has locations on Main Street and in Five Points. First-timers can experience the unique drip coffee brewing method or get adventurous with a honey habanero latte, which packs heat whether hot or iced.

“One of my favorite things to do is just grab a coffee from Drip ... and take a walk around the city,” Bell said.

If you want to explore the Midlands’ natural side, take a walk along the Congaree River. Riverfront Park in Columbia is a popular location for runs and dog walks, while West Columbia’s Riverwalk Amphitheatre hosts the free Rhythm on the River concert series every Saturday – perfect for those graduating May 8 or early May 9.

Congaree National Park, about 30 minutes from downtown Columbia, lets you get right in with nature. The park offers canoe rentals, hiking trails and a handy mosquito meter near the entrance to help you gauge just how much bug repellent you’ll need.

The Little Things

The Horseshoe is a special place for many USC students. On a walk down the oldest part of campus on a warm spring day, you’ll see girls tanning, friends throwing Frisbees and maybe even hear a drum circle in process. Rosa, a Lexington native who will move to New York after graduation, recommends taking some time for yourself in the center of campus.

“Grab a book that you really love, it doesn’t even have to be a good book, just a really fun, easy read, and sit on the Horseshoe and read the whole thing from start to finish,” Rosa said. “I did that one time freshman year and it was the best thing I could have ever done. It was so relaxing, so tranquil, and we live in a beautiful city with an awesome campus.”

Iorio said students should take advantage of a popular no-frills eatery across the street from the Horseshoe before taking a stroll.

“Something you have to do before you graduate, whether you’ve never done it before or you’ve done it a million times before, is get a Beezer’s sandwich after midnight because we all know they taste better closer to three in the morning,” Iorio said. “And then then walk along the Horseshoe eating that Beezer’s sandwich.”

Of course, there is one thing every student dreams of: a photo with USC’s adored mascot, said Tayler Thress, a hospitality graduate.

“I need to get a picture with Cocky,” Thress said.

Amanda C. Coyne

What else should be on the graduates’ Columbia bucket list?

Share your thoughts on what students should do in the Midlands before they graduate? Comment below or email statefeatures@thestate.com

College graduations

USC: May 8-9

Benedict College: May 9

Columbia College: May 9

Columbia International University: May 16

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