Can’t make it to the big game? Don’t sweat. No matter who or what you cheer for, gather up your team mates for your own scrimmage at some of Columbia’s best meet-up spots.
What better place to kick off game day than Sesquicentennial State Park? Burn off some energy tossing around a football on 1,400 acres of woodland. Affectionately referred to by locals as “Sesqui,” this forested park offers twelve miles of hiking and biking trails. And if scrimmaging in the sun gets you hot under the collar, you can always cool off in this green getaway’s thirty acre lake. Not only is this immersive environment just minutes away from downtown Columbia, admission is only $5.
Where to find it: 9564 Two Notch Road. Open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
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Following your romp in the park, head to the cozy outpost La Isla Bonita Restaurante. Like any good tailgate, this Puerto Rican outpost is off Route 77 in a concrete parking lot. But don’t let its off-the-beaten path location deter you, its down-to-earth atmosphere and authentic cuisine will have you coming back time and time again. While it may not be your traditional “game day meal,” the pork, rice and fried plantains platter is a culinary touchdown.
Where to find it: 1701 Percival Road. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Craving something sweet after filling up on all that salty fried goodness? Drive down the road and around the corner to Odalys Bakery Panaderia. The store’s white wooden bakery cases are always laden with trays of golden brown loafs and bakery confections. These self-service cabinets also give customers the ability to pick and choose their own baked assortment. Everything costs less than $2 so you can pretty much try everything without breaking the bank. Score!
Where to find it: 1945 Decker Blvd. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Whether you are a Carolina fan, Clemson alumni, or all-around sports fanatic, Bakers Sports Pub and Grill is the watering hole for everyone. Located off Decker Boulevard, this bar is covered in wall-to-wall sports pendants. Drink at the bar for a front-row seat to televised football, or claim some outdoor seating for you and your friends to start your own table game. As one reviewer said, “it’s a sports bar that caters to locals.” At Bakers, regardless of your sport’s affiliation, everyone’s on the same team.
Where to find it: 7167 Two Notch Road. Open 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Tuesday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday-Sunday.