Living Here Guide

Columbia: Surprising — and surprisingly awesome

The best part of moving to a new city is discovering things not available in the last place you called home.

Here’s what I found surprising — and surprisingly awesome — when I moved to Columbia’s Main Street downtown, from Rock Hill.

It’s happening on Main Street. One measure of a healthy downtown is the size of the crowd pulsing through the streets.

Bring the whole family, including the dog, to the Soda City Farmer’s Market for shopping, eating, and live music in the street. The market is open every Saturday, rain or shine, and is the place for peddlers of locally grown produce, artisan’s wares, baked goods, fresh-cut flowers and much more.

The crawl continues for First Thursdays on Main, happening the first Thursday monthly. The evening is a time for businesses and restaurants to showcase what they have to offer. It also brings new art shows each month displayed at local businesses including Frame of Mind, anastasia & Friends art gallery, S&S Art Supply, and Tapp’s Art Center.

For a low-key outing, catch a flick you likely won’t catch on cable and a late-night interactive movie-going experience at The Nickelodeon on Main Street.

Burlesque dancing and puppet slams. If you’re looking for culture, you can count on the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, Columbia Museum of Art, and lots of community theaters and ballet companies to deliver.

But the city also offers something for culture connoisseurs with more experimental tastes. From a Valentine’s Day burlesque show, Puppet Slams for adults, to the strange quadraphonics of Conundrum, an inconspicuous music hall in West Columbia, a vibrant underground art scene delivers fresh entertainment for those looking to try something new.

So long, landlocked blues. For the ambitious biped, Columbia has a lot to offer: a seemingly perpetual line-up of foot races, a self-guided historic tour of the monuments on the S.C. State House grounds, and college campuses that provide for nice strolls.

But if you’re feeling landlocked, the Congaree River and its tributaries provide a perfect way to get closer to the water. Take a picnic lunch and your fishing tackle down to the Columbia Canal. Find the path that leads to the lower river bank and rocks and spend a day — or even your lunch hour — a toe’s reach away from the water.