College Towns of the South: Columbia, South Carolina

Home of the South Carolina Gamecocks
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The state capital and home to the University of South Carolina, Columbia encapsulates classic Southern charm and the vigor of USC students. And the city’s evolving landscape still manages to cling to its historical roots.

The Inn at Claussen’s is a local landmark, a 1928 bakery-turned-inn that still displays much of the building’s original architecture. Today, its historic grandeur and top-notch service provide a comfortable oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Columbia’s popular dining and shopping district, Five Points.

Begin the day at nearby Drip, one of the city’s newest coffee shops. Handcrafted cups of coffee, classic and custom espresso-based beverages, and the aroma of freshly baked scones lure customers inside. The European-inspired coffee house also serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well as beer and wine, throughout the day.

Before venturing beyond Five Points, stop in at Papa Jazz Record Shoppe. As its name suggests, jazz is the specialty at this decades-old store, but music lovers can also count on a great selection of rare recordings, from classic rock and reggae to R&B, funk, and punk, in a range of formats.

Motor Supply Co. Bistro
Motor Supply Co. Bistro

Jonathan Sharpe

Motor Supply Co. Bistro specializes in farm-to-table cooking and features a revolving daily menu from the restaurant’s new chef, Wesley Fulmer, who recently returned to the Midlands of South Carolina after spending half a decade under the tutelage of celebrity chefs John Besh and Susanna Foo. Dishes borrow from a range of influences—American, Asian, French, and Italian—and are served in an equally original setting: a beautifully preserved engine-supply building dating from the late nineteenth century.

No visit to Columbia would be complete without an afternoon spent exploring Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. The unique attraction combines lush botanical gardens with habitats for more than 2,000 animals representing 350 species from around the world.


“A tie: Blue Marlin (fresh seafood) and Hampton Street Vineyard (good wine list).” —Harris Pastides, university president

“Go out to the Riverwalk. Not only is it a beautiful place to run, but an awesome hangout and picnic spot. Plus, you can rent a canoe or float down the river.”—Lindsay Richardson, student body president, class of 2015

“Visit the State House, where you can see the bronze stars that mark where Sherman’s cannonballs hit, and find a large statue of Senator Strom Thurmond walking the grounds.”—Steve Monnier, class of 2009