Columbia, South Carolina for the Weekend

Feb 21st, 2008, 04:32 AM
  #1  
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Columbia, South Carolina for the Weekend

Yesterday we purchased one of those last minute weekend air tickets - for Columbia, South Carolina (we live in DC).

In the last year or so I have been looking at possible places to move to when I retire, probably in about 4 years. We would like somewhere urban, not cold, and Columbia has been a place I have read about with some interest. Therefore, though the trip is mostly for sightseeing, I will have half an eye out for how "liveable" the downtown is.

Our trip will be very short - we arrive in Columbia late in the morning on Saturday, and will leave very early on Monday. We will not be renting a car. We are staying at the Mariott downtown, and don't mind walking a fair amount - two or three miles in any direction and back is fine.

Does anyone have suggestion on places to visit? - both for sightseeing and to get a general feel for the city. In my reading, the Vista area seems worthwhile to check out, also 5 points, though I am not sure how far that is from downtown. We may check out a museum or two - the South Carolina state museum/a museum at the university. Any other ideas/comments? Any suggestions for moderately priced downtown restaurants?

Also, does anyone have comments on the general liveability of downtown Columbia?
Howie234 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2008, 04:59 AM
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The State Museum is definitely worth a visit. The Vista is full of restaurants - you should not have any trouble finding someplace to eat. The campus of USC will be within walking distance - the Horsehoe is the older picturesque part with a green area surrounded by dorms, admin houses, the President's home, etc. 5 Points is boutique-type shops and bars...we have eaten at Yesterday's there - it was good. If the Capitol is open on the weekends, it is worth a look. I'm not sure how much is really within walking distance of the Marriott, as I really can't place it - but other than gov't offices and campus, I'm not sure what else you will really find. If you decide to rent a car or take a cab, the zoo and/or Botanical Gardens are a nice several hours.
ausc59 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2008, 06:24 AM
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There are some nice lake areas to live around Columbia. If I were going to possibly live there these would be the areas I would check out.
maryanne1 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2008, 06:25 AM
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I'm not sure what your requirements may be but Columbia may fail to meet your expectations. There are many 'college towns' that would better suit your needs. I'll start w/Charlotte (since I live there) & would add (assuming you are looking East Coast) Mobile (although Mobile may be too small) & Charleston.
SAnParis is offline  
Feb 21st, 2008, 10:03 AM
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For retirement areas, you might want to check out the Lake Murray area (Ballentine, Chapin) - ~ 25-30 minutes from downtown (Northwest) on I-26 West or Blythewood (Northeast - off I-77 going toward Charlotte.
SAnParis mentioned Charlotte & I'll piggyback on that recommendation that the Dillworth area is lovely there; also we have friends that live in Fort Mill, SC which is a nice area very close to Charlotte.
mouseRD is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 03:04 AM
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Thanks for your suggestion so far!! The State Museum sounds good.

As far as areas to check out to live, I am interested in living a downtown (wherever that may turn out to be), not a drive of xx minutes away.

As for the other cities mentioned, I like Charleston a lot, but downtown living is quite pricey, even compared to DC. I spent a weekend in Charlotte a few years ago, and was not impressed with the downtown and immediate surrounding areas, as far as day-to-day living was concerned.
Howie234 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 06:00 AM
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Have you considered Birmingham AL as a retirement choice? There is UAB in downtown and the SouthSide area around Highland Ave, etc I like would be residential....several nationally ranked restaurants in the area, etc.
ausc59 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 06:04 AM
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Drive up to Greenville and check it out while you are there. It sounds like you would like it.

Check out Lake Murray for sure.

"Livable downtown" is not Columbia IMO. Greenville maybe. You may even want to consider Hendersonville or Asheville NC.
starrs is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 06:04 AM
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Downtown Asheville is VERY livable.
starrs is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 09:17 AM
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Thanks again for the additional responses. I have a fair number of places I'd like to visit and check out before I retire. These include Asheville, Greenville, Savannah, Fort Worth, West Palm Beach, and Orlando.

Places that I have been to that are possibilities (or that were before I visited) include San Luis Obispo, Austin, San Antonio, Miami, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, and Wilmington NC.
Howie234 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 11:48 AM
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Living in uptown Charlotte is more and more a possibility--great buildings being built and very reasonable.
Greenville SC is a lovely town. SanAntonio? Which "downtown' do you want to live in!
Southern Pines, Pinehurst, WinstonSalem, Wilmington, Davidson--the beat goes on!!
Gretchen is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 12:01 PM
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I think starrs is right on - Columbia's "downtown" will leave you lacking. I'm not sure I'd want to be walking around downtown at night if I didn't know where I was going either. I couldn't imagine visiting Columbia without a car.

I've too heard great things about Greenville and it's revived downtown area.

Also love Asheville.
Brian_in_Charlotte is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 12:07 PM
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Howie,

If you are interested in Orlando I can tell you that you can get a real bargain on downtown condos. They started building a dozen or so high rise condos back before the real estate bust and now are trying to sell them. Check out www.solaireattheplaza.com for close out auction condos that were getting $450,000 are now starting at $250,000.
gmoney is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 02:46 PM
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Honestly, if you didn't like Charlotte's downtown, you ain't gonna like Columbia's.
DancingBearMD is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 02:54 PM
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Depending on what else you have planned for the weekend, I'd drive up to Asheville this weekend. Stop at Greenville on the way up or back. Check out Hendersonville. I'm not a "condo" person, but I would LOVE to live in a loft in downtown Asheville.

Google it, but it's not a bad drive at all.
starrs is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 11:03 PM
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My sister works in downtown Columbia, and I have been there often. I would not like to live there in the summer, it's tooooooooooo hot. Oppressively so, at times.

That said, there are many restaurants and a large Publix grocery store downtown, as well as all the University has to offer. The Capitol building and grounds are nice to visit.

I agree with others that Asheville would be very livable, and probably Greenville. I'd skip Columbia on the basis of climate.
xrae is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 03:32 PM
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Nearly all the places that others have mentioned are within an easy walking distance of the Marriott. (OK the state museum is a stretch, but I've done it.) Are you in the Marriott or Courtyard? The Courtyard has a free local shuttle, but the hotel is noisy. Eat at California Dreaming. It is a refurbished railroad depot with a good grill.
There is a long river walk along a whitewater river near the state museum.
Ten years ago, I wouldn't have considered vacationing in Cola, but it has come along way.
As for a livable downtown, there are expensive condos near the park and some gentrified areas near the university, but Cola is a commuter city.
palmettoprincess is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:22 PM
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howie,

I live in columbia and it' a great city other the the worst drivers in the world, and the summers are really hot. The beach and mountains are a only a 1 and 1/2 away so that's a plus.

The Marriot is downtown, there isn't alot to see and do downtown. Walking to the vista is a trek, I would take a cab. You have a great restaurant across the street from the hotel "Hampton Street Vineyards" give it a try. For brunch on Sunday go to Moter Supply company in the vista.

For sightseeing I would go to the museum and the zoo. You should checkout a local magizine called freetimes "freetimes.com" it will give you alot of info on the city.

Five points and the vista are worth a visit.

averylane is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:33 PM
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Howie: I live in the Columbia area and I would not be walking around downtown Columbia after dark. It is nice during the day but can be rather dangerous at night.

This is a commuter city and I would not try to spend a weekend here without a car. The Vista area is near downtown but it is not what I would call downtown proper. Many very nice restaurants and good shopping in that area. As for Five Points, that is where the college crowd hangs out while those 30 and up prefer the Vista. If you want to relive your college days and go on a drinking binge then Five Points would fit the bill.

River Walk is a long hiking trail that has been developed in recent years near the rivier. It is within walking distance of the Vista and is a very nice way to spend the day. There are also many new condos being built along the River Walk that are quite nice. If I were going to retire in Columbia I would look at those condos. You would be within walking distance of the Vista and Riverwalk and they appear to be very nice.

I can't think of a lot for you to do that is within walking distance of the Marriott as nearly everything is quite a long walk and, since you will be here over the weekend, many places in downtown are closed. I would reconsider and rent a car for the weekend unless you want to spend most of your weekend at the Marriott.

Good luck to you.
jdraper is offline  
Feb 25th, 2008, 09:27 AM
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Now that the weekend has come and gone, here is my trip report.

First, I'd like to thank everyone who responded. I didn't think a post about Columbia would get so many responses so quickly.

The weekend itself was very nice. We landed in Columbia about 10:30 AM on Saturday and were at the Marriott by 11 or so. The weather was great - about 70 and bright blue skies. We went to the art museum, just across the street, where there is currently a very good temproary exhibit of Egyptian art. Then we waled over to the state cap. bldg. and walked around inside for a bit. Then it was a walk down Gervais Street to the Vista neighborhood. A couple of posters thought that was too far to walk - not at all. We stopped in a few stores, then went into the convention center for a quick look at the book fair going on this weekend. After that, we walked to the History Museum, which we also like a lot.

We got back to the hotel about 5 PM for a dip in the hotel's pool. We werer kind of beat by then, so wnet across the street for dinner at the Hampton Street Vineyard, which a poster and somone in Columia highly recommended. It turned out to be a very good meal.

Sunday was overcast most of the day and much cooler - maybe about 50. It dod get sunny about 4 PM and a bit warmer. We left the hotel for breakfast about 7 AM and ate at a local chain - Lizard's Thicket. We then walked past the Governor's Mansion and onto the campus of South Carolina - very quiet on a Sunday morning around 10 AM. We then walked over to the 5 Points area - not a bad area with some bars/stores, and settled into the Strabucks there to read the Sunday paper fora a bout 90 minutes. From there we walked back downtown and toured two antebellum houses. For each house, there was a guided tour of about 50 minutes. We were the only two people on both tours, so it really felt like a "special" tour - for only $5 per person per house. After that we had an early dinner back in the Vista neighborhood at the Blue Marlin. Pretty good food. We were in the hotel by 5 PM or so, and just relaxed...watched the Oscars.

This morning, we ate an early (3 AM) breakfast at IHOP, then went to the airport for our 6:20 AM flight to DC. I was at my desk by 8:15 this morning.

Overall, the particular sites were good, and we enjoyed walking around to get the feel of the place.

As far a downtown "liveability" wahat was mostly lacking were people. The sidewalks, even in strollable areas (Vista) were basically empty. This was no shock to us, so it was fine.

Housing prices were great. We went to one open house just across the street from our hotel. A 2 bedroom condo that would be maybe $600,000 in DC was $325,000.
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