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Annual Manual 2021: Attractions

Riverbanks Zoo flamingos and kids

John A. Carlos II / Special to The Free Times

Downtown / USC / South Main

Busted Plug Plaza

1400 Block of Taylor St. There have, for years, been whispers about moving artist Blue Sky’s iconic sculpture. And yet, there it stands, the world’s largest fire hydrant, right in the same place it has for the last two decades. Don’t stand in the middle of Taylor Street to take a picture, though; that’s pretty dangerous.

Columbia Museum of Art

Main and Hampton streets, Exhibitions! Concerts! Beer! The traveling exhibitions at South Carolina’s leading art museum span the full range of art history, while its permanent collection emphasizes European fine and decorative arts. There are also a ton of other events happening here: lectures, films, chamber and jazz music series, the Arts & Draughts series and more.

ColumbiaSC63 Walking Tour Columbia has a rich civil rights history that includes three major court cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and established precedents for the movement. Self-guided tour runs along Main Street, starting at Main and Gervais streets and continuing north toward Elmwood Avenue. Wayside signs tell the city’s civil rights story.

Elmwood Cemetery

501 Elmwood Ave. Established in 1854, Elmwood Cemetery covers 168 acres and includes an area dedicated to Confederate soldiers. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Finlay Park

930 Laurel St., 803-545-3100. As of this writing, the park’s iconic spiral fountain is still out of order, as it has been for more than three years. But the city is considering an $18 million overhaul to the park. Hosts occasional concerts and festivals. Located behind the Assembly Street post office.

Governor’s Mansion

800 Richland St., Built in 1855 as a residence for officers of the Arsenal Military Academy, the building was spared by Gen. Sherman’s troops at the end of the Civil War and it became the official Governor’s Mansion in 1868.

Hampton-Preston Mansion

1615 Blanding St., Built in 1818, the Hampton-Preston Mansion was owned by various prominent Columbia families. Exhibit details their lives — and the lives of the people they enslaved — as well as the mansion’s later years.

Mann-Simons Cottage

1403 Richland St., One of only a few houses in South Carolina owned by free black people in antebellum days, now preserved as a historic house museum. Celia Mann and her descendants owned the house from the mid-19th century until 1970. The house serves as the focal point for the annual Jubilee Festival.

McKissick Museum

816 Bull Street, 803-777-7251. Offers exhibits relating to the cultural, political and natural history of South Carolina and the southeastern United States.

Modjeska Monteith Simkins House

2025 Marion St., Built between 1890 and 1895, this one-story cottage was the home of Modjeska Simkins, a leader in South Carolina’s civil rights movement and the first woman to serve as state secretary of the state NAACP. At a time when black people could not stay at city hotels, Simkins’ home offered a gathering space and lodging for many civil rights figures, including Thurgood Marshall.

Nickelodeon Theatre

1607 Main St., Specializing in foreign and independent films, the Nickelodeon moved into the former home of the historic Fox Theatre on Main Street in 2012 and has since added a second screen. Also hosts the popular multidisciplinary Indie Grits festival in March.

Randolph Cemetery

Elmwood Ave. at I-26, Founded on land purchased from Elmwood Cemetery in 1872, Randolph Cemetery is the first cemetery established specifically for Columbia’s black community. It is named in honor of Sen. Benjamin Franklin Randolph.

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

I-126 at Greystone Blvd., From reptiles to birds and everything in between, Riverbanks Zoo is by far Columbia’s biggest tourism draw. Home to more than 2,000 animals and a 70-acre botanical garden, Riverbanks also sports a zipline, ropes course and climbing wall. Hosts popular annual events such as Boo at the Zoo, Brew at the Zoo and Lights Before Christmas.

Robert Mills House and Garden

1616 Blanding St., The Robert Mills House is best known for its namesake, who also designed the Washington Monument. Open for tours, it is one of only a handful of National Historic Landmarks in the city.

South Carolina Statehouse

Main and Gervais Streets, More than 50 years after its original inception in 1851, architect Charles C. Wilson finally completed the building, calling it “one of the most notable buildings of the world.” Others disagreed, with one legislative observer calling the dome “nothing short of a miserable fraud.” Now you can gape at the expanse of lawn on the north side where the Confederate flag flew until July 2015. Grounds filled with various monuments, some of which have become objects of controversy in recent years due to their ties with problematic aspects of South Carolina’s history. Call 803-734-2430 or visit for tour information, and see for more insight into the history that the Statehouse’s monuments represent.

Seibels House

1601 Richland St., Built in the late 18th century, the Seibels House is a popular spot for weddings and events and serves as the Historic Columbia Foundation office.

Segra Park Columbia’s minor-league baseball stadium, home to the Columbia Fireflies, was named a Ballpark of the Decade by Ballpark Digest. Formerly called Spirit Communications Park, the multi-use venue has a capacity of 9,000 for baseball games.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral & Cemetery

1100 Sumter St., Originally dedicated in 1814, Trinity Episcopal grew into a new building in 1847, one designed by Edward Brickell White and modeled after York Cathedral in England. Today, it’s one of the nation’s 20 largest Episcopal churches. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice James F. Byrnes and six governors are buried in its cemetery.


Taylor and Marion streets. This 1975 wall mural of a road running through a tunnel is an iconic piece of local public art by artist Blue Sky. This tunnel could reasonably fool Wile E. Coyote.

USC Horseshoe

900 Block of Sumter St., 803-777-8161. Little do most of the Frisbee-tossing college students on the gorgeous USC Horseshoe know that several buildings there were designed by Robert Mills, the nation’s first federal architect. Mills also designed the Maxcy Monument, which sits in the middle of the Horseshoe and is named for the first president of the college, Jonathan Maxcy.

Woodrow Wilson Family Home

1705 Hampton St., The Wilson family moved to town in 1870, moved into the home in 1872 and left two years later following a dispute between Woodrow Wilson’s father and the Presbyterian Theological Seminary where he taught. A recent update transformed it into the nation’s only museum dedicated to interpreting the post-Civil War Reconstruction period.

Five Points / Rosewood / Mill District / Southeast

Congaree National Park This 22,000-acre park boasts the largest old-growth, bottomland hardwood forest on the continent. It’s also an International Biosphere Reserve, a Globally Important Bird Area and a National Natural Landmark. Activities include hiking, boating, camping, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, nature walks and more. Also known far and wide for its rare synchronous fireflies, which come out in May and June each year. Located in Hopkins, 18 miles southeast of Columbia on S.C. 48 (Bluff Road), which is exit 5 off I-77.

Founders Park

431 Williams St., The 9,000-seat baseball stadium is a bang-up place to watch the University of South Carolina baseball team, a traditionally strong program that won national championships in 2010 and 2011.

Hootie Monument

Corner of Harden and Santee streets. Want to see a monument to that Columbia band with the song “Hold My Hand” that came out in the mid-’90s and sold an ungodly number of records, and came back together in 2019 for a successful American tour? Head to Santee Avenue, look at the big metal sculpture and remember the many musical exploits of Hootie & the Blowfish.

South Carolina Military Museum

1225 Bluff Rd., Dedicated to honoring South Carolina’s National Guard and its citizen soldiers throughout history, from the late 17th century to the wars of the 21st century.

Visanska-Starks House

2214 Hampton St. This historic home was built around 1900 and is located on Hampton Street in Historic Waverly. Barrett Visanska (1849-1932) — a Polish jeweler and founder of the Tree of Life Congregation — bought the house in 1913. John J. Starks, president of Benedict College, bought the house in 1938.

Williams-Brice Stadium

1125 George Rogers Blvd., With its capacity of nearly 80,000 people, Williams-Brice Stadium is party central during football season, with fans spilling into both Five Points and the Vista after games. Since being built in 1934 by the Works Progress Administration — you know, that leftist agency started by FDR — Williams-Brice has served not only as the site of lots of drunken football revelry, but also a Jay-Z and Beyoncé concert and an appearance by then-candidate Barack Obama and Oprah.

Vista / Riverfront / State Street /Vista West

Adluh Flour Mill

804 Gervais St., The neon Adluh Flour sign in the heart of the Vista points to a cultural icon of Columbia. Founded in 1900, Adluh is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Flour and cornmeal products sold on-site.

The Big Apple

1000 Hampton St., Did the phrase “The Big Apple” come to New York City from jazz or from horse racing? For Columbia’s sake, let’s go with the jazz theory: Once a local synagogue, The Big Apple later was turned into a juke joint where, in 1936, black patrons invented a new dance, the Big Apple. Now a private venue.

Colonial Life Arena

801 Lincoln St., The 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena is the largest arena in South Carolina, hosting major concert and entertainment acts and serving as the home for USC men’s and women’s basketball.

Columbia Marionette Theatre

401 Laurel St., Located near Riverfront Park, the Columbia Marionette Theatre was founded in 1988 and presents children’s productions ranging from traditional fairy tales to educational shows.

EdVenture Children’s Museum

211 Gervais St., The South’s largest children’s museum, with more than 70,000 square feet of cool stuff to keep the kids occupied.

South Carolina State Confederate Relic Room & Museum

301 Gervais St., The Confederate Relic Room actually has much more than Civil War memorabilia, with artifacts dating from the Revolutionary War to World War II, as well as the Confederate flag that was removed from the Statehouse grounds in 2015.

South Carolina State Museum

301 Gervais St., Housed in the historic Columbia Mill building (built in 1893), the State Museum has a planetarium, observatory and 4-D theater, as well as permanent and rotating exhibitions covering South Carolina’s cultural history, natural history, science, technology and art. Also brings in non-S.C.-related blockbuster exhibitions.

Northeast / Forest Acres / Fort Jackson / Blythewood / Camden

Camden Archives & Museum

1314 Broad St., Offers genealogical research facilities and maintains a diverse collection to aid visitors in their research. Collects material pertaining to the north-central section of South Carolina formerly recognized as the old Camden District.

Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site We’ll spare you the suspense: The Americans got their asses handed to them at the 1780 Battle of Camden. Some 240 years later, though, we’re over it. Hosts a Battle of Camden Remembrance Day each August, Revolutionary War Field Days each November and other events throughout the year.

Lake Wateree

Winnsboro, 803-482-6401, Hosts fishing tournaments and offers a publicly accessible boat ramp, tackle shop and refueling dock.

Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden

145 Broad Acres Rd., Bishopville, A true South Carolina icon, Pearl Fryar has made his incredible topiary garden his life’s work — and he’s invited the public to see it.

Sandhill Research and Education Center 900 Clemson Rd. Clemson University’s agricultural research facility and nature preserve on 600 acres. Wildlife is abundant; guests are advised to stay on designated trails.

S.C. Archives and History Center

8301 Parklane Rd., Popular for researching family history. With a wealth of local, state and federal documents, the center encourages the general public as well as scholars, students, lawyers and others to make use of its resources, and staffers are on hand to help speed your search. The center also presents exhibitions and public programs, and has a gift shop.

Sesquicentennial State Park

9564 Two Notch Rd., This 1,419-acre park features a 30-acre lake surrounded by trails, picnic areas and campsites. Also offers paddle boarding, boating, fishing, swimming, meeting facilities and trails. Trails include a 6.1-mile mountain bike trail, a 1.9-mile nature trail, and a 3.5-mile walking and jogging trail.

South Carolina Railroad Museum

110 Industrial Park Rd. (Winnsboro), 803-712-4135, Everybody loves trains, right? (OK, maybe not the ones that stall traffic in the middle of Columbia during the workday.) Take an hour-long ride, stroll through historic train cars and check out the hats, whistles and other train paraphernalia in the gift shop.

U.S. Army Basic Training Combat Museum

4442 Jackson Blvd., Acquires and exhibits Fort Jackson-related artifacts dating to the fort’s founding in 1917. Base access is limited; call ahead for planning purposes.

Lake Murray / Lexington / Harbison / Irmo

Dreher Island State Recreation Area

3677 State Park Rd., Exit 91 off I-26, 803-364-4152, Located 30 miles northwest of Columbia in Prosperity, the Dreher Island recreation area consists of three islands encompassing 12 miles of shoreline on Lake Murray. Especially popular for fishing and boating (Lake Murray is a top destination for striped and largemouth bass), Dreher Island also offers lakefront camping, cabin and villa rentals, water skiing and picnicking.

First Responders Wall of Remembrance

205 W. Main St., Lexington, scremembers911com. Dedicated in 2008, this memorial to 9/11 was made from steel from Ground Zero in New York City.

Frankie’s Fun Park

140 Parkridge Dr., Kids’ stuff? Hardly. This Harbison-area entertainment center packs three go-kart tracks, three 18-hole mini-golf courses, batting cages, bumper boats, an arcade, a 5,000-square foot multi-tiered laser tag arena and a super-tall drop zone that says “In your face, gravity!” into 14 acres filled with fun for all ages.

Harbison State Forest If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never expect to find 2,177 acres of forest along the sprawling mess that is Broad River Road. But there it is — one of the largest public green spaces inside the city limits of a metropolitan area in the eastern United States. Features more than 16 miles of roads and trails (popular for biking) and a canoe landing.

Lake Murray

Located a few miles northwest of downtown Columbia, Lake Murray is a 50,000-acre lake offering boating, camping and other recreational activities. lists public access points, as well as marinas and landing spots. Good striped bass fishing during the season. Hosts major fishing tournaments, and typically has a huge fireworks blowout on July 4.

Lexington County Baseball Stadium

474 Ballpark Road, Lexington. This cozy 3,000-capacity baseball stadium over in baseball-mad Lexington is the summer home to the Lexington County Blowfish, a wood bat collegiate team that plays in the Coastal Plain League. The squad — comprised of players from colleges across the nation — plays games beginning in late May and running through early August.

Lexington County Museum

US Highway 378 and Fox St., Lexington, Founded in 1970, the museum complex encompasses seven acres and features 36 historic structures focusing on the early history of Lexington County, from 1770 until the Civil War.

Peachtree Rock Nature Preserve Sadly, the geological wonder known as Peachtree Rock — a triangular-shaped top-heavy sandstone formation that had stood on its pointed base for millions of years — is no longer standing. The good news? You can see the formation lying on its side, as well as Little Peachtree Rock and the rest of this beautiful 460-acre preserve, which has the only waterfall in the coastal plain. Located off S.C. 6 in southern Lexington County near Swansea.

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden If you live downtown, you’ll likely enter the zoo from its Greystone Blvd. entrance off I-26. But if you live west of the Congaree River, you can enter from Sunset Boulevard (U.S. 378) in West Columbia. This entrance will take you right to the zoo’s beautiful, 70-acre botanical garden.

State Farmers Market

Exit 115 off I-26, Relocated to Lexington County from Richland a decade ago, the South Carolina State Farmers Market has a lot more space for vendors, shopping and parking than it used to. Peak season for locally grown produce runs from April through early October.

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