Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top 10: Columbia, SC

Tonight's my last night in South Carolina (ok, so I'm posting this late), so I thought I'd compile a little list of stuff that's cool in the state capitol, Columbia. The current slogan for Columbia is "famously hot" and while that's appropriate, there are also better things. For example, as you can see in the picture above, it's super jungly, even in the city! This was some house we looked at during my friend's apartment search a few years ago. That's a maternity dress I got on ridiculous sale at Old Navy and took in the shoulders a bit. It's too hot to wear black in SC but I keep doing it anyway.
So, I wrote a top 10 list of things to do & see in Columbia!
  1. WUSC, the college radio station, 90.5 FM. Thanks for taking my request for Umm Khoulthum, DJ Watson! Y'all rule. You can stream them online, highly recommended.
  2. The river walk. Columbia is at the crosshairs of two rivers, the Broad and the Saluda, and there's a nice long nature trail along one of them, which is where I took the picture that is the banner of my blog. It's super jungly and you can swim in the river, and also tube down it if you put in further upstream.
  3. The Olympia quarry. Olympia is an old mill neighborhood, so there are some mills converted into apartments, which is cool, but there's a working quarry which you can climb up some rocks and look over towards the river. It's very pretty at dusk, but it can be a shady neighborhood so be careful.
  4. The Horseshoe. This is the central quad of the University of South Carolina, and it's pretty and very Southern and genteel. Nice to stroll around with an ice tea from the nearby Cool Beans or Immaculate Consumption (say hi to my dad who chills out there a lot), and go visit the McKissick Museum at the top of the quad to see the geology collection or whatever historical artifacts are on display (once it was pre-Civil War quilts, once it was stories and photographs of bbq places around the state). The Caroliniana Library is also very pretty inside, and useful if you're interested in SC history or in sitting in a quiet air-conditioned place with lots of books and busts of famous South Carolinians. And there's a cute garden and greenhouse at the far end.
  5. Finlay Park. This used to be called Sidney Park, back in the day. It's a huge place on a hill, with a giant fountain leading to a series of rock-rimmed streams, a giant waterfall you can walk under, playgrounds, fields for frisbee, laying around, listening to free concerts, a view of the city, swings high up on the hill for surveying the grounds. Lots of fun.
  6. Nickolodean Theater for independent and art films. Tiny adorable theater that serves beer. A classic French films series is this fall!
  7. New Brookland Tavern to watch shows and drink Yuengling (it's big in SC), and the coffee shop next to it to watch scene kids coming in and out of shows while you drink your tea like an old lady. There's a pretty decent used bookstore just down the street, too.
  8. The downtown Richland County Public Library. I know I'm a dork for putting two libraries on my list, but it's a really cool building with a giant green glass facade and a undulating center atrium, a good music collection, a cool "Where the Wild Things Are" children's section & lots of programs for kids (at least when I was a kid), and a lot of places to read and cool down.
  9. Mac's on Main for jazz & blues, and a really cool, chill atmosphere. They also have bbq and drinks, and sometimes old couples dance to the band playing. You can also walk across the street and see a giant chain "holding together" two buildings, the work of local artist Blue Sky, who also painted a giant mural Tunnelvision that looks exactly like a tunnel going into the side of a building.
  10. Group Therapy, by far the coolest bar in Five Points, the college drinking center. It's got one of the most diverse and laid-back crowds I've seen, all kinds of different people, and a lot of people go there just to dance. Columbia's actually got a pretty decent DJ scene and there are people who aren't afraid to breakdance or really show some moves. Art Bar, in the Vista, isn't bad either but it felt a little more hipster to me, less of a mix of the crowd. But it is cool-looking, with its shiny undulating bar, graffiti blacklight dance room, and giant robots.
Wow, I had a lot of trouble packing that into 10 points! Growing up, I always moaned about how boring my area was, but on this past trip I really gained an appreciation for how interesting it can be, if you know where to look. A lot of these places are free or cheap, good for all ages, but I guess for a few of them it helps to be a bit older.

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