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Center for Carolina Living Ahhh ... high-life on Lake Murray where you will sail, ski and fish 50,000 acres of fresh water outside your front door. Then, entertain friends and family in the waterfront Liberty Tap Restaurant at sunset. The new Marina Bay Residences are Columbia's first-class apartment option.
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Center for Carolina Living Arts Alive! Keenan Fountain & Apollo’s Cascade is a 27-foot sculpture fountain on Boyd Plaza which leads the way into the Columbia Museum of Art. Nationally known sculptor, Rodney Carroll, created this beautiful masterpiece which is the scene of children at play, friends in deep conversation and the occasional photo shoot.
Photo courtesy of Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce • www.columbiachamber.com
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Center for Carolina Living Sweet! That’s what the younger generation would call Columbia’s Three Rivers Greenway, a 12-mile linear park with bridges and boardwalks. Bring your fishing gear and your bike. Fido can come, too.
Photo by Robert Clark • www.robertclarkphotography.com
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May in Columbia is beautiful, especially at the wine tasting in the botanical garden at Riverbanks Zoo. Add jazz, food and voila!
Photo courtesy of Riverbanks Zoo & Garden • www.riverbanks.org
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Columbia, SC
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Center for Carolina Living Please, go inside. Don’t be intimidated by the Statehouse in Columbia. The Italian Renaissance structure boasts marble walls and floors, portraits of important South Carolinians, and a breathtaking interior dome.
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116,278

Richland County Pop.: 320,677

Lexington County Pop.: 216,014
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moon handbooks : south carolina
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FAMOUSLY HOT
Greater COLUMBIA, SC:
Guide to The Midlands Capital City, Its Arts, University, Lake Murray & Entertainment

see C-SPAN LCV Tour --
Columbia

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ichland County, which surrounds Columbia, was recently named an All-America Community by the National Civic League. The All-America Community Award encourages and recognizes civic excellence, honoring communities in which citizens, government, business and nonprofit organizations demonstrate successful resolution of critical community issues.

Thirty communities have been named as one of “America’s Most Livable Communities.” Columbia is one of them. The award was given by the Washington-based non-profit, Partners for Livable Communities, and honors communities that are developing themselves in the creative economy.
Poke around the city one weekend and you’ll find surprising restaurants in alleys and offbeat entertainment in restored warehouses. The town can be decidedly cool, despite its reputation for hot summers!

Arts & Museums

Take Trustus. This avant-garde, professional theater has been bringing off-Broadway to South Carolina’s capital city for 18 years. Buy a drink at the bar, settle into a comfy swivel chair, and munch on the free popcorn, while waiting for the show. It could be a musical, a comedy or a provocative drama. Whatever’s playing, it will be an experience.

The Columbia Festival of the Arts takes place in April. The 10-day arts celebration spotlights the local theater, artists, museums, musicians and dancers that grace the arts scene of Columbia, South Carolina.

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 The EdVenture children’s museum, across from the State Museum, offers hands-on exhibits and special programs.

Columbia Museum of Art offers a “window to the world” to its visitors, not only through the display of its permanent collection, but with a series of public programs.
 
 
View from below. A water-borne perspective may be best to appreciate Columbia's Gervais Street ridge, constructed in 1926 and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It crosses the Congaree River -- one of three waterways passing through the capital city.

Downtown:
The Vista, University of SC,
The Summit Club, & More

Also in downtown Columbia, the Vista includes a lively 600 acres of restored warehouses, shops, galleries, bistros.

Meanwhile, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, one of the top ten zoos in the country, has recently completed a $19 million expansion. On the University of South Carolina campus, the new Inn at USC proves that a historical home can be incorporated into a new state-of-the-art hotel and meeting facility.

Henry and Tina Haitz and their family recently moved to Columbia when he became president and publisher of The State, the largest newspaper in South Carolina which is regularly awarded for its quality journalism and photography. “Columbia is fortunate to have better than average economic stability thanks to the presence of state government, the University of South Carolina, Lake Murray and Fort Jackson,” says Mr. Haitz. “These strong anchors demand outstanding activities for residents and visitors. The Columbia Museum of Art is one example, with its world-class international collections in a fabulous environment.” Mr. Haitz participates on a number of local boards, including the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, United Way and the Summit Club, which has a special meaning for him.

“Former publisher Ben Morris was a founding member of the Summit Club in 1983, and helped to establish it as Columbia’s premiere club,” Mr. Haitz says. “It’s perfect for entertaining business associates or just unwinding with friends, and the city views from the 20th floor are outstanding.”

Those views include the Business Improvement District (BID), a 36-block area with bike and foot patrols. Public assistance and directions are available seven days a week. The overall initiatives of the organization include retaining and recruiting businesses, expanding the downtown residential base, removing debris and graffiti, acting as aides to the police department, and improving landscaping by planting seasonal flowers.

The Colonial Center is an 18,000-seat basketball/entertainment arena, and there’s a new convention center.

Lake Murray

Another outstanding attraction that’s close is Lake Murray, with over 600 miles of shoreline, in adjoining Lexington County. Boaters gather on the summer evenings on Lake Murray to view the over 700,000 purple martins that make their nightly pilgrimage to roost in the trees of Lunch Island. Professional fishermen from across the country troll its waters for largemouth bass; others sail, ski, dive and camp on the islands.

New Residents

F. Chaz and Jeannie Ciernick moved from Las Vegas to Columbia, and specifically the Lake Carolina community. “I was invited here to work with Shep Cutler and Associates, a specialist in the senior insurance market,” he explained. “This was a new area to us so my wife and I flew here and spent three days with a real estate agent showing us houses nonstop.”

When they found Lake Carolina, they were sold. The couple prefers a master-planned community and judges this “one of the best.” She’s an ICU nurse, and he’s gotten active with the Chamber of Commerce. Last year, he participated in the Lake Murray Triathalon. For them, big differences in Las Vegas and Columbia include less congestion and the Southern hospitality. “People really are friendly here,” he says, adding, “They open their doors and hearts to you immediately.”

Columbia’s fortuitous location, two hours from the mountains and the ocean, is an oft-cited plus. Additional reasons to stay in town include the Nickelodeon Theatre, a dozen theater groups, the SC Philharmonic, a handful of dance companies, festivals galore, historic mansions and shady neighborhoods.

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Center for Carolina Living "They talk about Southern charm and hospitality – it’s alive and well in Columbia, South Carolina.” Center for Carolina Living
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Columbia - with Lake Murray just 15 minutes away, a major university and several colleges clustered in its core, and well-kept neighborhoods where people on bikes wave to people on foot - seems to have it all.

Newcomers talking about Columbia sound a little like Goldilocks. “It’s just right,” is the chief opinion that flows through their dialogue, whether they’re talking about its size, cultural and recreational activities, or people.

“I’ve got so much on my plate I’m trying to get a little bit off,” says a somewhat rueful Susan Ryal, who moved here from Orlando to be near family when her husband died. Thinking she’d mainly be involved with her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters, Mrs. Ryal eventually found herself juggling a part-time job and what seems to be full-time fun.

She’s discovered Columbia has a lot to offer: several live theaters, numerous restaurants of many varieties, the South Carolina Philharmonic, and the many concerts, lectures and performances at the University of South Carolina.

Clearly an arts lover, she heads to Charleston every spring for that city’s Spoleto USA Festival, a two-week international performing arts extravaganza. Less than two hours away, Charleston beckons many who live in this middle-of-the-state capital city. All this, plus her commitments to a Toastmasters club and two chambers of commerce, and you’ve got one active lady.

“I am busier here than I ever was in Orlando,” she observes, adding she was surprised by Columbia’s array of amenities. Orlando, with its focus on tourism, would have been much busier, she had figured.

But that was more than three years ago, before she settled into Ivy Green, a Mungo Company patio community in Irmo, a suburb known for its exceptional public schools and proximity to Lake Murray. “I think Columbia is an absolutely wonderful area for both youngsters and adults.” So, what’s up for this weekend? She pauses. “I’m hoping to relax and stay home.”

And that’s something you can do here, too. A relaxed atmosphere seems to enfold Columbia, for the most part, anyway. There are frenzied moments during USC football and basketball games, and high-energy times when the state legislature is in session. But traffic isn’t the nightmare you find in larger cities, and people rarely break in line.

“I didn’t quite know what we were getting into, coming this far south,” confesses Connie Carlson, a Wisconsin native. “I didn’t know what it was all about. But this is the friendliest community I’ve ever been in and we’ve been in quite a few. It’s incredible." 

Connie Carlson and husband Greg moved here from Owensboro, Kentucky, so he could pursue a Ph.D at USC’s highly-regarded Arnold School of Public Health. They live in Cobblestone Park, a gated community in Blythewood, just north of Columbia. Not only does it have what Mr. Carlson describes as a “beautiful, challenging and well-maintained” golf course, it has tennis courts, swimming pools and a fitness center. A new clubhouse is in the works. That makes Cobblestone Park equally attractive to their two sons – one at Duke University, the other at Davidson College. Cobblestone’s location, close to I-77, means the Carlsons can be visiting Eric at Duke in three hours and Andrew at Davidson in a little more than one. “We can go see them and take them to dinner, just to see their faces more than once or twice a year,” Mrs. Carlson says.

Columbia’s “middle-of-everything” location appeals largely to Mrs. Carlson, who loves the ocean. A day trip to the Isle of Palms near Charleston has become a favorite destination. “We pack a little picnic lunch and stay a whole day and come back,” she says. “It’s a jewel of a day trip.” In fact, Mrs. Carlson says she feels like she’s always on vacation, even though she quickly found work. “I go out on my patio and just feel like I’m in a different part of the country,” she says, describing a view of magnolia, cypress and pine trees.

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Center for Carolina Living For those who like outdoor recreation, outfitters provide kayaks, rafts and guides; and for those who prefer a more relaxed experience, simple fishing abounds on the riverbanks and on rocks in the water.
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“It’s kind of the best of all worlds here,” summarizes Mr. Carlson, who grew up in Minnesota. Columbia, he says, reminds them of Madison, Wisconsin. That’s where Mrs. Carlson grew up and where they met. The only difference is the warmer weather. “They’re both university towns and state capitals,” he notes. “We’ve always liked the university environment in a town about this size. There’s a lot to offer but it’s not so large it’s difficult to get around.”

Rivers & Outdoor Activities

Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy Saluda Shoals Park. Recreational opportunities in the 400-acre park include miles of multi-use trails for walking, hiking and biking, as well as water-oriented activities including fishing, canoe/kayak rentals, guided canoe trips and a boat launch. Guided horse trail rides are also available.

When the weather is warm, children will enjoy Saluda Splash and the Saluda Shoals Wetland Preserve provides opportunities for all ages to explore and learn.

Columbia’s three rivers – the Saluda, Broad and Congaree – give the city much of its character. In recent years, leaders have made them more accessible to the public, carving winding trails along their banks and building an amphitheater for concerts and theatricals. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with its headless horseman charging on the riverside amphitheatre stage on a live horse, has become a Halloween tradition rife with squeals and laughter. 

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Center for Carolina Living Professional fishermen from across the country troll its waters for largemouth bass; others sail, ski, dive and camp on the islands. Center for Carolina Living
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Riverbanks Zoo and Garden boasts koalas from Australia, 10 new Gentoo penguins, four very friendly giraffes that’ll eat straight out of your hand, a troop of bachelor gorillas and over 2,000 other animals. One of the finest zoos in the country, Riverbanks added a 70-acre botanical garden in 1995. Today, the Garden is the setting for a variety of activities, from summer evening events like elaborate wine tastings and First Thursdays in the Garden to classes and camps offered all year round.

Military Honors: Fort Jackson

Columbia has a long and cherished love of the young men and women who have trained at Fort Jackson. Many officers choose to return for retirement and second careers.

United States Army Training Center, 
www.jackson.army.mil

 

Business Climate & Opportunities

~ Columbia was recently one of 30 communities named one of “America’s Most Livable Communities.” The award was given by the Washington-based nonprofit, Partners for Livable Communities, and honors communities that are developing themselves in the creative economy.

 ~ A Business Improvement District (BID) is a 36-block area with bike and foot patrols. Public assistance and directions are available seven days a week. The overall initiatives of the organization include retaining and recruiting businesses, expanding the downtown residential base, removing debris and graffiti, acting as aides to the police department, and improving landscaping by planting seasonal flowers. It’s all designed to make the downtown area cleaner and safer.

 ~ Construction on the first phase of the USC Research Campus – called InnoVista – has begun. Five dedicated research buildings will be constructed, creating 1.5 million square feet of working space and accommodating 6,000 people.

 ~ According to Dr. Andrew Sorenson, Former President of USC, the vision for the research campus is that it becomes a magnet for attracting the brightest minds and most innovative companies in the world to South Carolina. “USC is building a catalyst for improving the quality of life for all South Carolinians,” he explained. Primary research clusters will include alternative fuel sources, biomedical, nanotechnology and environmental sciences.

Related Topics

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Restaurants & Dining in Columbia, SC

Sightseeing & Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Take a Road Trip  - Guide to Columbia, SC

More About Columbia, SC

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About the Authors

Aida Rogers
is a veteran writer and editor, having worked in newspapers, television, magazines and legal newsletters. She is coauthor of Stop Where the Parking Lot's Full, a collection of writings about South Carolina's most beloved restaurants. She recently won second place in the 2010 Green Eyeshade Awards (feature writing, non-daily print category.

Katherine O. Pettit has worked as a writer, magazine editor, printer and public relations consultant. The Columbia resident has published more than 250 articles in magazines and newspapers. Her writing explores a variety of subjects including travel, lifestyles, business and management.  
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