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. 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.
Richland County, which surrounds Columbia, was named an All-America Community by the National Civic League. This community award encourages and recognizes civic excellence, honoring communities in which citizens, government, business and nonprofit organizations demonstrate successful resolution of critical community issues.
Columbia is among 30 communities that have been named as 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.
Mac and Darlene McAllister came to Columbia as a result of his military service, but now, 17 years later, they’ve put down permanent roots in the Lake Carolina Mungo community of Ashland Park. They couldn’t be happier – or feel more at home.
“Friends told us we should check out Northeast Columbia,” explained Mrs. McAllister. “My husband retired from the military and started his own business, so we knew we wanted to be in the general area, but this particular community had everything on our wish list.”
That list included a two-story open floor plan, with the kitchen and den in one large open area. Their sons are 22 and 19, living at home, and plenty of room was important for everyone.
She works at the V.A. and can get to her job in 25 minutes. He is owner of W-C Trucking Company, LLC, and works from home. On weekends, the couple enjoy the walking trails through Lake Carolina and the great community events, such as wine tastings and frequent social gatherings. They love the shopping and movies available nearby, although sometimes, a quick hop on the Interstate gets them to Charlotte, with its big-city vibe.
“We were careful,” she explained. “First we rented a house, then we bought. Northeast Columbia and Lake Carolina give us everything we need and want.”
All ages will be entertained here. First there’s Trustus, the avant-garde, professional theater that has been bringing off-Broadway to South Carolina’s capital city for years. Buy a drink at the bar, settle into a comfy swivel chair, and munch on the free popcorn, while waiting for the show. Whatever’s playing, it will be an experience.
And there’s more. Town Theatre is the oldest community theatre building in continuous use in the United States and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It has one of the largest auditoriums of any Columbia theatre group. And Workshop Theatre is another venue with a large following. For more than 40 years, it’s been the creative domain for many talented actors, directors and technicians. The Palmetto Opera Guild attracts magnificent voices to the capital city.
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. Also in downtown Columbia, the Vista includes a lively 600 acres of restored warehouses, shops, galleries and bistros. Meanwhile, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, one of the top ten zoos in the country, has recently completed a $19 million expansion.
Another outstanding attraction is Lake Murray, with over 600 miles of shoreline, in adjoining Lexington County. Boaters gather to watch the gorgeous sunsets and enjoy the excellent restaurants which are beginning to dot 600+ miles of shoreline. Professional fishermen from across the country troll its waters for largemouth bass; others sail, ski, dive and camp on the islands.
Even Goldilocks would approve of this charming city– not too big, not too small, but just right.
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