Downtown Columbia, SC: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Want to fill your next South Carolina trip with historic gems, creative flair, and unique shopping? Make sure you check out Downtown Columbia, SC. From the Civil War to the industrial boom, this vibrant central neighborhood has reimagined its heritage to create an area full of excitement.

Explore buzzing renovated areas like The Vista and Main Street District. Here you’ll find some of Columbia’s cultural highlights, including the Columbia Museum of Art and South Carolina State House. Embrace artisanal produce at Soda City Market and Mast General Columbia, then hit the town with a wonderful choice of al fresco dining and craft cocktail bars.

Ready to see some of the finest South Carolina’s capital city has to offer? Start planning your trip with this complete Downtown Columbia guide, including what to see & do, fun places to eat & drink, and where to stay.

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What to see & do in Downtown Columbia, SC

Main Street District

Main Street District is the beating heart of Downtown Columbia. Restored historic buildings house shops, restaurants, and major attractions like South Carolina State House set the pace around the district. Regular events and a lively local feeling will throw you into Columbia’s social scene.

Dive into the city’s vibrant creative scene. On top of the Columbia Museum of Art, spaces like Anastasia and Friends Gallery and City Art Gallery showcase talented local artists. Art house cinema The Nickelodeon screens the latest independent film. If you prefer the classics, Main Street is also home to the Columbia City Ballet and the South Carolina Philharmonic.

Make sure to sample Main Street District’s diverse culinary scene. Tuck into an exquisite steak at the popular Halls Chophouse, or graze cocktails and small plates on the rooftop of Hendrix. To get a real sense of the local atmosphere, attend the bustling Soda City Market, one of the coolest attractions in Columbia, SC.

South Carolina State House

Get a big dose of history, architecture, and politics at the South Carolina State House. The working government building for South Carolina is open to the public for tours and visits. Admire the stunning neoclassical design and learn about the history of the state government.

Enjoy the feeling of grandeur as you ascend the stone steps under impressive marble columns. With a prime spot on the National Register of Historic Places, this building has witnessed some important moments in Columbia’s history. Construction of the South Carolina State House started in 1855, but the turmoil of the Civil War set things back.

South Carolina State House

Wander the ornate interiors and imagine life 100 years ago as you look at the historic paintings and décor. Grand staircases, wood panels, and gold leaf give the building a regal feeling.

South Carolina State House isn’t just an architectural marvel; it also has stunning grounds. Pretty Palmetto trees and fragrant flowers frame the large blue dome and a beautiful array of monuments.

Columbia Museum of Art

Rich in culture, history, and creativity, the Columbia Museum of Art could steal away an entire day on your Columbia itinerary. The museum’s sprawling collection will take you on a journey through ancient times and faraway cultures, while their exciting rotating exhibitions guarantee an exciting visit every time.

Art makes sense of complex ideas that inspire and challenge humanity. That’s why the Columbia Museum of Art groups its collections by theme. As you make your way through each gallery, you’ll get a taste of how people from different lands and eras interpret ideas like identity, impulses, and the supernatural.

Columbia Museum of Art

As well as the greats like Monet and Picasso, the Columbia Museum of Art showcases exciting new talent and lesser-known pieces of history. Lose yourself in stories of returning war veterans or admire the modern crafts of the Catawba people.

Columbia Museum of Art hosts a wonderful choice of workshops. Kids can learn how to make their own jewelry while adults attend exciting lectures and drawing classes.

The Vista

Make sure you make some time to enjoy one of Columbia’s premier art & entertainment districts. The Vista was once an industrial hub for the city, booming with warehouses and textile mills. Today, it’s full of life once more. Whether you love shopping and dining or arts and culture, you’ll find it all in this vibrant downtown area!

The Vista is the perfect place to pick up a unique outfit and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Independent stores like Imagine This Boutique offer curated collections of high-end fashion. For an emporium of South Carolina souvenirs, make sure to pay a visit to the Cotton Mill Exchange.

This district pulls in some of the finest chefs in the city. The historic Motor Supply Company Bistro makes its global dishes from scratch using sustainable local ingredients, while the sparkling Pearlz Oyster Bar is perfect if you’re looking for a seafood fix.

Soda City Market

Get a dose of a European street market in the heart of the Southeast. The Soda City Market is a weekly event in Main Street District. It’s a producer-only market, meaning that every vendor makes or produces the products on sale.

Around 150 vendors arrive every Saturday at Soda City Market. With everything hand-crafted and produced in the Southeast, it’s a wonderful excuse to pick up personal gifts and souvenirs. Meet the vendors that produced your purchases. When you look at them at home, you’ll always have an interesting story to tell!

Foodies will have a fantastic time at Soda City Market. Graze stalls selling artisan produce and exotic vegetables. Let the food trucks take your taste buds on a round-the-world trip. Sink your teeth into Spanish Paella and Columbian arepas, or indulge in farm-to-table delights and regional favorites.

Mast General Store Columbia

Mast General Store Columbia is dripping with nostalgia. Operating from the 1920s Efird’s building on Main Street, the shop sells an eclectic choice of fashion, handicrafts, and artisanal food. The store’s model is based on rich traditions of selling high-quality goods with warm hospitality.

If you’re looking for a place that captures the feeling and traditions of the Southeast, you’ll find it at Mast General Store Columbia. From brand-name outdoor gear to handmade rocking chairs, it’s a true reflection of the history and lifestyles of the people living in South Carolina’s capital city.

Mast General Store

Foodies will have a fantastic time browsing the iconic products made in the USA. Pick up homemade BBQ sauce and inventive flavors of grits to recreate your favorite southern dishes at home.

If you have a sweet tooth, rummage in old wooden barrels full of 500 different vintage candies, or browse the aisles for whipped honey and spiced peaches.

Koger Center for the Arts

Squeeze some theatre into your Columbia trip with tickets to a performance at the Koger Center for the Arts. The sleek modern arts center attracts world-class performers and up-and-coming productions.

Koger Center for the Arts draws in esteemed local companies like Columbia City Ballet, The South Carolina Philharmonic, and the Columbia Classical Ballet. Snag a ticket to watch some of the most exquisite talent in the Southeast region.

The center is also an avid supporter of the University of South Carolina, housing regular productions from the USC Dance Department, USC School of Music, and USC Symphony Orchestra. A night out here could be your chance to spot the next superstar!

It’s not just the classics on offer at Koger Center for the Arts, either. Catch live performances from some of your favorite musicians or sing along to the latest Broadway show. Or expand your mind with art shows, exhibitions, and talks from major writers.

South Carolina State Museum

Become an expert on the Palmetto State at the South Carolina State Museum. Engaging exhibits spread across four floors detail the history, cultures, and natural wonders of South Carolina. With interactive displays, a digital dome planetarium, 4D interactive theater, and an observatory, this museum is the perfect way to throw yourself into the Southeast.

Jump straight into South Carolina’s natural history with over one million fossils and specimens. The South Carolina State Museum is home to 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeletons and bones left over from the Ice Age.

Or fast forward a few years and delve into the rich heritage of the area. Native American tribes, the Civil War, and African American cultures all influence the South Carolina you see today. Admire the collection of thousand-year-old pottery and antique weapons.

Then you can take a look at what propelled the state into the future. The science and technology department has items spanning from old farm machinery to exciting new robots.

Where to eat & drink

You’ll find diverse eating and drinking options in Downtown Columbia, SC, whether you’re looking for international flair or a wholesome farm-to-table experience. Dine al fresco on pretty patios and soak up the historic charm of the area. As a hot spot for craft cocktails and breweries, you’ll find plenty of unique options to extend your evening.

With a cozy interior and vibrant patio, Market on Main is a top choice, whatever the weather. Tuck into tasty burgers and sandwiches alongside live music and sports screenings on the outdoor TVs.

Feast on tacos and margaritas at Cantina 76. This funky taqueria has a varied menu, premium tequilas, and handcrafted cocktails.

Get a rustic farm-to-table experience at Angell Bros. 1801 Grille. Nestled in cozy wood interiors, you can sample the finest meats, seafood, and salads.

Restaurant in Downtown Columbia, SC

The iconic Halls Chophouse serves only USDA Prime Steaks from Allen Brothers of Chicago. Head to their sophisticated Columbia location to try the incredible filet mignon.

Make sure to grab a pint at the first microbrewery in Columbia. At the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse, you can sip on English and American-style ales amongst cozy brick décor.

Bourbon has the largest whiskey list in South Carolina. Choose from 500 whiskeys to enjoy alongside their cajun and creole nibbles. If you’re not into whiskey, you can still enjoy their trendy industrial setting with a choice of beers, wine, and cocktails.

A mixture of industrial style and art deco flair, Hendrix is the perfect option for a glam night out. Sit on the sparkling rooftop bar while you sip handcrafted cocktails.

Add some magic to your evening by ending it at the Art Bar. Lose yourself in the whimsical décor and dance the night away to live music.

Where to stay

Holiday Inn Express & Suites

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Columbia Downtown The Vista, an IHG Hotel

A few blocks from the Columbia Museum of Art, this hotel has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Colorful rooms are made extra homey with a flat-screen TV, sofa, and cooking facilities. If you’re feeling restless, take some laps in the outdoor pool or get a session in at the gym.

Cambria Hotel

Cambria Hotel Columbia Downtown the Vista

This stylish hotel is in the heart of The Vista neighborhood. Charming local features mixed with elegant modern design create relaxing indoor and outdoor places to unwind. Graze a stylish American menu at the onsite restaurant or get out and explore the city on a complimentary bike.


Aloft Columbia Downtown

Relax in trendy modern rooms with floor-to-ceiling views of Downtown Columbia. Sip cocktails among the neon lights of their lounge bar and challenge your new friends to a game of pool. Your whole experience will be seamless, with touch-and-go check-in kiosks and a grab-and-go snack bar in the lobby.

Hilton Columbia Center

Hilton Columbia Center

This grand historic building is a five-minute walk from Columbia State House. Sink into plush furnishings or drift away in the European-style outdoor pool. A tasty on-site steakhouse and lively cocktail bar guarantee you’ll have a good time after hours.


Graduate Columbia, SC

This beautiful hotel in the heart of Downtown is the ideal spot for your South Carolina retreat. Classic décor with kitch pops of color make every stay here unique. Get about town on one of the free bikes or while away an afternoon in the nostalgic bar and restaurant.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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