Columbia, South Carolina, is named for Christopher Columbus. However, the explorer most associated with South Carolina is Hernando De Soto, the Spaniard who made landfall in Florida in 1539 and most likely passed through present-day Columbia the next year. In fact, Columbia was almost called “Washington,” which would have made for some awkwardness when South Carolina became the first state to secede from the United States in the buildup to the Civil War. The War ended with General William Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea,” which saw Columbia and most of the cities of the South burned to the ground. Columbia fell on Feb. 17, 1865, and was rebuilt over the next few decades to become the capital city of a new Palmetto State.
This historic city is now known for the state capital, a thriving arts scene, the Congaree River and Gamecocks football. Here are a few ways to spend your time in Columbia on a football weekend.
South Carolina food is all about Low Country cooking, which is sort of the Cajun food of the Carolinas. At Blue Marlin, that means plenty of shrimp and grits, plus “Southern Caviar” -- also known as pimento cheese dip.
The renovated engine supply building dates back to the 1800s but has been the home of this innovative restaurant since 1989. Just follow the neon sign to find a menu that changes every day and is filled with pork belly, local seafood and a bacon-infused Bloody Mary.
This is the ultimate South Carolina college bar -- proudly proclaiming itself “The Most Glorious Dive Bar on the Planet” and packed on Gamecocks game day. It’s been called one of the best college bars in the United States and is a defacto Greek life mixer with 50 cent shots, an outdoor patio and a pool table.
Real Mexico is universally beloved and dirt cheap, with large margaritas, loco bean dip with chorizo and all kinds of Mexican favorites like lengua tacos and chillaquilles.
Quite possibly the best beer list in town, with a constantly rotating selection. The beer even finds its way into the food, like in the Spicy Beer Cheese Soup or the Beer Float -- an ice cream float with Russian Imperial Stout instead of boring old soda.
It can get pretty warm in South Carolina -- even in the fall -- so cool down with some artisan sorbets and frozen custard in flavors like Cherry Coke, Zucchini Bread, Coffee & Donuts or the “Drunk Pig” (Rum & Bacon).
Learn about South Carolina history from the prehistoric to the Civil War and more. The largest museum in the Southeast combines history, art, science and technology in one giant building, with cool stuff like a life-size replica Civil War-era submarine. Yes, there were submarines in the Civil War. Seriously.
If you’re toting kids on this trip, here’s the place to go. A 40-foot child statue shows the inner workings of the human body. And the museum’s tractors, fire trucks and other vehicles that will keep your kids busy for hours.
The military museum is packed with artifacts from the Civil War and pretty much every other war in U.S. history, including a 3D stereoscope showcasing lifelike images from the Civil War.
Roller coasters, mini golf, go-karts and a massive arcade. All the stuff you loved as a child. Really, don’t you owe it to yourself to play some laser tag?