Plan Your Trip

Throughout the long weekend of August 18-21, 2017, attractions, cultural institutions, hospitality and retail businesses in Columbia, S.C. – the total solar eclipse capital of the East Coast – hosted more than 120 special eclipse-related events leading up to and during nature’s grandest spectacle. They explored below to plan the trip of a lifetime — and experience the total solar eclipse in one of the most authentic, vibrant and connected cities in the Southeast.

How would you imagine a Southern City?

Is it historic? Gracious? Sultry? The greater Columbia, South Carolina area encompasses each of these and more. Columbians and visitors to the Midlands region enjoy a relaxing; comfortable pace; affordable prices; an abundance of playgrounds including Lake Murray, rivers, parks, gardens and the Riverbanks Zoo – one of the best in the country; the majestic riverine forests of Congaree National Park; and more.

Rivers, bridge and city photo of Columbia SC by Tucker Prescott
Sunrise over Columbia, South Carolina, where the Saluda, Broad and Congaree Rivers converge under the iconic Gervais Street Bridge. Photo: Tucker Prescott

The University of South Carolina makes Columbia one of the Southeast’s most notable college towns, consistently ranking as a national favorite for college students and sports fans (especially those who love the Gamecocks!), and the military community thrives at Fort Jackson, one of the United States’ most important training bases.

History abounds and is celebrated in museums, historic homes and even in repurposed buildings with a new start as shops and restaurants.

Columbia, South Carolina: The Real Southern Hot Spot

S.C.’s most livable — and affordable — city

As Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin stated in his 2017 State of the City address, “Our city will always support the arts,” because regional leaders are committed to a high quality of life for residents, creating a remarkable environment for visitors to discover and explore. Notably, in a recent study the greater Columbia, S.C. area ranked #1 in livability among major cities in South Carolina.

Singer Deborah Adedokun of Debbie and the Skanks shops antique malls in Columbia - Photo by Columbia SC photographer Sean Rayford
Local musician Deborah Adedokun shops Columbia's fab antiques scene with a friend. Photo: Sean Rayford

Couples, families, business travelers and groups of friends can park the car for the long weekend, check into a hotel, VRBO or Airbnb, and then walk, bus or cab it from district to district, hitting museums, galleries, street festivals, antique malls, sporting events, bistros, wing joints, wine bars, sushi spots, BBQ haunts, cocktail speakeasies, taco places and more along the way.

Outdoor enthusiasts embark on adventures on our three rivers, jaunts to Lake Murray, forays down trails at the 12,000-Year History Park in Cayce, hikes at Congaree National Park (S.C.’s only national park) and more, building a unique, authentic experience that is only available in Columbia, South Carolina.

Hunter Gatherer - Let Me Take You There - Columbia, SC - May 2014 - Photos by South Carolina photographer Sean Rayford
Locals and visitors relax a block from the S.C. State House at one of the area's many local breweries. Photo: Sean Rayford

As the Palmetto State’s capital and a college town, Columbia’s fiery vibe cultivates a colorful arts scene while an indie spirit envelops several energized entertainment districts overflowing with locally owned boutique shops, eateries, spas and salons, and night spots. Antique shops are brimming with finds, and the number of chef-driven restaurants with farm-to-table menus, craft beers and handcrafted cocktails keeps growing. Multiple local breweries and distilleries have popped up in recent years, with facilities ranging from tasting rooms and pop-up German biergartens to bars with outdoor cornhole courts and full-fledged gastro-pubs.

Artist Trahern Cook paints for the crowds at Soda City Market
Local artist Trahern Cook paints al fresco for the crowds at Soda City Market. Photo: Jin Wu

Soda City Market fills Main Street each Saturday morning and midday with thousands of happy guests, strolling, sipping, shopping and snacking from a wide variety of food trucks and artisan vendors. The music scene is on fire, with every type of music available, from avant-garde jazz concerts and iconoclastic punk shows to regal symphonic performances and huge concerts by major national pop, rock and R&B headliners. For all who live here and visit here, it’s become undeniable that Columbia, S.C., is the Real Southern Hot Spot.

A couple enjoys a walk at Congaree National Park - boardwalk, congaree, explore, family, hike, national park, nps, park, swamp, tourism, travel
A couple enjoys the boardwalk at Congaree National Park. Photo: Experience Columbia, SC

For those with an adventurous spirit, the rivers, trails and parks like Saluda Shoals and Congaree National Park provide endless fun. Food lovers have over 450 restaurants from which to choose and can pick a new feast for every day and night of the week. The variety is abundant and all with an easy reach.

Za's on Devine diners - Photo by Columbia SC photographer Sean Rayford
Friends share wine, small plates and wood oven pizzas at one of Columbia's casual dining spots. Photo: Sean Rayford

Columbia, S.C., and its surrounding region are positioned in the best location – the best on the East Coast, in fact – to witness the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017.

Once you’ve experienced Columbia, South Carolina, you’ll be delighted that you decided to extend your visit and explore. Check out more resources for planning your stay in the Real Southern Hot Spot via our regional tourism authority, Experience Columbia SC.