Best Attractions & Activities

With all of the things to do and see in a city, deciding how to spend your time can be quite an agonizing decision. 10best has narrowed all of the available attractions in Columbia to a list of the most appealing and reputable, to aide in your decision making. You can rest easy knowing that any choice you make from our list of Columbia, SC gems is sure to please.


Adventure Carolina offers a variety of guided kayaking and canoeing trips on Columbia's rivers. The popular "After Work" trip on the Congaree lasts about 3 hours and is ideal for first-timers and families (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the summer). Weekend trips range from shorter jaunts to full-day excursions. If floating is more your speed, schedule a tubing trip, which is great for families and friends just looking for a fun, relaxing day in the sun.

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Located near the Greystone Boulevard exit off I-26 and ranked as one of the most popular attractions in the Southeast, the zoo is home to a plethora of species. Monkeys, lions, birds, seals, koalas and much more are displayed in their natural habitats. The stunning botanical garden adjacent to the zoo features 70 acres of varied plant life, nature trails, and great views of the Saluda River. One of the more popular exhibits is the walk-through Lorikeet Aviary where you can hand-feed the colorful birds from small cups of fruit nectar.

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The Vista
Finlay Park

Originally opened in 1859 as Sidney Park, this historic site experienced a rebirth in the early 1990s when it was given a complete overhaul and re-dubbed Finlay Park. The Vista district's green space features playgrounds, a lake, waterfalls, a fountain and playing fields, plus plenty of paved pathways for strolling and grassy areas for picnicking. The city hosts the free Sizzlin' Summer Concert Series here each year.

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Not only is this 22,000-acre swampy forest designated a National Park, it's also an International Biosphere Reserve, a National Natural Landmark, a protected Wilderness Area, and a "Continentally Important Bird Area." The tallest trees in the eastern US are right here, along with all sorts of snakes, turtles, raccoons, possums, wild boar, frogs, birds, and lots and lots of insects. Plan a stroll along the elevated boardwalk, or get closer to nature with a backcountry hike, camping canoeing or kayaking. Rangers offer interpretive tours and programs as well.

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University Of South Carolina

Run by the College of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina and located on the historic Horseshoe, this museum hosts an impressive permanent exhibit of minerals, gemstones, and 18th century silver. The displays focus on the history, life, and natural environment of the Southeastern US. Exhibits range from 20th century watercolors to pottery created by American slaves to a recent exploration of the development of regional stew recipes. You're sure to find something fascinating and surprising at this eclectic museum.

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South Carolina State Museum

Inside a century-old textile mill, this museum presents a comprehensive collection of art, history and science exhibits depicting South Carolina's past, present and future. From natural history to technology to fine arts, this museum has informative permanent displays and temporary shows that delve into a broad range of cultural topics. Highlights of their collection include a giant white shark model, a Blue Sky mural, dinosaur fossils, and a gorgeous iron gate by Lowcountry artist Philip Simmons.

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For area runners, cyclists and walkers, Riverfront Park is a top choice. The long strip of sidewalk flanks the Congaree, offering visitors cool shade beneath a canopy of trees. Stop at one of the benches scattered along the river to take in the scenic view. A pedestrian bridge spans a surging section of the river

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At Columbia's EdVenture you'll meet the 40-foot tall Eddie, who lives in the atrium across from the entrance. Through a series of tunnels and slides, kids can explore inside Eddie and discover just how amazing the human body is. The fun doesn't stop with Eddie â€" there are more hands-on exhibits here than most youngsters could appreciate in one visit. The communication exhibit includes a pneumatic tube (just like at the bank drive-thru), and there's a wonderful art room as well. Outside is a fascinating water fixture â€" dam it up, create a maze for your boat, and see how high you can make the water spout go! It's all good, clean, (educational) fun!

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University Of South Carolina

A diminutive 77-seat theater, the Nick concentrates on international, art and indie films with two screenings nightly and occasional matinees. Sit back with a bucket of popcorn and a cold beer, and enjoy a film like Persepolis or Daughters of the Dust. Operated by the Columbia Film Society, the theater also hosts several small, specialized film festivals annually.

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University Of South Carolina

This beautiful tree-lined mall is the site of the original campus of the University of South Carolina. Still home to several campus buildings, most of them dating back a century, the wide-open green is usually full of students reading, talking, tossing Frisbees, or sometimes sleeping. Special events are often held here. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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