South Carolina’s capital and largest city, though sometimes overshadowed by nearby Atlanta or Charlotte, is a destination city in its own right, well worth a visit by private jet. Though the city was burned during General Sherman’s Civil War occupation in the mid-19th century, it still retains its historical flavor and pre-war architecture. Be sure to check out the historic Five Points neighborhood, which has some of the best shopping in the city, with locally owned boutiques, bookstores and other businesses catering to virtually every need. There are also a variety of bars and restaurants in the neighborhood, though these cater mostly to students at the nearby University of South Carolina–for a quieter night out, an excursion into the Vista neighborhood is your best bet.
Columbia features a variety of attractions for visitors, including a zoo and numerous museums. The South Carolina Statehouse, an excellent example of historical architecture, is well worth a visit. For the more adventuresome, the Saluda River offers some of the best urban kayaking in the United States.
Must see: Congaree National Park, located just half an hour outside of the city, contains a flood plain and a forest with some of the tallest cypress trees in the world. From the miles-long boardwalk, you can see animals like deer, alligators, and a plethora of birds.
Lodging: The Inn at Claussen’s–Located in the heart the Five Points neighborhood on the former site of Claussen’s Bakery and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places , this 27-room boutique hotel is the city’s most distinctive. Guests can take part in a complementary wine and cheese tasting each night.
Cuisine: South Carolina’s distinctive Lowcountry Cuisine shares similarities with traditional Southern and Cajun cooking. One notable dish is she-crab soup, a thick bisque-like soup that is traditionally made with blue crab, crab roe, cream and dry sherry.
Ground Transportation: Your best bet is to rent a car, though many neighborhoods, including downtown and Five Points, are easily walkable.
Packing Tips: In the summer, the weather tends towards the hot and humid, so be sure to pack light, loose clothing.
Recommended Books: Visionary cyberpunk author William Gibson, whose work helped predict and shape the development of the information age, is a native of South Carolina. Start with Neuromancer, his 1984 debut novel and the first book in his influential Sprawl trilogy.
Currency: The US dollar is the local currency.
Calling Code United States: 1
Best Travel Dates: Columbia hosts a variety of festivals, including the South Carolina State Fair in October and other music-, food- and art-related events throughout the year, so you may want to time your visit to coincide with one of those.