I'm traveling a lot this year and it's exciting to have so many places to go, but honestly, it's stretched me pretty thin energetically and financially. But when my best friend reached out to see if I could come down to spend a summer weekend in Columbia, South Carolina with her, I could not say no. Because while I might have too much travel scheduled for the year already, I cannot pass up time with my bestie in a little city that I find so endearing. The fact that Columbia is extremely affordable didn't hurt either. Below I'll share 4 activities for a Summer weekend in Columbia, South Carolina that we were able to fit into my time there.
My paid time off policy is very generous, one of the reasons I work in the Tech field, so I knew I could make this trip to Columbia, South Carolina work. Even so, I decided I was pushing the limits on how much time I'm taking off this year so I planned on working remotely from Columbia while visiting. This worked perfectly since Bridget, my bestie, also needed to get some work done. So while I was there for 5 nights, we only did touristy things on the weekend.
I flew into the quaint Columbia airport on a Wednesday evening. When I visited last year, I flew into Charlotte since it was way cheaper and I was pretty poor then. But it's a two and a half hour drive, five hours round trip, from Columbia to Charlotte. Which Bridget actually drove to pick me up last year. She's a saint. This time around I was able to fly directly to Columbia which felt totally worth it.
Full transparency, we spent a lot of time just hanging out together watching movies and catching up over ice cream and donuts. So you could probably fit in soooooo much more over a weekend in Columbia. But since our priority was quality time, we took it nice and easy, but still managed to do some fun stuff.
Bridget and I were roomies back in Portland, and we've both moved across the country in the past two years and settled in new cities. And because of this, we both understand the struggle of finding new friends to call your people in a new city. So one of the first plans of action was to have dinner with two of Bridget's friends who I had heard so much about but hadn't yet met in the flesh, Eileen, and Kara.
We met in the Five Points neighborhood which is near the campus of the University of South Carolina and has a bunch of cute restaurants. They'd chosen Publico Kitchen and Tap Restaurant which specializes in tacos, margaritas, and beer. We started with queso and salsa with chips which were perfect. Queso in South Carolina is white, which I always find an interesting regional thing. I ate queso two times on this trip, and both were white, so that's where I'm getting this assumption from. But I digress, Publico has a crazy amount of Margaritas to choose from and even the non-beer drinker in me understood that the tap list was large. It was the perfect place to gab and get to know each other over some Mexican food and Margaritas.
One more note on this place, they only have barstools. Which seems totally normal to most people, but I have short legs and find perching on a barstool one of my top 5 things I avoid like the plague. Just a heads up for any of my other stool haters out there.
One of the great attractions of Columbia is Lake Murray. When I first went to visit Bridget last summer, we got to spend the day of the total solar eclipse on the lake at her friend Jan's house. Now I don't think I can imagine a more magical place on earth. Whether it's because I can still feel the way the air felt when the sun disappeared and there was a 360-degree sunset surrounding us, or because Jan is the picture of southern hospitality and made me feel like I was home, I think this lake is one in a million.
Since I have such ridiculously fond memories of Lake Murray, I was stoked at the idea of getting to stand up paddle board on Lake Murray. Bridget is a barre instructor and has been building a SUP barre class, and she'd wanted to practice. We went out and got some boards from AquaFun Paddle Boards and set out on to the water. Honestly, I'm not the best paddle boarder. So she practiced her yoga and barre, and I just managed to stay upright. I guess I always forget how hard paddle boarding actually is, but even though I always end up paddle boarding while kneeling, versus standing up, I always have a great time.
This was a perfect summer activity because it's just a short drive outside of town, but you can get some time on the lake without having to commit to a full day in a boat. Though if that's your thing, this is a lake to do that on.
While Bridget and I did spend a fair amount of time on a couch catching up, we were also being tourists since I was in town, which is how we found ourselves at the Soda City Market on Main Street. This is a Saturday market of sorts with food and shopping vendors sprinkled along the Main Street which is shut down to traffic. I was surprised at how many arepa vendors there were to be completely honest, though I didn't actually get a chance to eat an arepa. A missed opportunity for sure.
The Soda City Market was a fun diversion for a Saturday morning with a ton of cool little southern vendors, like boiled peanuts, but it was pretty crowded and parking was hard to come by. But it's a great way to get a feel for the city as it did feel that it was a lot of locals and not super touristy while being a great place to be a tourist.
If you know me, then you know I love to float a river. When Bridget said that her surrogate southern mother, Jan, had planned a day of floating the Saluda River, I was 100% in. As I mentioned above, I have magical memories of Jan, so it was just my luck to be stuck with her and her family on a river floating for four hours.
Columbia weather in the summer is just like I imagine a lot of Southern states is, hot and humid, which is perfect floating weather. So we slapped on some sunscreen, packed some snacks in a cooler and rented tubes from Palmetto Outdoors for something like $20 each. It included a shuttle bus to the launch point, too. Though keep in mind there's about a 10-minute walk down to the river from where you're dropped. Not a deal breaker at all, but something to be aware of when you pack your coolers.
While Columbia may be small it has a ton to offer. So much to offer, that I think I'll be seeing a lot more of it in my very near future. But I think floating the river was my favorite part of the trip, well, other than ordering Pizza Hut and doing face masks with my bestie. It was the highlight because it was a little piece of nature in the middle of the city, which is how I like my nature.