Companies like Yelp and Trip Advisor give you the best of the best. Maybe it’s an unpopular opinion, but some of us don’t want to know the best places in a city, we want a more authentic experience. There are so many places that the internet won’t tell you about because only locals know about them. I’ve come to learn that especially in this city, University of South Carolina students and residents of Columbia definitely have better insight and advice than the internet.
It’s not hard to figure out that Saturdays in the South are consumed by football. While football is a huge part of the culture in Columbia, there are so many other sporting events that the city has to offer, like soccer, volleyball, and even hockey. Growing up in the Northeast gave me an inside look at how big hockey is in New England, but I thought it stopped there. To me, it seemed like hockey and the South don’t mix, but UofSC’s club hockey team draws sizable crowds on Friday nights. The South Eastern Conference extends beyond just football, as the hockey team plays most SEC schools. University of Georgia, University of Florida and University of Tennessee are just a few of the usual opponents. The South Carolina and Clemson rivalry expands to hockey. Even better, the Gamecocks beat Clemson twice last season. The team plays at Plex Indoor Sports and the school offers free transportation to the home games, which makes it easy to experience more sports than just football.
If Saturdays in the South are for football, then Sundays are for brunch. Coming from Connecticut, the greatest challenge has been finding a good, or at least comparable bagel to a New York bagel. Most towns in the northeast have multiple bagel shops to choose from, all with huge warm bagels baked every morning. College Grounds Café in Columbia has homemade bagels that taste fresh like one you would find up north. With flavors like everything and blueberry, College Grounds is definitely the best option for a fresh and sizable bagel. Connected to the café is Cool Beans, which has coffee and breakfast as well. The location is unbeatable, as it is right off the horseshoe and only blocks away from the Capitol Building.
If you were to turn to Google to find where the best sunsets are, Columbia won’t come up as a result, but I think many UofSC students would disagree. If the sky is an array of oranges and pinks, you can most likely look up at the Horizon Parking Garage and see students gathered to watch the sunset. The garage is across from Strom Thurmond Fitness Center on Assembly Street and going to the top floor gives you a breathtaking view. The top overlooks campus staples like Strom and Greek Village, which creates a mesmerizing photo opportunity. It’s a free and easy activity that draws several people to the garage each night. No one is exactly sure why, but something about the sunsets in Columbia is different, and sadly, Yelp won’t tell you that.
Before you go to the parking garage to watch the sunset, dinner in Columbia is a must. Any corner you turn there is an amazing restaurant, like Cantina 76 or Publico. While these two options are very well known in the city for their tacos, there are other restaurants with admirable Mexican food that aren’t as popular and busy. Coa Agaveria y Cocina is a restaurant in the Vista that takes inspiration from Oaxaco and Jalisco, Mexico. The atmosphere is extremely unique and well thought out, as the bar is made of Mexican stone and shelves are filled with antiques. More importantly, the food is exceptional. They offer tacos and salads like other Mexican restaurants nearby, but also have sharing plates and soups. It is definitely on the more up-scale side, but Coa is a great option for dinner that isn’t as mainstream as other restaurants here.
Being 800 miles from home and not knowing much about Columbia was daunting, but I quickly figured out that there is always something to do here. These suggestions may not be as popular as what the internet has to offer, but I have found that they provide a much more original and legitimate trip to Columbia.