First, let me just start by saying South Carolina is freakin’ pretty! A couple months ago, my best friend Rhonnie moved to Lexington, SC from Sacramento, CA, and I quickly decided 4th of July weekend would be the perfect time to visit. The nearest city to her is Columbia which has its own tiny airport, but no direct flights from Los Angeles. I touched down just around midnight after a 4-hour layover in Chicago. Rhonnie picked me up, and we proceeded to stay up talking until 3 AM, as per usual when we haven’t seen each other in months.
Saturday was dedicated to exploring Columbia, and we made sure to fill up every waking minute.
First stop: Soda City Market (fun fact: Columbia is often shortened to Cola–> cola is soda –> the nickname Soda City was formed) This definitely tops any farmer’s market I’ve come across in Los Angeles. Main St is completely blocked off and fully loaded with vendors for several blocks in the downtown area every Saturday until 1pm. I tried boiled peanuts for the first time, (pronounced bald peanuts by the locals) and learned they are, supposedly, the edamame of the south. We taste-tested cheesecakes and got suckered into buying a blueberry crumble. #noregrets There was a mobile boutique, live music and all kinds of fresh produce. Regrettably, I was so caught up on the moment I forgot to take any pictures!
We stopped for brunch at Fancy That Bistro, where I was most impressed by the $5 mimosas! You cannot even get a glass of OJ for that cheap at home. It was so hot and humid out though that we decided to pass on a second round for fear of needing a nap sooner rather than later.
Next stop: South Carolina State House – Columbia is the oldest city in the United States and happens to be the capital of SC as well. A typical capitol building really, but still beautiful nonetheless, and still definitely worth a visit. I mostly could not get over how the sky was SO blue. Maybe it’s because I’m used to smog??
The building is open to the public for no charge. Access is limited to certain areas on your own, or you can join a walking group for the full tour. We opted for a quick look around the gift shop to enjoy the AC and then were on our way.
Stop #3: Five Points for a quick Starbucks pick-me-up and a little shopping. This super cute and trendy neighborhood is just a couple blocks long, but packed full of boutiques and galleries. Whether you like consignment or brand new, vintage or preppy, there is something for everyone.
Finlay Park was our last stop before heading home to freshen up for dinner. We were literally dripping in sweat by this time. The humidity in the south is like no other.
The park was pretty quiet this afternoon except for some people setting up for the Summer Concert Series. I would’ve like to come back for this if our schedule had allowed it. You should definitely check if out if you are in the area 7pm to 10 pm any Saturday in the summer. Free admission! Just be sure to bring a chair or blanket and snacks.
Jet lag was beginning to set it pretty strong at this point, so we squeezed in a quick nap back at Rhonnie’s house. I woke up refreshed, energized and hungry!
Dinner @ Private Property: a local family owned restaurant in a beautiful historic home.
I tried shrimp and grits, (another Southern first!) and it was heaven in a dish. My mouth is watering again now just thinking about it. You also must order a side of the delicious green beans and one of their divine seasonal cocktails.
We ended the day with fireworks overlooking Lake Murray. It was the perfect warm summer night, no sweater required! Bug spray would have been a good idea though. We kind of got devoured.
You also MUST make time to visit Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ if you’re in the Columbia area. We made one last stop here on my way to the airport on Tuesday. It is kind of fast foody, but so delicious, and a surefire way to get a good look at the locals.. if you like that people watching sort of thing. Also you’ll get a chance to taste South Carolina’s unique BBQ sauce flavor which they call Carolina Gold. I got the Jr. Pig® with mac&cheese (of course) and collard greens to really go full southern style. Idk what junior size people can finish that and have room for banana pudding, but I definitely put in my very best effort!
On that note, I’m hungry! Gotta go!