The vibrant center of downtown is thriving once again on Main Street. The district has seen a recent revitalization that has new businesses, locals and visitors flocking to it. Here you can nibble on a charcuterie board elbow to elbow with legislators, get lost staring at a Monet at the Columbia Museum of Art, or catch the latest independent film at The Nick. With a mix of professionals who work here each day, artists who create here, and locals sipping rare bourbon, Main Street offers a quick glimpse into Columbia’s urban core. With stunning architecture and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, Main Street is also home to some of the city’s most beloved events including the can’t miss, weekly farmer’s market, Soda City Market, held every Saturday from 9 a m. to 1 p.m.
Bourbon: With the largest whiskey list in South Carolina, spirit connoisseurs should plan to spend some serious time here. Housed in the Brennan Building, which dates back to 1869, Bourbon specializes in whiskey, bourbon, and craft cocktails, as well as cuisine inspired by the Louisiana Bayou. Order up the duck confit gumbo bowl or eggplant jambalaya with a side of braised collard greens or crispy Brussels sprouts as you check out the bartenders pouring dynamite drinks, like the Frankly, My Dear.
South Carolina State House: Completed in 1903, the South Carolina State House took more than 56 years to build. An example of Neoclassical architecture, much of the building was made from native blue granite (from the Congaree Quarry), capped with an iconic copper dome. Free guided and self-guided tours offer visitors a glimpse at the architecture and history. Check the website for visiting hours when the legislature is in session. While you’re there, don’t miss the The State House Portrait and Art Collection.
Columbia Museum of Art: Located in the heart of Main Street, the Columbia of Museum of Art has long served as the cultural beat of downtown. As you walk through the doors, take in the breathtaking Chihuly glass sculpture overhead. You could easily spend an afternoon browsing through galleries filled with Renaissance and Baroque masters, or taking in one of the temporary exhibitions (which have included works by Van Gogh, Matisse, photographer Annie Leibovitz, Andy Warhol and more).
Lula Drake: Like stepping foot into a Parisian cafe, Lula Drake calls itself a place for “iconoclasts, romantics, professionals, students, gossips, stoics and local legends.” Named after a daring woman from the 1920s (her calling card was found in a trunk here), it’s the place where you’ll find your new favorite pinot while conspiring with a friend. With a rotating menu featuring small-scale vinters and curated draft and bottled beers, the staff will be glad to make a recommendation based on your likes. Don’t miss the artfully paired small plates, including salmon roe, avocado mousse, brioche toast, and the Iberico Ham.
The Nick: The Nickelodeon Theatre, affectionately called, “The Nick” by locals, was founded nearly 40 years ago by USC students, and has been going strong in its Main Street location since 2012. Offering independent films, curated series, and special showings, it’s where you’ll want to spend a rainy evening. The Nick also serves as presenter for Columbia’s annual Indie Grits film festival, which showcases the best in DIY Southern film. Bonus – you can grab a local brew or glass of vino and some popcorn or candy at the concession stand and take it to your seat.
Sweet Cream Company: Specializing in small batch ice cream, Sweet Cream’s flagship location keeps visitors cool all year long. Owners Joe and Jessica Kastner make 16 flavors, using local dairy and other ingredients. Flavors include classics like strawberry (with berries from Cottle Farm) and also a variety with a twist, like goat cheese with agave walnuts (from Trail Ridge Farm), and sesame seed honey pistachio.