view of downtown Columbia from Finlay Park

Living in Columbia

When my husband and I moved to Columbia South Carolina many years ago, we really didn't know how much we would come to appreciate it. We thought we had looked the area over pretty thoroughly and were making a good decision, but we realized that we wouldn't know what it was truly like until we had lived here for a while.

Having moved here from a much colder climate, the first thing we had to get used to was the weather. It wasn't difficult! We had no regrets leaving our snow shovel behind, and being able to enjoy outdoor activities year round has been a great source of pleasure.

Making friends here has been easy and rewarding. The residents of South Carolina are her greatest asset. I continue to be impressed by these genuinely friendly people. I have met and talked to many Columbia newcomers over the years, and can honestly say that I haven’t heard anyone regret their decision to move here. It is a great place to live and work, to raise a family and really enjoy the good things in life.

As you get acquainted with your new hometown of Columbia or Lexington or Irmo or Blythewood or West Columbia or Cayce or Chapin (our Greater Columbia community is the sum of many small wonderful parts), you’ll surely discover the qualities of this fair city that will endear her to you. We hope our new website will help make your move here a bit more informed and smooth. Please feel free to email me any questions you may have about making Greater Columbia South Carolina your home.

Kathy Gardener, Publisher

Fun Things to Do in Columbia SC

Gardener Guides publishes Discover Columbia which celebrates everything good, happy and fun about being in Greater Columbia SC. It is published 3 times a year - Spring (January), Summer (May) and Fall/Holiday (September).

In addition, we publish the area’s most popular events email: This Week’s Top 10 Things to Do! We’d love to have you subscribe! Please click here and you’ll be signed up to receive it in your email every Thursday... that way you’ll know about all the fun things going on in our area - starting now! You can also like us on facebook.

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Our Informational Columbia Magazines

Why Choose Us

Some of the Best Reasons to Move Here

It's Economical!

The ACCRA Cost of Living Index 1st Quarter 2015 lists Columbia as having a composite cost of living that is 95.2% of the national average. In the Columbia Metro area, the average rental is $1152 per month. The average price of a home is $139,000. (FYI: check out over 100 new home communities at That makes the Columbia area particularly desirable to retirees... in fact, Forbes named Columbia as a top 25 retirement destination in 2012!

Family enjoying Columbia, South Carolina's weather. View of Downtown Columbia

It's warm

... it's sunny... it's of all -  it's not cold!  The average high in July is 92 degrees (our warmest month) and the average high in January is 55 degrees (our coldest month).  We bask in lovely sunshine 226 days a year and we only get an eensy-teensy bit of snow, and not every year... we average 2' each year.  Our weather is awesome!

It's fun!

50,000 acre Lake Murray is in our backyard, three beautiful rivers run through our communities, USC Gamecock baseball, basketball and football games are wildly popular, minor league baseball is coming Spring 2016, a dynamic cultural arts community offers a symphony, an art museum, multiple theatrical companies and an indie movie house. We have lots of great dining options, top name talent comes to Colonial Life Arena, lots of goolf courses and tennis facilities... the list goes on. Also, hop in your car on a Saturday morning and two hours later, turn up on Isle of Palms for a picnic with the Atlantic Ocean at your feet; or head up to the mountains - two hours and you're at Caesars head or Table Rock, ready for a day spent hiking to some incredible vantage points where the view go on forever. (FYI: find out what's going on in Greater Columbia every week via email: Top Ten Things to Do in Columbia SC)

Isle of Palms Beach Photo of the Historic Pink House

We love to play!

Sporting News recognized Columbia South Carolina as one of the “Best Sports Cities”.  Why?  We love our college teams like New Yorkers love the Yankees.  The University of South Carolina is located in Columbia with its beloved Gamecocks and every home football game is sold out (in 80,000+ seat Williams Brice stadium).  The Gamecocks' arch rivals are the Clemson Tigers, from Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, and each year the annual face-off sparks huge rallies and fanfare. The Benedict Tigers have a devoted fan base as well, and are members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

It's sophisticated!

Looking for a city with sophistication and culture?  Home to the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, Columbia City Ballet and a myriad of performing art groups, Greater Columbia offers a wide array of entertainment choices throughout the year.

Great fishing!

Get ready to catch a bass - a big, big bass! Lake Murray is a 50,000 acre playground just outside Columbia and it's home to some mighty big fish.  State record catches for the largest white bass, white crappie, white perch, white catfish and others have been caught in Lake Murray.  Also, experience great fishing in the Broad River, the Saluda River and the Congaree.

Great schools!

Public education in South Carolina has recently composed a state-wide goal known as the 2010 SC Performance Goal, in which all districts will strive to make South Carolina's students achievements rank in the top half of the US. Various programs like the District Open Enrollment, which affords parents the opportunity to enroll their child in any public school in a district, regardless of assigned attendance zone, the Virtual School Program, which allows more students the opportunity to take AP courses when they may not have otherwise been able to, and the Personal Pathway to Success, which allows and makes a student's education relevant to their aspirations and abilities, have been constructed in an effort to make a better economy and quality of life for everyone in South Carolina. Whether you are looking for a public school district or a private school, Greater Columbia is home to some of the South's best academic choices.

It's green!

Parks, spaces, wonderful places! The great outdoors is celebrated throughout Greater Columbia with its extensive park systems.  Beginning on the national level,  Congaree National Park is home to the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining on the continent! Experience national and state champion trees, towering to record size amidst astonishing biodiversity. Walk, paddle or just relax within this dynamic floodplain ecosystem. Beauty and tranquility reign supreme in the midst of this natural treasure. The Greater Columbia area is home to three state parks. Sesquicentennial State Park is situated in the middle of the Sandhills region, and features a beautiful 30-acre lake surrounded by trails and picnic areas. On Lake Murray, not far from the city, Dreher Island State Recreation Area is a great place to get away from it all. It is one of the best-known largemouth and striped bass fishing destinations in the South – the park consists of three islands linked to shore by a causeway and two bridges.  In addition to woodsy hiking trails and lots of places to fish from shore, Dreher Island offers picnicking, camping, lakeside villas, tackle shop and boat ramp.  Looking for a chance to unwind at one of South Carolina's most beautiful lakes? Come explore Lake Wateree State Recreation Area. The park, located on Desportes Island, features boat facilities, tackle shop, park store, camp sites, picnic tables, playground and a mile-long nature trail that runs through peaceful woods.  On a local level, Greater Columbia offers exceptional parks to enjoy a stroll, a bike ride, or a challenging hike.  Finlay Park, downtown,  is one of the most popular parks with an enormous waterfall that flows into a manmade lake.  This park is the site of many concerts and festivals.  The Three Rivers Greenway has been developed over the past twelve years as a 12-mile linear park system created to link people to their rivers.  Still in development, many sections are open and function as some of the most walkable trails in the Columbia area.  Access is available from both sides of the river.  Saluda Shoals is a premier, natural and environmentally sensitive riverfront park which invites visitors to experience the Saluda River through kayaking, canoeing, pathways and observation decks.  Virginia Hylton Park in Lexington offers a playground, walking trail, koi pond, flower gardens, butterfly garden and gazebos with grills.  Harbison Environmental Education Forest has 18 miles of trails designed for walking, jogging, hiking and bicycling that range from moderately easy to difficult. A canoe landing located near the Broad River provides access for kayaks and canoes as a put in or take out from the river.

Saluda Shoals Park Irmo Town Park

Economic diversity!

You know the old saying don't put all your eggs in one basket.  Well here in central South Carolina, we don't.  We're home to state government as well as many federal government offices.  The University of South Carolina, Benedict College, Columbia College and Allen University are big employers and also contribute to the economy through ongoing infrastructure projects.  Palmetto Health, Lexington Medical Center and Providence Hospitals all are growing in employment as well as in expanding facilities.  Major manufacturers include Michelin, Westinghouse Electric, Bose Corp and International Paper.  Major service providers include Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Parcel Service, AT&T, and Computer Sciences Corp..  So even though we have seen some economic slowing in the past 12 months, we are way better off than most places.  In fact,  SmartMoney magazine ranked Columbia, SC as #7 in the U.S. in its ability to recover quickly from the current (2008) economic slowdown.

Interstate convenience!

I-20, I-26 and I-77 all converge in Columbia and that means you can get around quickly, whether going across town or heading to Atlanta (3.5 hours), Charleston (2 hours), Charlotte (1.5 hours) or Myrtle Beach (2.5 hours)

Good for business!

The strengths of the Greater Columbia region are many and great, and create an environment to expand an existing business or begin one anew.  With a strategic East Coast location and in an area of almost 1 million people, Greater Columbia offers business a 510,000+ member workforce, aggressive incentives, the lowest corporate income tax rate in the Southeast, the lowest industrial electric rates in the Southeast, a multitude of shovel-ready sites, abundant infrastructure, United Parcel Service Air Hub, and close proximity to the Port of Charleston.  The Midlands Workforce Development Board helps companies train and retain employees.

World's Largest Fire Hydrant | Columbia, South Carolina

Nice friendly folks!

Southern hospitality is in our blood. Courtesy, concern for others, forgiveness, please and thank you... don't worry - you'll feel welcome. Our Population is expanding... we have grown 4.3% in the past 4 years. There are 740,000+ of us (Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry and Richland Counties) So we're used to new folks comin' around.

My mom continues to testify about the friendliness of the people of Columbia South Carolina.  She just can't get over it, every time she visits from Sarasota, Florida.  She was flying up here a couple years ago and her flight was delayed and she couldn't reach me.  The lady seated next to her calmly explained that she could drive my mom to my house if needed.  Another time, a couple from Lexington, a suburb of Columbia, asked my mom if she wanted to spend the night at their house when she was getting into the airport really late and then I could pick her up at their house the next day.  These anecdotes seem small and inconsequential compared to some of the hospitality stories I've heard told around here over the years.  But my mother swears that Columbia is the friendliest place on earth (and she's been around the globe a time or two!)

Best water!

Best tasting drinking water in the nation!  The City of Columbia was recently chosen as a semifinalist in a taste test for America's best tap water on NBC's Today Show.  Try it - you'll like it!

History of Columbia South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina is a city of beauty, history and fantastic location, affording its residents a truly unique and wonderful lifestyle. George Washington himself remarked that the city site was well-chosen, as he viewed the beginnings of Columbia, which sits on a bluff above the Congaree River below the confluence of the Broad and Saluda Rivers from the north. Established in 1786, Columbia was a planned city, built to be the seat of state government. Today, ever mindful of its history, the city continues to plan and evolve, keeping its past remembered and its future bright and forward-thinking.

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Columbia, SC

Columbia is enjoying one of the most exciting urban revitalizations in the United States. At the heart of this renewal is an area known as The Vista, a 1200-acre district in the heart of the city. This historic area features a high concentration of historic buildings, which have been rehabilitated with contemporary flair. Restaurants and bars, art galleries and museums, unique shops and professional office space, sporting arenas and entertainment venues add up to make this area popular with area residents and visitors.

The Colonial Life Arena is the largest arena in the state and is home to the University of South Carolina's men's and women's basketball teams. With seating for 18,000, the arena hosts the Columbia Riverbanks Region's most exciting entertainment, from A-list stars like Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffet, Billy Joel & Sir Elton John, to Shania Twain, Prince and Tim McGraw. Family shows like Sesame Street Live and the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus are presented throughout the year. Another significant asset in the Vista is the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, opened in mid-2004. This state of the art facility contains nearly 150,000 square feet of exhibit, classroom and ballroom space, and will bring much new convention and meeting business to the Vista area. A new Hilton Convention Center Hotel has just been built, along with an 800 space parking garage. Main Street is undergoing a beautification project, conducted block by block, replacing curbs and gutters, adding brick pavers for sidewalks, angled parking, new street lights, plantings and site furnishings. Downtown Columbia is one of the most beautifully landscaped cities of the South.

A long growing season in a semi-tropical climate creates lovely gardens and fantastic natural beauty. Spring comes early to Columbia. In February, frogs start singing again and daffodils pop open. The floral display is breathtaking as abundant dogwoods, redbuds, magnolias and azaleas fill each neighborhood with an awesome array of color. Summertime brings warm days and sunshine, "tea-sippin' weather". Summers are long, and the color changes of autumn normally take place in late October and November. the hills around Columbia take on the typical reds, oranges and golds of a New England fall. When the leaves finally drop in December, a mild winter is on its way. The average high temperatures in January and February are 55°F and 60°F, with lows averaging 34°F and 36°F.. It rarely snows, and when it does it usually melts the next day. For snow lovers and skiers, the white covered mountains of North Carolina are but two hours away.

Recreational opportunities include boating and fishing on Lake Murray, a 50,000 acre paradise just northwest of Columbia. With its 500+ miles of shoreline, it is a natural wonder to explore and a true fisherman's challenge, its waters home to striped bass, blue gill and crappie. Columbia's spectator sports include University of South Carolina Gamecock football, basketball and baseball. Parks and playgrounds are managed by the City of Columbia, Richland County and Lexington County, as well as some of the smaller towns that make up the metro area. Two area state parks are here, as well as the Congaree Swamp National Park. Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a top ten zoo in the US and offers extraordinary gardens and woodland paths. The list of annual events is long! The people of Greater Columbia love to have a good time. Three Rivers Music Festival, the Okra Strut, the State Fair, the Peach Festival, the Catfish Stomp, the Greek Festival, Lexington FunFest...they all celebrate an aspect of life in the Riverbanks Region.

The cost of housing in Greater Columbia is 93.2% of the national average (Cost of Living Index 2008), with the median home selling for $235,507 in third quarter 2008. The average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is $841 per month. An enormous range of housing is available. The areas with the highest levels of new residential development are Northeast Columbia, Elgin-Lugoff, Dutch Fork, Irmo and Lexington.

Greater Columbia is justifiably proud of its outstanding educational system. From elementary schools that teach Japanese and Latin to the University of South Carolina with its highly ranked business school, Columbia's schools are truly on the cutting edge. For example, Lexington and Richland County School District Five students continue to have the highest SAT scores among public school districts in the state (average 1078 in 2004). Lexington County School District Two's Saluda River Academy for the Arts was established as a fully arts-integrated and partial magnet school in 1999. Richland County School District One's Mathematics Education for Gifted Secondary School Students is designed for students grades 6-12 identified as superior in mathematical and verbal reasoning. This program is the only one of its kind in South Carolina and one of only five nationally. Among private schools, some outstanding examples of success: Heathwood Hall's technology program is recognized by the US Department of Education for highly effective use of computers in classroom learning. At Heathwood Hall, more than two-thirds of graduates receive scholarship offers and no other independent school in the area has seen as many students honored with regional, national and international distinctions. Glenforest School specializes in working with students of average to above average intelligence who are experiencing various learning difficulties. To ensure success, the school has a staff-to-student ratio of 1:3.

Nine institutions of higher learning are located in Columbia, including Midlands Technical College with its four area campuses. Recognizes as the region's leader in health care and medical research, Greater Columbia has 10 major hospitals, all offering diversified medical care and wellness services and programs to the community. The University of South Carolina's School of Medicine is affiliated with seven area hospitals. Columbians continually cite the location as one of the city's greatest assets. All of South Carolina is within a three hour drive of Columbia. Day trips to the mountains of the Upstate, the beautiful beaches of the Grand Strand and the historic sites and parks of the Lowcountry are a benefit of living in Columbia. People move to Columbia for a multitude of reasons. Many for jobs, many for military transfers, many for retirement...whatever your reason, welcome! You're going to love it!

Check Out Our Other Helpful Websites

A digital companion to Discover Columbia Magazine. Internet users looking for information on things to do, dining information and events easily find with Google.

A well-maintained website built to direct new home shoppers in the Greater Columbia area to info on new home builders, new neighborhoods and topics pertaining to the purchase of a spec home or a custom home.

Columbia's restaurant openings, restaurant news, food events, interviews, more!

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