Whether you're sightseeing with a group that shares a common interest or traveling with an eclectic mix of friends or tour companions who have different tastes, Columbia, South Carolina offers a perfect mix of history-filled homes, beautiful gardens, fascinating museums, diverse shopping choices and myriad dining options.
Even better, Historic Columbia is waiting to help groups create the perfect one- or two-day trip. Here is your guide to spending two days exploring the historic sites in South Carolina’s capital city.
No trip to Columbia is complete without a tour of an antebellum home. You can start your day with guided tours of the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion. The historic estates, complete with beautiful gardens, let you experience the best of indoor and outdoor southern gracious living. These living museums feature beautiful examples of period furniture, as well as the everyday items that 19th- and 20th-century Americans used in their daily lives. Groups can complete their tours of these residences with a box lunch in one of the historic, manicured estate gardens.
After lunch, a historic Civil War bus tour lets visitors see Columbia’s role during the war. Visitors can retrace the struggles of Confederate commanders and follow the steps of Sherman's army, driving past historic buildings that survived the devastation resulting from the arrival of the Union army- and the remains of some that didn’t.
After taking in the history of the city, tour groups often like to experience the thriving culture of Columbia's growing Main Street District, which offers local boutiques, art galleries, bakeries and cafes.
When you're ready for dinner, your many options include traditional Southern cooking, new inspirations from the area's young chefs, or a fusion of both, served in historic buildings repurposed to blend the old and the new. Visitors can choose from an eclectic variety of restaurants, cafes and bistros.
Hotels and bed and breakfast options abound, letting you spend the evening in comfort and charm.
Historic Columbia also offers tours of young Woodrow Wilson’s family home, the 28th president of the United States who led the country through World War I. The Woodrow Wilson Family Home is open for visitors and features educational exhibit galleries, period vignettes and virtual tours. The Wilson home is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to telling the tale of the post-war Reconstruction period and an interesting way to start a day of touring.
Following a visit to the Wilson home, groups can take a tour of the Mann-Simmons Site, where visitors relive the remarkable tale of two freed slaves who built a family business empire that lasted more than 100 years. Thousands of artifacts discovered on the site help preserve the story of Columbia's African American community from slavery and Reconstruction to the Civil Rights era through urban renewal.
Tours at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home and the Mann-Simmons Site are semi-guided, allowing you to explore at your own pace while taking advantage of tour guides' expert knowledge. When touring any of the homes managed by Historic Columbia, visitors can take home a memento from the well-stocked Gift Shop. Plus, all group tour visitors receive 10 percent off in the shop.
Lunchtime is the time to explore Columbia's Five Points area, the oldest entertainment district in the city. Once again, tours can choose from a wide variety of cuisines served at interesting eateries.
Visitors can continue their tour of Columbia in the afternoon by visiting the Modjeska Monteith Simkins House. This late-19th century home is where Ms. Simkins, the matriarch of South Carolina’s Civil and Human Rights movements, held meetings with some of the country's key civil rights leaders, including Thurgood Marshall when he was visiting Columbia in preparation for Briggs v. Elliott, a court case later merged into Brown v. Board of Education.
Another afternoon option is take a guided bus tour. Visitors can either choose the Historic Heart of Columbia tour and see the significant downtown sites in the central core of Columbia, including the State House, the Governor’s Mansion and the University of South Carolina’s Horseshoe (original campus). Or, you can choose to take the Homeplaces African American Heritage Tour and visit historic African American owned houses, businesses, cemeteries and other important sites.
After a day of exploring the city and all it has to offer, visitors often love to check out the local arts scene and galleries in the Vista restaurant and entertainment district.