Is Columbia South Carolina a Good Place to Live? Pros & Cons

by Rentals Editorial Team | Published: Aug 12, 2023

Are you a nature lover or outdoor enthusiast? If so, you’ll love living in Columbia, South Carolina. This city is a haven for outdoor activities, with its mild climate and abundant green spaces. Whether you enjoy hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or simply relaxing amidst nature’s beauty, Columbia has it all. Plus, the city is surrounded by breathtaking natural attractions like the Congaree National Park, where you can explore ancient trees and spot diverse wildlife. And if you’re more interested in cultural attractions and activities, Columbia has plenty to offer as well. From historical sites and landmarks to museums and theaters, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So come and experience the vibrant culture and natural beauty of Columbia!

Nature and Outdoor Activities in Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its mild climate and abundant green spaces, the city offers a wide range of outdoor activities for residents to enjoy.

One of the highlights of living in Columbia is its proximity to beautiful natural attractions. Just a short drive away, you can explore the Congaree National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its ancient trees and diverse wildlife. Hiking trails, canoeing, kayaking, and camping opportunities await nature enthusiasts in this pristine wilderness.

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is another popular destination for both locals and visitors alike. Home to over 2,000 animals from around the world, it provides an immersive experience with its lush botanical gardens and interactive exhibits.

For those who prefer more active pursuits, Columbia has numerous parks and recreational areas where you can enjoy activities like hiking, biking, jogging, or simply relaxing amidst nature’s beauty. The Three Rivers Greenway offers picturesque trails along the banks of the Broad River and Congaree River, perfect for outdoor recreation.

City’s History in Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia has a rich history that showcases its importance as a center for politics, commerce, and culture. Take a step back in time by exploring the city’s historical sites and landmarks.

The South Carolina State House is an iconic symbol of the city’s history. Completed in 1907, this magnificent building houses important government offices and serves as a reminder of South Carolina’s role in shaping American history.

The Historic Columbia Foundation preserves several historic homes that offer fascinating glimpses into the city’s past. The Robert Mills House & Gardens is one such example – a beautifully restored mansion showcasing Federal architecture from the early 19th century.

Fort Jackson, located just outside of Columbia, is the largest United States Army installation for Basic Combat Training. The fort has played a significant role in training soldiers dating back to World War I.

By immersing yourself in Columbia’s history, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s heritage and the events that have shaped its present-day charm.

Culture and Arts in Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia boasts a thriving cultural scene that offers a diverse range of artistic experiences. From museums and galleries to theaters and music venues, there’s something to entice every art enthusiast in this vibrant city.

The Columbia Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of European, American, and Asian art spanning centuries. It regularly hosts rotating exhibitions that showcase both local and international artists.

The Koger Center for the Arts is a premier performing arts venue in Columbia. It hosts concerts, ballets, operas, and theatrical performances throughout the year, bringing world-class entertainment to the city.

The Nickelodeon Theatre is a beloved independent cinema that screens a curated selection of independent films, documentaries, and foreign movies. Film enthusiasts can enjoy thought-provoking screenings in an intimate setting.

For live music lovers, Columbia offers various venues catering to different genres. The Township Auditorium is known for hosting big-name acts while The Senate serves as an excellent spot for catching local bands or emerging artists.

City Entertainment

Columbia, South Carolina offers a vibrant and diverse entertainment scene that caters to a range of interests. Whether you enjoy exploring art galleries, catching live performances, or indulging in delicious cuisine, this city has something for everyone.

For art lovers, the Columbia Museum of Art is a must-visit. It houses an extensive collection of American, European, and Asian art, as well as rotating exhibitions. The Nickelodeon Theatre is perfect for film enthusiasts who appreciate independent and foreign films.

If you prefer live performances, the Koger Center for the Arts hosts various concerts, ballets, and theatrical productions throughout the year. You can also catch a show at the Trustus Theatre or enjoy outdoor concerts at the Riverfront Park.

In terms of cuisine, Columbia boasts a diverse food scene with numerous restaurants offering flavors from around the world. From Southern comfort food to international delicacies, you can find it all here.

Local Sights, Attractions, Events and Things to Do

Columbia is rich in history and offers plenty of attractions for visitors and residents alike. The South Carolina State House is a notable landmark that showcases incredible architecture and serves as an important symbol of the city’s history.

The Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is another popular attraction that houses over 2,000 animals from around the world. It also features beautiful gardens where visitors can relax and enjoy nature.

If you’re looking for outdoor activities, Congaree National Park is just outside Columbia’s city limits. This stunning natural area offers hiking trails through ancient forests and opportunities for canoeing along picturesque waterways.

Columbia also hosts several annual events that draw crowds from near and far. The South Carolina State Fair brings thrilling rides, agricultural exhibits, live music performances, and delicious food each fall. The Rosewood Crawfish Festival is a favorite among locals, showcasing live music, arts and crafts vendors, and, of course, plenty of crawfish.

Job Opportunities and Overall Economy

Columbia’s economy is diverse and offers a range of job opportunities across different industries. Some of the biggest employers in the city include the University of South Carolina, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Palmetto Health, and the Richland County School District.

The city has a growing healthcare sector, with multiple hospitals and medical centers providing employment opportunities. Additionally, Columbia’s education sector is robust due to several colleges and universities located in the area.

As for the overall economy, Columbia has an average household income slightly above the national average. The city has also seen a decrease in unemployment rates in recent years.

With its diverse job opportunities and improving economy, Columbia presents itself as a promising place to build a career and find stability for residents.

State Taxes and Local Taxes

Columbia, South Carolina, is a great place to live not just for its vibrant culture and southern charm but also for its favorable tax system. Residents of Columbia benefit from relatively low state taxes and local taxes compared to other cities in the United States. The state income tax rate in South Carolina ranges from 0% to 7%, depending on income levels. Additionally, property taxes in Columbia are below the national average, making homeownership more affordable for many residents.

Education System

Columbia is home to a diverse range of educational opportunities with numerous colleges and universities both within the city and nearby. The city is proud of its strong educational institutions that offer high-quality education across various fields of study. Some notable local colleges and universities include:

  • University of South Carolina: A nationally recognized public research university offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Columbia College: A liberal arts women’s college providing excellent education in arts, sciences, business, and more.

In addition to these local institutions, there are several well-regarded colleges and universities within driving distance from Columbia, such as Clemson University and Furman University.

City’s Public Transportation and Traffic

Columbia provides convenient options for public transportation throughout the city. The main public transportation service is provided by The Comet (Central Midlands Transit), which offers bus routes that connect various neighborhoods within Columbia as well as neighboring towns. This reliable bus service makes it easy for residents to commute across the city without relying solely on private vehicles.

In terms of traffic, while there may be some congestion during peak hours on major routes like Interstate 26 and Interstate 20, overall traffic flow in Columbia is manageable compared to larger metropolitan areas. The city has implemented effective traffic management strategies to minimize congestion and improve commute times.

For air travel, Columbia Metropolitan Airport serves the city and its surrounding areas. With multiple airlines offering direct flights to various destinations, residents have convenient access to domestic and international travel options.

Neighborhoods in Columbia

  • The Vista: Located in the heart of downtown, The Vista is a bustling neighborhood known for its vibrant nightlife, art galleries, and trendy restaurants. It offers a mix of modern apartments and historic buildings.
  • Shandon: Shandon is a charming neighborhood with tree-lined streets and beautiful homes. It is known for its strong sense of community and is conveniently located near downtown Columbia.
  • Forest Acres: Situated just outside downtown, Forest Acres offers a suburban feel with a variety of housing options. The neighborhood is known for its excellent schools and proximity to shopping centers.

Note: While we have highlighted a few neighborhoods, Columbia has many other diverse and unique neighborhoods that cater to different preferences and lifestyles.

Is Columbia, South Carolina a Family Friendly City?

Columbia, South Carolina is a delightful city for families to call home. With its friendly community and abundance of family-friendly amenities, it provides an ideal environment for raising children.

The city offers a range of excellent schools, both public and private, that prioritize quality education. Families can also take advantage of numerous parks and recreational areas scattered throughout the city, providing ample opportunities for outdoor activities.

Furthermore, Columbia boasts several family-oriented attractions such as the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, where kids can enjoy animal encounters and interactive exhibits. The EdVenture Children’s Museum is another highlight, offering hands-on educational experiences for children of all ages.

City Tourism in Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina is a hidden gem when it comes to tourism. The city offers a blend of rich history, vibrant culture, and natural beauty that captivates visitors.

History enthusiasts will appreciate exploring the State House or taking a stroll through the historic district to admire the stunning architecture. The Columbia Museum of Art showcases an impressive collection spanning thousands of years.

If you’re looking for entertainment, catching a live performance at the Koger Center for the Arts or attending a concert at Colonial Life Arena will not disappoint. Additionally, nature lovers can enjoy scenic walks along the Congaree River or visit nearby natural attractions like Harbison State Forest.

Moving to Columbia? Here’s What You Need to Know

  • Cost of living: Compared to national averages, Columbia tends to have a lower cost of living. Housing prices are generally affordable and there are options available for various budgets.
  • Weather: Columbia experiences hot summers and mild winters. Be prepared for high temperatures during the summer months and occasional thunderstorms.
  • Job market: Columbia’s job market is diverse, with opportunities in sectors such as healthcare, education, government, and manufacturing. The city is also home to several major universities.
  • Transportation: Columbia has a reliable public transportation system, making it easy to get around the city. The central location of the city allows for convenient travel to other parts of South Carolina.
  • Cultural diversity: Columbia embraces cultural diversity and offers a range of festivals and events to celebrate various cultures throughout the year.

Retiring in Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina offers retirees a pleasant and fulfilling lifestyle. The city provides a variety of amenities and attractions that cater to the needs and preferences of older adults. With its mild climate, affordable cost of living, and numerous recreational opportunities, Columbia is an excellent place for retirees to settle down.


  • Weather: One of the biggest advantages of retiring in Columbia is the favorable climate. The city experiences mild winters and warm summers, allowing retirees to enjoy outdoor activities throughout the year.
  • Affordability: Compared to many other cities in the United States, Columbia offers a relatively low cost of living. Retirees can stretch their retirement savings further and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.
  • Medical Facilities: Columbia is home to several top-notch medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and specialized healthcare centers. Retirees can have peace of mind knowing that they have access to quality healthcare services.
  • Cultural Scene: With its vibrant arts scene, museums, theaters, and historic sites, Columbia provides retirees with ample opportunities for cultural enrichment. There are numerous festivals and events held throughout the year that cater to various interests.


  • Traffic Congestion: Like any growing city, Columbia experiences traffic congestion during peak hours. Retirees who prefer a more laid-back lifestyle may find this aspect bothersome.
  • Humidity: While the mild climate is generally favorable for retirees, some may find the high humidity levels uncomfortable during certain parts of the year.
  • Higher Crime Rates: As with any city, Columbia has its share of crime. While it is not considered excessively dangerous, retirees should take necessary precautions and choose safe neighborhoods to reside in.

FAQs about Living in Columbia

Q: What are the best neighborhoods for families in Columbia?

A: Columbia offers several family-friendly neighborhoods. Some popular choices include Forest Acres, Lake Carolina, and Shandon, which boast good schools, parks, and a sense of community.

Q: Are there good job opportunities in Columbia?

A: Columbia’s economy is diverse, with opportunities in fields such as healthcare, education, government, and manufacturing. The city is home to multiple universities and has a growing entrepreneurial scene.

Q: What outdoor activities can be enjoyed in Columbia?

A: There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in Columbia. The city offers parks, gardens, hiking trails along the Congaree River, and opportunities for boating and fishing on nearby lakes.

Q: Does Columbia have a thriving arts scene?

A: Yes, Columbia has a vibrant arts scene. The city is home to numerous art galleries, theaters, and hosts various cultural events throughout the year. The Vista district is particularly known for its art galleries and live music venues.

Q: Is Columbia a sports-friendly city?

A: Yes! Sports enthusiasts will find that Columbia offers plenty of options. The city is home to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and hosts various sporting events. There are also numerous recreational sports leagues for all ages to participate in.

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