Best Sights & Monuments in Columbia

Journey through South Carolina's capital city


If you're a history buff, Columbia is a must-visit destination where you can learn about South Carolina's past and present.

1. Woodrow Wilson Family Home

Who would have guessed that little Tommy Wilson playing in the yard at 1705 Hampton Street would one day become the 28th U.S. president? Young Woodrow Wilson only lived there for three years, but you'll find the house brimming with historic memorabilia and period touches. Towering magnolias rising from a grassy lawn welcome you to the Italian villa-style house built in 1871. The home was restored to its original floor plan and decor in 2014 to make it look just like when the president lived there. You can book a guided tour through the Woodrow Wilson House by itself or combine it with up to three other Columbia historic homes.

2. Wade Hampton State Building

Gov. Wade Hampton took office in 1877 after what was reported to be the most corrupt election in South Carolina history. The former Confederate lieutenant general's 1,000-vote victory allegedly involved stuffing ballots and intimidating African-Americans to keep them from voting. Despite nefarious beginnings, Wade Hampton became known as the Savior of South Carolina for his role in helping the state recover from Reconstruction. Today, the Wade Hampton State Office Building acts as a sobering symbol of architectural segregation—its original construction is mostly unchanged, with spaces that were historically separated for African Americans doing business there. Since 1940, it has been the seat of government for ruling South Carolina agencies and has housed offices such as the Attorney General and Department of Education. A bronze statue stands on the grounds in front of the building named in Wade Hampton’s honor.

3. African-American History Monument

Celebrating the rich history and contributions of African-American People in South Carolina, the African-American History Monument stands in the courtyard of the State Capitol. See and touch images depicting their story, from crossing the ocean packed into slave trade ships through the end of the 20th Century. Look for the prominent obelisk that rises from the center of the memorial on the east side of the Statehouse. Rounded granite and bronze walls extend from either side and tell the story. You might need a tissue as you walk along the display, where you'll see a family torn apart on an auction block, troops marching to the Civil War, the challenges of Reconstruction and the determination to overcome.

4. Giant Artwork

You don’t have to wait for dawn if you're in the parking lot at the Land Bank Apartments on Hampton Street to see a sunset. A giant mural standing 50 feet high on the side of the building gives the illusion of a carved stone tunnel leading to a serene sunset scene. Artist Blue Sky painted the work, called Tunnelvision in 1975 back when the building was a bank. In the same parking lot, a second work by Sky towers 40 feet above the pavement. Known as the world's largest fire hydrant, Busted Plug Plaza looks as though it's knocked askew, spouting water night and day. Head across the street with a selfie stick and you'll be able to capture the plug and the mural in the same picture.

5. Walk Over the Dam

By the time you walk across Dreher Shoals Dam and back to your car, you'll have logged a nearly 3.5-mile workout. While the dam provided electricity to 5,000 residents when it was built in 1930, it also created the largest earthen dam in the world and the largest lake—Lake Murray—used for hydroelectric power. The damn and its islands were used for bombing training during World War II when five B-25 fighters crashed into its waters. Today, its 650 miles of shoreline house a vacation paradise along with a dozen marinas and boat ramps. South Carolina Highway 6 runs over the top of the dam and the dedicated walkway is a popular spot to take pictures or enjoy a morning jog.

6. Where the Big Trees Grow

Trees as tall as a 17-story building live in Congaree National Park on Columbia's southeast side. The old-growth bottomland forest is the most extensive in the Southeast. Relatively untouched for the past 100 years, champion-sized elms, oaks, pines and maples reach monstrous proportions. While you won't see but a fraction of the 27,000-acre park, you can explore more than 25 miles of trails and boardwalks to admire the towering trees. View blazing autumn colors or springtime wildflowers from the water while canoeing or kayaking the Cedar Creek Water Trail. Bring your own or rent a vessel from a livery service in the city.


Ready to travel? Find hotels in Columbia.



More to Explore


Romantic Columbia

Find the best date-night spots in South Carolina's capital city.

Read More

Columbia Outdoor Activities

Among sunning woodlands and waterways, Columbia is ideal for outdoor exploration.

Read More

Columbia Restaurants

South Carolina's state capital serves up Southern classics, BBQ and more.

Read More


Search Hotels