West Columbia sits just west of the capital city of Columbia, across the bridge. Unlike Columbia, West Columbia is in Lexington County, but still counts as part of the Columbia metropolitan area. The immediate area has lots of shops, restaurants and bars all within walking distance of one another. This combined with a low cost of living and a short distance to Charleston make it both an entertaining city and very popular with the young professionals.
The area has a great place to go that has lots of great restaurants and a popular bar and live music spot called the Vista. The Vista sits right over the bridge on Gervais Street and has a wide variety of restaurants and nightlife options. For the sushi lovers, make a trip over the bridge to Tsunami for some of the best Japanese food in town. At Tsunami, not only can you get great sushi rolls and Japanese dishes like teriyaki chicken or hibachi steak, but happy hour runs everyday from 4 to 7 p.m. Parking can be a bit of a problem here though, as with the rest of the Vista area. If you can’t find a meter here try heading up to Assembly Street at the top of the hill for a spot there and walking down. Not a lot of places around here serve seafood but luckily for the seafood fanatics you can visit Blue Marlin. The restaurant has a really elegant setting and huge aquariums throughout the restaurant. Plus, the food won’t disappoint either with their Charleston crab cakes and award-winning shrimp and grits. To finish off the melting pot of restaurants here, Ristorante Divino has authentic Northern Italian dishes in an upscale setting. The restaurant adds a modern twist to fantastic Italian recipes from their award-winning chef. Try the Northern Italian lasagna or the lamb or veal chops, some of the most popular items. The Vista has the best spot for nightlife here and has many bars in the same area as the restaurants. Wild Hare Sports Cafe has the best spot to relax with friends to watch a game and get some reasonably priced drinks. Wild Hare has lots of beers on tap, huge TVs and does daily specials throughout the week that often include half-price drinks and wings. For a little more atmosphere head up the street to Tin Roof, where you can get drink specials, spend time on their outdoor patio and listen to some live music on the weekends. Be aware that Tin Roof usually charges a small cover when bands play there. To impress a date or for a more formal night out, head to 116 on State Street. 116 serves as an espresso bar by day and transforms into a wine bar at night. This eclectic spot also serves food and features work from lots of local artists.
The city of West Columbia was originally incorporated in 1894 and called Brookland. Hence the name “Brookland” and “New Brookland” still being retained by many businesses, churches and even a high school in town. In 1936, the name was switched to West Columbia, to emphasize how close it is to the state’s capital city. To learn more about the long history make a trip just over the Gervais Street Bridge to the South Carolina State Museum. The museum was built in the old Columbia Mills Building and houses exhibits on the Hunley, a Meglodon and many other fascinating historical people and events. The area also hosts several events and concerts throughout the year at the Colonial Life Arena.
West Columbia does not have many bike lanes or walkable streets, though the downtown Columbia area across the river does. To get around using public transit here, the Comet bus system does a great job serving the entire Columbia Metro area. Uber does operate here, but with the large amount of students across the bridge in the campus area the rates can get pretty extravagant. The Columbia Airport also sits in West Columbia, making it easy for professionals here who travel often for business. For commuting to Columbia, Gervais and Blossom streets will both take you right into downtown, and for commuting to other nearby areas I-26, I-77 and I-20 all run through the Columbia area. Parking in West Columbia won’t be a problem but in the downtown Columbia area it can be miserable to find a spot. Although if you can’t find a metered spot parking can be done at several downtown garages.
The cost of living typically sits about 3 percent below the cost of living in the downtown Columbia area. Rent also costs less in West Columbia on average, with a median one-bedroom rental cost here of about $750. To get from West Columbia to the downtown area, taking the bus costs $3 for an all-day pass or $1.50 for a half -ay pass, and a cab costs around $10. Gas costs in West Columbia stay around 6 percent below the national average. If you head into a pub here to grab a brew, expect to pay between $3 and $5, as the proximity to the University of South Carolina gives the area some extremely low alcohol pricing.
The entire Columbia area has great shopping available, ranging from huge shopping malls to small downtown boutiques and antique stores. On Columbiana Circle, the Columbiana Mall has over 50 stores with popular favorites Coach, Bebe, Banana Republic and Forever 21. West Columbia also has several boutiques close by, with two of the more popular being Wildflower Boutique and Elegant Seconds Boutique. Wildflower Boutique sits on Saluda Avenue in the Five Points area and carries affordable women's clothing with a boho-chic appeal and a touch of relaxed Southern prep. The shop also carries handmade jewelry and seasonal accessories that are popular with the locals, such as the shop's unique felt-brimmed hats. Elegant Seconds Boutique sells all kinds of resale items, ranging from women's business suits and tops to shoes and accessories. The shop also sells many home decor items and even does a 50 percent off sale every Friday. As for grocery shopping, the area has mostly chain stores but does have a few smaller and specialty shops. West Columbia has several BI-LO and Publix locations. Carol's Seafood Market also serves the area with fresh seafood and meats. For those looking to find fresh South Carolina produce and other fresh goods, head to the Soda City Farm Market.
Finlay Park, the largest and most popular park in Columbia, allows for a wide range of recreational activities. Picnic tables, playgrounds, trails and great scenery line the park, where outdoor movies play every Friday night during the summer. The park also plays host to the Sizzlin’ Summer Concert Series starting in May with free outdoor concerts where you can bring in your own food and drinks.