By Lynn Sheldon and Waynette Goodson
Columbia, South Carolina, has proclaimed itself the "New Southern Hot Spot" - bold words for a place that's little more than 100 miles from Charleston. No Doubt Columbia is a venerable Southern city, the state capital no less, with a winning team, the South Carolina Gamecocks, and enough fork-tender barbecue to feed all the tailgaters at Williams Bryce Stadium. But can it live up to its new slogan? We'll investigate...
Columbia, South Carolina is first and foremost a college town where the University of South Carolina Gamecocks rule the roost. And sports fans agree that the hottest thing to ever happen here is the Gamecock's back-to-back College World Series championships in 2010 and 2011. Enough said.
USC's campus is a part of a vibrant downtown area, where Columbia's new "hotness" thrives at the historic riverfront district. The Congaree Vista or "the Vista" as locals call it, is home to more than 60 restaurants and bars, and about 40 art galleries and specialty shops. The Vista's revival marks the first phase of plans to redevelop an area called City Center.
In fact, the City Center Partnership has spent the last decade revitalizing the downtown, and today it's paying off. Just last year, Mast General Store, Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse, Wedding 101, Wine Down on Main, Anthony's Past Time Cafe, J. Gumbo's, and R.B.'s Bodacious Barbeque all opened in the area. But perhaps the crown jewel is the renovation of the 1979 Nickelodeon Theatre, the state's only non-profit art house film theater.
City Center Partnership CEO Matt Kennell says it best: "Columbia has been transformed into a must-visit destination. It's a safe, clean, and exceedingly friendly place to visit, shop, dine, and most of all, have fun!" ...
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