A Night Out in the Soda City

By:Kerry Egan

Date:1/26/2016

Looking to have some fun out and about in Columbia after dark? You have so many options, from reliving college days to wine and tapas to live theater.

Once the realm of warehouses and train depots, the Congaree Vista is now home to Columbia’s busiest and most diverse nightlife. Bars, clubs, restaurants, live music venues and even a dueling piano bar are all here, breathing life into beautiful old brick buildings that once housed bales of cotton. There are so many options for drinking, dancing, music and even a little creativity.

The Vista’s collection of bars range from big chains to quirky little holes in the wall. If your idea of a perfect night out is frosty beer in a friendly pub or sophisticated cocktails in an elegant bar, the Vista has what you’re looking for.

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium and Liberty Tap Room offer an incredible range of craft beers, while World of Beer is probably as self-explanatory a name for a bar as can be. All three combine great beer and fun crowds.

The Art Bar is a funky little place with a dance party on Friday nights and karaoke on Wednesdays, and yes, an artsy, diverse, very inclusive feel at one of the friendliest bars in the city.

Gervais & Vine has both an extensive wine list and an equally delicious tapas menu in a relaxed but elegant environment.

What could be more fun than a night out with good friends, drinks and music? Well, when that music is coming from two piano players duking it out to be the crowd’s favorite, not much. Rocket Man is Columbia’s only dueling piano bar.

And for a more quiet, elegant stop, many of the Vista’s restaurants, like Motor Supply Company Bistro and Blue Marlin, have beautiful and welcoming bars inside.

If it’s dancing you want, the Vista has your spot. The Woody has been a Columbia staple for decades with shag, salsa and everything in between. Its down-to-earth crowds and diverse playlist have kept it a popular spot with Columbians of all ages. Social draws a younger crowd with electronic music, bottle service and a big city vibe.

For something a little bit different, check out Studio Cellar. Choose from a number of painting designs and delicious beverages, and you’ll be set up with all the materials you need — paint, canvas and wine — to create your own masterpiece.

The Music Farm is one of the best places to see live music in Columbia. It hosts local, national and international acts, from folk to hip hop in an open, comfortable space.

For more live music, check out the New Brookland Tavern in West Columbia, an intimate place to see some great up-and-coming bands. The Township Auditorium and Colonial Life Arena bring in some impressive big acts, too.

If you’re a University of South Carolina alum, nightlife in Columbia probably means one thing: Five Points.

A charming collection of cafes, boutiques and fountains by day, this neighborhood just off USC’s campus transforms at night into a college playground. More than two dozen bars, pubs and nightclubs are crammed in just a few square blocks. As night falls, happy throngs of students (and those who are still college students at heart) roam the streets in search of the next best place to have some fun.

Looking to relive your college days? Yesterday’s and Group Therapy are both still going strong right in the heart of Five Points, just as you remember them.

Want to be surrounded by a bit more of that youthful energy? Stop by Jake's, or just follow the crowds and the thumping music.

If you want to see the fun in Five Points but are looking for a more subdued — OK, let’s be honest — grown-up atmosphere, have dinner and drinks at the elegant and gracious Saluda’s or Mr. Friendly’s.

Nightlife isn’t just about bars, of course, (although sometimes you can forget that in a college town like Columbia). The same universities and colleges that bring in the bars and clubs also offer incredible opportunities to take in a little culture.

The University of South Carolina’s Koger Center for the Arts hosts national and international arts, as well as a steady stream of performances by USC’s symphony and dance companies. See their website for complete listings.

Trustus Theatre and Town Theatre put on live plays and musicals throughout the year.

The Nickleodeon is an art house movie theater that shows first-run, indie and classic films, and hosts the ever-growing Indie Grits Film Festival every year in the spring. And when you’re done with the theater, the Vista is just a short walk or drive away.

So, whether you’re looking for a bit of culture, want to relive the glory of your college days or just want to unwind, Columbia has you covered. In fact, for a night out in the Soda City, there’s no need to choose between grown-up culture and youthful fun. You can do both in one night.

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