To appreciate the beautiful architectural detail of downtown Columbia's historic buildings and the polished design of its modern towers, you only need to walk along Main Street and look up.
But from the vantage point of the street, you won't get the classic view of the city skyline. To enjoy a panorama of the urban center, you'll need to go up or get out.
Here are five sweet spots to get the best view of the capital city:
Built in 1913, the historic Main Street landmark, formerly known as the Palmetto Building, is the city's oldest high-rise. In 2008, it was fully restored and reopened as a luxury hotel with a 17th-floor lounge offering a fantastic view down Main Street to the State House. The casual, friendly bar is also a popular place to watch one of Columbia's stunning sunsets.
2. Top of Carolina
Located on the 18th floor of the University of South Carolina's Capstone House, this revolving restaurant takes about an hour to make a full 360-degree rotation, giving you plenty of time to savor your meal and take in the view of the surrounding university campus, famed Five Points entertainment district and downtown Columbia. The restaurant is open only during the fall and spring semesters on Fridays for a barbecue lunch buffet, Sundays for brunch and on handful of special occasions.
3. Finlay Park
This beautiful 18-acre city park has one of the most photographed views of downtown Columbia. Located in the Vista entertainment district, the park sits just a few blocks from the Capitol and across from the Governor's Mansion. From its highest point above the fountain you can see the skyline rising over the park's lush green landscape and signature lake. Grab a seat on one of the swings and enjoy the view-day or night.
Don't let the simple brick facade fool you. The view from the second floor of this West Columbia restaurant will take your breath away. The main dining room features a wall of large windows overlooking the Congaree River and downtown Columbia. You won't find a more romantic setting to drink in the lights of the city.
Park your car in the Vista and walk across the historic Gervais Street bridge to take in the panorama of the cityscape. From the West Columbia side of the Congaree River you'll be looking up at the iconic bridge with its dramatic arches and cast iron light posts. The city lights and warm glow of the setting sun reflect off the water, making this one of the prettiest spots to view the capital city skyline.