With its many notable landmarks, tree-lined streets and lively entertainment district, downtown Columbia, South Carolina, is a perfect place for volkswalking, the popular recreational pursuit that offers would-be explorers a designated route to indulge their wanderlust.
German for "a people's walk," a volkswalk is typically a 5K or 10K self-guided tour through a scenic, historic or interesting area. Columbia's Historic Capital City Volkswalk scores in all three categories as it winds around the State House grounds, through the beautiful University of South Carolina campus, past the governor's mansion and along historic sections of the city.
Volkswalk brochures, with a map and information on points of interest, are available at the Columbia Regional Visitors Center, the start of the self-guided tour.
The route takes you around three sides of the South Carolina State House, allowing you to take in the building's impressive Corinthian capitals, blue granite stonework and shimmering copper dome. Be sure to look for the six bronze stars on west and southwest walls marking the spots damaged by cannon fire during the Civil War.
From there, you'll venture into the heart of the University of South Carolina campus, crossing the famed Horseshoe, a lush quadrangle surrounded by 19th-century buildings. It's a favorite student gathering place for studying, sunbathing and spirited games of football or Frisbee.
One of the most unique points of interest on the tour is the "Tunnelvision" mural painted by artist Blue Sky on the side of the AgFirst Farm Credit Bank building on Taylor and Marion streets. You'll want to pull out your cell phone or camera for a selfie in front of the oversized artwork featuring a highway disappearing through a tunnel.
At this point, you can make a left and head back to the visitors center or turn right and continue on the 10K route. If you decide to keep going, you'll pass a number of historic buildings, including an Italian villa-style residence that served as the boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson.
The longer course also takes you past the governor's mansion and through Columbia's signature Finlay Park before winding back into the Vista, the city's popular downtown entertainment district. Here you'll find plenty of places to dine, drink and recover from your self-guided tour.
Brochures of the Historic Capital City Volkswalk are free. You can pick one up from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at the Columbia Regional Visitors Center, 1101 Lincoln St.