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Best Weekend Driving Trip from Columbia

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I've got a free weekend coming up and I'm thinking of taking a little trip. I've been to Savannah recently, so that's out. Don't really feel like Charleston. Going to Charlotte later, so that's out as well. I'm considering Atlanta, but looking for some more ideas. I don't really have anything in mind except going somewhere I can look at/photograph cool architecture. I'd also like to stay in a cool part of the city and maybe check out some live music. It could be as far as a 7 hour drive from Cola, but I'd like to keep it under 5. Any ideas??

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I've got a free weekend coming up and I'm thinking of taking a little trip. I've been to Savannah recently, so that's out. Don't really feel like Charleston. Going to Charlotte later, so that's out as well. I'm considering Atlanta, but looking for some more ideas. I don't really have anything in mind except going somewhere I can look at/photograph cool architecture. I'd also like to stay in a cool part of the city and maybe check out some live music. It could be as far as a 7 hour drive from Cola, but I'd like to keep it under 5.

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I do like Asheville, but the wife and I were just up there for a conference for her work. It's a really neat city -- love the bohemian vibe.

I dig the music scene in Raleigh -- I haven't actually been to many shows there, but I'm constantly jealous of the acts they book up there -- so, I'm thinking of that as well.

Any specific suggestions on the Tidewater area? I had considered that while looking at the map, but I haven't spent any real time there.

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If you like the great outdoors and the mountains I highly suggest the Seiverville, TN area. It's about a 3-4 hour trip from C-lum. My girlfriend and i rented a log cabin there about two years ago the week before valintines day. It was great! Plenty of hiking, and fantastic mountain views! Other than that I would say check out the tidewater area like wacamatt said or D.C., it can be a bit pricey and I couldn't tell you were to go. The last time I was there I visited some friends in Silver Springs, but I really enjoyed it. Other than those maybe Richmond, Jacksonville?

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Jacksonville is a nice city. Our Florida section cover it pretty well. I'm sure you could find something to do there. Have you ever been to Fernandina/Amelia Island or St Augustine? There is alot to do in and around Atlanta, so you can't go wrong there. I understand Nashville has a good music scene if you like country music.

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A little bit of a stretch at about 8 hrs. from Columbia, but Charlottesville, VA is great! Incredible walkable downtown (lofts, restaurants, bars, stores), great music scene, beautiful mountain scenery.

Richmond is great! The whole canal walk thing downtown (very urban, right under the elevated I-195), lofts, shopping, restaurants, The Fan, Carytown. Great city!

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I just thought I'd take a minute and suggest something almost unheard of in this part of the country: travel without your car, AND (here's the kicker) NO RENTAL CAR EITHER!

If you want to go to Richmond or Raleigh, you could very easily take Amtrak instead of driving. The Silver Star (the only train through Columbia) heads through Raleigh and Richmond on its way to New York. It leaves Columbia at 4:20am, (early, but you can sleep on the train) arriving in Raleigh at 9:00am and Richmond at 12:12pm. Southbound, the train leaves Richmond at 4:15pm and Raleigh at 7:43pm, arriving in Columbia just before midnight. That's a pretty great schedule for a weekend excursion! Only watch out for delays since the Star tends to run about 1 hour late in both directions. 1-800-USA-RAIL is your friend.

You don't know what you're missing until you've tried train travel. The view is so much better than what you see from the interstate. It's like strolling through America's backyard: the tracks go straight through the center of so many small towns that the interstate just brushes off, and you won't see a single trackside billboard anywhere. Yes, it's slower than going by car. And if that bothers you, you can stop reading right now. This type of traveling is not meant for someone uptight enough to mind an extra hour of transit time.

I don't know about Richmond, but in Raleigh the train station is within walking distance of the museums downtown, as well as Glenwood South and the "Warehouse District" - where all the bars, clubs, and fun restaurants are. I'd suggest staying in the Clarion hotel - the round one near the capitol building. This is all downtown, and Raleigh is the state capitol, so you'll find plenty of buildings - old, refurbished, and new, to photograph and enjoy. The bus depot is located basically across the street from the museums, so if you felt like going somewhere else, you could get around that way too.

Traveling like this, you'll end up walking a lot (a LOT - perhaps even 10 miles a day) so if that doesn't work for you then forget about it. It also requires research - you'll need to look up bus routes and schedules beforehand. And remember that you can't expect 100% of everything to go as planned - so you and your companions have to be willing to roll with the punches or else it'll be miserable the whole time. But seeing a city from a pedestrian's perspective (or from the middle of a bus) gives you such a great sense of place that you miss out on entirely from the sterile atmosphere of your automobile. I'm a poor college student so this is how I travel. It makes any trip into a great adventure, and I wouldn't trade that for the world! It's always a huge disappointment when a friend decides to comes along but insists on "doing me a favor" by driving. Kill all my fun, why don't you!  :angry:

Leaving your car behind could make this into a very memorable weekend trip!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

What a great idea! I wish train service was such that we could take it everywhere, like in Europe!

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What a great idea! I wish train service was such that we could take it everywhere, like in Europe!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It would be nice if we had better train service, but if you keep thinking "if only" then you'll miss what we already have. I think everyone should throw their unfounded caution to the wind and try it, just once!

By the way, Amtrak will take you to points south of Columbia as well. The train stops at Savannah and Jacksonville in the middle of the night, but arrives in Orlando at 8:20am, while the northbound leaves at 7:37pm. That's definitely doable. Keep an eye out for weekly specials on the Silver Star, because it gives you a 70-80% discount.

I often have a lot of free time on my hands on the weekends, and I like to plan any traveling I do around Greyhound and Amtrak schedules. Sure, it limits flexibility a bit, but is that really a bad thing? It narrows the choices down for me. From Raleigh, I've gone to Charlotte, Salisbury, and Washington DC by train, and Asheville by bus; next up are Greensboro and Richmond.

I could do Columbia, too since it looks like the train station is pretty much in the center of town. Getting off the train at midnight could make it tough, but there are a number of hotels just a couple blocks away. I had written it off as impossible because of the timing, but the more I think about it the more I realize it just might work! Any suggestions for places to visit near downtown Columbia?

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If you go I suggest staying in the Vista, there is a Hampton Inn right in the middle of it. There is the SC State Museum nearby, Columbia Art Museum off of Main St. which isn't too far away, tour USC, of course if your in town when USC is playing a home game you can take it in. College basketball in Columbia isn't like it is in the Triangle, but football mania is different story! In the Vista you have several restaraunts/bars & even a couple of large nightclubs if that's you thing. One of my favorite places is the Blue Martini (jazz/lounge) right behind the Rhino Room, it has a really nice atomesphere. Walking distance you have Finley Park which was rated one of the top greenspaces in America a year or two back. I'm a big outdoors person so when I'm back home in Cola I usually ride my mtn. bike out at Harbison St. Forest in St. Andrews and then go downtown for evening entertainment. But there is also the Congaree National park, and Lake Murray. One of the nations best zoos isn't too far from DT Riverbanks Zoo. 5points is another entertainment district in the city that is in the DT vicinity that has some pretty decent nightlife going on as well. Another good club there off of Main St. is Rio Nightlife it's cool dress code, mixed crowd and everything.

Some of these other guys who actually live there now may no a few more nooks & cranny's to go too.

Here are a few links that may help you out.

Columbia Visitors

The Congaree Vista

Five Points

Make sure to tell your friends to come on down!

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Thanks for all the suggestions guys! My trip isn't until middle of next month so I'll mull these over.

Regarding the train trip down to Cola.... def. stay at the Hampton Inn if that's your kind of place. It's the nicest hotel downtown, IMO, and in a great location. As far as nightlife, it really depends on what you're into, Columbia Tunes has a pretty good breakdown of the scene. Regarding attractions and sights, check out the Vista, riverwalk areas, art museum, the USC horseshoe, the State Museum, the State House (maybe do a tour), and Riverbanks Zoo if that's your kind of thing. Best coffee shop: Jammin' Java.

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It would be nice if we had better train service, but if you keep thinking "if only" then you'll miss what we already have. I think everyone should throw their unfounded caution to the wind and try it, just once!

By the way, Amtrak will take you to points south of Columbia as well. The train stops at Savannah and Jacksonville in the middle of the night, but arrives in Orlando at 8:20am, while the northbound leaves at 7:37pm. That's definitely doable. Keep an eye out for weekly specials on the Silver Star, because it gives you a 70-80% discount.

I often have a lot of free time on my hands on the weekends, and I like to plan any traveling I do around Greyhound and Amtrak schedules. Sure, it limits flexibility a bit, but is that really a bad thing? It narrows the choices down for me. From Raleigh, I've gone to Charlotte, Salisbury, and Washington DC by train, and Asheville by bus; next up are Greensboro and Richmond.

I could do Columbia, too since it looks like the train station is pretty much in the center of town. Getting off the train at midnight could make it tough, but there are a number of hotels just a couple blocks away. I had written it off as impossible because of the timing, but the more I think about it the more I realize it just might work! Any suggestions for places to visit near downtown Columbia?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The train station is definitely in a convenient location, in fact I work across the street from it! I would also recommend the Hampton Inn in the Vista. It is much nicer than any other Hampton Inn that I know of and it is within walking distance of tons of clubs and restaurants, downtown, USC and the State House. The Convention Center and the Colonial Center (USC's basketball arena and concert hotspot) are almost next door. The Hampton is often booked and if it is there is a Comfort Suites in the Vista, Claussen's Inn in Five Points, the Adams Mark/becoming a Marriott and the Clarion Town House downtown and the Holiday Inn on Assembly across from the old Carolina Coliseum. DO NOT stay at the Governor's House. It's a little further, but the Whitney Hotel on Devine Street in Shandon is super bosco and it is on the Trolley route so you could take it to the Vista and Five Points. It's only a few blocks from Five Points and there are some great stores on Devine Street; I call it Columbia's Rodeo Drive. :) If you don't come until next year, the Convention Center Hilton may be finished.

The Hampton Inn is probably a long 6 blocks from the train station and I don't know if I would walk it in the middle of the night when there's nobody around. Days and evenings are fine to walk.

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To see something really different from Cola while gettin away from the monotomous pines, go to SW Virginia:

In the fall time, drive up I-77 into Charlotte, I-85 north to US 52 north towards Winston Salem. Get off at Germanton Road Exit (NC 8) and take that into VA. Absolutely beautiful fall foilage. The towns of Stuart, Floyd and ultimately Radford are nothin like what you would see in SC and its only about 200 miles away.

The way back, get onto I-81 SOUTH to I-77 SOUTH into NC which you will go through Fancy Gap. Just amazing drop in elevation from Exit 8 to the NC state line. i think the drop in elevation is at least 2000 feet.

Another idea that can be done year round but keep an eye for weather conditions is the Blue Ridge Parkway which i have driven between US 220 in Roanoke County to US 501 SE of Buena Vista. The BRP along the Bedford County line shows amazing views of the Appalachain Mountains with overlook places to pull over.

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Good call orulz. Funny you mention train travel, because I had penciled in taking Amtrak up to RDU in a couple of weekends. To add to your post, one can often check http://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak/WeeklySpecials to see when some seats (in this case, check the Silver Star) go on sale.

If you can find a weekend with the sale fares and couple it with priceline.com for a hotel you can get out for about $100 for a weekend for two (train/hotel).

The great thing about downtown hotels is that they are usually crowded during the week, but clear out on the weekend. Using priceline.com correctly, you can score a hotel you have no business being in for a song duinrg their off peak weekend days. I've booked Hyatts in the hearts of major downtowns for $50-$60 many times.

I'm all for ditching the car when touring downtowns, it's a burden anyway.

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You know. A great weekend trip from Columbia would be to take an excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Rent a small place up there and spend the day viewing the mountains on the train.

Here is their website.

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I know it's not very far of a drive; however, the 100-mile trek from Columbia to Greenville would be well worth it, if you've not been here within the past year or two.

Falls Park on the Reedy River is incredible. Downtown Greenville, in general is charming and beautiful to visit. I drove up for a weekend from Orlando a few years ago...the next thing I knew, I was moving to Greenville :-)

Check out the Following Sites:

Visit Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville, SC

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