If you’re in Columbia, South Carolina at some point you’ll visit the Vista, the city’s arts and entertainment district. A neighborhood with tons of restaurants, nightlife and entertainment options in the heart of downtown and on the edge of the University of South Carolina campus, the Vista of today actually owes its success to artists and galleries.
In the 1970s, the neighborhood was nothing more than abandoned warehouses, but artists found the empty buildings to be full of light and offer inexpensive rent for studios. Since then, the neighborhood has blossomed but still keeps its artistic aesthetic. Thanks to good leadership, most of the historic buildings in the district have been preserved and are models of adaptive reuse.
The South Carolina Arts Commission recently named the neighborhood an official cultural district in the state, so whether you’re enjoying a concert in a small venue at Music Farm, checking out a show at one of the neighborhood’s art galleries or strolling down Lady Street to check out our public art sculptures, the Vista’s entertainment options abound. Read on for our hit list for a perfect 24 hours in the Vista.
Eating Out in the Vista
There are more than 80 restaurants and bars in the Vista, and picking a spot for dinner is tough. One of the original Vista restaurants, Motor Supply Co. Bistro is open for lunch and dinner, and its chef-driven, handwritten menu full of dishes made with local products, changes daily.
From live big shows at Colonial Life Arena to a performance by the South Carolina Philharmonic at the Koger Center, Vista has music tastes covered. Check out the concert schedule at Music Farm, for touring indie bands in a great atmosphere.
Before bed, how about dessert? Check out Kaminsky’s, which is open late. With its signature spiked milkshakes and sinful cakes, this spot’s dark, cozy interior is the perfect place for a nightcap.
Where to Stay
With plenty of accommodations options, you can’t go wrong with a hotel in the Vista, but we might suggest the new Hyatt Place, located right on Gervais and in walking distance of the whole neighborhood, and Main Street, too.
In the morning, don’t miss the omelets at Le Peep, which offers simple, delicious breakfast fare and bottomless cups of coffee.
The Vista has plenty of galleries. ifART and its owner Wim Roefs represent artists from all over the world. Each month, Roefs puts together a new captivating show. Want to see artists at work? Vista Studios/Gallery 80808 is home to several painters, sculptors and mixed media artists and their studios. These artists welcome visitors and the gallery always has an interesting show.
Ready to shop? BP Skinner is the place for men. The clothier offers custom suits and an array of colorful ties as well as several options for casual wear. Across the street, Carol Saunders Gallery offers everything from unique gift items to David Yurman jewelry and Annie Glass dishware.
Ready for a break?
Occo Skin Studio was recently named Columbia’s best place for pedicures and manicures. They also offer facials, massages and more in the most beautiful space.
Stroll down Lady Street to check out two large sculptures the Vista has installed in the last couple years. This spring, the Vista will get one more sculpture, another piece by a local artist.
Need a bite to eat?
Grill Marks is a new spot in the Vista offering delicious burgers and shakes. Don’t miss the french fry sampler or the burger of the day.
With so many options for grabbing a drink in the Vista, it’s hard to choose. We love World of Beer, which has tons of beers on tap, including many local South Carolina brews. And soon enough, you’ll be able to try Twisted Spur Brewing, the Vista’s own microbrewery opening in February in the 700 block of Gervais St.
To see a complete list of what the Vista has to offer, visit the Vista Guild’s website.
About the author: Katie Alice Walker lives in Columbia, South Carolina and is a public relations consultant. In her spare time, she’s into arts, books, dining, style and travel.