The South Carolina Philharmonic and the Chamber Orchestra Association, 1237 Gadsden St. (tel. 803/771-7937 or 254-7445 box office; www.scphilharmonic.com), perform concerts at various venues throughout Columbia and the surrounding area. The music runs from classical music to pop to jazz. The season lasts from September to May. Call for information about performances and tickets.
One of the best little regional theaters in South Carolina is Trustus Theater, 520 Lady St. (tel. 803/254-9732; www.trustus.org), in the Congaree Vista neighborhood. Launched in the 1980s, the theater presents many regional premieres and develops new works in the regular season and its "late night series." All reserved seats are large armchairs, with a bowl of popcorn between every other seat and a place to put your drink (which the staff lets you bring in from the bar). Low-cost bleacher seats are available at every performance.
The Workshop Theater of South Carolina, 1136 Bull St. (tel. 803/799-4876; www.workshoptheatre.com), which has a season lasting from October to March, produces musicals, comedies, and dramas. You can obtain ticket information from the box office from noon to 6pm on performance days only. For announcements of presentations, look in the local newspapers or call the theater.
The Columbia Marionette Theatre, 401 Laurel St. (tel. 803/252-7366; www.columbiamarionettetheatre.org), offers shows for all ages every Saturday at 11am and 3pm. Tickets are $4 per person, free for children 2 and under. Productions include adaptations of classics, as well as original and innovative new shows.
Less than an hour's drive from Columbia is the historic Newberry Opera House, 1201 McKibben St. (tel. 803/276-5179 or 276-6264 box office; fax 803/276-9993; www.newberryoperahouse.com), in Newberry, South Carolina. The opera house has served the community for more than 100 years, primarily as a theatrical venue and movie theater. After the performance hall was turned into administrative offices in the 1950s, the historic building was in danger of being torn down until the Newberry Historical Society stepped in and saved this community treasure. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. After a $5.5-million renovation, the 426-seat theater is now equipped with state-of-the-art acoustics and lighting systems. Performances range from beach music to big band to Broadway and, of course, opera.
The Club & Bar Scene
It used to get very sleepy in Columbia after dark, but in the past few years, the town has been coming to life, thanks to the preponderance of young people. The best wine tavern and tapas bar is Gervais & Vine, 620A Gervais St. (tel. 803/799-8463). Drop in to partake of the expanding list of tapas -- Spanish for "small bites." If you order enough of them, these tapas can be a full meal. Bartenders also serve you more than five different wines by the glass. Other bars and nightspots include Bailey's Sports Grille, 115 Alton Court, across the street from the Columbiana Centre (tel. 803/407-3004). Columbia's best sports bar, with big-screen TVs, attracts a macho crowd of good ol' boys. Food is served -- and in such a spot, you expect ribs to be a specialty. Damon's Clubhouse, 900 Senate St. (tel. 803/758-5880; www.ribsribsribs.com), is another sports bar with big TVs. Barbecue ribs are a specialty here as well. This lively place is popular with the college and Congaree Vista crowds.
An amusing late-night bar is Group Therapy, 2107 Green St. (tel. 803/256-1203), which draws a diverse crowd. Even though it has a happy hour, it's best to go late at night. It's popular with the college crowd, many of whom drop in after their studies are done for the night. A neighborhood bar, Hemingway's, 7467 St. Andrews Rd. (tel. 803/749-6020), has a real macho atmosphere, as befits its namesake. Its happy hour is the longest in town, extending from 4 to 8pm. Burgers and sandwiches emerge from the back, and live music and entertainment are presented every Friday and Saturday.
The gay hangout is PT's 1109, 1109 Assembly St. (tel. 803/253-8900), which is a private club -- but call for arrangements if you're visiting. Across from the State House, this is mainly a gentlemen's club, promising "gorgeous men, tasty beverages, upbeat music, and diverse customers." It's the home bar for a camp for kids dedicated to families of children affected by HIV, and it's also the home bar for the Carolina Bear Lodge. Cabaret is often presented, featuring such "Party Time Gals" as the "Lesbian Drag Queen of Columbia."
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.