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September 13, 2023 10 minute READ

24 Hours in Columbia

tags Local Flavor | Travel
locations Columbia
Columbia's City Flag in sculpture form

Where do you go to visit the oldest structure that houses a Mast General Store location? You won’t find it in the mountains – Not even in Valle Crucis where the Original Mast Store has stood since 1883. 

The oldest building any Mast Store calls home is in Columbia, South Carolina! Located just a few blocks down Main Street from the State House, this edifice was raised during the Reconstruction Era of the 1870s. 

Surprised? Perhaps, but don’t feel bad. That trivia might shock even a few of the Mast Store’s own staff members… Outside of Columbia, of course. Those who work and live in Columbia, however, are well aware of their city’s history. They walk amidst it every day. To them, especially, it’s not so astonishing that they should work in their company’s longest-standing building. 

While all Mast Store locations are intentionally placed in historic structures, several of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Columbia itself is one of the oldest communities in the Mast Store’s region. 

Columbia has served as South Carolina’s capital since 1786, and it is the seventh oldest capital city in the United States. (It’s technically the sixth oldest if you go by the year it was established as the state capital rather than the year the city was first settled, but who’s counting?) South Carolina state legislators relocated the capital from coastal Charleston in the years following the Revolution in anticipation of inland population growth.  

South Carolina State HouseThe deliberate move to choose a geographically centralized yet relatively undeveloped location with a frontier fort situated on the west bank of the Congaree River and a few settlements on the higher east bank allowed Columbia to become one of the new nation’s first planned cities. You can still see the imprint of the city grid in the wide thoroughfares extending outward from the South Carolina State House. 

Skip forward a couple of centuries and some change, and the city grid serves as a suitable metaphor for Columbia in the present. As you walk down its sidewalks or drive along its streets, you see history mixed with the present everywhere in Columbia. As is the case with many historic places, the present may be laid on the plans of the past, yet it doesn’t define what we are today or where we are going. 

So, with that, visit Columbia, and get to know this city as it is today for yourself! If you do, we encourage you to drop by our Mast Store location there, and call on a few of our neighbors, too. This hospitable city has lots to share, and plenty of residents who love to show it off. Here’s just a sampling of the places we love to visit on a day trip. Use them as a starting point and go from there to make Columbia your very own. 

Segra Park 

Segra Park is home to the Columbia FirefliesHome of the Fireflies, Columbia’s minor league baseball team, Segra Park is a gem of a ballpark by any measure. Awarded Class A Ballpark of the Decade by Ballpark Digest in 2019, this beautiful venue also provides its guests – diehard Fireflies fans and visitors alike – with a memorable and fun-filled time on the diamond to boot. The sports publication Stadium Journey has also honored Segra Park with “Best Ballpark Experience” in the Fireflies’ home division, the South Atlantic League. At the edge of Downtown Columbia, it’s a convenient drive from the Mast Store, which is entirely worth the car or bike ride. Already host to many outdoor concerts, expect Segra Park to be even more of a hot spot in the near future as a burgeoning entertainment, restaurant, and shopping district grows around this already established, young destination on the Columbia scene. 

Transmission Arcade 

Pinball at Transmission ArcadeFlippers, bumpers, ramps, rollovers, whirs, and dings… Just be sure not to tilt! Transmission Arcade must be all about pinball! It is, and it’s so much more. Not only does this Main Street joint house dozens of new and retro pinball machines that would light up the eyes of any arcade aficionado, but it also offers a menu of cold craft beer, creative cocktails, and tasty pub grub for a post-workday snack, casual dinner, or a late-night bite. We highly recommend a basket of wings coated in the house specialty Abacus Gold sauce – a staple of Columbia cuisine. Just be sure to wash those sticky fingers before heading back for another round on the machines! If you’re a Columbia local, join one of their pinball team leagues suited for players of all experience levels, or, if you’re just in town for a couple of days, head over to test your reflexes and sample the menu.   

The Grand on Main 

Bowling at The GrandUpscale bowling might seem like an oxymoron, but it surely exists at The Grand on Main. Just a few doors down from the Mast Store, The Grand features several lanes in an ornate setting that seems like it might have been inspired by something from the Vanderbilt family manor’s basement. Toss in a trendy craft cocktail bar, a row of giant projection TV screens over the pins, and a contemporary restaurant with a menu ranging from high-end fare to tacos, and you’ll know that you’re throwing strikes in a decidedly modern venue. An ideal spot to spend the evening with a group of friends as you catch a game, sip a drink, sit down to dinner, and – don’t forget – bowl a few games, too, The Grand is a chicly vintage locale where the good times roll.  

The Nick 

The NickelodeonThe Nickelodeon Theatre, or “the Nick” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a top-notch, throwback, neighborhood duplex cinema. It shows everything from first-run independent films and curated film series to one-off screenings and the occasional current mega-blockbuster. With such a wealth of variety in a downtown arthouse venue, the Nick is a can’t-miss Columbia destination. Whether you’re a film buff or you’re looking to escape the heat for a couple of hours, catch a movie, and head next door to the Mast Store as soon as the credits roll to browse with an extra bag of popcorn and candy for dessert. 

Hotel Trundle 

The Hotel TrundleFirst-class, Southern hospitality and an eclectic, 1920s Art Deco atmosphere define Hotel Trundle with verve and vogue. This stylish boutique hotel in a refurbished, downtown industrial space is the epitome of post-modern elegance and provides the place for any trendy traveler’s dream repose. Each room is unique and loaded with creature comfort amenities. A hip yet cozy lobby that showcases a bar with multiple modish sitting areas welcomes all guests upon entry. Hotel Trundle also offers daily in-room breakfast delivery from the Sandwich Depot, a neighboring café, and several themed “experience” packages for foodies, outdoor enthusiasts, champagne and dessert lovers, and more, which make it, not only an excellent overnight abode for tourists to Columbia, but also a luxurious and quaint getaway for locals looking for a weekend stay-cation. No matter how far you travel, you can count on a lavish retreat at Hotel Trundle. 

Sweet Cream Co. 

Sweet Cream Co.For date nights, family afternoons, after-dinner indulgences, study breaks, or simply no reason at all, any occasion provides an excellent excuse to visit Sweet Cream Company. This Main Street dessert café serves up tantalizing, handcrafted, small-batch ice cream. An inspired, divinely delicious rotating menu features a plethora of unique flavor combinations and traditional favorites. No matter which you choose – and believe us when we tell you that it’s an incredibly difficult decision – the freshness of the ingredients is simply undeniable. Order yours in a homemade waffle cone or add it to a cup of locally roasted coffee to make your own affogato. 

The Arcade Building 

Enjoy a meal at The Arcade BuildingPreservation meets creativity in Downtown Columbia’s Arcade Building. This architectural beauty was built in 1912 as the city’s first indoor shopping mall. It was based on the design of Italy’s open arcades from the era and has served as a cosmopolitan landmark in Columbia since its construction despite evolving through many iterations. Today, the Arcade Building is where Main Street meets modern life. It houses a number of boutique shops and casual fare restaurants, including TakoSushi, a hip Southwestern-Asian fusion restaurant with a huge lineup of sushi rolls; Ally & Eloise, a woman-owned bakeshop; Swanson’s Deli, where you can grab a quick, hearty sandwich; Ophidian Tattoo, an all-female shop that prides itself on inclusivity and original designs; Blue Sky Gallery, the home studio of Columbia’s most famous contemporary mixed media artist; and more locally-owned and -operated suites.  

Uptown Gifts on Main 

Uptown Gifts on MainSearching for the perfect way to say, “Thank You,” “I love you,” or “Let’s celebrate!”? Look no further than Uptown Gifts on Main. This boutique features a wide array of gift items for every occasion, including locally made and produced foods, drinks, and sauces; Palmetto State-themed apparel and accessories; seasonal, charming chachkies to decorate your home or to give as housewarming gifts; elegant serveware for festive gatherings; and much more. It’s also a terrific place to find hometown University of South Carolina Gamecocks, and, Yikes!… even, in-state rival Clemson Tigers collegiate housewares and stadium gear. You may notice A LOT of construction happening around this shop, go ahead and navigate the barriers, cones, and dumpsters to get here - it's worth it.

Capital City Passage 

The Never Bust Chain can be viewed along the Capital PassageThe Capital City Passage was the first urban passage of the Palmetto Trail, a trail that connects nearly 400 miles of South Carolina from the Lowcountry to the Upstate. Nearly all of the sites mentioned here, including Mast General Store, are found along the path, which comprises several blocks of Main Street Columbia. It loops around the South Carolina State House, where you’ll find many points of historic interest – even cannonball impressions in the façade of the structure itself. The Capital City Passage’s 10.2 miles make for an easy stroll through stately neighborhoods, past city parks, and around the University of South Carolina’s landmark Horseshoe before connecting with Fort Jackson Passage, which leads to Riverfront Park and the Broad River.  

A trip on foot down the Capital City Passage is the best way to explore Columbia as you get acquainted – whether as a resident or a visitor – with this inviting, modern city that’s steeped in history and poised for the future. 

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