Famously Hot

13 hot and cockyLinda Burton posting from Columbia, South Carolina – If you’ve got it, flaunt it, the saying goes, and Columbia jumps ahead of the game by promoting itself as “Famously Hot.” Does that refer to the climate? Or is it sizzling with things to do? Well I’m checking it out – in addition to the undisputed facts, just how hot is it? An undisputed fact is that Columbia is the capital of South Carolina, and has been since March 22, 1786, by legislative vote. It is also the largest city in the state (population 129,272, US Census 2010), and the US Army’s largest and most active training center, Fort Jackson, has officially been within the city limits since 1968 (by Pentagon approval). A geographic fact is that Columbia, like many colonial cities, is located on a “fall line;” that point in a river where you can’t float your boat upstream any more, and there isn’t enough water force coming downstream to power a mill (the Saluda and Broad Rivers meet here, and form the Congaree). An educational fact is that the University of South Carolina was founded here in 1801 (as South Carolina College); its initial hope was to attract young men from both the “Backcountry” and the “Lowcountry” and keep them from heading off to England for their education. Did they find Columbia hot?

13 hot matAs far as the weather is concerned, yes, it’s definitely hot. Columbia has a subtropical (translate humid) climate. There aren’t many cold nights, and hardly ever any snow. Its 48 inches of annual precipitation fall mostly as rain, and mostly in the summertime. Summer temperatures average out in the 90’s, but if you’re born here, you scarcely notice, or so they say.

13 logoAs far as all the youth traipsing off to England, well, the historic campus of the University of South Carolina covers more than 359 acres in downtown Columbia today, and enrollment at the main campus and its branches tops 45,000. USC offers more than 350 programs of study from 14 degree-granting colleges; recognition includes kudos from the Carnegie Foundation for “research and engagement,” a Top 10 ranking from US News & World Report for “most promising and innovative,” and decades of praise for its prestigious International Business programs. It claims the largest collection of Scottish literature outside of Scotland and the largest Hemingway collection in the world. Pretty hot.

And more hot stuff. The Columbia Music Festival Association (CMFA) was established in 1897 and headquartered in the Opera House with the purpose of booking and managing concerts and events. Today’s South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra puts on a full season of orchestral performances; the Columbia Choral Society has been performing in the community since 1930; the Columbia City Members of the Columbia City Jazz Dance Company perform on the stage of Workshop Theatre in Columbia, S.C. (Photography By Brett Flashnick)Jazz Dance Company, formed in 1990, performs locally and nationally as one of the “Top 50 Dance Companies in the USA;” the Columbia City Ballet offers more than 80 major performances a year. EdVentureTown Theatre is the oldest community theatre in the country in continuous use; the playhouse is just a block from the USC campus and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is also Trustus Theatre (professional theatre company), Nickelodeon Theatre (non-profit store-front theatre adjacent to USC campus); Columbia Marionette Theatre (only free-standing theatre in the country devoted to marionette arts); Workshop Theatre of South Carolina (produces musicals and Broadway fare); and of course, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company.

13 edventureI think museums are hot; the Columbia list includes the South Carolina State Museum (one of the largest in the southeast), the Columbia Museum of Art, the EdVenture children’s museum, the McKissick Museum (on the USC campus), and the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, which has an artifact collection from the Colonial period to the space age, with a diverse collection from the South Carolina Confederate period.

A hot city has parks too, and plenty of things to do outside in the glorious heat. Finlay Park is the most popular; its 18 acres are between Main Street and the river in the historic Congaree Vista district; it was first opened in 1859! Festivals, political rallies, Easter sunrise services – it all happens there. Memorial Park is just south of Finlay, 4-acres with monuments honoring those who served their country. Granby Park is part of the Three Rivers Greenway, a system of green spaces along the banks of the rivers; it is a linear 24-acre park with canoe access points, fishing spots, and nature trails. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is the #1 travel attraction in the southeast; named one of America’s best zoos, on its 70 acres live over 2,000 animals in natural habitats; the botanical garden also includes historic ruins.

13 congraeeLet’s don’t forget Sesquicentennial State Park, and Congaree National Park. The State Park is 1,419 acres featuring a 30-acre lake and a two-story log house that dates back to the mid-18th century; its interpretive nature programs are a major attraction. The 22,000-acre National Park, situated along the Congaree River, is home to the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States; it is an international biosphere reserve known for its giant hardwoods and towering pines; its floodplain forest includes one of the highest canopies in the world and some of the tallest trees in the eastern US.

All very hot, you say, but don’t forget sports. That brings us back around to USC; the Gamecocks play SEC football at Williams-Brice Stadium, (aka The Cock Pit); it’s one of the largest college football stadiums in the nation and seats 80,250 cocky fans. There is Colonial Life Arena for college basketball; it is the 10th largest on-campus basketball facility in the nation and is home to men’s and women’s USC Gamecocks basketball teams. And there is 13 Carolina StadiumCarolina Stadium for USC Gamecocks baseball. Opened in 2009 at a cost of $35.6 million, its numerous amenities include five luxury suites, two club-level seating areas with lounges, a Gamecock store, and a picnic terrace along the left field line. In four seasons the Gamecocks have established a record of 124-26; most of the games have been played to Standing Room Only crowds. As you enter the stadium grounds, you spot a mural on the backside of the centerfield wall honoring the Gamecocks 2010 and 2011 College World Series Championship Teams. Famously, hot.

About Columbia http://www.columbiacvb.com/

About University of South Carolina http://www.sc.edu/