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Mini-Roadtrips You Need to Take Before You Graduate

Making the choice to live and go to school in Columbia, South Carolina was hands-down the best decision I’ve ever made, and coming from someone as indecisive as me, that’s legit. The campus alone is always bustling with activity, but we are fortunate enough to be right in the heart of Carolina which holds not only the history of being the capital but also a fantastic location to travel from. Although there is an abundance of things to do right here in Columbia, the following is a list of cities to be visited prior to your departure from UofSC. All of the destinations featured are under a 4 hour (and 5 minutes) drive, making them perfect for a weekend getaway.

South Carolina:


Travel time From Columbia: 2hr 4 min

Places to go:

Folly Beach

The Battery

Market Street

Mount Pleasant  (pictured)

Hilton Head Island

Travel time From Columbia: 2 hr 44 min

Places to go:

HHI Beaches

Coligny Beach

Salty Dog Cafe                                                                                                                  

Myrtle Beach

Travel time From Columbia: 2hr 34 min

Places to go:

Broadway At The Beach

North Carolina:

Blue Ridge Parkway

Travel time From Columbia: 2-4 hrs, depending on where you begin.

A national park and roadway, the Parkway extends 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia giving intimate views of multiple mountain chains. Camping on sites located off of the Parkway is a very popular activity of those who have driven it before.


Travel time From Columbia: 2hr 28 min

Places to go:

Biltmore Estate

Do I even need to go into more detail regarding the Biltmore Estate? I feel like that just speaks for itself. Beyond the beauty it holds is Lake Lure, perfect for lazy rafting, stand up paddle boarding or going for a boat ride.

Lake Lure 


Travel time From Columbia: 1hr 30 min

Places to go:

Discovery Place

North Davidson District 

Plaza-Midwood District

Sunflower Baking Company

Paper Skyscraper

Freedom Park

I received so many responses on what to do in Charlotte, the shortest travel time from the University, and here are the most popular. Fit for Instagram, multiple murals line the walls of North Davidson District which you can enjoy after stopping in to grab to-go breakfast or donuts. The sports are celebrated with great spirit, and there’s so much electricity in the atmosphere from the fans.



Travel time From Columbia: 3hr 12 min

Places to go:

Georgia Aquarium

World of Coke

Ponce City Market

Civil Rights Museum

It’s only fitting that the capital of Georgia is overflowing with attractions including an impressive aquarium located closely to Centennial Olympic Park. The Georgia Aquarium is the only aquarium in the world (outside of Asia) that has whale sharks, also home to multiple manta rays such as Nandi, who was rescued from fishing nets. If history is more your speed, the Center for Civil and Human Rights holds the #2 spot (per tripadvisor.com) of things to do in ATL.

Tybee Island

Travel time From Columbia: 2hr 56 min

Places to go:

Marine Science Center

The Crab Shack

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island has blossomed in the last ten years as a very popular destination for college-aged students to spend time at. Landshark Lager sponsors Spikeball tournaments every so often, and the view from Cockspur lighthouse is just as magnificent as its name. Not saying this is why…but I think some of the attraction might have to do with Miley Cyrus’s The Last Song being filmed there in 2009. Total speculation on that one.

St. Simons Island

Travel time From Columbia: 3hr 36 min to East Beach

Places to go:

Pier Village

East Beach

St. Simons Island is a quaint little beach town famous for fishing and relatively low-key beaches. Instead of dealing with the crazy tourism often found at Hilton Head or Tybee, SSI is a great alternative if you’re looking for a quieter day in the sand. One of my favorite things to do here is to shop in the local businesses in Pier village and grab the fresh squeezed lemonade, limeade or orangeade from ZuZu’s (p.s. the lemonade is the best). Enjoy this photo of my very proud brother holding onto the fish he caught off of the St. Simons pier that can be seen in the left background of the park.


Travel time from Columbia: 2hr 32 min

Places to go:

River Street

River Street is located in Downtown Savannah, Georgia, adjacent to some of the most luscious Spanish moss trees that reside in 24 historic Squares. Trolley rides around the city, ghost tours and classic southern dining are staples in the area. Both River Street and Downtown are all walking distance allowing you to explore without having to search for parking because I can scientifically and factually state that parallel parking is the very worst thing ever. I was lucky enough to live just near hear for years, and some personal recommendations are as follows: River Street Sweets; get a warm piece of praline as you walk in. If you’re looking for an upscale dinner, Alligator Soul is the place to go. Last but surely not least, make sure to check out the City Market too.


Pigeon Forge

Travel time from Columbia: 4hr 3 min

Places to go:


Dolly Parton’s family being a partner in ownership of this amusement park alone would make me want to go, but beyond that is its cozy cabins, water park, traditional resort and holiday events to always keep up with the fun. An experience like no other, it’s great for people of all ages.


Travel time From Columbia: 3hr 54 min

If you’ve ever heard of the taboo “mountain weekend”, chances are one of your friends or sisters have been to Gatlinburg before. A favorite for fraternity away weekends, Gatlinburg, TN, is known for its SkyLift 1,800 ft. over the Smoky Mountains, Sugarlands Distilling Company and its amazing hiking trails.

Next time you are planning a road trip away from Cola, consider one of these spots as your destination!

Olivia Thompson

South Carolina '22

Hey y'all! My name is Olivia, a Freshman here at the (amazing) University of South Carolina and I am a Marine Science major with a minor in Spanish. I'm a member of Greek Life and an avid reality TV connoisseur. You can keep up with me and my adventures on Instagram @viarose11
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