The following is one in a series of blogs prepared by the Convention & Visitors Bureaus of the 14 cities that are home to the universities of the Southeastern Conference. These blogs are presented to enhance fans' enjoyment of the rich history and culture of SEC cities across the 11-state footprint of the Conference.
Sports have always given the good people of Columbia, South Carolina reason to rally and no matter what school you're cheering for, here you'll find that game days become full-fledged weekends for locals and visitors alike. From top-notch tailgates, quintessential Southern food and so much to see and do around town, sports fans of all ages can look forward to exploring this capital city with a college town vibe beyond the main event.
Unless you've been parking in the same spot and lot for years, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to set up camp on game day, especially if you're visiting Gamecock country for the first time. The South Carolina State Fairgrounds are close to the stadium, have ample parking spots and have been a fan favorite for generations. Gamecock Park is another popular tailgating location. Line up on either side of "Garnet Way" before the game to wish the team, cheerleaders and the marching band the best as they make their way into the stadium. All aboard the Cockaboose Railroad for tailgating the luxe way! Each garnet train car is decked out with brass chandeliers, TVs and air conditioning. Plus, they make for a great photo opp.
Game Day Landmarks and Legends
One of the most fun aspects of college footballs is the unique, local history and traditions found on each campus. So here's some insider scoop to help you appreciate the UofSC experience a little more during your visit. The best of both, the George Rogers statue outside the stadium is a landmark that celebrates a Gamecock legend. Rogers was the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner and still holds several school records to this day. Snap a photo with #38 on the Springs-Brooks Plaza.
The phrase most often uttered when meeting up with friends on game day is, "Meet me at the rocket." Standing tall and easily identifiable at the entrance to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds is a real Jupiter intermediate range ballistic missile named Columbia that was given to the City in the early 1960s by the US Air Force. Despite the heavy crowds, you'll never lose track of your crew so long as the rocket remains standing.
The iconic quote, "If It Ain't Swayin', We Ain't Playin'," was first spoken by Joe Morrison in 1983 when the then-new east upper deck was swaying by as much as a foot during an especially exciting game. Since then, shock absorbers have been added to the deck, but it's still known to (safely) sway every now and then when the crowd gets hyped.
Out on the Town
Fill out the rest of your weekend itinerary with local eats, outdoor adventure and entertainment. Trying our distinctive barbecue is a must for first-timers - pork smoked low and slow topped with our signature mustard-based sauce. And with a dip or dish on the menu at almost every restaurant in town, pimento cheese is kind of a big deal around here. Columbia lies at the confluence of the Saluda and Broad Rivers, which merge right downtown to form the Congaree. Spend an afternoon kayaking or tubing down these waterways, then hop right out and visit a local brewery nearby. Or, escape the bustling city and get lost in your thoughts amidst fresh air, cool waters and old growth hardwood forest at Congaree National Park.
Spend your Saturday morning shopping the stalls at Soda City Market, our downtown farmers market that stretches right down Main Street. Art lovers will enjoy the Columbia Museum of Art and public art like sculptures, statues and murals that dapple the region. Traveling with the kiddos? Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and EdVenture will keep them occupied for hours. As we gear up for a fresh football season ahead, whether you're a fan who never misses a game, a returning alum looking to relive their college days or traveling to support the visiting team, we can't wait to welcome you to Columbia, South Carolina.