Everything You’ll Need to Know When Moving to Columbia, SC
Columbia, or "Cola," as the locals call it, is the capital of South Carolina and it's a unique place to call home. With the University of South Carolina in the heart of the city and Fort Jackson, the nation's largest Army Base for Basic Combat Training within its limits, Columbia is bursting with activity. Local residents can enjoy an expansive range of food choices, entertainment options and cultural exposure in a city that is full of opportunities to grow.
If you're considering moving to Columbia, we're here to help you decide. Here's an extensive look at South Carolina's largest city so you can decide whether you should relocate to Columbia.
Columbia, SC. Demographics
According to the United States Census Bureau, as of July 2021 Columbia has a population of 136,632 residents in a city that is 132.21 square miles in size, making it the second most populated city in the state. With a population density of 977.8 people per square mile, the state capital of South Carolina is a pretty densely populated metropolitan area.
The median income for residents in Columbia is $47,286, which is slightly below the national average of $62,843, and nearly 22% of the city's residents live in poverty, which is about twice the national average of 10.5%. Residents in Columbia are very young, with a median age of 28 years old. This is likely due to many students living in the city that attend the University of South Carolina, which is located in the heart of Columbia.
Columbia residents are predominantly White (53.4%) and African American (39.8%), but Hispanic or Latino (5.5%) and Asian (2.7%) races are represented as well.
Cost of Living
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46% of residents in Columbia own their own homes and they pay a median price of $181,100 with a mortgage rate of around $1,300 per month. That's slightly below the national average price of a home, which is $217,500. On average, two people live in each household and just over 8% of households in the city speak another language besides English.
If you choose to rent in this college town, you can find a lot of great options that are priced near the national average of $1,602 per month in rent. Here's a quick breakdown of rental prices in Columbia by the number of bedrooms in each apartment:
- A studio apartment costs about $945 per month
- A one-bedroom apartment costs about $1,247 per month
- A two-bedroom apartment costs about $1,501 per month
- A three-bedroom apartment costs about $1,654 per month
Columbia’s Job Market
Columbia has an unemployment rate just over 4%, which is below the national average of 5.4%. Since it's both the capital of South Carolina and home to the state's largest university, Columbia is a city with many employment opportunities. Residents are also highly educated. Over 89% of people over age 25 have graduated high school and 43.8% of those people have obtained at least a bachelor's degree. This is much higher than the national average of 32.1% of adults receiving a college degree.
Some of the biggest employers in Columbia include the State of South Carolina, which employs over 25,000 people in the area. Prisma Health employs over 15,000 residents and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina employs over 6,500 people in the city of Columbia. The University of South Carolina is the fourth biggest employer of the city's residents, followed by the United States Department of the Army. This is no surprise since Fort Jackson is located within the city's limits and is the largest Army base in the nation for Basic Combat Training.
Getting Around Columbia
Traveling through Columbia is a breeze and the City has many systems set up to make your morning commute as convenient as possible. The COMET, owned by Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority, travels throughout the city of Columbia, Richland County, Lexington County and the city of Forest Acres. You can utilize their mobile app to check bus schedules and maps, and bus stops are located throughout the city. Ticket prices are listed below:
- One-Way: $2.00
- All-Day Pass: $4.00
- 7-Day Pass: $14.00
- 31-Day Pass: $40.00
Residents with disabilities can also utilize the city's Dial-A-Ride Transit (DART) service. A one-way pass will cost you $4.00.
You would expect commute times in a city the size of Columbia to be long and stressful, but they're actually very short. On average, residents spend about 15.8 minutes traveling to work each day, which is much less than the national average of about 27 minutes. This is due, in part, to the excellent transit service that's provided by The COMET.
Parking In Columbia
The City of Columbia Parking Services Department helps citizens find parking within the city limits. You can check their interactive parking map for on-street, garage and parking lots and can call them with questions at (803) 545-4015 during normal business hours.
Several businesses pay for parking permits for employees, and if that's the case, you need to fill out a Corporate Parking Agreement. Monthly permits are also available for individuals to purchase. You just need to submit an Individual Parking Agreement.
The Parking Services Department website is also the place to go if you need to pay for parking tickets or check for special event parking in the city limits.
Check for real-time road conditions before traveling throughout the city. Although it's usually smooth sailing in Columbia, it's always best to check for traffic updates so you can find the best route to your destination.
Things To Do in Columbia
Art Bar is an eccentric underground club that provides live music, a dance floor and a full bar -- and karaoke, if you show up on a Wednesday night. Try a craft beer at Hunter-Gatherer, Columbia's oldest brew-pub where you can indulge in one of their famous specialty pizzas. If whiskey is more your style, check out Bourbon, a whiskey bar and Cajun-Creole restaurant that's located in the historic Brennen Building that was built in 1869.
Columbia is packed with restaurants that serve everything from sushi to steak and potatoes and you can spend a lifetime sampling the menus of the finest establishments. For a true Columbia experience, stop by Cola's Restaurant which is located in a restored 1930's RC Cola bottling plant. If you want amazing food with a view to match, check out Liberty Taproom, located on Marina Bay in Irmo. Try one of the famous burgers at Pawley's Front Porch and stop by Sweet Cream Company for a unique dessert.
Columbia knows how to create one-of-a-kind dishes that are simply amazing and you'll never run out of dinner options in Cola.
Museums and Attractions
If you'd like to explore the city's attractions, you won't be disappointed. The Columbia Museum of Art is an international art museum that is home to Sandro Botticelli's Nativity, and the South Carolina State Museum boasts over four floors of interactive exhibits and is home to a 55-foot planetarium and a 4D theater.
Visit Riverbanks Zoo & Garden to explore over 170 acres of natural space that is home to over 2,000 animals. The Botanical Garden was touted as one of the 20 Great Public Gardens across America by HGTV and it's no surprise. The floral displays in the Old Rose Garden are absolutely breathtaking and must be experienced in-person.
Columbia has hot, humid summers and very mild winters that make it easy to enjoy outdoor activities year round. Residents spend their weekends and vacations at Lake Murray navigating the water via speedboats, fishing boats, kayaks and canoes. With 650 miles of shoreline, there's plenty of space to enjoy nature with your friends and family in tow.
If you enjoy hiking, camping and bird watching, explore Congaree National Park. It's home to some of the tallest trees in Eastern North America and has one of the tallest tree canopies in the world. Locals enjoy hiking trails throughout the park's 26,000 acres and kayaking along the Congaree River.
Columbia residents are also loyal fans to a plethora of local college sports teams. Some of these teams include the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, the Benedict College Tigers, the Columbia College Koalas and the Allen University Yellow Jackets. Many local fans show up on weeknights and weekends to cheer on their favorite teams.
Columbia has several great neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm. Here are a few up and coming spots that you should check out if you're considering a move to Columbia.
Located just five minutes from the bustling downtown area of Columbia, Cayce has a small town feel. This up-and-coming neighborhood sits on the banks of the Congaree River and is a short commute to the heart of the city. Many families and business professionals choose to make Cayce their homes because of its community feel and its highly rated school system. Homes are more affordable in Cayce, making it a popular spot for new residents to choose.
Chapin is located just 30 minutes from Columbia and it's a hot spot for relocating families to settle. The city sits on the northern banks of Lake Murray and it used to be a quiet little town with few residents. Today, new housing developments are popping up throughout the city and lovely lake homes are being purchased as soon as they hit the market. The school system is a major reason that families are flocking to the area, since it's consistently rated as some of the top schools in the area. Residents enjoy lake life in Chapin with the convenience of the big city being just a short drive away.
Irmo sits along the shores of Lake Murray and it's just 10 miles from the heart of Columbia. This up-and-coming spot has been around for years, but people are just starting to notice its appeal. Affordable homes, large properties and a laid-back lake life appeal to people who work in the big city, but want a peaceful lifestyle. As a resident, you can spend your weekends enjoying water sports, fishing for striped bass or spend an afternoon shopping in the City. Irmo students are a part of the same school district as those in Chapin and get to reap all the benefits of a quality education.
Relocation Expenses, Registrations and Taxes
The City of Columbia offers a list of relocation services for new residents to utilize. If you decide to move to Columbia from another state, Richland County requires you to transfer your vehicle's title and registration within 45 days. Since some neighborhoods are within the boundaries of Lexington County, those residents will need to check this website. You can also check with the Richland County Treasurer's Office and the Lexington County Treasurer about tax payment.
Ready to Make Your Move to Columbia, SC?
Before you take the plunge, it's important to consider the pros and cons to moving to Columbia. Here are the top three things you should consider.
- Columbia experiences very warm summers and very mild winters, reaching lows of 34 degrees in January. This may be great news if you enjoy warm weather, but it may be disappointing for people who prefer a "white Christmas."
- Columbia is a bustling college town. That means the city is progressive, artistic and full of great food, dining and entertainment options. We really can't find a downside to this point.
- The unemployment rate in Columbia is low and employment opportunities are vast. If you're looking to relocate to Columbia, there are plenty of options for employment.
If you're thinking about relocating to Columbia, we're here to help. Contact us at College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving and we'll be happy to get your belongings safely to your new home.