Getting Around. Like many southern cities, Columbia is no place to be without a car. Bus service runs around downtown, with just a few routes that extend beyond the center of the city. And, if you decide to wait at a bus stop without checking the schedule, then you will most likely be sitting there for a couple of hours before a bus shows up. However, traffic will be a breeze in most areas. Some rush hour traffic occurs downtown on the I-20, as well as on the infamous Malfunction Junction, a confusing and dangerous interchange at Bush River Rd., I-20, I-26, and I-126.
College Town Mayhem. Like any college town, apartment buildings can get pretty wild where the students live. Whether you love it or loathe it, it is good to know which neighborhoods harbor these educated hoodlums. Obviously, the complexes near campus will have a heavy student population, but there are also neighborhoods in surrounding areas that attract students due to affordable rental rates and easy commutes. Be sure to keep an eye out for these areas in the neighborhood guide below. There is also a city-wide fluctuation of rental rates and availabilities that coincide with the schedule of the school year. The best time to find an apartment will be during the Christmas and summer breaks, right after school lets out. You can also find some great deals in apartments that have failed to fill all of their units after the semester is in full swing again.
Watch Your Water. Columbia is known to have some of the best tasting water in the country. However, many older apartment complexes tend to accumulate extremely high water bills due to the common plumbing problems of older buildings. There are a few things to consider, water-wise, when deciding on your apartment. For instance, does the toilet ever stop running after you flush it? Can you hear any leaks in the faucets, showers, or in the walls? Does the apartment charge its tenants for pool water? All of these factors are likely to result in an uncomfortably high water bill.
Underground Culture. Don't feel quite at home in a city of cliché college clubs, upscale art museums, and church-going conservative affairs? Check out these great spots for entertainment of the gritty, local, underground breed: Art Bar, the Hunter-Gatherer, Alley Cafe, summer concert series at Finlay Park, occasional music on the river, and amazing street bands playing on the corner for change during major festivals and holiday events. You can also visit New Brooklyn Tavern in the neighboring city of West Columbia for hardcore music, or catch bluegrass jams in the nearby city of Cayce.
Spare yourself the hours of research, and use this guide to find the neighborhoods that suit you best. Columbia has affordable, as well as luxurious rentals available all around the city, whether you want to live in the bright lights of downtown, or need some space with wide-open country views and dark star-gazing skies.
University Hill. Campus life, surrounded by downtown nightlife. $ - $$$$
Congaree Vista. A renaissance on the river: beautiful parks, plenty of food, a growing music scene, and a healthy dose of art and theater, all accompanied by cold beer and cocktails. $ - $$$$
Earlewood Park. Riverfront neighborhood of old cottages, neighborhood parks, and downtown skyline views. $
Elmwood. Popular for its affordability, downtown proximity, and charming 1920's bungalows. $ - $$$$$
Cottontown. Historic homes and churches with unique rental options. $$
Olympia-Grandby. A working class neighborhood paying bigwig rates for riverfront rentals and an easy walk to downtown. $$$
Hollywood-Rose Hill. A safe neighborhood right next to campus, with good eats and a short walk to downtown nightlife. $$$
Waverly. An affordable neighborhood surrounded by colleges: Allen University, Benedict college, and Palmer College, plus the University of South Carolina about a mile down the road. $
Melrose Heights. A highly desirable neighborhood for professionals and students due to its proximity to downtown. $$$
Old Shandon. Historic homes with bay windows, tons of shopping nearby, plus a quick commute to nearby universities and downtown entertainment. $$$
Shandon. A favorite for families, students, and professionals because of its tree-lined streets, distinctive architecture, and proximity to downtown and nearby shopping. $$$
Rosewood. A shady neighborhood revitalized, complete with vintage atmosphere and uniquely Rosewood personality. $$$
Southeast. Mostly affordable, with random pockets of richies driving up the rent. $ - $$$$$
Arcadia Lakes. Soldiers love it for the commute, golfers love it for the country club, and everyone else loves it for the nearby lake on a hot summer day. $$$ - $$$$$
Dentsville. Golfers love the Spring Valley Country Club, but it is truly amazing for the scenery and nearby Sesquicentennial State Park. (Try saying that name three times fast) $$$ - $$$$$
Woodfield. Next door to Fort Jackson with everything you could as for in a neighborhood: lakes, a state park, a shopping center, and your choice of affordable, pricey, and absurdly expensive rentals. $$$ - $$$$$
Forest Acres. Another country club neighborhood, with equally easy commutes to the lake or to downtown. $$$ - $$$$$
Spring Valley. A little farther north, complete with country club, enormous state park, tons of eats and shopping, plus a quick commute to Fort Jackson$ - $$$$$
Greenview. The middle class area surrounded by country club neighborhoods. $ - $$$
Eau Claire. Comes with a few parks, a few cemeteries, riverfront bike rides, Columbia College, and a gentlemen's club. What more could you ask for? $ - $$$
The Colony. A slew of beltline bars and plenty of affordable rentals. $ - $$
Lincolnshire. Mostly affordable neighborhood, with some more upscale apartments around the Oak Hills Golf Club. $ - $$$
Haskell Heights. Rough and tough. $
Denny Terrace. Isolated, off the beaten path, and a little sketchy. $$ - $$$
St. Andrews. The wildest college students mixed with a large population of recovering addicts, recently incarcerated renters, and wandering prison escapees. Not a neighborhood for the faint of heart. $$$ - $$$$
Seven Oaks. People who move here never leave. It's a tight-knit, "Leave It to Beaver" community just down the road from Lake Murray. $$ - $$$$$
Irmo. Amazing location for outdoors lovers, with Lake Murray and the Harbison State Forest right next door. $ - $$$$$
That's the city breakdown for you. Now it's time to see it for yourself. Good luck with the hunt, and keep in mind that southern hospitality is a two-way street.
-By Kera Zacuto
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