College students will be back in Columbia soon, and these 5 places are about to get busy

·4 min read

The University of South Carolina is preparing for a “normal” fall semester: all students returning to campus, in-person classes, full capacity at Williams-Brice Stadium and more. What does this mean for the city of Columbia?

It means things in the capital city are about to get a lot busier.

On-campus move-in is scheduled for Aug. 15 and 16, but you can expect many students to begin returning to the city even earlier. Expect more liveliness on the streets downtown, longer lines at businesses near campus and more cars joining you on your daily commutes.

Here are a few of the places that are going to see some dramatic changes in the coming weeks, so you can start to plan accordingly.

Five Points

Five Points in Columbia, SC on October 17, 2020 following football win over Auburn. Photo by Sean Rayford
Five Points in Columbia, SC on October 17, 2020 following football win over Auburn. Photo by Sean Rayford

For more than 100 years, Fine Points has been an entertainment hub in Columbia with places to shop, eat and drink. It’s particularly popular with students given its close proximity to USC’s campus.

There have been a few changes in Five Points over the last year or so, including some business opening and closures alike. But what never changes is students’ passion for partying at the various nightlife offerings that remain in the neighborhood.

You can expect the crowds in Five Points to increase with the return of students, both during the day at the many shops and restaurants and at night at the area’s bars and nightclubs.

Williams-Brice Stadium

The University of South Carolina flag flies high after the Gamecocks scored against East Carolina in the third quarter at William-Brice Stadium.
The University of South Carolina flag flies high after the Gamecocks scored against East Carolina in the third quarter at William-Brice Stadium.

USC announced in May that the university plans to have full capacity for its home football games this season at Williams-Brice Stadium. Tailgating will be at full capacity as well.

The stadium’s total capacity is just over 80,000 spectators, and there are even more fans who only go to the tailgates. Needless to say, traffic on game days can be a nightmare.

Expect more traffic throughout the city, but especially on Shop and Bluff roads and Assembly Street, as these are the main corridors to the stadium. If you’re not going to the game, it might be best to just avoid southern Columbia altogether.

The Gamecocks’ first home game of the season is Saturday, Sept. 4, against Eastern Illinois University.

Shoppes at Woodhill

If you’ve ever been to the Shoppes at Woodhill around the time of fall move-in, you know that it can be overwhelming. Two of the flagship stores in the shopping center, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond, are hugely popular among families moving students into their campus dorms and apartments.

The line at Target is known to wrap around the store, and most of the dorm room essentials are wiped clean from the shelves. If you’re worried about crowds and availability, it might be worth it to drive a little farther to an alternative Target location — there are Target stores in Lexington and Columbiana Station, each about a 20 minute drive from campus.

Bed Bath & Beyond draws similar crowds of people searching for apartment and dorm room home goods. There are other store locations in the Columbia area as well, with one in Columbiana Station (next to the aforementoned Target) and one on Two Notch Road.

Publix in the Vista

Vehicles look for parking near Starbucks on Lincoln Street in the Vista on Friday.
Vehicles look for parking near Starbucks on Lincoln Street in the Vista on Friday.

Publix in the Vista has the distinction of being one of the closest grocery stores to USC’s campus. Naturally, this makes it one of the most popular places for students to do their food shopping. One of the most apparent problems this causes is parking.

Parking downtown — and in the Publix lot, specifically – can be challenging even in the best of circumstances, so it’s no surprise that a large influx of students can further complicate things. (Check out some tips for parking in the Vista here.)

If you want to avoid downtown parking altogether, you can expand your search for grocery stores in the area. Columbia is home to countless stores from ALDI to Food Lion, Whole Foods to Trader Joe’s, Kroger to Lowes Foods and more.

Restaurants

Downtown restaurants are about to see a large influx of guests as well — but that’s great for Columbia, so who can complain too much? Especially on move-in weekend, families will go out to enjoy last-minute quality time together before leaving their students at school.

Restaurants downtown and near campus will probably be the most frequently visited. If you’re planning to eat out, it might be a good idea to drive a little farther from downtown, call ahead to make reservations or eat at an off time.

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