A Comprehensive Guide to Retiring in Columbia, SC

Columbia, South Carolina is the capital and central metropolis in the Palmetto State. Its eclectic community includes college students, working professionals and retirees alike. Home prices in Columbia are lower than the state average, so it’s easy to find a wonderful place to live without breaking the bank.

Columbia’s ideal location, agreeable weather and plethora of attractions are a major draw for those looking to settle here for retirement. If you’re considering Columbia as your retirement destination, there’s a lot you’ll want to know. Use this comprehensive guide to get you started!

Tax Benefits

One of the many reasons Columbia is a popular retirement destination is the tax friendliness. In fact, South Carolina is one of the most tax-friendly states in the entire country. Here are a few reasons why:

Zero Social Security Tax

South Carolina is one of the many states that imposes no tax on social security benefits. This is important because social security is relied on by millions of older Americans. No social security tax means more disposable income for retirees in Columbia.

Deduct Up to $15,000 from Income Taxes

A $15,000 income tax deduction is available to South Carolina residents over the age of 65. It is applicable to all forms of retirement income, including that from 401(k) plans, IRAs and pension plans. This tax deduction is a great way for Columbia residents to save money during retirement.

Low Property Taxes

South Carolina has one of the lowest effective property tax rates in the country, at just 0.57%. In addition to paying this low rate, South Carolina seniors who’ve lived in the state over a year can benefit from a “homestead exemption,” which exempts them from property taxes on the first $50,000 of their home’s value.

Weather

Great weather is one of the many reasons people enjoy retiring in Columbia. On average, temperatures range from 36 to 58°F in January (the coldest month) and from 72 to 95°F in July (the warmest month). Snowfall is rare in this region, with an average of just 1.5 inches of snow per year, compared to a US average of 28 inches per year. What winters may lack snow is made up for in rainfall. There are 106.7 rainfall days per year and on average, the city receives 45.5 inches of rainfall per year, which is slightly higher than the 2019 US average of 34.7 inches.

Health and Wellness

Moving to a new city can offer new resources and opportunities in every aspect of your life. While there are many things to check off your to-do list and so little time, health and wellness should be a top priority. Columbia, South Carolina has top-rated healthcare facilities available to the residents of the Midlands area.

Prisma Health Alliance

Prisma Health Alliance is a product of the merger of two of the largest healthcare systems in the area, Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health. These two groups merged together to bring high quality care with lower costs to patients. Here is a list of local area hospitals.

Locations:

  • Prisma Health Baptist
  • Prisma Health Children’s Hospital
  • Prisma Health Heart Hospital
  • Prisma Health Richland

Providence Health

The other major healthcare system that provides services in Columbia is Providence Health. This provider has a variety of locations that serve both Columbia and surrounding areas. They offer quality and compassionate care, with service to each patient’s mind, body, and spirit.

Locations:

  • Providence Health Hospital (Downtown, NorthEast, Fairfield)
  • Providence Cardiology
  • Providence Internal Medicine
  • Providence Family Medicine

Fitness Centers and Nutritionists

A vital part of maintaining and improving your overall health is through exercise and diet. When researching gyms in a local area, you may find that you have too many options, and it can be overwhelming. Identifying age-friendly fitness centers can improve the quality of workout you’re doing. The International Council on Active Aging offers a fantastic resource to help you find the perfect fitness center for you. Nutrition is another aspect of wellness that is crucial to reaching that goal weight or optimal fitness you’re looking for. You can use this tool from HealthGrades to help you identify someone who specializes in dietetics.

Senior Living Communities

Senior living communities are located in a multitude of places throughout Columbia. As you’re researching the perfect retirement, you should identify what type of housing or community you’re looking for. If you’re interested in maintenance-free living, luxury amenities, and a full continuum of care, Wildewood Downs may be a good fit.

Food and Drink

Columbia, South Carolina offers a wide range of dining options for local residents. Food brings together people from a variety of backgrounds, and when moving to a new city, embracing the culinary scene is important. There are farm to table options, classic southern cuisine, oyster bars, and much more to look forward to.

Top Restaurants in Columbia
Top Drinks in Columbia

Shopping

For those who enjoy shopping, Columbia has a variety of shopping destinations. Whether you prefer strolling through big shopping malls, finding a killer deal or browsing local boutiques, you’re sure to find somewhere that meets your retail needs. Here’s the breakdown of the top places to shop in Columbia:

Sports

It’s gameday! Go Gamecocks go! Whether it’s football, basketball or soccer—the University of South Carolina is home to some of the most thrilling games and wildest college sports fans. School alumni and Columbia residents love to rally around their beloved Gamecocks.

If you’re a fan of another team, not to fear! Williams–Brice Stadium and Colonial Life Arena offer plenty of seating for opposing fans. Visiting teams come from all over the SEC and other major conferences, so perhaps your team of choice will come to town!

Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation

Outdoor activities in Columbia are abundant with a variety of parks, recreation areas, and state parks. While each of them have different amenities, they’re all perfect for some fresh air and outdoor time with friends and family. Here are the top parks and recreation spots in Columbia:

  • Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden Opened in 1974, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is a 170 acre zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden that is located along the Saluda River. The zoo comprises over 2,000 animals that represent more than 350 species.
  • Sesquicentennial State Park Sesquicentennial State Park, affectionately known to locals as “Sesqui” is a spacious, green getaway in the heart of the Sandhills region. Once you enter this park, you’ll become immersed in 1,400 acres and have the opportunity for camping, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and a 6-mile bicycle loop for day-use recreation.
  • Cayce / West Columbia Riverwalk The Cayce / West Columbia Riverwalk opens the Congaree River for walking, jogging, bicycling, or just gazing at the natural beauty. Its path accommodates all levels of physical access, including baby strollers and wheelchairs. Historical markers have been placed throughout the park to provide visitors with a background of the area.
  • Memorial Park Memorial Park is located in downtown Columbia, dedicated to the memory of those who have fought and died in service to their country. The park was dedicated in November, 1986 along with the unveiling of the South Carolina Vietnam Monument. The monument is the largest of its type outside of Washington D.C. and stands as a memorial to 980 South Carolinians who died in Vietnam. Plans are ongoing for the future development of a Korean War Memorial as funds are raised.

Arts and Entertainment

Music Venues

The sounds of music create an electric feel to an already bustling city. Enjoying the local and national shows that are coming through is easy to do in Columbia. The Senate, Tin Roof, Koger Center of the Arts, South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, Township Auditorium, and Colonial Life Arena are just a few of the places to catch a live music performance. If you don’t wanna miss out on any upcoming concerts, check out BandsInTown.

Museums

Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina, is home to a variety of museums that are full of history, fine arts, and literature. The University of South Carolina is located in the heart of Columbia, providing a place of education and excitement for residents. There are many places to explore the rich culture that is found in the southeast that have found their home in Columbia. Spend a day exploring the South Carolina State Museum, Columbia Museum of Art, and Hampton-Preston Mansion and Garden. One thing that you can not miss is the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, a place full of monkeys, lions, and much more!

Transportation

Highways

The major highways going through Columbia are I-77, I-20, and I-26. I-77 is an expansive interstate highway that goes from Cleveland, OH in the north to Columbia, SC in the south. I-77 travels through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, and it intersects major cities such as Charleston, WV and Charlotte, NC. I-20 is a lengthy east-west highway that stretches from western Texas to eastern South Carolina. Major cities along I-20 include Dallas, TX; Shreveport, LA; Jackson, MS; Birmingham, AL; Atlanta, GA; and Augusta, GA.

Public Transport

Officially titled the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority, Columbia’s public transit system is known by locals as “The COMET.” No, it’s not an amalgamation of ice flying through space—it’s a highly convenient network of buses that runs throughout the Columbia metropolitan area. As of August 2019, The COMET’s bus system operates 39 distinct routes.

In addition to the bus network, The COMET offers a paratransit service called Dial-A-Ride Transit, or DART. DART is available to people with disabilities who have trouble accessing the fixed-route bus system. Individuals can call ahead to schedule a DART ride within the Columbia area.

For more information about Columbia’s fixed-route bus system or DART, visit The COMET’s website.

Airport

The Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) is a small commercial airport with non-stop flights to 8 cities and one-stop flights to over 400 cities. American Airlines, Delta and United are the three airlines operating out of CAE.

Residents of Columbia can access a larger selection of direct flights by driving to Charlotte, NC; Charleston, SC; and Greenville, SC, which are all within driving distance.

Safety

When someone speaks of Columbia, chances are it pertains to something favorable. A well-known family-oriented city with a high quality of life, Columbia exceeds the most skeptical of expectations. Even with a growing population of 132,000, it’s been able to preserve a good-ole-days vibe, where neighbors converse and drivers make way for groups of children riding their bikes. Quality education, an affordable real estate market and diverse culture frame Columbia’s high livability and safety ratings. With a strong healthcare community, like the nationally recognized hospitals Providence Hospital-Columbia and Lexington Medical Center, exceptional care is available to all.

Best Columbia Neighborhoods to Retire In

There are many factors that go into the decision to lay your roots down in a specific place, but a neighborhood can make or break an area. As you’re researching neighborhoods in the Columbia area, you’ll find many lists of up and coming areas. You should do thorough research to identify what your priorities are, whether they be schools, houses, proximity to social activities, or something else. Here are a few neighborhoods you’ll find yourself seeing over and over again:

Wildewood

A neighborhood of high prestige, providing residents with safety, activity, and a perfect location. Wildewood has a variety of different housing styles, bordering two exclusive golf courses for residents to enjoy.

Lexington

This neighborhood offers a safe place for its residents to settle down, providing them with a quality of life that is unmatched. It is considered an up-and-coming neighborhood, as it offers great job opportunities, a vibrant social life, and much more at a reasonable cost of living.

Blythewood

This is a special neighborhood that encompasses a strong renaissance history. They fully embrace small town charm and are fully investing in their local community. You’ll find a variety of activities, restaurants, great schools, and more.

Chapin

Chapin is located closeby to Columbia, Greenville, and Charlotte, making it an oasis away from the big cities. The location allows residents to enjoy outdoor recreational activities, award-winning restaurants, unique shopping, and countless outdoor state parks. It is a perfect spot for those who want access to the cities but not feel overshadowed by them.

Cayce

Retirement in Cayce will immediately provide you with hometown charm in the South Carolina midlands. Located on the Congaree River, residents of this area are met with outdoor activities, various hiking trails, a variety of restaurants and shopping opportunities, and anything you can imagine.

Columbia Awaits

Now that you’ve read our guide, we hope you’re convinced that Columbia is a fantastic place to retire. The endless attractions and proximity to essential resources make it an ideal location for seniors. The city offers a great sense of community and a lovely southern charm that will draw you in. And then you’ll wonder why you didn’t move here earlier.