The beginning of a new semester can feel like a double-edged sword. While students enjoy their new classes and reunite with their friends, the stresses of college life are quick to return. Luckily, Columbia houses many places that promote relaxation and provide an escape. Here are five places in Columbia to decompress when times are stressful.
The Columbia Museum of Art
Located on Main Street, the Columbia Museum of Art showcases all mediums, subjects and stories. The museum also displays the work of international artists in addition to local talent.
Through the inclusive exhibits at the museum, diversity proves to mean more than something to just check off of a list. Every art collection presents work by Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+ or women artists, making the museum a place for all to feel represented.
Erica von Schenk, the visitor experience and membership manager, said the welcoming space allows visitors to feel calm as they explore the quiet galleries.
“It’s just such a quiet space to just kind of think about something other than what’s going on in our world or your life,” Schenk said.
After an especially tiring week, students can use the museum as a safe haven to recharge and clear one's mind. The quiet atmosphere encourages reflection and peace against an often chaotic campus environment.
Schenk said she wants visitors to feel “enlightened and relaxed” after coming to the museum and hopes they will gain new perspectives.
With an initial student membership fee of $10, USC students can enjoy the art collections for unlimited visits during the calendar year without an additional charge.
Cool Beans Coffee Co.
Cool Beans will soon celebrate 26 years of serving memorable coffee, food and relaxing vibes to the Columbia community. Many students can be seen at the local business studying, enjoying a warm drink or catching up with friends.
Assistant manager of Cool Beans, Robin Hoffman, said she understands why the café is a place of return for students. The eclectic nature of the decor, warm colors, lamps and comfy chairs craft a peaceful environment that appeals to many.
Hoffman said she prioritizes camaraderie with the customers and encourages all co-workers to be friendly during every interaction. She said the attention to being personable establishes a rapport with the regulars, creating a comforting space.
“I definitely want (students) to feel, obviously, welcome and that it’s a place that they are comfortable and want to spend their time,” Hoffman said. “I like trying to make it a place for those positive, early 20s memories to be made.”
The Nickelodeon Theatre
Known as "The Nick" by many, this local theatre on Main Street provides a welcoming viewing experience while offering blockbuster hits. Although not all showings are relaxing by nature, viewers can unwind by escaping into an alternate reality, enjoying movie treats and sinking into cushioned seats.
The Nick is also known for often premiering independent works, film festivals and reruns of film classics. Whether with friends, family or alone, "The Nick" will offer something to fit everyone's tastes.
In comparison with larger movie theater chains, this quaint local theater has a deep-rooted history that is unique to Columbia. "The Nick" was opened back in 1979 by two USC media arts students to introduce classic films to the city. Forty-four years later, students still find unity through entertainment experiences at "The Nick," which were paved by Gamecocks who came before.
The Historic Horseshoe
An expanse of greenery, historic architecture and peckish squirrels characterize the beloved historic Horseshoe. Known as a gem on USC’s campus, the Horseshoe represents the roots of the university as an original feature from when the school was founded in 1801.
Centuries later, students from all backgrounds find unity in the Horseshoe as many regard the space as a restful spot for all to enjoy. On a nice day, students can be seen reading, picnicking, doing yoga or playing spike ball across the lawn.
First-year classics student Ally Weitz said the Horseshoe is one of her favorite spots on campus. She said reading and picnicking on the lawn provoke "happy, peaceful" feelings.
"It's the classic thing they show off to touring students and its, well, it's for a reason — it's gorgeous," Weitz said.
When classes get overwhelming, the Horseshoe is a refreshing spot to calm one's mind and take a deep breath of crisp air. Using the space as a meeting place for friends after a long day of lectures can also help clear the mind.
The West Columbia Riverwalk that runs alongside the Congaree River is a part of the broader "Three Rivers Greenway." Typical activities include running, calming walks, picnicking along the riverbank and playing with pets. The Riverwalk provides the perfect outdoor getaway while offering peaceful views of the water and city line.
Spending time with nature not only can promote physical health but also can encourage reflection and tranquility that promote positive mental health.
Students often venture across campus with a mind cluttered with overdue homework assignments and test prep. However, these trails allow for the same exercise as the trek to Gambrell but without the noise of a busy Greene Street or the stress of the looming academic buildings.