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The capital and largest city in the state of South Carolina, Columbia was named after Christopher Columbus and founded in 1786. It was South Carolina's first planned city sitting at the confluence of the Saluda and Broad Rivers where they join to form the Congaree River. The town is home of Fort Jackson, which is the largest United States Army installation for Basic Combat Training and the state's largest university, University of South Carolina. Prior to 1925 when the streets were covered with asphalt, they were paved with wooden blocks that would float away every time it rained, much to the locals' amusement.
If in town make sure that you visit the Riverbanks Zoological Park where over 2,000 animals representing 350 species from around the world freely roam on 170 acres with no bars or cages. It is also where you will find historical landmarks dating back to the early 1800s and the Civil War. The Riverbanks Botanical Garden has over 4,200 species of native and exotic plants for the avid green thumb gardener to admire. For the architectural and history buffs there is the South Carolina State House from the mid 1800s to look at with its plethora of portraits, plaques, works of art and historical monuments. The South Carolina State Museum in an historic 1893 Columbia Mill textile building is for the museum lovers, whilst the arty folk will get excited to see the Columbian Museum of Art housing centuries of European and American art works. You can visit an historical home or 3 if you like: Robert Mills House and Garden (1823), the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens (1818), which is a restored antebellum mansion and the Mann-Simons Cottage.
A short drive out of town will have you fishing, sailing or waterskiing on 78 square miles of water in Lake Murray. If you are a tree lover or hugger, then you should head to the Congaree National Park where you will find the largest tracts of old-growth floodplain forest in the whole of North America. An international Biosphere Reserve, there are about 75 ancient tree species to gawk at and over 20 miles of hiking trails to explore.
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