Think there is “nothing to do” in Columbia — as some teenagers and college students might express? Think again! Date nights, or days, do not have to consist of only dinner and a movie in Columbia and the surrounding areas. There is plenty to do to impress that first date or to spice up outings for both dating and married couples. Here’s a rundown of some novel ideas to nudge one from dating doldrums.
Cook and Eat Together
Experience an evening of “hands-on” cooking with a date. Twice a month, Let’s Cook Culinary Studio hosts couples cooking classes on Friday evenings. As Chef John Militello explains, all participants will chop, slice and stir their way through recipes provided and will then have a chance to consume the fruits of their labor. All participants are allowed to bring wine to complement the experience.
One couple, Betsy and John Long, who once decided to do a stay-cation in Columbia, stumbled upon Let’s Cook. They enjoyed their couples class so much that they were back again for a regular Italian cooking class with friends the following week. “It’s entertaining,” says John. “It’s a chance for us to be together and meet people we may not have crossed paths with.”
Betsy adds, “The food is excellent, and it’s taught in a way that makes you realize you can make it at home.”
During their first experience at Let’s Cook, the Longs made Coq au Vin (chicken with wine), an onion tart and an apple cake. During the Italian night of cooking, the couple learned how to make several dishes, including Panzanella Salad, Pasta Fagioli and Baked Eggplant Napoleon. The monitors in the studio make viewing the chef and receiving instructions easy.
Price per couple: $80-$90; prices vary for other classes during the month. Check the website at www.letscookculinary.com, or call (803) 348-5874.
Wine Tasting for Two
Gervais and Vine not only has one of the best wine lists in town, but they also feature their own “wine club” that gives members a glimpse into fine worldly wines. Columbians can join for three, six or 12 months and pay only $23 per month. Each month (once-a-month wine night), the staff at Gervais and Vine will carefully choose two or three different wines from boutique vineyards and wineries around the world. This way, members are introduced to different flavors and regions while also enjoying tasting notes and receiving recipes to pair with the particular wines in the future.
Gervais and Vine also hosts wine tastings every Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. featuring three to four wines, cheese plates and live music for just $7. More information about membership to the club and weekly specials, their website at gervine.com. They are located at 620-A Gervais St. and are only closed on Sundays.
Just a few blocks away, Wine Down on Main is also continuously bringing interesting wines to Columbia. Try four different wines for around $10 — everything from fruity to robust, red, white and sparkling. A finger food bar of breads, olives, marinated vegetables and nuts is available for free. This is a great place for couples to stop by before or after dinner.
Wine Down on Main is located across the street from the Columbia Museum of Art on Main Street. For more information, call (803) 673-4810. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Shag, swing, salsa, tango, ballroom — the Vista Ballroom and Capital Ballroom Dance Studio offer instructions for all of these dances. There are different practice times, socials and couples classes. Costs vary. Vista Ballroom is located at 604 Meeting St. For more information on their specific classes visit www.vistaballroom.net or call (803) 546-3705. Another city favorite, Capital Ballroom Dance Studio is located at 2732 Devine St. For more information and to watch videos, visit www.capitalballroomdancestudio.com.
Atypical Movie Experience
Watching a movie at “The Big MO” Monetta Drive-In is an experience unlike anything enjoyed in a typical movie theater. Guests over 40 will reminisce when they visit MO, but those under 40 may enjoy their first outdoor movie experience.
Couples can come early, bring their own food or enjoy a variety of food at a full-service concession. Each ticket purchases a double feature. Be sure to bring chairs and plan to sit outside during nice weather. During cool weather months, couples can bring blankets and snuggle up.
Price per ticket for a double feature: $8 — cash only. Concession food prices vary. To learn what is playing, visit www.thebigmo.com or call (803) 685-7949. The Big MO is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and is located in Monetta, outside of Columbia.
Although Pure Barre typically attracts women because of its ballet-barre-type exercises, the locations in Five Points and Irmo periodically host a Bring on the Men night where ladies can bring their significant others for a night of working through muscle groups followed by a period of relaxing with a glass of wine or beer and hors d’oeuvres. According to Anna Reynolds, co-owner of the two Columbia area locations of Pure Barre, many former dancers enjoy the high-intensity workouts, but she says anyone who can hold onto the barre can do it. Cost for the Bring on the Men event is $30 per couple. For more information, visit www.purebarre.com/sc-columbia/ or call (803) 254-0078.
Also beginning Jan. 23 at 6 p.m., the new barre3 in Columbia will host their first Man Up To The Barre class that is the perfect event to kick off those New Year’s resolutions. Learn how to live a more healthy and active lifestyle while working out alongside your significant other! This class will be offered once a quarter and will be followed by beer, wine and heavy appetizers. For more information visit www.barre3.com or call (803) 834-7437.
Once in a Lifetime
“Captain Telegram,” the name a local hot air balloon pilot prefers to be called due to his singing telegram business, says that a “date in the sky” is often a one-time experience and also an unforgettable one. His first ride in a hot air balloon was 30 years ago and after that, he knew he had to learn how to fly one. Because of the price, typically $450 for two people, many couples save this experience for a special moment: engagement, birthday, wedding or anniversary. The balloon is piloted in the vicinity of Lake Murray, and the views are spectacular. Reservations are a necessity and flying is at the “mercy of the weather,” the licensed Lighter Than Air pilot points out.
For more information about taking a ride in a hot air balloon, visit www.captaintelegram.com/hotair.html or call (803) 256-3737.
Free is always good when trying to find fun things to do on a tight budget. The University of South Carolina School of Music offers a series of free concerts called Southern Exposure, dubbed “classical music for today.” Musicians are selected for their ability to present both a classical and a contemporary sound. The 2014-2015 season includes Dolce Suono Ensemble with soprano Lucy Shelton, touted a “new music diva” by the Boston Globe; this takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the School of Music Recital Hall.
On Friday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m., Hartke’s Sons of Noah and Andriessen’s De Staat will be performed at the W.W. Hootie Johnson Performance Hall. The USC School of Music promises this music, with its singers, brass, woodwinds, strings, pianos and electric guitars, will blow the roof off of the new hall. Figuratively, of course.
If you’re wanting a whimsical and fun theater night, Town Theatre might be the perfect place. The founders of the Town Theatre were not professional producers, directors or actors. They were a group of families who dreamed of a new concept for Columbia: a theater where they and their families could not only watch plays, but also take part in them for fun and learn from the experience. Town Theatre provides an exceptional opportunity for aspiring actors by giving them the chance to work on stage with experienced veterans, many of whom are working professionals volunteering their time.
Town Theatre is currently in its 96th season and boasts upcoming classics like White Christmas, Always … Patsy Cline, Driving Miss Daisy, Sugar — Some Like It Hot and Spamalot. Tickets are $25 for adults. Visit Town Theatre’s website at www.towntheatre.com to learn more.
Want more of the same sort of fun? Check out Workshop Theatre. For more than 40 years, Workshop Theatre has offered a creative outlet for the area’s talented actors, directors and technicians. Formerly on Gervais Street, the property, owned by USC, was recently taken back over by the University, so Workshop Theatre had to find a new home. A separate building next to 701 Whaley now serves as Workshop Theatre, which is supported in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission — a receiver of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Upcoming for 2015 is Stick Fly, scheduled for March 12 to 15, and Lend Me a Tenor, scheduled for May 7 to 10. Cost is $22 a ticket for musicals and $20 a ticket for non-musicals. For couples interested in dinner and a show, there are suggestions for nearby restaurants on the Workshop Theatre website. For more information about what Workshop Theatre offers visit www.workshoptheatre.com or call (803) 799-4876.
Intellectual Film Fun
The Nickelodeon on Main Street in downtown Columbia is ideally suited for those interested in a date, drinks and discussion regarding an artsy movie that would not typically appear at regular movie theaters. Couples may not only order popcorn, but there is wine and beer available as well. Besides showing independent films and films relevant to the Columbia community at large, The Nickelodeon is the presenter of the Indie Grits Film Festival, which is an annual showcase of the best in Southern film and culture. For more information, and to find out what is showing, visit www.nickelodeon.org or call (803) 254-8234.
Pick and Grin
For a blue jeans and t-shirt kind of a date, visit Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor at Bill’s Music Shop just across the Gervais Street Bridge in West Columbia. Every Friday night, there is open stage from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and jam sessions last until midnight. On Saturday evenings there is a Classic Country Music Jamboree from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. The doors open at 6 p.m. so couples can talk before the bluegrass melodies begin. There are some refreshments available, but no alcohol is served at this establishment. Cost is a $5 donation at the door. For more information, visit www.billsmusicshop.com or call (803) 796-6477.
Animals and Botanicals
Buy an Individual Plus annual pass for $69, and you and your date can visit the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden all year round. They offer occasional wine tastings, the romantic Lights Before Christmas with opportunities to stroll hand-in-hand with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, as well as Rhythm and Blooms beginning in May. Rhythm and Blooms is free to pass holders and includes a variety of live entertainment and local artists among the flowers and foliage of the botanical gardens at the zoo. For this event, couples can bring a blanket, purchase food and drinks and enjoy the music. Seven days a week there are plenty of quiet places to sit and talk among the animals and botanicals, including on the bridge that connects the zoo to the gardens. Plus, there is a serene forest trail that winds from the gardens, along the river and ends at the bridge.
For more information, visit www.riverbanks.org or call (803) 779-8717.
Watch a Duel
Owner Rob Hutchinson describes his new Rocket Man Dueling Piano Bar on Gervais Street in the Vista as a “human jukebox.” Couples can order a drink (Malibu Buckets are a favorite), a shareable plate of food and list favorite songs for pianists to play. There is no cover charge on Wednesday and Thursday nights; on Friday and Saturday nights the cover is $5 each. “It’s a non-stop show,” says Rob. For more information, especially about special events, visit www.rocketmancolumbia.com or call (803) 764-7529.
How do these sound for the romantic at heart: Moonlight on the Murray and Sunset on the Saluda? On Lake Murray, couples can watch the sun set and the moon rise while paddling by the mere light of the moon. On the Saluda River, couples can also watch the sun set and enjoy an interpretive paddle tour to learn about the history of the area; this is followed by a wine tasting, with a complimentary take-home wine glass, at Redbud Shelter. The Lake Murray trip is $30 per person, while the Saluda River trip is $37 per person. Those interested in either trip meet at Saluda Shoals Park. All equipment and return shuttle service are included. Private guided trips can also be scheduled if a couple does not want to participate in organized trips. For information about dates and times, contact the Environmental Education Center at (803) 213-2053.
A Pint Together
Learning more about how beer is made and the idiosyncrasies of taste is becoming a fascination for many. Appealing to just that community is Craft and Draft, which opened this past summer on Devine Street. The owners were friends at USC and decided there were enough people passionate about craft and draft beer that they would offer it to try on-site, and to take home. The selection of about 12 beers on draft changes constantly, while there are 300 — mostly local and regional but also from Germany, Ireland and England — to purchase and carry out. Craft and Draft also sells wine and cider. The establishment even sells mead, which has been made for thousands of years using the process of fermenting honey; sometimes fruit, spices, hop or grains are added. Couples can bring in their own food and sample beverages. “We’re also a good pre or post-dinner place,” says co-owner Andrew Johnson.
For more information, visit www.craftanddraftbeer.com or call (803) 764-2575.
Wake up and smell the coffee together, as well as the croissants, artisan breads, goat’s milk products, olive oils and German sausage. The Soda City Market, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., has all the before-mentioned items and much more — such as produce, seafood, meats, dairy, clothing, jewelry and much more. The 1500 block of Main Street is sectioned off for this event. For more information, visit www.sodacitysc.com.