Columbia Welcomes the Gators – Everything Fans Need to Know for the SEC Match-Up

crowd of football fans in South Carolina
Photo by Brett Flashnick

This article is published in partnership with Experience Columbia SC and Visit the SEC.

Columbia SC is excited to welcome the Florida Gators to town. Whether it’s your first time watching a game at Williams-Brice Stadium, or you’ve been making the trek for this SEC matchup for years, we have some old favorites as well as new and notable things to try to maximize your fun and minimize any hassles.

South Carolina State Fair
Photo by Forrest Clonts for


First things first – parking may be a little tricky this week. While the South Carolina State Fairgrounds are located adjacent to Willy B and are typically the main hub for tailgating, this time they’ll be occupied by the South Carolina State Fair, which coincides with one home game each year (you lucky Gators, you). Pregame with a foot-long corn dog and famous Fiske fries, then come back again after the game for a spin on the rides and to satisfy your sweet tooth with a pumpkin spice funnel cake or a deep-fried s’mores on a stick.

You’re more than welcome to park at the fairgrounds, just be prepared for a fee and know that you won’t be able to tailgate there. Otherwise, Quad 5 at Gamecock Park is available on a first-come, first-served basis and additional lots around the stadium are available at varying prices. If you want to avoid the hunt altogether, we encourage the use of rideshares this weekend. 


Check rates and availability for a wide range of accommodations from boutique inns to full-service downtown properties to economical options with easy access to our interstates. Rooms fill fast on game weekends and some properties require a two-night minimum.  

People tailgating with food and friends in South Carolina
Photo by Forrest Clonts

Tailgate Spread 

If you have friends who live locally and already have a tailgate spot (or you make some day-of), stock up on local favorites like boiled peanuts and popcorn from Cromer’s or fried chicken from Bernie’s and BBQ from Doc’s to make your tailgate fresh and flavorful. And if you love pimento cheese, you’re in luck. Columbia SC is home to the Pimento Cheese Passport, featuring 16 different restaurants that offer unique pimento cheese dishes. At the tailgate, a tub of pimento cheese from DiPrato’s will not last long paired alongside their homemade pita chips, on burgers or in sandwiches. Or, if you want to make a one-stop-shop of it, preorder a Biscuit Box from Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits. The package includes 18 total wrapped biscuits – 12 classic bacon, egg and cheese and six brie & fig jam – plus a tray of either blue corn grits topped with chipotle pimento cheese or cheesy hash brown bake. Ordering and pickup is a breeze!

Game Day Gear 

The forecast is looking to be nice and comfortable for the game, with highs in the 70s and growing cooler as the sun begins to dip, so be sure to dress accordingly. Whether your style is trendy or classic, ladies will find a host of boutiques on Devine Street including MyKim, Just the Thing (check out their clear bag selection!) and Slate. Brittons, BP Skinner Clothiers and Granger Owings have huge selections of stylish finds for the fellas. Mast General Store in the Main Street District offers a variety of outdoor wear in the event you find yourself in need of rain gear.  

Bridge over a river in Columbia South Carolina
Photo by Tucker Prescott

Before or After the Game 

In addition to the South Carolina State Fair, a few other timely events and happenings going on during your weekend visit include Restaurant Week, a couple Oktoberfests, a local production of Sweeney Todd and a new exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art featuring the designs of Alexander McQueen

Every Saturday morning on Main Street from 9am-1pm, rain or shine, dozens of vendors display art, clothing, and accessories alongside a wide variety of food trucks offering Southern mainstays and multicultural delicacies at Soda City Market. It’s dog-friendly, kid-friendly and gives you a real sense of Columbia’s vibe.  

Columbia’s brewery scene is not to be missed. From spots like River Rat Brewery just blocks from the stadium to Savage Craft Ale Works located in West Columbia across the Gervais Street Bridge, you are sure to find a good time and a cold pint at any turn. 

Cooling off in the rivers is an iconic local pastime. Rent a tube or kayak from Palmetto Outdoor or Adventure Carolina and get your float on. Or, if you’re missing The Swamp this weekend, traipse along the boardwalk at Congaree National Park, which was originally established as the Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976 before being redesignated as a national park in 2003. If you want to stick closer to town, though, meander along the Columbia Canal at Riverfront Park (or pop up to Bierkeller for an authentic German brew) and you might just spot the lone alligator who calls the canal home. We’re sure he won’t want to miss an opportunity to say hello to more of his own.  

If you’re bringing the family, Riverbanks Zoo and GardenSouth Carolina State Museum and EdVenture are sure to keep the kids entertained for hours.  

Columbia SC is most definitely a brunch town, and you will find no shortage of mimosas, Bloody Marys, biscuits (probably with pimento cheese) and grits to bring you back to life after the previous night’s festivities. 

People walking and talking next to converted train cars in South Carolina
Photo by Forrest Clonts

One of our favorite things about being in the SEC is the abundance of local traditions and gorgeous campuses. While you’re here, don’t miss sneaking a peak at the famed Cockabooses, a string of elaborately refurbished railroad cars used for tailgating, before you enter the stadium. Also, escape the heat and stroll to see the historic buildings and shady trees of The Horseshoe, our main section of campus. And while we know you may prefer a Gator Chomp to a Sandstorm, one thing we can agree on in the SEC is Southern hospitality and having a great time, and we hope you enjoy our city and make us your game day home away from home! 

As you plan the rest of the season, don’t forget to download the Cities of the SEC Passport to help you navigate the best of every city in the conference.  

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