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Why Columbia?


What makes a city a great place to live? By reasonable definition one could say good jobs, reasonably priced homes, decent schools, great health care and manageable size are all essential parts of the mix. Then there's the extras that make them special: say, a gorgeous setting, a green sensibility, a brainiac population or a rah-rah sports culture. Well it turns out, according to Kiplinger, Columbia, SC meets all over those essentials and more!!

Population: 768,821 (metro area)

Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Cost-of-living index: 96.0

Median household income: $48,766

Median home value: $147,000

What the locals love: Outdoor living, Southern hospitality and South Carolina-grown items on menus at local restaurants, such as the Oak Table.

Shaded by towering pines and bursting with hospitality, Columbia is as sweet as the area's ever-present tea, thanks to the diversified economy and central location in the Palmetto State. As the state capital and home to Fort Jackson, the largest military training base in the country, Columbia has plenty of government jobs. It also boasts six colleges, including the flagship University of South Carolina. Manufacturing and insurance companies add to the mix, and seven major hospitals provide both jobs and top-notch medical care. This balanced approach has yielded robust economic growth in the past few years.

Set halfway between the mountains and the Atlantic and within two hours of Charlotte and Charleston, Columbia's location is a big draw. But the city has its own attractions, including an art museum, a children's museum and Riverbanks Zoo, rated one of the top ten in the country. Three rivers converge downtown, making a bike ride along Riverwalk or an afternoon of tubing always a recreational draw. There are also boating and water sports on nearby Lake Murray. In August, the city lives up to its motto, "famously hot," but annual temperatures average around 65 degrees.

Reasonably priced housing and good schools (including some that are tops in the state) make the Columbia area ideal for families. A three-bedroom, two-bath home in the leafy Shandon neighborhood averages $250,000.

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