How to Raise a Hipster (in Columbia, SC)


We can’t all live in the waxed-mustache capital of the Confederacy (looking at you, Richmond) or the chest-tattoo mecca of the South (ditto, Charleston). Someone has to maintain an air of affected awesomeness out here in the fashion boondocks. So while our local American Apparel doesn’t carry children’s sizes, mini-hipsters can still keep cool in the city that’s famously hot (and graced with the lamest slogan ever, by the way. Can someone in the Chamber of Commerce get on that?). Yes, you can raise a babe who can rock skinny jeans, sneer at pretentious music, and wax earnest about the need for better chicken ordinances – all right here in Columbia. Here’s how to assure your tot’s hitting up the Whig’s Taco Tuesday in 2030.

This is the cutest thing you’ll see all day.

Dress the part

Unless you’re Frank Sinatra or an extra on Degrassi Junior High, fedoras fall beyond the fashion pale. But small children turn that fashion crime into cute. Wear it proud, kids. Old time is a-flyin. Accessorize your babe with an amber teething necklace and something society deems inappropriate for his or her gender – you gotta start that androgyny early. Pink for boys, ties for girls, skinny jeans for all. Bonus points for nail polish your child selected himself. And is baby cardigan a tumbler yet? It should be.

Hit the best hangouts

Playgrounds are passé. The cool kids hit up playspaces without man-made plastic edifices. The Horseshoe at USC has the best climbing trees in the city (with the added cache of college, plus nice teenagers squealing over your kid’s aforementioned fedora). Harbison State Forest gets you back to nature; Carolina Children’s Garden is famous for its live oaks. Try the open-once-a-month-so-oh-so-exclusive W. Gordon Belser Arboretum. Didn’t know we had an Arboretum, did you?

Engage in art

Seen-and-be-seen at First Thursdays on Main, the collaborative art-walk-cum-street-party. Discerning kids rave about that Godzilla Guy, whose godzillifications appeal to young and old alike. Stroll through Tapps, and decide which cow representation you like best at the Columbia Museum of Art’s “Japan in the Jazz Age” exhibition. Note: canned Pinterest creations are out – ask one of those awesome artists at Tapps if they do lessons. You might be surprised.

His art is up in Tapps - He's that cool. Note the pink shirt by a famous artist you've never heard of.
His art is up in Tapps – He’s that cool. Note the pink shirt by a famous artist you’ve never heard of.

Feed Your Soul

Cool tots have never seen a kids’ menu – nothing says lame like toting McDonald’s into Mai Thai (oh yes, I saw it happen). Gervais and Vine’s 4-6 happy hour includes their stellar garlic aeoli fries, and Terra’s cherry-and-duck-comfit pizza beats the pants off pizza lunchables. Wurst Wagon’s your foodie frankfurter fix. Stalk the Bone-In BBQ truck for their highbrow-lowbrow version of cheese fries (raw fries, cheese, hoisin brisket, onion straws). And don’t finish your baby gourmand off with chain-restaurant dessert. Discerning tots stop at Paradise Ice for blackberry sage ice cream or pear Riesling sorbet.

Snark out on sound

We may not have an awesome midsize music venue, but those in the know can find fabulous music in the capital city. Catch local babe fav Lunch Money, or visit the hottest storytime in town – Richland Library Main Branch’s Shake, Rattle, and Read. Columbia Community Drum Circle and  Rhythmic Memory both offer regular percussion parties – that welcome young drummers. Jazzfest, Jerryfest, Three Rivers Music Fest – cool kids see ‘em all.

Have fun

What’s the use of being awesome if you can’t enjoy it? Cultivate true cool by letting your toddler wear Star Wars costumes to EarthFare, get wet in the Botanical Gardens Woodland Walk, or Godzilla-spot on Main Street. Throw pennies in the fountain at Soda City and rocks in the water at Cayce Riverwalk. Look for otters under the Gervais Street bridge (they’re there). Take your kid’s quintessential Columbia pic in front of the red door at Riverfront Park. There’s nothing hipper than loving the city you’re in.

Is anything missing from the list? What else is a must have for raising a hipster in Columbia?

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In 2009, Elizabeth got pregnant and quit a Ph.D. program in English, where she taught writing and served as an Assistant Director of First-Year English. Now she stays home with her three boys in a house full of art and learning and books and dogs and fossils. An amateur naturalist, paleontologist, and artist of all kinds, she unschools her four-year-old and serves as a Volunteer Babywearing Educator with the local chapter of Babywearing International. Her MFA in fiction gets put to use writing blog posts and that novel she’ll finish once her boys stop interrupting her. Elizabeth has won numerous writing awards for her short stories, novellas, and novel-in-progress, and blogs at


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