Myrtle Beach, SC vs Columbia, SC which Town is Right for You?

Dated: February 28 2024

Views: 50

Are you thinking of moving to South Carolina and wondering which city or area to move to? Well in this post I’m going to compare two of South Carolina’s popular cities that many people are moving to. 

South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia and the popular tourist destination of Myrtle Beach have many differences, but these cities also have their own unique advantages. You’ll see why Columbia and Myrtle Beach are both great places to live. In this video, I’ll compare their population, climates, economies and job markets, costs of living, and recreation and entertainment so you can decide which one might be best for you. So let’s get started! 

Location, Geography and Climate

Both of these cities offer a lower cost of living and are great places to live, but they are located in different geographical regions of the state, so this means their climates are somewhat different. 

Columbia sits in the midlands region of South Carolina which is in the middle of the state. The midlands area is known for its rolling hills, forests, lakes and rivers. Myrtle Beach is in the coastal region of the state and is a coastal city known for its beautiful sandy beaches. Both cities have subtropical climates with higher amounts of rainfall and hot, humid summers. And both cities average about 217-218 sunny days per year, but Columbia receives more rainfall than Myrtle Beach and has hotter summers with average highs of 94 degrees. Myrtle Beach’s summer high temperatures average around 89 degrees.1

Size and Population

These two cities are quite different when it comes to their size and population. According to the US Census Bureau, Columbia is much larger in size with a land area of almost 137 square miles, while Myrtle Beach has a land area of 23 and-a-half square miles.2

Besides being larger in size, South Carolina’s capital city has a much greater population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 2022, Columbia had a population of 139,698 residents and Myrtle Beach had a much smaller population of 38,417 people. 2 Also Columbia is a much “younger” city, and by that I mean the median age in Columbia is 28 while the median age in Myrtle Beach is 46. 3 This could be because Columbia is a college town and is home to the University of South Carolina as well as many other colleges and universities.

Economy and Job Market

Another important thing to know when moving to a new city is how its economy and job market are doing, so I’m going to tell you how these 2 cities compare. Both cities have growing economies but their industries are quite different. First, let’s look at Columbia’s economy.

Columbia

South Carolina’s capital city features a variety of industries including manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, research, and transportation. Columbia is best-known for manufacturing, and these days, the city’s manufacturers produce modern materials for industries like automobiles, aerospace, and engineering. Besides manufacturing, Columbia is also known for its role in agribusiness for the region. In fact, a significant portion of the city's population produce, package, or transport much of the food supplied to the rest of the state. 4

It’s no surprise that the state capital’s largest employer is the state government, which employs upwards of 25,000 people every year. And Richland County and the City of Columbia both employ a total of about 4,800 government workers. Other major employers in Columbia are Healthcare providers, such as Prisma Health or BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, public schools, universities, notably the University of South Carolina, the United States Army, and utilities like South Carolina Electric & Gasoline.4

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the city of Columbia employs about 400,000 workers with the largest number of employees at 84 percent working in government. And as of November last year, the unemployment rate in Columbia was 2.8 percent which is lower than the national average at 3.8 percent.

Myrtle Beach

Now let’s look at Myrtle Beach’s economy and employment. Myrtle Beach has an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent as of July 2023 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.7 This is just under the national US unemployment rate of 3.8 percent.8 But, there’s good news because according to EZhomesearch.com, “The job market in Myrtle Beach has grown by 1.6% over the past year, and they predict job growth over the next decade to be 38.8% in the city, outpacing the U.S. average of 33.5%.”5 That’s a lot of job growth! 

As a prominent city on the United States east coast, Myrtle Beach is mostly known as a vacation destination. So naturally, the strongest industries in the area are hospitality and entertainment, followed by government, healthcare, and aerospace.6

Known for its warm weather and white sandy beaches, Myrtle Beach is a tourist town and draws as many as 20 million visitors each year. As a result, there are many hotels, resorts, entertainment outlets, and other businesses that cater to tourists. In fact, almost 30 percent of Myrtle Beach's population works in the hospitality industry, compared to less than one percent working in agriculture. Another 13 percent works in retail.6

Although the tourism industry tends to take the lead in Myrtle Beach, there are other industries like aerospace that have developed over the past few years. This comes as a result of trade schools like the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, which offers training at a location in Myrtle Beach. Because of the addition of this school, the number of people employed in the aerospace industry in Myrtle Beach has increased as much as 600 percent!6

Cost of Living

Now let’s compare the cost of living in both cities. It’s wise to know what the cost of living will be before moving to a new area so that you can plan your budget and be prepared for all expenses. The good news is that both of these cities have lower costs of living compared to the national average.  

But is it cheaper to live in Myrtle Beach or in Columbia? The median home price in Myrtle Beach is about $329,000, and Columbia’s median home value is around $264,000.9 However, the cost for gasoline is 26% lower in Columbia at $3.22 per gallon, and healthcare costs are 6% less in Columbia.9  The costs for food and other items are about the same in both cities.

Attractions, Entertainment and Recreation

So now that you know more about the cost of living in both cities, what do they offer for entertainment and recreation? Well both of these southern cities are family friendly and offer a variety of fun things to do. So what attractions does Columbia offer?  

Columbia

As the state capital, Columbia is home to the South Carolina State House which has free tours for the public. The city also has many historical sites and homes, including a Greek Revival building set in gardens dotted with monuments, and the Robert Mills mansion, gardens and museum.10

Columbia’s award-winning Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has beautiful botanical gardens, hands-on exhibits and all kinds of wildlife. It also offers programs for children and teens, plus attractions including a high ropes course. For a deep dive on the Riverbanks Zoo, go to this link…

In downtown Columbia, you’ll find a variety of shopping and dining in the Vista area. You’ll also find a diverse collection spanning centuries on display at the Columbia Museum of Art. There’s also the Edventure Children’s Museum which is the largest children’s museum in the Southeastern U.S. And there’s the South Carolina State Museum with four floors of exhibits, a digital dome planetarium, 4D interactive theater, and an observatory.10 

If you enjoy music and the arts, you can watch live performances at the Koger Center for the Arts, The Towne theater, or the Colonial Life Arena. And sports fans in Columbia can watch the University of South Carolina Gamecocks play football or any other Gamecocks sports, or can cheer on the minor league Columbia Fireflies baseball team at Segra Park.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s plenty to explore in Columbia, including many hiking trails and community parks. There's also the Harbison State Forest, Sesqui-centennial State Park, Congaree National Park, Dreher Island State Park, and Lake Murray. 

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach also has plenty of great things to do. Of course with its 60 miles of beaches, a visit to the beach is what this city is known for. And you can walk along the pier that’s lined with arcades, shops, eateries, and there’s the famous Sky-Wheel ride. You’ll also find several amusement parks with carnival rides as well as a few water parks throughout the city. 

Myrtle Beach also has unique tourist attractions such as Dino Park where you can learn about dinosaurs, Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, Backstage Mirror Maze, and WonderWorks with fun, hands-on activities. If you enjoy shopping or dining, Broadway at the Beach has several shops and restaurants to choose from.10 And of course since Myrtle Beach is on the coast, there are lots of fresh seafood choices. 

Besides the beach, outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate The Hulk-Horry County Bike and Run Park in Myrtle Beach. This park offers some nice mountain biking and hiking trails and is a great spot for picnics and recreation. Also the city is known for its celebrity-designed golf courses, so if you enjoy golfing, you’ll find some excellent courses to play on.10 

I hope this has helped you know more about these two South Carolina cities so you can decide which city is best for you. Do you live in Columbia or Myrtle Beach? If you do, please let me know what you think about your city in the comments. 

**** 

Written by Vanessa Pham - vpham28@gmail.com

1https://www.bestplaces.net/compare-cities/columbia_sc/myrtle_beach_sc/climate

2https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/columbiacitysouthcarolina/PST045223

3 https://www.bestplaces.net/compare-cities/columbia_sc/myrtle_beach_sc/overview 

4. https://www.jeff cookrealestate.com/columbia/columbia-economy/

5https://www.ezhomesearch.com/blog/myrtle-beach/myrtle-beach-economy/#:~:text=Myrtle%20Beach%20Economy%20Facts%20and%20Figures&text=The%20job%20market%20in%20Myrtle,the%20U.S.%20average%20of%2033.5%25.

6 https://www.jeff cookrealestate.com/myrtle-beach/myrtle-beach-economy/

7https://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.sc_myrtlebeach_msa.htm

8 https://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.us.htm

9https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/real-estate/cost-of-living-calculator/columbia-sc/?city=myrtle-beach-sc&income=70000

10 Google.com

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Sandra Sturkie

 Originally from Colombia, South America, I now proudly call Columbia, South Carolina, my home.With a degree in Accounting from the University of Quindio in Colombia, I bring a solid educational ....

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