Ways to Support Local Restaurants

As the hospitality industry tries to navigate the corona crisis, here are a few ways you can support local restaurants…


Order Takeout

You can still eat at your favorite restaurant whether for pick up or delivery. Several delivery services are now offering no contact delivery, which is an important precaution. Get takeout from a different restaurant each week. And, of course, remember to leave a nice tip.



Order Meal Kits and Catering

Restaurants are now offering weekly and daily meal kits for pick up and delivery. These are prepared packages that can feed an entire family. Some of the local restaurants in our region providing this are Alodia’s Cucina Italiana, Spotted Salamander, The Grand on Main and many others. Local catering companies such as Blue Marlin Signature Catering and 8th Wonder Cuisines are also providing catered meals ready for delivery. These catering companies that usually cater to large groups have lowered their minimums. Circulate the menu among your neighbors and plan to all dine on the front porch.




Buy Gift Cards

Support restaurants now by purchasing a gift card and dine with them later. These funds are immediately deposited into the restaurant. So, stocking up on these gift cards either for you or gifts is a great idea and will support the restaurants right now. If you know of a restaurant that isn’t currently offering gift cards, it might be worth reaching out to inquire how you can support them.



Write Positive Reviews

A quick and easy way to support restaurants right now is by writing a positive review on platforms such as Google and Yelp. Not only does this give a restaurant something to smile about during this gloomy time but it also has an impact. In the end, glowing words of appreciation will help attract more people. In addition, like and share restaurants’ social posts to your newsfeed. Encourage your social media friends to order take out, etc.




Special Occasions

Now is a great time to plan ahead for special occasions.  Everyone is doing more cooking than they are used to and many want to. So, cater a significant birthday, anniversary or upcoming Easter dinner. This will be a nice treat for everyone in the family, especially the head chef at home.


By: Jayne Baker

Things To Do During Social Distancing

We know how crucial social distancing is right now. So we are here to help you. The Capital City/Lake Murray Country region has a tremendous amount of things to do while maintaining proper social distance. Here are some suggestions.



Sunrise or sunset at the Lake Murray Dam walkway
Head to the Lake Murray dam walkway for the most picturesque sunrises and sunsets. The 2.5 miles of walkway allows you to spread out and enjoy the view. Also, this is a great spot to walk and get your body moving while enjoying the view of the water and rays of the sun.



Z- learning at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Calling all animal lovers… at 10 AM on the weekdays you can awaken your wild side by joining the riverbanks zoo and garden for a virtual Z learning experience. On their Facebook page, you can go behind the scenes, tour the zoo and learn about the animals. Tune in today!



Walking and biking trails

The 2 state parks Sesquicentennial and Dreher Island State Park as well as Congaree National Park are open for walking and biking. The visitor center facilities are closed but these beautiful parks are open to explore during this time. Dreher Island State Park is on Lake Murray so grab your fishing pole and tackle box. These are all great spots to get some fresh air.  Also, visit South Carolina State Parks on Facebook live. Their rangers are taking viewers on nature hikes daily.



Getting out on Lake Murray

If you don’t have a boat, there are several ways to get out on the water during this time. Pontoon Rentals & Tours and Lake Murray Yacht Tours offer captained tours for you and your family. Or you can check out Nautical Boat Club (formally Better Boating) to rent your family a boat for the day. If fishing is your thing, our partner fishing guides Rocky Bottom, Anthony D. Drafts, Catch 22 Guide Service and Taylor Outdoors, are offering to show you where the fishing holes are. They’re sanitizing their boats and some will even wear masks to accommodate you.


For those interested in renting a boat, kayak or stand up paddleboard visit the Nautical Boat Club website.  The site lets you check availability, reserve your equipment and make payment from your home.





River Tours

Palmetto Outdoors continues to offer their spring tours on the rivers. These are 3 -hour tours, seven days a week at the new South Cedar Creek launch pad.  Groups of two or more is $80 per person. Contact Palmetto Outdoor to learn more about this great opportunity.




DIY Projects

AR Workshop in Columbia and Lexington is offering DIY Projects to create at home. These are DIY To Go to help entertain the kids. Some of the projects include creating plank signs, Easter crafts and more. Pick up dates are 3/20, 3/21, 3/27 and 3/28. Find more info about this here.




Today’s Play at EdVenture

EdVenture Children’s Museum, the largest children’s museum in the Southeast, is closed but visit their website edventure.org to find Today’s Play, fun and educational at-home activities.





So Much Golf in the Region

Golf seems to be the perfect isolation sport.  Check in with one of our many courses and ranges in the region to book play.  With the wide-open space, this is a great sport to play right now.  Click here for courses.



By: Jayne Baker

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, We have Valentine’s Day ideas for You!



Have Valentine’s plans yet? We have a roundup of unique ideas to help get your plans underway…


On Saturday, February 8th, Wingard’s Market in Lexington, SC, will host a Valentine’s dinner in their Greenhouse at 7PM. Executive chef, Drew Thompson, will prepare the meal. This is sure to be a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day; attendance is limited to 100 guests and tickets are $100 per person. To find out more, call 803-359-9091.


On February 13th from 7 to 9pm, Scott Benny’s Restaurant in Blythewood, SC, will host a Valentine’s Day Craft and Sip. For more information on this special evening, call 803-309-4581.



Speaking of sipping, Alodia’s Cucina Italiana is offering a special drink, the Hibiscus Spritz. It will keep your spirits high; come try it at either restaurant location, Irmo or Lexington.


The AR Workshop is hosting two special Valentine’s events…On February 14th at 10am, a family-friendly Valentine DIY event will take place and cost $14-$19 per person.  The evening event at 6:30pm includes dinner and a DIY project. Tickets are $60 each and the Blended Bakery will be serving a delicious dinner. Find out more by calling, 803-262-4306.


On February 14th, The Colonial Life Arena is hosting the hilarious Martin Lawrence. Get tickets to this belly laugh event through Ticketmaster.com.


Does your significant other love baseball? Valentine’s Day packages can be purchased through the Columbia Fireflies. Get a 2020 Valentine’s Day package and some sweet perks for that special someone including two tickets to opening night on April 9th, donuts from Duck Donuts and a Fireflies tumbler. Find out more about this special by calling, 803-726-4487.



Celebrate Valentine’s Day under the stars at the Amore Under The Stars event at the SC State Museum. This romantic evening will give you a chance to see the night sky and universe in the Boeing Observatory. Guests will enjoy champagne in a take home souvenir flute. To learn more about this event, call 803-898-4952.


Want something casual? Highway 378 Grill & Bar, in Gilbert, is offering a Prime Rib special on Valentine’s Day and everyone loves a good steak!



Plan an overnight stay at Hotel Trundle, a boutique hotel in downtown Columbia. Treat your Valentine to a getaway or a staycation. They are offering sweet packages including flowers, champagne, wine, macaroons and more.  Book your room today; call 803-722-5000.


Aloft Columbia Downtown is also offering a lovely package with chocolate covered strawberries, champagne and live music by The Organa Trio that night from 4:30-7pm. To find out more about this deal, call 803-445-1900.

Outstanding Drinks & Food at River Rat Brewery



River Rat Brewery

Style: Upscale, Blue Collar aka Comfortably Fancy

Chef: Chef BOH (Brandon O. Hairston)

Address: 1231 Shop Road, Columbia

Phone: 803-724-5712

Website: riverratbrewery.com


The City of Columbia was built on the backbone of hardworking men and women from generations past. This rich history is the corner stone for which River Rat Brewery was formed and it’s the present generations that are enjoying every skillfully crafted IPA, Lager, Ale and Stout they brew. They’ve even perfected their version of a hard seltzer in two great Southern flavors, COLAHARD Pineapple and Black Cherry.


And as if being VOTED the Best wasn’t enough, they’ve added the culinary genius of not one but two Chefs to please the hungry masses that pass through the doors. Whether they come to imbibe in a pint, try their hand at cornhole, or relax in the yard, on the patio, deck or a top the rooftop bar, all seasonally cooled or heated- the one thing they all agree on is the food is outstanding!



So, let’s cut to the chase and talk about it! Whether it’s a burger or sandwich for lunch, a late night plate of brisket nachos, Brunch on Saturday or Sunday morning with perfectly blended Bloody Mary’s or an elegant savory dinner- with Chef Brandon O. Hairston (aka BOH, pronounced “Bo” or otherwise known as “Back of House,” industry slang for Kitchen help) at the helm or Chef Andy by his side – you’re in for a treat.


The current menu is full of amazing foods served in epic proportions with a River Rat twist. Take the “Drewgernaut”- it’s a giant half pound Angus burger seasoned with fresh herbs, cracked pepper and topped with the crazy flavor of a Chocolate lab cheese, arugula, onion straws and chipotle BBQ sauce, heaped onto a toasted “customized” Brioche bun.


Need something in the comfort category? Try the Brisket Pimento Mac-n-Cheese! The individual pots come heaping with homemade Pimento cheese and River Rat smoked brisket. This golden, creamy, macaroni is topped with the most moist and tender brisket, house made BBQ sauce and a smattering of those tasty onion straws. This is not the dish for those who eat like a bird. If you’re one of those, go for the salads- they are equally tasty and made with the best greens around but know you’re missing out!


NEW FOR 2020: Coming in on a special occasion, be sure to ask if their Roasted Quail and Risotto is on the menu. This elegant dish offers a perfect blend of all that makes risotto great- it’s a balance of parmesan cheese, lemon and a bright white wine reduction and a whole grain mustard sauce with a perfectly seasoned, roasted quail set on top. This is a dish that everyone should savor!



Open daily, with brunch served both Saturdays and Sundays, River Rat is not only the spot for a cold brew, it’s the spot you want to celebrate every special occasion or end every hard day of work. Don’t wait, belly up to the bar, park out on the patio, dally on the deck or bring your party straight up to the rooftop (all seasonally heated or cooled), because as if they weren’t perfect, they welcome man’s best friend and kids too!


What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?

Both Chefs had a ready answer for their favorite ingredient to cook with. While Chef BOH preferred “garlic and salt” citing the health benefits of garlic for immune and nervous systems, Chef Andy professed his love for “hot sauce”. They both agreed that the aromatics of cooking garlic adds to the full wafting experience that creates anticipation for the meal being prepared.


By: Julie Colson

Make getting outside your New Year’s resolution

Every new year, we hear people say a million different resolutions that will change their lives for the better. One great way to commit to getting off the couch is to get outdoors. The Capital City/Lake Murray Country region has so many parks, walkways, and other outdoor attractions to explore. Here are 10 regional destinations to help you get outside and make your New Year’s resolution complete.



#1 Congaree National Park

This national park is a jewel in the region. Visitors can get away from it all in this gorgeous spot. The part preserves the largest intract old growth bottom land hardwood forest left in the United States. Visitors can wander the boardwalk for miles and take in the exquisite views of the record size trees. They are excursions and events available year-round as well as camping opportunities.



#2 Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden

This is a first class zoo in the United States with everything from mammals to reptiles and amphibian species. You can spend the entire day simply strolling the zoo and enjoying all of the amazing sections and creatures that it has to offer. The color and variety of plants in the Botanical garden are stunning and will keep you walking to see more.  Those up for a real adventure should sign up for the zipline through the trees and across the river.


#3 Saluda Shoals Park

This park offers lots of fun seasonal activities but it’s walking trails makes it a great get outdoors destination. The walking trails are throughout the park and many are along the Saluda river.  Due to river access there are fishing and watersport opportunities available. The park also has new play area to include all children with disabilities.



#4 Columbia’s Riverfront Park

The Riverfront Park and Canal in Columbia is a great place to walk, run or ride a bike with the family. You can take a 2 1/2 mile hike or bike ride along the river, picnic on one of the many tables or just sit on a bench to take in the scenery.



#5 Dreher Island State Park

This island state park is out on Lake Murray but not far from the city. It’s a great place to get away from it all; only 30 minutes from downtown Columbia. Take an evening stroll to the bridge and watch the sunset, spend the afternoon hiking Little Gap Trail, try your luck at fishing or swim in Lake Murray. If you like it enough, book a camping spot for a return stay.


#6 Harbison State Forest

Harbison State Forest offers mountain biking, camping or hiking with family or dogs. In the summer this is a great spot because it stays a bit cooler due to the large canvas of trees. Harbison has nature trails and a visitor center. Plus, the Harbison shopping area is close by to grab a bite to eat after your outdoor adventure.



#7 Sesquicentennial State Park

This state park in the region has it all… trails, a lake to paddle boat in, camping sites, playgrounds and lots of wildlife. The mountain bikers love this park for the hilly trails and views of the lake while on the trail. Families love to gather at this park for reunions and to enjoy the outdoors.


#8 Virginia Hylton Park

This park is nestled in the town of Lexington offering a butterfly garden, and Iris garden, a Koi pond, playground, and of course many walking trails.



#9 Doko Meadows in Blythewood

Doko Meadows is a 22 acre park managed by the town of Blythewood offering a scenic walking trail that travels along a pond through a wooded area. A coffee shop is soon opening at the entrance of the park.  So, grab a cup of coffee while you’re there!


#10 Lynches Woods Park

This park is located in Newberry County with 276 acres and many miles of trails for hiking, jogging, off-road bicycling and horseback riding. The Palmetto Trail also passes through here.


What is the Palmettto Trail? The Palmetto Trail offers miles of fresh air along historic paths. Residents and visitors of all ages, abilities, and socioeconomic circumstances use the Palmetto Trail to enjoy nature, practice conservation, and learn history, all while being physically active.  It connects state and county parks, national forests, nature preserves, wildlife management areas, Revolutionary War battlefields, Native American paths, urban to rural, swamps to mountains, maritime to sandhills to piedmont, and much more.  Find out more at palmettoconservation.org.


By: Jayne Baker

Dining with a Lake Murray view at Liberty on the Lake


Liberty on the Lake
Phone: (803) 667-9715
Address: 1602 Marina Road St. D, Irmo
Website: libertytaproom.com
Style: Southern with Flair!
Chef: Victoria Russell, General Manager


Looking for a spot for lunch or dinner with a great view?  Whether you’re coming by car or by boat, Liberty on the Lake is the place to be.  This lakefront property is a lively spot for family and friends to gather for any occasion or outing, at any time of year!


Enjoy the fabulous view, lively atmosphere and delicious fare starting with all time favorites, right down to dessert. With a fresh new menu, Liberty is tempting guests with a flavorful list of appetizers, like fried calamari and old-school chicken tacos to their take on a Lowcountry Mac and Cheese or their Disco Fries.


From there anything goes- with a tasty selection of sandwiches- like the Fried Chicken with deviled egg sauce and pickles, to the Ahi Tuna or Liberty Club; then there’s the mouth-watering burgers list and a trio of tacos that includes a vegan/Keto diet friendly Cauliflower taco!


To round out the menu, there’s Signature Steaks, House Specials, big-bowl Salads and Pizza. But the menu doesn’t stop there! There’s dessert and a full service bar offering all of your favorite cocktails, wines and local craft beers.



Come spend some time on the deck, catch the game or enjoy some live music. The fun and food are on par with the fabulous sunset! The kitchen
at Liberty on the Lake opens seven days a week at 11am and closes at 9pm Sunday thru Thursday and 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.



What is your favorite dish on the menu?  The cauliflower tacos complete with the cheesy shell. So delicious!

Light Up Your Holidays

We’ve heard that Christmas decorations and lights make people happy. Psychologists are even saying that putting up Christmas decorations spark feelings of pure joy and happiness and can modify happy hormones in your body.  Well, during late November and December you are sure to have a smile on your face while visiting the Capital City/Lake Murray Country region…we have Christmas lights galore!  Check out all of the events that will brighten your spirits and light up your holiday…



On November 21, Vista Lights will take place in the Vista in downtown Columbia, 701 Gervais Street.  There are holiday lights, live entertainment and performances and holiday treasures available for purchase.



It is also very magical in Newberry, SC. The season kicks off with Main Street Lights and a tree lighting in front of the Community Hall (1209 Caldwell Street, Newberry) on November 22 at 5pm. Newberry’s Main Street will be transformed for an evening of Christmas fun; street musicians will play holiday tunes. In addition, every Friday in Newberry, take the kids to see the snow!  For more details, visit NewberryChristmas.com.



Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo (500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia) starts November 23 and runs through December with select evenings from 5-9pm. Visit riverbanks.org for full schedule.


Our state Christmas tree has more than 13,000 LED lights and 900 ornaments. Make plans to attend the 53rd annual Governor’s Carolighting at the SC State House (1100 Gervais Street, Columbia) on November 24th from 5:30-7:30pm.



Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park takes place on November 27th and runs through December 31st, every evening from 6-10pm.  This is the midlands largest drive through lights show.  There are over 400 animated light displays of all shapes and sizes. The entrance is located at the east entrance of the park at 6071 St. Andrews Road, Columbia. Find out more at icrc.net.


In Lexington, the Snowball Festival begins on Friday, December 5th and runs through December 8th.  The tree lighting will take place on December 6th from 6-8pm at the Lexington Square, the corner of East Main Street and South Lake Drive.



On Lake Murray, for the first time since 1980, there will be a Christmas Light Boat Parade on Saturday, December 7th at 6pm.  Families can watch the beautifully decorated boats from the Lexington Park Site (1797 North Lake Drive, Lexington) at the Lake Murray Dam. Register your boat at LakeMurrayCountry.com.


Also, on December 13th from 4-8pm, Five Points will host “A Starry Night.”  The streets are lined with beautiful lighted trees and the merchants are open for holiday specials.  This is a FREE event for the entire family.




In Cayce on December 14th at 5:30pm, there’s a Holiday Parade of Lights where visitors can take a ride through the Cayce City Hall complex and enjoy thousands of twinkling lights. The parade begins at 1800 12th Street in Cayce.


Lastly, as part of the South Carolina State Fair’s 150 anniversary, they are debuting a new drive through holiday light show at the SC State Fairgrounds. Carolina Lights will feature more than 100 individual light displays. This route will be in the George Rogers Blvd. area.  For additional info, visit scstatefair.org.


So, make holiday plans to Visit Lake Murray Country to make your holiday season BRIGHT!

You’ll Crave Columbo’s

Restaurant: Columbo’s

Style: Contemporary American, Southern Inspired

Chef: Joe Truex, Executive Chef

Address: 2100 Bush River Road, Columbia

Phone: (803) 744-2200





When you’re a full-service restaurant in a popular, high-end hotel with the largest ballroom just minutes from bustling downtown Columbia- there’s no scrimping on service, quality or flavor. And when you dine at Columbo’s inside the newly renovated Doubletree Hotel by Hilton on Bush River Road, you’re likely to forget you are in a hotel.


From the moment you walk in, you’re drawn into the luxurious lobby, welcomed by the spacious lounge that leads to the open bar and dining area. The aromas wafting from the kitchen entice you to stay and there’s nothing better than a great meal after a long day of travel!



Chef Joe Truex has traveled the globe to hone his cooking skills. From his culinary adventures throughout Spain, France, Asia and all over the US Chef Truex has created an international blend of flavors that suit the most discerning palate!


Traditional southern flavors such as Fried Green Tomatoes and plump crispy Fried Shrimp, compliment evolved blends such as the meat-lovers Philly Steak Eggrolls or the vegan Black Bean Burger with Mango Salsa. These are all plentiful appetizers that eat like full meals.


The mouth-watering temptations continue with a Pasta Jambalaya- a unique take of a vodka pasta perfected with Cajun seasoning, or an apple, bourbon brined smoked chicken topped with pimento cheese, or the perfectly grilled Porterhouse Steak served with White Truffle Parmesan Mashed Potatoes. Each dish on the menu offers locally sourced goodness, for a truly fresh dining experience.


Columbo’s is always open to the public, features a fully stocked bar, and special occasion dining opportunities. Don’t think of it as a “restaurant at a hotel”, think of it as a hotel at a “world-class fine dining restaurant”.



What do you do to relax? “Believe it or not, even after a long day of cooking, I go home and cook some more- everything from Asian flavors and Italian favorites!”


By: Julie Colson

Veterans Day Events and Specials

In 1919, almost 10 years before the start of the building of the Lake Murray Dam, President Woodrow Wilson selected November 11thas the day to pay tribute to all of our military veterans. Originally coined as “Armistice Day”, the name was later changed to “Veterans Day” by President Dwight Eisenhower to honor more than one set of veterans. Often confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died in service, Veterans Day allows the chance for people to thank military personnel for risking their lives to defend American freedom; it allows time to reflect on the importance of peace in our world and it draws attention to the challenges our veterans face.


This tribute remains a celebrated salute to our service men and woman offering deals and discounts as thanks for their service, free admission to local attractions and of course parades around the country. Here’s a few activities going on in our region that are open to the public, and some with special offers to our veterans.


Veterans Day Parade

The 41st Annual Columbia Veterans Day Parade will step off at 11am on Monday, 11/11/19 at the corners of Laurel and Sumter in downtown, and march its way to Sumter and Lady streets. This year’s parade honors Columbia as one of five of The Great American Defense Community award recipients, a recognition bestowed upon the region in April of this year. As the southeast’s largest Veterans Day Parade, the procession includes high school marching bands, military equipment and marching installations from around the state. The parade is about an hour and a half.



282nd Army Marching Band

With a history that dates back to 1869, there is nothing as moving as a performance by the 282nd Army Marching Band. The pomp and circumstance combined with the masterful talent and powerful sounds, create a thrilling musical presentation all should experience. This year offers several opportunities to see the Band perform, including the halftime show at Williams Brice Stadium during the USC game on November 9th. Check out the full schedule, most performances are free.


SC Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum

As the third oldest museum in the state, SCCRR focuses on South Carolina’s military history from the Revolutionary War to the present. Discover and explore the state’s military history through informative and award-winning exhibits, featuring many rare and one-of-a-kind artifacts.  With evolving permanent exhibits and ever-changing galleries, each visit to the SCCRR, located inside the SC State Museum, is an exciting new experience! Be sure to check them out for their Lunch & Learn sessions throughout the year. All active and retired military will receive free admission on Veterans Day with ID.


Fort Jackson

A major part of Columbia’s community since it’s opening in 1917, Fort Jackson has grown to be the largest and most active Initial Entry Training Center conducting fifty percent of the Army’s Basic Combat Training, graduating over 1,200 soldiers weekly. The installation offers visitation to four unique museums including: The Adjunct General’s Corps Museum, the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum, the Chaplain Corp Museum and the Finance Corps Museum. The grounds are also home to the new Centennial Park commemorating the 100th anniversary of the installation.


Guests are encouraged to visit Fort Jackson for graduation ceremonies and special viewings of the Night Infiltration Course.  As these events and museums take place on base, they do require advanced planning for visits. For assistance planning a group visit call the Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office, 803-751-1742 or our Visitors Center.


While Veteran’s Day is a great time of year to pay homage to those who have served, our museums provide a learning opportunity year-round, consider bringing your family, civic group or classroom to tour any of our Military related museums at any time of the year. When planning for your visit be sure to contact our Visitors Center for additional visit ideas, special events and souvenir shopping!


Admission discounts and offers will also apply at the following family friendly organizations when a Military ID is presented.


AR Workshops, Lexington and Columbia: 10% discount off any project, use code MILITARY10


EdVenture Children’s Museum: Free admission for up to 4 guests for military families with ID. This applies to Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and the 4thof July.


Lake Murray Golf Center: Always discounted play for military personnel with ID


Liberty on the Lake: Liberty on the Lake will be offering 50% off food purchases to all veterans & active military (+1 guest)


River Banks Zoo and Botanical Gardens: Free admission with ID for active and retired military personnel.


By: Julie Colson


WOW…Wicked is Coming

There are witches in the air… It may be close to Halloween but that is not why we are seeing so many witches pop up around the region. The real witch that is coming is Wicked…to the Koger Center in Columbia in January 2020.


Wicked has been named by the New York Times as the “defining musical of the decade” and by Time Magazine as “a magical Broadway musical with brains, heart, and courage.” And, this award winning global production is headed our way!



Wicked has been performed in over 100 cities and 16 countries around the world.  It has made 5 billion in global sales and has been seen by over 60 million people worldwide.  So, now it is your turn.  Get your family and friends together for a night out at the Koger Center. Shows will run January 22 through February 9, 2020.  Tickets start at just $41.


The full performance schedule is available at www.kogercenterforthearts.com.  Don’t miss out!