Capital City / Lake Murray Country, SC: Small Town Getaways Pay Big Rewards


A visit to small towns in the south and the surrounding countryside can bring great benefits. With a fusion of nostalgia, historic preservation, and forward-thinking vision, the cities of the South Carolina area Capital / Country of Lake Murray Offer inspiration, relaxation and discovery in the central part of the state of Palmetto, close to highways I-77, I-20 and I-26. In the four-county region anchored by Columbia and surrounding counties of Lexington, Newberry, Richland and Saluda, you’ll find hiking / biking trails, wineries, culinary delights and farmers’ markets, pre-war homes, golf, gardens and museums. Timeless icons like the Newberry Opera House, one of the country’s oldest, and the Town Theater, in its 102nd season, are part of this region’s heritage and culture. Lake Murray, 41 miles long and encompassing 620 miles of shoreline, stretches across the region. Remarkable fishing, sailing, sunrises and sunsets await you, along with lakefront accommodations, paddle boarding, pontoon boats and more. Here’s a rewarding discovery tour, starting across the river from Columbia, passing northwest around Lake Murray, and ending south from Newberry to Ridge Spring, a small town that offers great delicacies.

West Columbia / Cayce

Trendy and trendy West Columbia / Cayce is framed by scenic green spaces and gathering places. Cycling is an ideal way to visit them all, including the famous Riverbanks Zoo and Garden(1300 Botanical Parkway, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-779-8717), Carraway Park, and Interactive Art Park. Riverwalk Park and Amphitheater (109 Alexander Road, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-791-1880) is part of the Three Rivers Greenway and offers views of the Columbia skyline and the Congaree River. West Columbia is also home to some of the best restaurants (and views) in all of Metro Columbia, including Cafe Strudel (300 State Street, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-794-6634), Al’s Upstairs Italian (300 Meeting Street, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-794-7404), the newly renovated Terra (100 State Street, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-791-3443) and Black rooster (201 Meeting Street, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-724-2853). The hot breweries add to the ambiance: Savage Craft Ale Works (430 Center Street, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-888-6005) and Brewing Steel Hands (2350 Foreman Street, Cayce, SC 29033; 803-708-9864). WECO bottle and Biergarten (626 Meeting Street, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-851-1279) is a gathering and retail space offering a wide range of wines and beers and plenty of outdoor seating. On Saturday, stop at Meeting of the street craft market (425 Meeting Street, West Columbia, SC 29169; 803-622-8598) for fresh food and produce, original arts and crafts from local artists, and food truck fare. Consult the calendar of national touring groups and actors at Columbia Speedway Historic Entertainment Center (2001 Charleston Highway, Cayce, SC 29033; 888-418-2929). The site has Covid security protocols and customers sit with only their group in socially distant coves 12 feet by 10 feet.


Leading northwest in an arc around Lake Murray, prosperity radiates charm with its town square, clock and gazebo, restaurants and antique shops. Formerly known as Frog Level, the Prosperity Railroad Depot is home to the largest frog sculpture in the Southeast and celebrates its origins in Hoppin ‘Festival, May 1, 2021, (Downtown Square). The event includes a Handicraft Market sale with 40 vendors, a 5km run / walk, live bands, delicious Southern Festival food and activities for the kids. Don’t miss a scenic tour or stay on Lake Murray, the ‘Jewel of South Carolina’. Rental outfitters and marinas offer sail, motor and paddle boats. Yacht Tours on Lake Murray offers incredible sunset cruises, dining and cocktails (1925 Johnson Marina Road, Chapin, SC 29036;

803-510-7299). Nature offers a spectacular spectacle from June to August, when a million purple martins settle there, sailing in the sky before sunset until dusk.


Named one of the ‘Most Charming Little Towns in America’ by Travel Channel, Newberry is known for its downtown district where the streets are lined with quaint shops and restaurants and almost all buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A themed boutique and dinners offer specials, wine tastings and more on the first Friday of each month, starting at 4 p.m. Enjoy fine dining with an eclectic southern touch at Figaro the dining room, housed in a former bank (1117 Boyce Street, Newberry, South Carolina 29108; 803-276-0101). The great French Gothic Newberry Opera, California. 1882, completely restored and technologically advanced, hosts everything from the Glenn Miller Orchestra to contemporary jazz and country, from plays to comedy, from Broadway to opera (1201 McKibben Street, Newberry, SC 29108;
803-276-6264). Covid’s health and safety protocols are listed on the website. Stroll through the atrium and quaint Roman Revival-style courtyard Old Newberry Hotel (1110 Caldwell Street, Newberry, SC 29108; 803-276-9223). Built in 1878, it was designed by the architect of the Opera House Newberry. Now it’s a romantic event venue for weddings and photo ops and is home to the Newberry Arts Center. With even more restaurants, shops and things to do, a stay is mandatory. To think about the choices, take a little detour to the north Enoree River Vineyards and Winery for a tasting, drink or slushy wine (1650 Dusty Rd, Newberry, South Carolina 29108; 803-276-2855). From there, consider the merits of the turret, rocking chair-porch Newberry Manor B&B, with its early 1900s decor, claw-foot tubs, and gourmet Southern breakfasts (1710 College Street, Newberry, SC 29108; 803-597-5031). Less than four miles south of the square is one of the largest orchid nurseries in the world, Carter and Holmes Orchid Nursery (629 State Road S-36-273, Newberry, SC 29108; 803-276-0579). Equipped with 18 greenhouses, it is also known for its unusual and ancient companion plants propagated by a talented crew.

Ridge Spring

Less than a scenic hour south of Newberry is the farmland, peach and pecan orchards of Saluda County, giving rise to a farm stand and market bounty and inspiring a remarkable chef to create a small town Ridge Spring his house. At the opening of Chef Brandon and Jeanne Velie Juniper At Ridge Spring (640 East Main Street, Ridge Spring, SC 29129; 803-685-7547) word has spread in regional and national food media. Among their many accolades: cooking twice at New York’s famous James Beard House with ingredients from South Carolina. Another mandatory gastronomic stop is The Nut House and Country Market (505 East Main Street, Ridge Spring, SC 29129; 803-685-5335), where pecans are grown, harvested and made into gourmet treats, candies and pies. Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, from June 1 to Labor Day, Ridge Spring Farmer’s Market inspires producers, bakers and manufacturers to interact with locals and visitors. On the third Saturday of every month, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., June through Labor Day, farmers flock to the town market. Both markets also feature landscaped plants and flowers (Ridge Spring Town Plaza, West Main Street, Ridge Spring, SC 29129). The pipeline site (617 East Main Street, Ridge Spring, SC 29129; 803-480-0217) is an entertainment, event, and wedding venue.
For details on where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Capital City / Lake Murray Country, visit

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