The food scene in the Capital City/Lake Murray region is extraordinary, and so are the arts, culture and events. Photo credits: The Capital City/Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board
With accolades like “10 best spots for a weekend getaway in the South” and “One of America’s Best New Food Destinations,” friends, couples and families will find a fun culinary and cultural getaway in the Capital City/Lake Murray, South Carolina region. It’s located in the central part of the Palmetto State, anchored by Columbia and the counties of Richland, Lexington, Newberry and Saluda, with convenient access from Interstates I-77, I-20 and I-26.
Around the lively capital of Columbia and the delightful smaller towns, some named after the counties, you’ll find gardens and museums, wineries, culinary delights and farmers markets, along with hiking/biking trails, golf and other outdoor activities. Sprawling across the region is Lake Murray, 41 miles long and encompassing 650 miles of shoreline and plenty of fishing and water sports.
The food scene in the Capital City/Lake Murray region is extraordinary, and so are the arts, culture and events. National Register icons like the Newberry Opera House, dedicated in 1882, and Columbia’s Town Theatre, in its 104th season, make up part of the heritage of this area. Visitors can catch a Broadway performance at the Koger Center for the Arts, take a tour of the South’s premier international art museum, The Columbia Museum of Art, and the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia. Substantial diversity and community enthusiasm help to create events every weekend and festivals every month.
In Capital City/Lake Murray Country, dining also takes center stage. The area sends a team to the World Food Championship in Dallas, TX and in 2022, hosted the World Food Championship’s Final Table event at the University of South Carolina. Sample more than 60 restaurants in Columbia’s Vista neighborhood alone, and travel along South Carolina’s Famous BBQ trail in The Midlands–the only state to feature the official four sauces—with stops at dozens of beloved spots, including Hudson’s Smokehouse in Lexington and Maurice’s Piggie Park in several locations.
In Richland County, the Capital of Columbia features the rich cultural heritage of the South Carolina State House and the Columbia Museum of Art. Home to Colonial Life Arena, The Senate and The Township Auditorium, Richland County boasts venues for music, comedy, acting, art house film and more. Watch for upcoming performances from community productions at Trustus Theatre, national Broadway tours at Koger Center for The Arts, and indie films at the Nickelodeon Theatre. The many foodie favorites include Smoked, Blue Marlin, Spotted Salamander, Hall’s Chophouse, M Vista, and DiPrato’s to name a few.
The smaller towns also boast culinary and cultural stars. Newberry, named by the “Travel Channel” as one of the 50 most “charming small towns,” is known for museums, dining and wine-tasting. Stroll through Newberry’s downtown district where the streets are lined with picturesque shops and restaurants and nearly every building within view is on the National Register of Historic Places. Stay awhile and catch a show—from concerts to professional touring plays to comedy and a packed Christmas schedule—at the historic, splendidly-restored Newberry Opera House. Check out the Newberry Community Players. Have a unique and memorable dining experience just down the street at the casually elegant Figaro the Dining Room, housed in a former bank. The cuisine is an eclectic fusion of international classics with a home grown feel. Savor world-class barbecue at SteelHorse SmokeHouse and homemade doughnuts at Laila’s Place.
Lexington County, close to the Capital City of Columbia, is one of the fastest-growing areas in South Carolina. Take a smartphone walking tour in historic downtown Lexington and or watch a production at Village Square Theatre. The Icehouse Amphitheater is a hot spot for concerts and events and is within walking distance of Main Street’s vibrant restaurant scene. Seasonally, it operates a weekly farmers market and is a great place to pick up artisan wares and farm fresh produce. Lexington has become a gastronomic playground full of snacking, dining and drinking opportunities with more than 70 unique and multicultural restaurants. Explore Bodhi Thai Dining, O’Hara’s Public House, Alodia’s Cucina Italiana, Mediterranean Café, Flight Deck Restaurant, and more. Visit Chapin for upscale seafood at Catch 22, and delicious steaks at Chophouse of Chapin, or make your way to West Columbia for exceptional cuisine and views at Terra, or for Italian, Al’s Upstairs and DeLucca’s Italian Grill.
In the rolling farmlands of Saluda County, more than 700 farms, including peach and pecan orchards, inspired a notable chef to make small town Ridge Spring his home. Chef Brandon Velie of Juniper incorporates the bounty of the area in memorable meals that have attracted national culinary acclaim. Chef Brandon helped start the South Carolina Chef Ambassador program and the SC Certified produce program with the State Department of Agriculture. He has also had the honor of cooking at the James Beard House in New York City
. Another mandatory foodie stop is The Nut House and Country Market, where pecans are grown, harvested and transformed into gourmet treats, candies and pies. In the historic Town of Saluda, explore charming shops and the stories of Revolutionary War and Alamo heroes. Hike scenic trails or enjoy fishing and boating on beautiful Lake Murray.
Hungry for even more culture and culinary delights? Stop by the Lake Murray Country Visitors Center in the historic Lorick Plantation House (2184 North Lake Drive, Columbia) to discover hidden gems, accommodations, dining and more trip ideas or visit LakeMurrayCountry.com
About Capital City/Lake Murray Country
Start off the adventure in the Capital City’s Vista, once a bustling cotton warehouse district and commercial railroad terminal, this part of downtown maintains its historic charm while bursting with every modern necessity. The beautiful region of South Carolina is conveniently located off Interstates I-77, I-20, I-26 in the central part of the Palmetto State. Visitors can peruse 40 art galleries, collect timeless wares and fun threads at specialty shops and taste their way through the more than 60 restaurants and bars spanning a virtual globe with flavorful offerings—all without leaving the region. Burn off all of those good eats with a city walking tour and stroll the streets that are etched in Civil Rights and Civil War history. Continue to step back in time and explore the area’s antebellum homes, the South Carolina State House or one of the many museums that call Columbia home. Make sure the little ones get in on the Ed-Venture—the largest children’s museum in the South or take them for a walk on the wild side at the nationally acclaimed Riverbanks Zoo. After exploring all of the big city sites, recharge in nature with the pristine outdoor opportunities this region offers, including the Purple Martin Phenomenon when, each summer, the skies over Lunch Island on Lake Murray come to life as more than one million birds venture north for the summer and roost on the island, giving spectators a rare look at one of nature’s treats. Guests will see why Boating Magazine named Lake Murray one of the “Top 10 Places to Boat and Live.” Take a tour of the State’s only national park—Congaree National Park. Canoe, kayak or hike through these preserved and serene marshlands. Whether water lovers feel the need for speed or prefer to float on the area’s sparkling waters, local rental shops can accommodate everyone. At the end of the day, recharge in accommodations spanning cozy cabins and lovely waterfront rentals. Whether attracted to big city lights or the soft moonlight bouncing off quiet waters, Capital City/Lake Murray Country leaves nothing to be desired. www.