Accommodations and Arrival
If you're looking to experience all Columbia has to offer, the Sheraton downtown is the place to be. Its rooftop bar is a hotspot for post-dinner outings, and the hotel is ideally located among Main Street's many shops and restaurants. The new Hotel Trundle is another great downtown option. Housed in three half-century-old buildings, it's a fun boutique hotel with a storied past.
For something a bit more budget-friendly, try the Best Western on Bush River Road, which is just minutes from downtown Columbia, the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens and many other attractions.
After you check in at the hotel, enjoy an ocean-fresh seafood dinner or even wild game selections at Mr. Friendly's New Southern Café, located in Columbia's historic Five Points district. If you don't feel like driving, take a walk down Main Street and choose from a variety of cafes, bars and restaurants.
Both of our recommended hotels offer breakfast, so take advantage of that convenience and fuel up before you venture out.
After breakfast, head over to Adventure Carolina, where you can create custom guided canoe or kayak adventures through the Congaree River, Saluda River, Broad River, Lake Murray, Congaree Creek, Cedar Creek or Congaree National Park. Be sure to call in advance of your trip to ensure your guide, equipment and supplies are ready upon arrival. If you just want to rent some gear for the day and venture out on your own, they can set you up for that, too.
Pack a cooler with snacks and drinks or grab some sandwiches for a waterside picnic lunch at one of several grocery stores in the area (there's a Bi-Lo just a short drive from Adventure Carolina where you can pick up everything on your list).
After a long day on the water, a trip to Rockaway Athletic Club is well worth the short drive over to Rosewood Avenue. Here you'll find a Columbia institution and the home of the famous Rockaway Burger. And be sure to get an order of the pimiento cheese fries to share - they're a local favorite!
Start out at Lizard's Thicket for breakfast, a Columbia must for Southern home cooking and reasonable prices. To burn off your biscuits and gravy, make your way to Columbia's Three Rivers Greenway, the convergence of the Saluda, Broad and Congaree rivers. There you'll find three riverwalks with lighted and paved trails, boardwalks and overlooks - so exploring the area is easy and fun. If you brought your bike along, the Greenway is cyclist-friendly as well.
After you've experienced barbecue bliss, visit the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden for an afternoon adrenaline rush on a zip line canopy tour. Boasting one of the longest zip lines in the Southeast, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden visitors have the chance to soar 1,010 feet across the Saluda River.
Plus, if you get hungry for more than adventure, the zoo offers numerous dining options, from ice cream and pizza to artisan sandwiches and made-to-order salads.