Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have given their lives to protect our country. This year, Memorial Day is Monday, May 28.
Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of summer and the official opening of the constantly growing eco-tourism industry in West Columbia.
“The Congaree River has become an irresistible and traditional magnet for tubers and kayakers who want to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the natural environment of the Congaree River,” said Michael Mayo, owner of the ecotourism business, Palmetto Outdoors. “And Monday, and the whole Memorial Day weekend, is the kick-off to the river tubing season.”
With the warmer weather, thousands are beckoned to the cool, clear waters of the Congaree River for a ride through the rapids, ending up at West Columbia’s Riverwalk Park.
Mayo began opening on the weekends in April, but starting Memorial Day, Palmetto Outdoors will be open seven days a week. Shuttles start Saturday at 10 a.m. and at noon all other days. Shuttles run every hour until 4 p.m.
Palmetto Outdoor Center is the largest kayaking and tubing outfitter in South Carolina, and possibly the highest volume provider in the Southeast. Mayo established Palmetto Outdoor in 2006 with a handful of tubes and a mission to get families outside and interacting with nature. Now, groups from all over the country come to West Columbia to get on the river.
Mayo said the tubing trips down the Congaree add to the state’s ecotourism opportunities through accommodations and the hospitality industry.
“We have people come to West Columbia from all over the country,” Mayo said. “When they get here, after eight or nine hours on the road, they are not going to get into their cars and head back home. Those visitors to the river stay in our hotels.”
Mayo said wants to help put heads in beds for local hotels. He’s also said he’s spoken with day-trip river tubers about their time in West Columbia. Those visitors stay at TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Residence Inn, the Hampton Inn and the Hilton Garden Inn, all in West Columbia.
“Until we started getting reservations from many states over, there was not as much of a customer base for our hotels,” Mayo said, but that has changed over the years. Now the traffic on the river generates business for the accommodations industry, and that is exactly what he had hoped would happen.”
Mayo said visitors also frequent West Columbia restaurants and other attractions.
In addition to tubing down the river, there are other attractions visitors can enjoy when they stay in West Columbia for more than one day. Visitors can also go to:
- Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. It is a 170-acre zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden located along the Saluda River. There is a new and very popular Reptile Center at the zoo. Part of the zoo extends into the City of West Columbia.
- The South Carolina State Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of South Carolina. The State Museum is on the banks of the Congaree River adjacent to West Columbia’s RiverWalk. The museum has four floors of permanent and changing exhibits, a digital dome planetarium, 4D interactive theater, and an observatory.
- EdVenture is beside the SC State Museum. EdVenture is the largest children’s museum in the Southeast United States. It is second only to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis which is the largest children’s museum in the world.
- Lake Murray offers shoreline beaches, world-class fishing, boating, golf packages with fun and free things to do for the entire family. Thousands visit the lake to enjoy the great outdoors and water fun.
Other places to spend time in West Columbia include:
- Carraway Park at the Riverwalk – 212 Hudson Street
- West Columbia’s Interactive Art Park – 425 Meeting St,
- Savage Craft Ale Works – 430 Center St.
- WECO Bottle and Biergarten – 626 Meeting St.
- Rhythm on the River – Riverwalk Amphitheater
- Thursday Jazz on the River – Riverwalk Amphitheater
- West Columbia Dog Park – 1940 Augusta Rd.
- Chayz Lounge Live Music – 607 Meeting St.
- Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor – 710 Meeting St.
Near West Columbia
- Fireflies Baseball – Segra Park. Columbia
- Koger Center – 1051 Greene St, Columbia
Below is a list of West Columbia Restaurants:
- Grecian Gardens Restaurant – 2312 Sunset Blvd – 803-794-7552
- Cafe Strudel – 300 State St. – 803 – 926-5255
- West Columbia Fish Market – 529 N. 12th St. 803-851-1171
- Compton’s Kitchen – 1118 B Ave – 803 791-0750
- Breads and Such – 1220 C Ave. – (803) 851- 0566
- Buttercream Dreams – 1230 C Ave. – (803) 708-4485
- Hite’s BBQ – 240 Dreher Rd. – (803) 794-4120
- The Original Brunches – 2245 Leaphart Rd – (803) 791-7477
- Jimmy’s Mini Mart/Citgo – 812 Meeting St. – (803) 794-0090
- Maurice’s Piggie Park – 1600 Charleston Highway – 803-796-0220J
- Nick’s House of Pizza Restaurant- 1082 A Sunset Blvd – 803-794-9240
- DeLuccas 1720 Sunset Blvd. – 803- 926-5255
- Ariana’s Greek Restaurant – 1720 Sunset Blvd. – (803) 796-4430
- Lizard’s Thicket – 2234 Sunset Blvd. 803 – 794-0923
- True BBQ – 1237 D Ave – (803) 791-9950
- Jin Jin Chinese Restaurant – 469 Sunset Blvd. (803) 739-8888
- Chick-fil-A -2299 Augusta Rd. – (803) 939-1600
- Rush’s 2332 Sunset Blvd. – (803) 796-5034
- Breakfast at Ruiz – 116 State St. – 803 -550-9681