The Top 10 Things to Do Around Lexington, SC

Lake Murray— photo credit Pete Salter

Lake Murray— photo credit Pete Salter

If you are thinking about moving to Lexington, SC, or the greater Columbia, SC area, you definitely need to know what kinds of fun you can have around town.

Note: please check with each organization regarding availability and current operating hours which may be altered due to COVID-19.

Top attractions in the Lexington, SC area

1. Lake Murray

Visit the Lake Murray Visitor’s Center to get all the information you need to enjoy a day of boating, fishing, swimming, and relaxation. Boats dot the lake on the weekends. There is even a dinner cruise available called, “The Spirit of Lake Murray.”

The south side of the Lake Murray Dam has a public “beach” access. The north side has a boat ramp and parking.

Enjoy the Dreher Shoals Dam Walk along the dam (1.7 miles each way) and get a breathtaking view of Lake Murray on the west side and downtown Columbia in the distance to the east. It’s the perfect place to see the sunrise over town or the sunset over the lake.


Lake Murray at Sunset—photo credit Pete Salter

2. Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

Our zoo ranks in the top ten zoos nationally and houses a large aquarium/reptile house, conservation outhouse, birdhouse (with penguins), farm (and petting zoo), and a giraffe feeding station. There are designated areas with landscapes for Asian, African, North American, and Australian animals.

The more adventurous types might like the zipline course that takes you across the Saluda river, or for a slightly slower pace, let your older children enjoy a rope course.

Younger children will enjoy a train ride, a beautiful endangered species carousel, Waterfall Junction (a splash/water play area), a massive treehouse, a playground, and more.

The botanical gardens are one of the most popular wedding sites in the area. The displays include a stunning Asian garden, rose garden, bog garden, walled garden, and shade garden.

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Feeding the giraffes at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

3. Soda City

This open-air market is open every Saturday morning from 9 am to 1 pm year-round rain or shine with about 150 vendors most weeks. In good weather, Main Street Columbia is packed with hundreds of people enjoying the food, shopping, and culture.

“Find everything you need to nourish your brain, body, and belly… Soda City Market is a producer-only market — vendors must make it or grow it. Everything sold at our market is unique, handcrafted, and produced, right here, in South Carolina.”

4. The Vista in Downtown Columbia

“The hub for arts and entertainment” centers around Gervais Street (pronounced, “Jer-Vay”) in downtown Columbia.

The Vista is packed full of amazing restaurants, nightlife, art galleries, and shops. It’s situated near the State House, the University of South Carolina, and the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park.

5.The University of South Carolina (Columbia campus)

With over 34,000 students, the UofSC campus bustles with activities and sporting events during the school year. Visit the beautiful and historic Horseshoe, built in the 1800s. Tour the campus, check out the local restaurants, and take a break beside the reflection pool in front of the library.

Bikes are available for rent around the campus.

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The fountains and wading pool in front of the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina

6. Saluda Shoals Park

Saluda Shoals Park is a fun place for everyone in the family. There are over ten miles of beautiful walking trails, some right along the Saluda River. Your family or friends can rent a picnic shelter to have a fun gathering. Or you and your furry best friend can play at the two-acre Barking Lot Dog Park.

Rent tubes to float down the Saluda River. Take a guided kayak or canoe trip. Rent bikes or take a guided nature walking tour.

Younger kids will love the “sprayground” (Saluda Splash) in the summer and the large playground all year-round. There’s also a new playground that is handicap accessible for all children, Leo’s Landing Inclusive Playground.

School groups often visit the Environmental Center to see the educational exhibits and to explore nature along the trails and wetlands. And corporations can take advantage of the team building programs available at the park.

The Environmental Center or the River Center house beautiful indoor venues for meetings, corporate events, family reunions, or weddings. There’s even a Wedding Gazebo for an outdoor dream wedding.

During the holidays, the entire park is transformed into a wonderland of lights. Thousands of people come every year to slowly drive past the enchanting light displays, sip on hot cocoa or cider, toast marshmallows, slide down a winter slide, and walk through the magical walking trails after dark.

7. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Enjoy four miles of paved walking trails on a levee with the historic Columbia Canal on one side and the gorgeous Broad River (flowing into the Congaree River) on the other side. The old Diversion Dam provides a spectacular waterfall from the canal into the river.

See dozens of turtles sunbathing on rocks in warmer weather. And if you look closely, you may even see a muskrat or beaver in the canal.

Restrooms are available and the walking trails are handicap accessible and dog-friendly.

Outside of the 19th-century brick hydroelectric building is a beautiful venue for an outdoor wedding or event. The park is a favorite location for local photographers to take prom pictures, senior portraits, engagement photos, and wedding pictures.

8. Cayce Riverwalk and West Columbia Riverwalk Park and Amphitheater

These river walks are connected to each other. The West Columbia side has a beautiful amphitheater where concerts, weddings, and other events take place. The Cayce side has a historic lock. The 12,000-year-old forest surrounding the area is an ancient floodplain forest filled with amazing wildlife, plants, and history.

Public restrooms are available. The wide paved trail is lit in the evenings. Be on the lookout for carved wooden animals in some of the old tree trunks and fallen trees by local artist, Wade Geddings. Enjoy the picnic tables, benches, and picnic shelters along the way.

Tubing, kayaking, boating and fishing are popular along the Saluda River and Congaree River.

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Kayaking is a favorite recreational sport on the rivers and at Lake Murray. Photo credit by Pete Salter.

9. Congaree National Park

The Congaree National Park is a floodplain that preserves “the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.”

With miles of boardwalk throughout the park and acres of wetlands to explore, it is a beautiful place to explore for people of all ages and abilities. There are also dirt trails, camping opportunities, and canoeing or kayaking available.

School classes visit for nature walks and guided tours. You won”™t want to miss the owl prowls at night in the summers or the synchronized firefly displays.

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Great horned owls can be found in the Congaree National Park

10. The South Carolina State Museum

Housed in a historic textile factory, the museum has displays representing thousands of years of SC history to explore. They have a hands-on science area, a walk through the history of various types of technology, space history, and more.

They also have an amazing observatory where you can see sun flares in real time on a sunny day or visit to see the moon during a lunar eclipse. This summer, the observatory is open late on Tuesday nights to allow people to enjoy seeing the night sky through their 1926 Alvan Clark 12 3/8-inch refracting telescope.

The planetarium has seasonal shows, laser shows, and educational programs about space and the constellations. The 4-D movie theater showcases a combination of fun and educational movies people of all ages enjoy.

The museum also boasts traveling exhibits, seasonal events, rooms available to rent for events, and summer camps.

These are just a few of the fun things to do around Lexington, SC. We hope you’ll come explore the area and see what a wonderful place it is to live!


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Photo Credit for Lake Murray:

Pete Salter, Videographer/Photographer