Why Columbia Should be Your First Meeting Destination Post-Pandemic

When the world opens up, some good old Southern hospitality is going to prove the cure for what ailed all of us. No destination has more charm, grace and versatility than Columbia, South Carolina.

The Palmetto State capital hasn’t rested while the tourism and events industry grappled with travel restrictions and social distances. Enhancements across the board have been made. Nothing but the best safety and health protocols have been put in place in the city’s world-class venues.

If nothing else, this time of COVID-19 has reinforced how much the Columbia community cares about one another and its visitors. Groups large and small will feel at home here. The reality is Columbia has always opened its doors to show how much it enjoys welcoming groups to town. The past year has meant demonstrating that commitment in a different way, but the steps we’ve taken stem from those same values Columbia has always had.

We’ve all learned how much we miss the little things. The love and attention that Columbia offers will match what planners are looking for in reuniting attendees under one roof (or a beautiful night sky) after far too long a break.

Read on for more about why Columbia is calling your group when it is ready to reconvene.

Outdoor Meeting Spaces 

Outdoors is going to be in for any number of reasons. And why not go with the flow in Columbia? Filled with parks, trails and a myriad of outdoor venues, it would be a shame to keep your group cooped up in any circumstance. Now, though, al fresco adds a sense of relief and some needed space that makes it easier for groups to come together.

Retreat to Congaree National Park for a peaceful and relaxing exchange of ideas and rejuvenating activities only 20 miles from the city. The 26,000-acre national park, home to one of the world’s tallest canopies, is an International Biosphere Reserve, federally designated Wilderness Area, and Globally Important Bird Area. Use this backdrop to reinforce the importance of creating lasting relationships and constructing business environments that are built to last. 

A popular launching spot for major, national fishing tournaments, Dreher Island State Park covers 348 acres surrounding Lake Murray. Water sports are a fun way to get your attendees’ toes back into the teambuilding waters.

Sesquicentennial State Park, home of many hiking and biking trails, includes a popular retreat center. Harbison State Forest is a unique urban greenspace with 16 miles of roads and trails perfect for a morning activity to get your attendees’ hearts pumping.

Grand Attractions

Because the Columbia community has worked so diligently to maintain safety, the region’s top venues remain open. Even better, planners are able to rent them out for a memorable off-site activity allowing attendees to maintain plenty of space while enjoying themselves.

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden spreads across 140 acres and is home to 2,000 animals and a truly picturesque botanical garden. Attendees can sip wine with the tigers or have a beer near the bears. The site holds 800 for a reception and includes a theater for 700 attendees and six classrooms should you want to take a group there for the day.

Segra Park is a versatile facility that was built for minor league baseball, but has the capabilities for plenty of other events, including concerts and festivals. Open all year, it is available for business meetings with 300-400 attendees—a bonus if the team likes hot dogs!

Paint a portrait for what’s ahead for your organization with a reception or gala at Columbia Museum of Art. The outdoor plaza at the center of Main Street makes for a terrific backdrop to network, strike deals and make up for lost face-to-face time. The museum hosts up to 1,400 attendees.

If something upscale meets your group’s demands, consider The Lace House at Arsenal Hill. The downtown venue is steeped in Southern history and charm. Three gardens allow for plentiful outdoor space and the events staff has experience with all sizes of events.

Central Energy is the result of a power plant being converted into a vibrant beacon of light to host events. The building’s industrial accents should speak to planners eyeing venues for corporate events and galas. The 8,000 square feet of event space are a blank canvas to build your event around.

The Classics

Of course, many meetings and events are naturally going to gravitate toward Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, which plays well above its playing weight. 

“I book conventions and trade shows all over the U.S. I have to say that I was most impressed with the prices, choices and food service at the concession stand. It was heads above some of the larger cities I’ve booked,” notes Helmsbriscoe’s Margie Nolting.

The versatile venue has safely hosted several events in 2020, including the 2020 World Cornhole Championships (800 attendees), a Holiday to Remember (1,065) and annual Fur Ball Gala (600). These events were made possible because of the staff’s pro-active decision to deep-clean the building and upgrade already impressive safety measures. Increased cleaning and new F&B processes such as plated boxed meals add to creating a healthy environment to gather.

All the better, the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center is walking distance to 1,700 hotel rooms and 60 restaurant/nightlife options. Hotels have installed plexiglass barriers and implemented occupancy holds to ensure rooms are fully cleaned.

A-Plus Perks

We know you and your attendees are ready to see each other. Columbia makes it easy. With three intersecting highways—Interstates 77, 20 and 26—the city is easily accessible by vehicle. Those up for flying will appreciate the ease of getting in and out of Columbia Metropolitan Airport, a mere 15 minutes from downtown.

Affordability is another huge plus. Columbia is not the size of other major cities, but it is a mid-sized destination right in the “Goldilocks” zone planners are looking for. With a laid-back attitude and walkable districts, groups will not feel lost in the shuffle, but will find that there are more things to do than there are hours to do them. That mix allows for an experience filled with memorable moments and meaningful interactions at prices that won’t break your organization’s bank.

With the country just emerging from unusual times, it’s nice to know some things don’t change. Columbia’s warmth shines through as a constant reminder good times are ahead and that the comforts of a welcoming destination are something attendees will never forget. Columbia is ready when you are. Treat yourself to some old-fashioned charm and hospitality.