Just a short drive northwest of downtown you'll find one of Columbia's charming suburbs, Irmo. It sits on the banks of Lake Murray, a 50,000 acre manmade lake with 650 miles of shoreline. Amidst all the nature, the list of national restaurants & shopping opportunities looms large, with local secrets mixed in. While away a few hours at Columbiana Centre Mall, Columbiana Grande Movie Theatre, on the banks of Lake Murray, or browsing the flowers at a local park. No matter how you spend your time here, you'll feel yourself unwinding in no time.
Lake Murray: Known for its striped bass fishing and summer water sports, Lake Murray draws in locals and visitors alike. Rent a canoe, pitch a tent, or take in the public parks. If you need to rent a boat, many local outfitters have you covered, like Better Boating or Lanier Sailing Academy. Or, try your hand at some adventure with kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards for a great way to explore the water. If a leisurely ride is more your thing, take a pontoon cruise and check out the homes that line the lake, with unique architecture that ranges from Mediterranean to Tudor styles. On summer evenings, look for the Purple Martins. An estimated flock of more than one million congregate on Bomb Island, creating a spectacle that is not to be missed.
Liberty on the Lake: With more than 48 beers on tap, and an elevated view of the lake, this is among the best places to finish your day. The two-floor restaurant and bar offers a full lunch and dinner menu with sunset happy hour specials. While away a few hours as you watch boats head in and out of the marina and chat with the locals that have grown up on this lake.
Dreher Island State Park: Located on 348 acres, Dreher Island State Park spans 12 miles of the Lake Murray shoreline. With lakeside villas and tent/RV camping, the park offers visitors a chance to camp near the water. The park also features hiking trails, three playgrounds, and a healthy dose of animals including white-tailed deer, egrets, and mallard ducks.
Dreher Shoals Dam Walk: A popular spot for locals when the weather warms up, this walkway is just 1.7 miles each way, running alongside the dam. The path offers plenty of room for walkers, joggers, and cyclists of all fitness levels, including those that just want to gab with friends while taking in the waterside view. Look for historical markers that explain the history of the Lake Murray islands, which served as bombing ranges during WWII. While you're there, don't miss the love lock gate, mirrored after the famous tradition in Paris. Bonus points for bringing a lock and leaving your mark.
Alodia's Cucina Italiana: With locations in Irmo & Lexington, this homegrown Italian restaurant has become nothing short of the region's own little Italy. It fuses authentic dishes with a warm ambience to make you feel like you've traveled to a different time and place. Order up a classic like the Baked Spaghetti, or head here for brunch and indulge in the Strawberry Banana Pancakes.
Irmo Town Park: Each year, South Carolinians journey to this community park for a time-honored tradition, The Okra Strut Festival, equipped with rides, arts & crafts, food trucks, live music, a parade, and of course okra. Building its own buzz is the Red, White & Blues Festival with a selection of local food vendors and wines to wet your whistle in the summer heat. Can't make it to one of the festivals? Enjoy the peacefulness of the park year round with its lush gardens and quaint gazebo.
Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College: With a mix of acts from across the country, including some that were born in Columbia, the shows at Harbison Theatre sell out quickly. Think - major orchestra shows, traveling musical acts and theatre performances, variety comedy shows, emotional dance performances, and movie screenings. No matter the genre for the night, Harbison Theatre maintains its roots in education and entertainment for people of all walks of life.
Mathias Sandwich Shop: An Irmo institution, Mathias has been winning the hearts & tastebuds of its patrons since 1946. It's a hidden gem with no frills in the heart of the suburbs. Grab a cheeseburger & fries or a classic BLT with your sweet tea, but save room for the homemade desserts.
Urban Cookhouse: This family-owned chain has become nothing short of a local favorite. They use fresh ingredients from local farmers and local hickory smoked wood for their grilling, making your food taste like it came straight from your own backyard BBQ - in a good way. Order up the Pepper Patch salad with lime-marinated steak, or try the Veggie Quesadilla, packed with fresh veggies including the beloved avocado.