“Smiling faces, beautiful places” is more than just South Carolina’s tag line: its our truth. The state’s many historic and natural attractions are a draw for many people and their camera lenses. Columbia’s picturesque locales are some of the most recognizable in the state – and not just because they’re in everyone’s backdrop. Here’s a roundup of the most scenic – and covetable camera shots – in the Midlands.
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The Lace House and Gardens at the Governor’s Mansion
Located in the Arsenal Hill neighborhood, the Lace House is one of Columbia’s most popular venues for wedding and bridal portraits. Features include nearly a dozen gardens, ornate wrought iron gates, fences and porch railings, a large fountain and porch swings. All the elements you’ll need for a great photo in or out of a wedding dress.
Irmo Town Park
Just outside the center of Irmo, this “hidden gem” of a park is beautifully laid out with ponds (some with spraying water features), a creek and walking paths. Need a place to plan your next photo? Use one of the shelters, picnic tables or gazebo in the middle of the park. Its the perfect place for family photos. The kids can run out all their energy before and after you’re done. Win win.
The State House
Politics aside, the State House lends itself to some of the most quintessential Columbia photos around. Located at the corner of Main and Gervais, the grounds are an urban oasis: gardens, walking paths, historic statues and monuments surrounded by bustling city blocks. Pictures range from tourists taking selfies to professional portfolio shots to wedding-themed shoots.
Palmetto Trail Alston Trailhead
If you want to stretch your legs and lens, then head up I-26 to Peak. Less than an hour from Columbia, this 10.8 railroad trestle turned walking trail includes a 1,100-foot-long trestle bridge over Broad River, which makes for stunning shots (where bald eagles have been spotted). The trail includes 20 trestles in total, 14 of which are wooden, making them even more rustic, notable and therefore, great for photos.
The University of South Carolina’s Horse Shoe
From the expansive grassy quad to historic pre-Civil War buildings lining the perimeter, if the University of South Carolina’s Horseshoe could talk it definitely be a conversation worth having. Even if just to ask how many graduation, engagement and wedding photos have been staged on the storied bricks. If you’re looking for a great photo backgdrop year round, you just need to walk through those Carolina iron gates.
900 Sumter St., Columbia www.sc.edu
West Columbia Riverwalk
Just beyond the Gervais street bridge is the riverwalk and amphitheater where concerts, weddings and other events have been held. And why not? You can capture Columbia’s skyline and the Congaree River all in one picture perfect backdrop. Then when you’re done you can head over to State or Meeting streets and patron one of their many delicious restaurants or come as you are bars.
Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
Speaking of river views, another photo favorite is Riverfront Park. Opened in 1983, this 167 acre park pays homage to the city’s original waterworks. Major photoshoot spots include the brick amphitheater, any one of the old pump houses or mechanics of a bygone era. Steeped in history, you can capture your memory and explore a big chunk of the Three Rivers Greenway all at the same time.
312 Laurel St., Columbia (803) 917-5522, www.columbiasc.net/parks-recreation/facilities/regional-parks
Riverbanks Botanical Gardens
You can monkey around Riverbanks Zoo and Garden all day for photos, or you can cut right to the garden. Over 4,300 exotic and indigenous plants call the 70 acres of lush greenery home that make up the Botanical Gardens. Since 1995 this extraordinary park has bloomed year-round, making it a wonderful floral bouquet of a setting!
Pine Island on Lake Murray
Featured on the knot as one of Columbia’s premier wedding venues, this location has everything you’d want in a photo: unobstructed waterfront views, extremely well kept grounds and a perennial lake breeze. Its the sight of too many weddings, receptions and private parties to count, but you can certainly join in on the fun – and majesty – of the island with just a simple shutter click.
Another urban oasis, Finlay Park is the largest and most visited park in all of downtown Columbia. Within its 14 acres you can encounter a waterfall, a stream that feeds into the park lake, seasonal fowls and a great vantage point of Columbia’s skyline. Home to several annual events, this park is as recognizable as it is camera ready.