Lexington County is home to thousands who work in the Capital City and while those commuters make the trip to and from Columbia every work day, there are many who seldom venture into these thriving communities.
But there are many reasons to go to Lexington — the town and county — beyond numerous good restaurants, festivals and shopping.
Here are few day trips Columbians can take to experience Lexington. Travel distances and times are calculated from the S.C. State House.
1797 North Lake Drive, Lexington; 1201 North Lake Drive, Columbia. $3 cars and trucks, $2 motorcycles, $5 passenger vans (only apply from April to Labor Day on Irmo side). Lexington side closed until April. 15 miles; 23 minutes.
Perhaps the largest and most popular attraction in Lexington County is Lake Murray.
The 50,000-acre lake has 650 miles of shoreline and is 41 miles long and 14 miles wide at its widest point.
Capital City Lake Murray Country offers options for visitors to enjoy Lake Murray, including a listing of boat rental businesses. Another local Lake Murray website lists Lake Murray waterfront restaurants. (Be sure to call restaurants before you go to make sure they are operational).
Two popular and easy ways to enjoy Lake Murray are the parks that flank the Dreher Shoals Dam.
The lakefront parks at the dam offer picnic facilities, swimming, fishing and a boat launch, as well as a nice place to view one of Lake Murray’s spectacular sunsets. The park on the Lexington side of the dam has a beach and swimming area, but is only open from April to mid-September, and has operating hours that change depending on the time of year.
The park on the Irmo side of the dam is open year-round. It offers picnic facilities, fishing docks, a boat launch and restrooms.
Another popular spot on Lake Murray is Sandy Beach, but it is not accessible by car. You can only reach it by boat or bicycle, boat being the most popular choice.
Sandy Beach, also known as Bundrick Island is beyond Bomb Island on the Lexington side of the lake, at the north end of Brady Port Road. There is no parking available on Brady Port Road.
Lake Murray dam parks information:
Lexington side: 1797 North Lake Drive, Lexington
Irmo side: 1201 North Lake Drive, Columbia
Cost: $3 cars and trucks, $2 motorcycles, $5 passenger vans (only apply from April to Labor Day on Irmo side)
Lexington side operating hours: Closed until April 2019
Dreher Shoals Dam Walk
One of the more impressive structures in Lexington County is the Lake Murray dam, officially named Dreher Shoals Dam.
The original earthen dam was completed in 1930, and cost of $20.1 million. The dam is 1.5 miles long, 375 feet thick, 208 feet high and covers 99 acres. Four spill gates, each 37.5 feet long by 25 feet wide, are on the Lexington end of the dam.
In 2005, construction of the new backup dam was completed. It cost $275 million. Included in that project was a pedestrian walkway across the dam.
The Lake Murray Dam Walkway spans 1.7 miles across the top of the dam along SC 6. The walkway is 1.7 miles one way and offers lake views the entire trek, and a peek of the downtown Columbia skyline, which is 11 miles away.
Lexington County Museum
231 Fox St. 16 miles; 26 minutes. 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays. $5 adults, $2 children.
Located in the heart of the town of Lexington, the Lexington County Museum is quite worthy of a day trip.
The museum opened in 1970, with a collection of structures that transports you from the colonial era to the Civil War. The seven-acre museum complex features 36 historic buildings, and includes artifacts and structures made and used in the area before 1865 that share what life was like for local residents during those times.
Some of the historic structures include the original Lexington County Post Office, the oldest documented house in Lexington, and the house where the traditional song “Give Me That Old Time Religion” was composed.
Most notable among the buildings is the ten-room John Fox House that was built in 1832. Originally a plantation home, the house is furnished with period pieces that illustrate antebellum living conditions. It is the only structure original to the property.
Exhibits inside the buildings focus on locally made and used artifacts including furniture, quilts, pottery and rifles. Historical interpreters open a door into the past through fun and fascinating demonstrations.
Good to know: If you visit outside of museum operating hours, download a QR Reader for iPhone or Android and follow the museum’s cell phone walking tour on-site. Scan the code located on the sign outside of each building for a virtual glimpse behind the door. Pick up a copy of the self-guided walking tour brochure on the front porch of the Hazelius House.
Virginia Hylton Park
111 Maiden Lane. 17 miles; 25 minutes. Open 7 a.m.- 9 p.m.
This downtown oasis in Lexington offers a playground for the kids (including a separate special needs playground) and fun for adults too.
The park has trails, a butterfly garden, a Camellia Garden, a creek with overlooks, a day lily garden, iris garden, koi pond, three covered gazebos, picnic shelters, grill and a horseshoe pit. Click here to reserve one of the picnic shelters. And there is often live music.
Mercer House Estate Winery
397 Walter Rawl Road. 25 miles; 38 minutes. $50 a person. mercerhouseestatewinery.com.
Lexington has winery that offers interactive tours.
Mercer House Estate Winery advertises “scenic views” on a tour that is more than a mile and encompasses up to five vineyards with current wines, usually 10 or more which includes ‘retired’ wines no longer available in the tasting room. The tours are for two-four people.
As an “estate” winery, Mercer House wines are produced on-site from 50 varieties of native grapes (Pepulus) and fruits grown on the property.