South Carolina’s biggest free New Year’s Eve bash is a lot closer than Charleston or Myrtle Beach. Call your people in Columbia to reserve a couch or guest room – or nail down a motel room as close to downtown as possible.
There’s a good reason the last day of the year at the state capital is called Famously Hot New Year.
What began as a small affair four years ago – a street concert followed by fireworks – has grown into its highfalutin name. Last year’s crowd count was 28,000 people.
It’s staged on Main Street, from Taylor Street to Gervais (the State House).
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The WOW New Year’s Eve Carnival is a free-admission, family-oriented affair on Main Street from 5 to 11 p.m. that features rides, including a Ferris wheel ($10 for all-you-can-ride wristband), games and karaoke; food and beverage vendors will be there, too.
The outdoor concert/street party is staged on Main in front of the State House starting at 7 p.m., with Charleston alt-Americana band Dead 27s, Columbia folk hop/roots rap group ColorBlind, and Charleston progressive Americana band SUSTO. The headliner is Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill.
Following a 2015 countdown, a fireworks show begins at midnight.
Also going on through the night on Main Street is a “Comfort Zone” of regional food and beverage vendors a block from the stage at Lady Street. Artists, clowns, jugglers and the like will also be on the scene; large-screen monitors will be placed so partygoers can watch the televised college bowl games.
As beer, wine and champagne are among beverages for sale, $10 taxi discounts will be offered. And in anticipation of heavy downtown traffic and limited parking, the city is offering a $3 all-day park-and-ride – as well as $3 unlimited-use bus passes on a dozen routes – from 6 a.m. Dec. 31 to 1:30 a.m. Jan. 1.
At least eight hotels, including the Columbia Marriott downtown, are offering New Year’s Eve packages; more than a dozen Columbia restaurants are preparing special menus or offering deals. Details on area lodging and dining options: www.columbiacvb.com/events/signature-events/new-years-eve.
Getting a room close to the event may make your day easier if you plan to bring your ice skates: The seasonal rink on Boyd Plaza, at Main and Hampton streets in front of the Columbia Museum of Art, will be open noon-midnight Dec. 31 ($10; $8 for 12 and younger).
John Bordsen: 704-358-5251
Want to go?
From Charlotte, Columbia is a 90-minute drive via I-77 South. Approaching Columbia, take Exit 18 and follow S.C. 277 South. Downtown, the highway becomes Bull Street (three blocks east of the event).