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).
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).