Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: July/August 2011
Rags To Riches
By: Cheray O'Neal

When asked to give a one word sentiment of his experience being mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Steve Benjamin, the first African-American in the history of this city said “blessed” and indeed we all are. He and the state are on a passion mission that is sure to shake and draw in millions. Yes there’s still a Confederate flag or rag as his grandmother refers to it. Yes it’s still hanging on state ground, but when I walked amongst the ‘human’ people, irregardless of race, and had real conversations regarding this 11-year boycott of the state, I felt nothing but a genuine welcome, respect, honesty, hospitable authentic good grace and a serious love for their city. People from all walks of life, and especially business owners and planners, just need but a glance in this warmth and you’d be sold.

Benjamin along with the city of Columbia, is sure to appease any planners or conventioneers accommodations that precede flag swaying and get to the real issue at hand; a grand opportunity to immerse yourself and colleagues in the environment of sweet beauty, grand affordability, extra ordinary hospitality, deep rooted history and a large dose of fun. And if truth were told, in the bigger scheme of things, there is something to be said, when you have this ‘rag’ on state ground and at the same time an African American mayor. This Confederate flag as Benjamin states “represents the thinking of a very small minority of people, and in the near future we’ll have another chance to have a statewide discussion on this issue.” Until then, it would be a mistake to miss experiencing this amazing city based on a minority small brain thinking, for the richness, and essence of this city, the depth of history it holds, the economic value it has to contribute, the power of a common human voice and the great impact this state has and will make on the nation certainly outweighs a $1 ‘rag’. Does it not?

So without further ado, meeting planners beware, you are about to be graced with a love plan and that all begins at The Inn at USC. It’s an elegant boutique hotel located on the historic campus of the University of South Carolina in the heart of downtown Columbia. One hundred and seventeen elegantly appointed guestroom accommodations, including 28 two-room king suites and three deluxe suites with fireplaces. With a graceful blend of Georgia, gothic and art deco influences, this Inn has it all. All guest rooms are non smoking, and have the amenities of free wireless internet access, library, onsite fitness equipment, cable/satellite TV, free self parking, complimentary newspaper, separate desk, in room safe, jetted tub, a microwave, free local calls and a main lobby loaded with fresh sweet tea or lemonade 24 hrs a day daily. Start every morning with a complimentary, delicious breakfast cooked-to-order in the Palmetto Room and feel like it was mama’s home cooking. This home offers a rare blend of historic grandeur with modern living amenities and home-style Southern hospitality, you can’t get any better than that, or can you?

For meeting planners, and business owners alike, discover the perfect hotel meeting center in downtown Columbia, SC at The Inn. This historic boutique hotel is a leading meeting and event destination and features more than 3,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting and banquet space. It has the perfect space to accommodate your needs with six elegant meeting rooms from which to choose. The Board Room comfortably seats eight for private events. The Library, Gallery, and Terrace Gardens are suited for hospitality events, and are ideal for Columbia, SC wedding receptions or family reunions. The Carolina Room and the Palmetto Room can both be divided into two salons or expanded into one grand room, and are ideal for catered events. All have excellent catering and beverage services as well as modern equipment. Not only do you have access to state-of-the-art AV equipment, copying, facsimile and printer services, there’re wonderful perks and packaging to consider. South Carolina Business Traveler Package includes accommodations in one of the superior hotel guestrooms as well as use of one of the meeting rooms, catering, audiovisual equipment, and use of the Inn's Business Center. I can’t think of a better opportunity to have a meeting in the comforts of a feel good city, where affordability meets grand Southern hospitality.

If the Inn is overbooked and you are in need of a few options, try The Marriot Columbia Hotel in downtown Columbia. The property features rooms including 15 suites; one presidential, three hospitality and 11 standard. In addition to all new guestrooms and bathrooms, the Marriott offers high-speed wireless, cable/satellite TV, a fitness center, indoor pool and complimentary airport shuttle. The hotel houses the most flexible meeting space in Columbia with 26,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 10,000 sq. ft. of pre-function space. The Marriott can accommodate groups from 10 to 700 people for events ranging from small business meetings to large social events. What’s more, there’s personalized full-service attention from event mangers, audiovisual staff and banquet staff.

A recipient of the 2007 and 2008 President's Award, the Radisson Hotel Columbia & Conference Center offers guests exceptional service. Amenities include complimentary transportation to Airport (CAE), a Fitness Center, an outdoor swimming pool, wireless Internet access and over 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. With 238 guest rooms and 35 suites, and ample function space, including the largest hotel ballroom in the city, the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center is the ideal location for business meetings, family reunions and weddings in Columbia. Hotel event services include assistance from a personal planner from beginning to end. (800) 395-7046

Of course if and when you choose to step outside of the confines of your chosen hotel blessings, there’re arts, culture, history, leisure and dinning that will melt your heart and soothe your soul. For shopoholics: Columbia Place, Columbiana Centre, Columbiana Station, and Village at Sandhill For History buffs: African American History Monument, Big Apple, Mann-Simons Cottage, Modjeska Monteith Simkins House, Randolph Cemetery, and the Waverly Historic District.

For golf lovers: Timberlake Golf Club, and Oak Hills Gold Club For fine dining: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Blue Marlin (seafood), Dianne’s on Devine (Italian), and Hennessy’s (continental-American). For Home cooking: none other than Houston’s Low Country Grill, and Doc’s Barbeque & Southern Buffet. The affordable OCCO Skin studio spa will reenergize your mind and body and you will leave transformed Adventure’s go Kayaking at the Congaree River with Adventure Carolina For artistic minds One eared cow is a must.

Original and affordable glass blowing workshops are available And finally The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, a dazzling 142,500-sq. ft. facility, is beautifully equipped and sure to make your next meeting/event successful. Twila Jones is a rock star committed to your every need; you feel her love for this city.

When Steve Benjamin says “I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to make a difference, I’m gonna use this blessing,” the whole city is behind this sentiment and I was fortunate to experience it’s fruits of labor.

For more information contact Twila Jones at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau: Phone (803) 545-0017| or Fax (803) 545-0102.
Meet Brilliantly