Carolina Children’s Garden, Columbia free, fun and magical things to do

Recently we visited the Carolina Children’s Garden inside the Clemson Research and Education Center, right across the Sandhills shopping center. The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk and admission is free. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leash at all times.

Columbia free outdoor attractions

The view from inside the park is spectacular. I’ve seen people walk around the lake, sunbathing on the lawn or just enjoying a picnic with family and their four legged friends.

Walk the dog around beautiful lake

Very young kids can enjoy a slide, a large sandbox and many places to play hide and seek.

Best outdoor playground picnic tables

I liked the fact that the garden is themed after famous children stories and songs. You can visit Old McDonald’s Farm…

Carolina Childrens Themed Garden

Learn basic gardening skills, like using a wheel barrel to carry things around.

Carolina Childrens Garden Columbia free things to do

Hey, these are Peter Rabbit’s clothes! And that’s how you build a scarecrow for your garden

Magic children themed garden Columbia parks

Kids can see and even sift through a tiny compost bin. And yes, there are few live little crawlers in it!

Columbia fun natural education conservation program

Every month there is something going on, check the website for upcoming programs and events. Next to the garden is the Conservation Station where you can learn how to protect the forest, wildlife, and the quality of water, soil and air.

Mark your calendar! Every year, on the last weekend in April is the Sparkleberry Fair at the Clemson Research and Education Center.

Relax with Winnie, Tiger, Peter Rabbit, The Three Little Bears at the beautiful Caolina Children’s Garden!


Weekend fun outdoor activities at Sesqui – Columbia’s “granny” park and best kept secret

Save some gas money and come relax right here in the heart of Columbia at Sesquicentennial Park. Since 1937 the “granny” welcomed millions of visitors and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s affordable, fun and healthy way to spend a day with the family.
For those of you new to town read my previous post to get more details about Sesquicentennial Park and its awesome mountain bike trail.

Things to know before you go:

1. Admission fee is $2 per vehicle. The park is open till 9 PM.

2. The sports equipment rental office is open daily; 9 to 4 PM during the week and 9 to 5 PM on the weekend.

3. To rent kayak, canoe or 2-person paddle boat is $5 an hour or $ 15 a day. My advice is to do the hour rental unless you really enjoy the Carolina summer heat! The fishing boat rental is $5 per hour and $12 per day.

4. The park has a superb dog park equipped with all the things doggies love. It even has a dog-wash station. You need a dog permit to enter the dog park. Otherwise you can walk the dog throughout the park as long as it is on leash. The annual dog permit is $25 if you get it in July and lasts for the whole year. To get a permit and an access key to the doggie park you need to bring an up-to-date vaccinations record, proof of spaying / neutering and the dog so the staff can take a photo. Dogs rule at Sesqui Park!

I’ll let the photos do the talking now. Come enjoy the capital best kept secret the intimate Sesquicentennial Park!

Watch out for that sharp turn downhill through long leaf pine trees! Sesqui has a varied and quite challenging mountain bike trail that will keep you on your toes.

Sharp turn on Sesqui mountain bike trail

Kids can play at 2 properly equipped playgrounds. The nice thing about them is they are well shaded and right next to the picnic areas so you can snack in peace while keeping an eye on the little ones.

Sesqui Park big kids playground

Fishing is one of the most popular family activities at the park. You may need to share a fish or two with the gutsy yet always entertaining Canadian geese…

Fishing at Sesqui Park

Hike the ~ 3 miles roundtrip scenic trail around the lake, over the bridge near the beautiful waterfall and through the majestic forest.

Sesqui Park Mountain Bike Trail Details (Columbia things to do)

The Sesquicentennial Park near downtown Columbia features a very nice 4 miles long mountain bike trail that both beginners and seasoned bikers can equally enjoy. The serene, peaceful and mostly single track trail will take you through the park’s dense longleaf pine and turkey oak trees. The trail has a sandy surface that sometimes is inches deep and makes the ride quite challenging even for more experienced bicyclists.

Narrow path on the mountain bike trail at Sesqui Park ColumbiaIf you go during the week there is hardly a soul around: just you, the bike and the forest. No matter the skill level, everyone will find something interesting along the trail: from wide smooth paths to rough root and stone covered patches to longleaf pine trees, so dense you can barely squeeze through, to desert like hills.

Tips to know before you go

1. Play it safe. Wear your helmet and know your limits. When in doubt just carry the bike till you feel comfortable riding again.

2. Stay on trail and follow the signs. The mountain bike trail is marked with a blue diamond and between each marker you will see the trees painted blue. It’s very easy to get disoriented and at times you feel like you’re going in circles; just follow the signs and you’ll be OK. Through baby pine trees on the mountain bike trail at Sesqui Park ColumbiaThere are no maps along the trail to tell you where you are, how far you still have to go and what’s noteworthy to see in the surrounding areas. Pretty much you’re on your own.

3. This can be a great family weekend gateway. If you go alone tell someone when and where you are going. Bring your cell-phone; there is very good signal throughout the park.

4. Carry plenty of water since there is no drinking water along the trail; I didn’t see any water fountain at the park’s facilities. The restrooms by the picnic and boat area were closed during the week. Put on sunscreen and wear long sleeves it can get really hot out there.

Desert like area on the bike trail at Sesqui Park Columbia5. It took me 2 hours to complete the trail. I’m a beginner and I also stopped frequently to take pictures.

6. Watch out for deep patches of sand especially when going downhill. You can easily lose control; keep the bike straight and break on smoothly, same as when you’re driving the car on icy roads.
Rough uphill bike trail portion at Sesqui Park Columbia
7. Uphill roots provide good grasping for tires, yet avoid the bigger ones that can kill your momentum or worse make you tip over.

8. Besides some birds I didn’t run into any wildlife.

9. To find out what other activities you can enjoy at the Sesquicentennial park see my previous post.
This is a great exercise that will you test you physically and mentally. You will enjoy fresh air and mountain like outdoors just minutes from the noisy downtown city traffic. All in all, biking at the Sesquicentennial Park it’s a guaranteed family fun activity. For only $2 per vehicle it qualifies for a “free thing to do” in Columbia.

To get a better idea of what you might run into on the mountain bike trail take a look at this slideshow:

If you’re ready to take it to the next level test your skills and nerves on the Spider Woman II or Lost Creek trails in beautiful Harbison State Forest park also close to downtown Columbia.

Keep on biking through beautiful South Carolina parks!

Columbia’s Sesquicentennial Park mountain bike trail in photos

Kids and parents come enjoy the mountain bike trail at the Sesquicentennial Park near downtown Columbia. The are 4 miles of outdoor beauty through an amazingly diverse terrain, from dense forests to desert like hills, from wide sandy paths to rocky curves that will challenge even the most experienced bikers.

Get more information and tips from this post on the Sesquicentennial Park mountain bike trail.

It’s fun, healthy, outdoor and practically free (only $2 per vehicle to enter the park). What else can you ask for?

Bikers of all ages unite in beautiful South Carolina!

Great Family Outing Sesquicentennial State Park, (almost free things to do in Columbia)

Nestled along I-77 and just minutes from downtown Columbia, the Sesquicentennial State Park warrants a visit if nothing else for the impossible to pronounce name (that’s got to keep kids quiet). We call it “Sesqui”.

You can hike, bike, fish, canoe, kayak, camp or just relax at the many picnic tables while watching the geese, ducks, cardinals and the omnipresent gutsy squirrels goofing around. There are two playgrounds for kids, a doggie park and a basketball court. The main attraction? It’s quiet, un-crowded and easily accessible from I-77, I-20 or Two Notch Road.

There is a dedicated bike trail several miles long over gentle hills. Although unpaved, it has a nice sanded path very easy on the body. You can also bike around the lake; it’s a bumpier ride but the scenery and the chance to see some animal action is well worth it.Catch a well deserved break under the oak trees or by the ever peacefull waterfall.

Make sure to visit the two-story log house, dating back to the mid 1700’s, relocated to the park in 1969. This house is believed to be the oldest building still standing in Richland County.

Bird lover or not, you can’t stop following these cuties everywhere they go. Papa goose may even entertain you with a folksy mating dance.

You can always play ball with your son, better yet just do nothing.
Breath in and let all your city and office worries melt away.

9564 Two Notch RD, Columbia, SC 29223; Phone: (803) 788-2706 Admissions: $2 adults; $1.25 SC seniors; age 15 & younger free; pets need a $4 park permit; Open daily 8am-6pm (until 9pm DST)

Driving Directions:

  • From I-20: Take exit 74. Turn left onto Hwy 1 (Two Notch Rd.), travel N 3 mi, park will be on the right.
  • From I-77: Take exit 17. Go N. on Hwy 1 (Two Notch Rd.), for 2 mi. Park will be on the right.