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.

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Carolina Adventure World video, Canopy Zipline Fun from the Cedar Tower (weekend fun things to do near Charlotte)

Outdoor enthuziasts, thrill seekers and fun loving guys and gals unite at Carolina Adventure World “Where to ATV ride“!

Here is another awesome canopy zipline video this time from the 4 stories high Cedar Tower. Get the inside scoop on all the zip lines from my previous post.

Can you tell the guy is having the time of his life? This is the perfect company team building and offsite celebration your employees will actually enjoy! And is only $25 for all three zip lines including the famous Blue Sky Line!

So what are you waiting for?

Updates at Riverbanks Zoo: newest attractions, rental and food prices (what’s fun to do in Columbia)

This post is a follow up to my previous article on Riverbanks Zoo I wrote back in March. Three months later it’s worth noting Great photo with the train the zoo’s newest attractions and prices updates, especially on food.

Those of you new to the blog or just recently moved into town, Columbia Riverbanks Zoo is THE family attraction in the city.
Rain or shine, from spring to winter, this is the place to be if you have kids, or a bunch of relatives visiting for the weekend. For moms it’s the best and most affordable “baby-sitter”.

Things to know before you go

1. The most popular thing kids want to do now is riding the new “Spots and Stripes Railroad” miniature train located near the farm (where the pony rides used to be…don’t worry the ponies are still going strong at the zoo, just moved across the little bridge. It’s also 1 buck more ($5)). The train ride is $2 for EVERYBODY onboard (unlike the merry-go-around where only the child fare is paid). There are only 3 carts and lines to get in get very long quickly. My advice is to do the ride as soon as you get to the zoo, and if possible, early morning. The rides go from 10 AM to 4:30 PM.

2. Next thing kids love to do is watching the SpongeBob 3D movie. This is $2 (children under 5 get in for free) and it runs every half an hour. The movie is pretty lame and only lasts for 20 minutes (you do get to keep the glasses)…but hey I’m not the intended audience 🙂 My 4 years old daughter saw it twice already. Girls enjoying the cooling fans However there is something interesting to see inside the theater: the rat moles exhibit. The baby rat will put on a show as you wait for the movie to start.

3. The cooling fans spread throughout the park, although not an attraction per say, it’s the zoo’s best idea ever in these hot Carolina summer days: The ones by the bird show cabin are just irresistible. Babies, kids, parents and grand-parents come here to catch a well-deserved break. Also two thumbs up for the one by the playground near the carousel.

Admission Fees
• Adults $9.75
• Children (3-12) $7.25; under 3 get in FREE
• Military (with ID) $8.50
• Seniors (over 62) $8.25

Safari Bucks

You get 10 for $8. They are only sold in sets of 10, good for 6 months and are accepted at all retail and food locations (beware they will not give change back to the safari bucks).
• Pony rides 5 bucks
• Train ride 2
• 3D theater 2
• Carousel 1
• Giraffe and lorikeet feeding 1

Kenya Cafe summer prices

Snacks
• Small popcorn $2.25
• Pretzel 2.50
• Nachos 3.25
• Cotton Candy 3
• Peanuts 3
• Medium drink 2.50
• Dipping dots ice-cream cup 4

Stroller Rentals
Require $5 deposit and there is 7% sales and use tax on top of rental price
• Single 6 bucks
• Double 9
• Wheelchair 6
• Wagon 11

Happy Safari at the Riverbanks Zoo!

The “Giant” Blue Sky Zip Line Facts and Trivia (awesome fun at Carolina Adventure World)

2009 Update: This season it seems the zipline schedule and prices have changed. As of now only the Giant Blue Sky line is open and only on Saturdays in late afternoon (4-7PM). The price has been also reduced to just $5. To ride all 3 lines and on different days you need advanced group reservations. My advice is to call them ahead at (803)-482-3689 or check the website.

This entire post is dedicated to the awesome, guaranteed fun, adrenaline pumping canopy zip line rides at the Carolina Adventure World, Blue Sky lanch platform located half way between Charlotte and Columbia. Check my previous entry to learn more about all the cool stuff kids and parents who LOVE to act like kids can do every day.

Facts and trivia

1. There are 3 zip-lines: 1,300, 850 and respectively 1,100 feet long.

The first one, the Blue Sky “Giant” line, is by far the most popular. It takes about 45 seconds to ride through.

2. Want to be cool and play along the commands? Once you’re harnessed, the helmet is on and you’ve heard all the safety instructions the lingo goes like this:

Launch: “Ready to zip?”
Landing: “Zip is clear”
Launch: “Zipping”
Landing: “Zip away”

And off you go….from here you’re on your own (until you get close to the landing platform of course!). If you’re brave enough to keep your eyes open you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views of the park covering a hundred of miles of forest and trails.

3. The riding equipment consists of harness and helmet, lanyard, carabiner, and the pulley. All is professional grade and provided for free the entire show.

Frequently asked questions

How high is the line?
The start for first 2 lines Side view of 2nd zip line is about 22 feet high; the launch platform at the Cedar Tower for the canopy zip line is about 4 stories high.

How fast will I go?
It varies from person to person based on weight, wind conditions, skill level and willingness to go faster or slower.

How long is the ride?
Blue Sky is about 45 seconds, the 2nd line is about 30 seconds and the 3rd line is abut 40 seconds give or take.

Will I be spinning around?
Everyone will spin a little bit until they get the hang of it. Even most experienced riders can’t do much about it when the wind blows their way. This is in my opinion what makes it so much fun to ride.

Cedar Tower - launch pad for the 3rd zip lineAre you sure the equipment will hold?
Don’t worry about this. This is state-of-the-art high class equipment. The steel cable holds up to 22,000 lbs, the lanyard up to 5,000, the double-lock D-class carabiner and the harness each holds up to 3,600 lbs.

So I think you are well covered!

Riding Tips

Steering
This takes a lot of practice and you’ll only get better at it after 4-5 rides. Put two or three fingers from your leading hand on the carabiner attached to the leading lanyard (the short yellow belt). Don’t sweat it too much the staff will show you which one is it.

As you ride through and start twisting, gently turn your wrist in opposite direction. For example if you feel you’re about to turn left move your wrist to the right and vice versa. A slight easy turn is sufficient to re-adjust your position. It also helps if you start out going straight…it’s much harder to correct your position once you’ve twisted all the way through. As I said before don’t worry too much about it you’ll get the hang of it the more rides you do.

Controlling your riding speed
Rule of thumb: ball up to go faster, spread out to slow down.

In other words to pick up speed make yourself as small and tight as possible (knees up, hands tucked around the body, chin down to your chest) to reduce friction. The opposite is true if you want to slow down…spread your arms and legs as wide as possible like on a cross.

Happy Zip Line Riding at the Carolina Adventure World!

Harbison Forest Biking Trails Details and Photos (mountain bike in Columbia)

Ready for some biking fun under the sun? At Harbison State Forest park there is a trail for everyone from the novice to the occasional bicyclist to the passionate mountain biker.

Things to know before you go
1. If this is your first visit start your biking adventure at the Education Center on the versatile 4 miles easy to moderately difficult Firebreak Trail. Pay your biking permit (I recommend getting an annual pass which pays for itself after 5 visits), get a folding biking and hiking trail map, fill up with water, use the restroom and ask the park rangers questions (they are there for a reason!). As you get more comfortable on the trail you can connect to the more difficult 3.7 miles Midlands Mtn Trail;Uphill on Midlands Trail from here you have several choices: a) do the rugged loop on Harbison Bluffs and come back to the center, or b) connect to Spider Woman II, the most difficult trail in the park, and run down to Broad River or c) connect and stroll down scenic Stewardship Trail (easier in difficulty). This trail allows you to get back to Firebreak Trail later on and return to the Education Center after you have experienced three different trails along varied terrains. I did just that and took me 2.5 hours – I stopped frequently to take these awesome pictures 🙂
Sharp turn through trees
2. The park provides extremely easy trail access:
You can drive and park your car to most of the biking and hiking trails; there are 6 parking lots in the park; each biking trail has multiple entrance points and connections to other trails; this way you can combine sections from different trails, with varied levels of difficulty, to make your trip to the park more interesting.


3. All biking trails are cleaned and well-maintained; there are rest benches throughout so you can stop, take a water or photo break and just enjoy the view. There are 3 restrooms in the park.

4. Each Connection to Spider Woman II Trail (G)trail is color-coded and has corresponding signs throughout its course. Further each trail is divided into alphabetical sections with their distance clearly marked on the map. To make things even easier, there are overall maps at most connection points to tell you where you are inside the park and how much distance is still left. This makes it very convenient to orient yourself and to plan your time and next move as you go along.

Clunky Roots on Stewardship Trail5. Unlike the mountain bike trail at the Sesquicentennial Park (another great family outdoor getaway near downtown Columbia) you don’t have to put up with the inches deep sand patches.Scary Turn Don’t worry there are plenty other obstacles for you to conquer! For one, there are chunky stubborn tree roots everywhere; river stones, especially on Midlands Mtn and Spider Woman II trails will keep you on your toes; the trails are steeper (both uphill and downhill) and with sharper turns peppered with big logs, hidden bridges, or rocks just to make it more interesting…

6. Safety first. Wear your helmet, carry water (there is only one drinking water fountain at the Bridge over perennial creekEducation Center), put on sunscreen and bug spray, bring your cell-phone (there is strong signal throughout the park) and travel with someone (or at least let your family and friends know your trip plans for the day).

7. Best time to ride is in the morning and if you can make it during the week. I went Friday afternoon and during my 2.5 hours adventure on 3 different trails I ran into 3 bikers, 2 joggers and one lady walking her dog. Slalom downhill on Midlands Trail (RG)
If you want more details about fun things to do with kids while at the Harbison Forest park check this post.

Ready to upgrade to 4 ATV wheels ride and adrenaline pumping canopy zip-line? Then go visit Carolina Adventure World, just half an hour drive from Columbia off of I-77.

Happy Riding in the South Carolina Outdoors!

Harbison Forest park a daily family escape and guaranteed outdoor fun (almost free things to do)

Looking for a nice, relaxing, cheap and outdoor fun family weekend getaway? Columbia residents are spoiled with a 2000 acres “playground” at the Harbison State Forest park only 9 miles from downtown. The Harbison park is one of the largest public green spaces inside the city limits of a metropolitan area in the eastern United States. 16 miles of roads and trails weave through pine and hardwood forest crossing streams and descending through leafy glades to the Broad River.

The History
Harbison Forest soil once formed one of the first ocean ridges on the coastal plain. Thousands of years ago Catawba and Cherokee tribes traversed these woodlands to reach the Broad River. European settlers followed and formed the Dutch Fork farming community. Is hard to believe this entire area was covered with cotton up until early 1900’s!

Things to Enjoy at the Harbison State Forest park
You have 12 miles of very well-marked and maintained trails for walking (your dog as well), jogging, hiking, bicycling that range from easy to difficult. There is also a canoe landing with access for kayaks and canoes as a put in or take out from the river. Best picnic area is at the pine Gazebo that offers restrooms, outdoor grills and electric outlets From here you can also embark on the self-guided educational Discovery Trail where kids can learn about forestry, natural resources and conservation programs.(electricity is provided through a photo-voltaic solar system);

Tips to know before you go
1. If you live in Columbia and like to mountain bike get the $25 annual pass, it will pay for itself after 5 visits.

2. You can drive your car through most of the park and start on different biking and hiking trails. If this is your first visit start at the Education Center. You can ask get tips from the park rangers about each trail, use the very clean rest-rooms, fill up with water, get a very handy trail map and other park brochures.

From here you can hike Discovery to the Gazebo or the Learning trail which loops around the center where you can admire the picturesque Vernal pond; also from the Education Center you can start your biking adventure on the versatile Firebreak Trail.

3. Keep kids entertained and let them be explorers for a day on the Stewardship Trail Forester’s Walk. There is “detective” like guide at the trail entrance covering 26 noteworthy stops along the trail. The whole family can learn about uneven aged forest management, seed trees, artificial regeneration, perennial creeks, natural tree competition, bottomland hardwoods, and how to best spot wildlife. Guess the age of trees and how each disappeared, talk “forestry” (like go 2 chains) and see traces of historic farms.
Did you know that insects like the southern pine and black turpentine beetle and diseases kill more trees a year in South Carolina than wildfires? How about seeing a bike on tree? Well check it out for yourself.

4. Kayaks and canoe enthusiasts need to complete a float plan at the Education Center to get access to the landing; there is a gate at the Stewardship Trail entrance blocking the road leading to the boat landing; most likely a ranger will need to let you in (unless you rather prefer to back-carry your gear the remaining 1 mile to the river); there is no extra fee for using the river.

5. There are 3 restrooms in the park all functioning, however only the one at the Education Center has drinking water available.

Where
Harbison State Forest
5500 Broad River Road, Columbia, SC 29212
Info and reservations (803) 896-8890

Directions: From I-20 take the Broad River exit and continue on 176 West towards Irmo. Drive pass SLED, Juvenile Correction Center and the Police Offices Hall of Fame. The park entrance will be on your right.

Admission tickets: Adult $2, SC Seniors $1.25, under 15 years old is free. Biking daily permit is $5 and includes access to the park.

Join in the fun at Harbison State Forest park! You can also bring your family to the quiet easy going and always relaxing Sesquicentennial Park

Adrenaline ATV and Dirt Biking Fun at the Carolina Adventure World (Columbia off-road weekend fun things to do)

Are you ready for some 4 wheels ride fun under the sun? Well come on down to Carolina Adventure World “Where to Ride” park. This is an ATV and motocross Mecca few miles from Winnsboro and Interstate 77. It is approximately 30 minutes north of Columbia and 50 minutes south of Charlotte.

At the Carolina Adventure World you can enjoy 100 miles of ATV and dirt biking trails, adrenaling motocross and mud bog racing. The surroundings are just breath-taking. Make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and stay hydrated throughout the day.

NEW! More than 5 uber-fun extra challenging exclusive dirt bike trails are now OPEN! Get a map at the Welcome Center.

You can rent equipment at the park (is much cheaper during the week $90 a day compared to $140 in the weekend); primitive tent and RV camping is available and there is a bath house with showers and restrooms on the premises. Adult daily pass is $25 and for kids under 17 is $15; multi day and annual passes are available as well. The park is open daily from 8 AM to 6 PM (5PM during DST). All prices subject to change.

WhereCarolina Adventure World at 1713 Arrow Head Road, Winnsboro, SC, 29180. Here is the Google Map. For prices, ATV rental, camping info and reservations call (803) 482-3534

Driving Directions:
From Charlotte: Take I-77 exit 48, then Hwy 200 East towards Great Falls; drive about 2 miles till stop sign and turn right (at the Pure Gas Station) until you reach next intersection and stop sign. Turn right onto Camp Welfare Road. The park entrance will be on your left.

From Columbia: Take I-77 exit 46, keep right onto Camp Welfare Road. The park entrance will be on your right ~2 miles after you pass the Zion Baptist Church.

See photos and videos on the Carolina Adventure World official website.

Hungry for some more outdoor action in Columbia without breaking the bank? Check out these awesome mountain bike trails:

  • Harbison Forest State Park
  • Sesqui State Park