Fun, free and affordable weekend things to do with kids in Columbia

Wonder where to go with the kids and what’s interesting to see while visiting Columbia? Here is a list of really fun, educational and healthy things to do during the weekend.

UPDATE! I’ve added more lovely places from recent 2009 and 2010 experiences.

Free family activities
1. “Tame the wild things” at the Public Library, watch kids interpret sculptures and paintings at the Museum of Art (free Saturdays) Finlay Park hiking trailand cool off at the beautiful waterfalls at Finlay Park. All three are located downtown within two blocks of each other.

2. The Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park is the city’s secret jewel.

At the confluence of 3 Rivers (Congaree, Broad and Saluda) and minutes from downtown, EdVenture and the State Museum, Riverfront Park is an oasis of outdoor relaxation, amazing history and abundant wildlife, the entire family can enjoy for free!

3. Tour the magnificent SC State House not too far away from the Library (bordered by Assembly, Senate and Pendleton streets). You’ll be awed by its fascinating history, outstanding architecture, remarkable sculptures, monuments and Revolutionary War paintings.

4. Visit the Congaree National Park, On the boardwalk a world renown natural wonder, rich in history and biodiversity. Half an hour drive from Columbia, the swamp park is the world’s tallest deciduous forest and the country’s largest and few remaining old-growth floodplain forests. It features splendid cathedral like canopies, an amazing wildlife and miles of hiking, canoeing, camping and fishing along the mysterious Congaree river.

5. Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg – Imagine 150 acres filled with roses, azaleas, camellias and many other floral beauties spaced among Yoshino cherry, giant oaks and century old cypress trees. This is as close to Eden as you can ever get! Children will have a blast splashing in the 6,000 sqft Water Spray Park.

Fun activities under $5

1. Harbison State Forest: Columbia residents are spoiled with a 2000 plus acres “playground”, the largest public green spaces inside the city limits in 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. When the mountain bike trails are named Spider Woman and Firebreak that’s got to be fun!

2. Columbia Marionette Theatre is a magical place where fairy tales come to live. It’s located at the Riverfront Park entrance so after the show you can enjoy a walk along the scenic canal. Admission is only $4 and shows are on Saturdays at 11AM and 3PM. This is a very affordable and unique birthday party solution the grown ups will actually enjoy!

3. Sesquicentennial State Park – unwind and relax in this beautiful park Biker with his dog around the lake trail downtown Columbia. You can hike around the scenic lake trail or bike the 4 miles trail through the forest, canoe or paddle with the geese and ducks, and let your kids run wild at the 2 playgrounds, and the basketball and volleyball courts.

4. Lake Wateree State Park – This is a fisherman’s delight big on big blues, crappie, bream, largemouth bass, striped bass and nightime cat-fishing. Other activities to enjoy: tubing, canoeing and kayaking, hiking the scenic Deportes Nature trail or plain old swimming. Of course there is nothing wrong with just laying around catching a nap or baking in the sun.

Activities under $10
1. Kids have a blast at the Saluda Splash interactive water playground inside the beautiful Saluda Shoals riverfront park.
Kids playing at the water playground The water zone is open May through Labor Day and requires $3 wristbands. Admission to the park is $5 per car.

Other fun things to do in the park: hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, and visiting the state-of-the-art Environment Education Center.

2. State Museum – History, nature and science all under one roof! Experience the best South Carolina has to offer, like the full size replicas of the H.L Hunley submarine, “Best Friend of Charleston” the first American-built steam locomotive and the Cotton Mill operation machines.

My favorite ever traveling exhibit was Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion exhibit. Kids loved trying out all the inventions.

Activities under $15
1. EdVenture Children Museum – The South largest children museum and one the most attractive family friendly destinations in the Carolinas.

Playing in the fire truck

2. Columbia Riverbanks Zoo – You are never bored at the Riverbanks Zoo. There is always some drama unfolding with the animals and people alike. Among the highlights (besides the animals): 3D Safari movies, ponny rides and petting zoo, merry-go-around, climbing the bronze statues and train rides to and from the Botanical Garden.

Enjoy your family weekend in Columbia South Carolina!

EdVenture: Going through the fire tunnel video (scary)

Ever wonder how fire really feels like? Guess no more. At Edventure Children Museum in downtown Columbia you can go through the “fire tunnel” and experience few seconds of complete darkness. Very spooky indeed.

That will really teach kids not to play with matches 🙂

Happy family fun in South Carolina!

EdVenture Children Museum: Ball and Gravity video

Gravity always wins. It’s mesmerizing…you can do this over and over. Try it for yourself at EdVenture in downtown Columbia, the largest, funniest and most interesting children museum in the South.
Read more about the wonderful EdVenture

Columbia Riverfront Park photos – Free things to do outdoor

Come outside, get some fresh air, enjoy the blooming trees and the migratory birds. Riverfront Park is located in downtown Columbia minutes from State House and EdVenture museums. You can walk, jog, bike or skate for miles and miles by the peaceful Congaree river. For sportier types you can fish, canoe or kayak.

Here are some 20 or so reasons to get off the couch! If you’re visiting this is your free afternoon spa! For moms with young kids there is a very nice playground at the park’s entrance.

Still not convinced? get more enticing details and tips from this Columbia Riverfront Canal post

If time permits relive the history and be a proud South Carolinian at the magnificent SC State House. You can enjoy for free its fascinating history, outstanding architecture, remarkable sculptures, monuments and Revolutionary War paintings.

Little Mozart fun video at EdVenture Children Museum

Young kids have fun playing and even hopping on music at the EdVenture Children Museum. Who knows, maybe the next Mozart will come about! 
For more information on EdVenture see my previous post

Happy Carolina Vacation!

Amazing Teeth Cleaning at EdVenture Children Museum – video

Don’t you love you going to the dentist?! 🙂 Well here you go: EdVenture Children Museum is just the place to experience first hand how it may “sound and feel like”. And you can do it as many times as you can handle it. That noise just creeps me out!

Read more about the wonderful EdVenture exhibits on my previous post:

Happy Carolina Family Fun!

EdVenture Children Museum: Discover Carolina’s World of Wonders, Education and Family Fun (Columbia things to do with kids)

EdVenture is the South largest children museum and one of Carolina’s most attractive family friendly tourist destinations. Located in downtown Columbia besides along the beautiful Congaree River and besides the State Museum, this four-story award winning museum will let kids 12 and younder explore the wonders of science, art, medicine, history and culture in a fun and exciting hands on environment.

There are more than 350 interactive exhibits. Children can check out a real fire truck, buy groceries, be a farmer, doctor or an engineer for a day; play musical instruments, anchor the news on TV, climb and slide down Big Eddie (the planet’s biggest kid!), navigate the ocean, solve mysteries, study how the body works, and experience other cultures.

Tips to know before you go

1. Go early morning and during weekdays to avoid the big crowds. The museum is open 9 AM to 5 PM (Sunday opens at noon).

2. Start on the 2nd floor. Young kids will enjoy playing musical instruments and explore the seasonal exhibits. Older kids will be absorbed at the live TV and newspaper stations. There is a quiet play and reading area for babies and toddlers.

3. Get them “exhausted” climbing Big Eddie up and down. That can easily take up to 30 minutes.

4. Catch a snack break at the Clubhouse, open 11 AM to 2 PM (closed on Sunday).

5. Continue your tour on the first floor. Main attraction here is the fire truck. Young kids love to go shopping at the grocery store or play farmer.

6. Cool off at the water exhibit outside. They will get wet no matter what you do, but the fun is guaranteed.

7. If there’s still time and energy left drive to the Columbia Riverfront Canal park nearby for fresh air and an amazing walk down the river.

8. For even more educational and truly inspirational activities be a proud South Carolinian at the magnificent State House. You can enjoy for free its fascinating history, outstanding architecture, remarkable sculptures, monuments and Revolutionary War paintings.

Check out the following photos for a sneak peak inside the museum:

Nothing like playing live music on TV!

EdVenture Live Concert
You can see the food digestion process in action

Check out a real fire truck! You can dress like a fireman and test your skills going down the fire pole
EdVenture Posing with Fireman

Bob the Builder boys have a blast driving the bulldozer…
EdVenure Bob the Builder

Little Beethoven in the making?
EdVenture Music Instruments
Kids have fun getting wet at the water conservation and energy education exhibit
edVenture Children Gaving Funwith Water

Older kids always get a good workout climbing the ropes outside
EdVenture Outdoor Climbing

Fishing with the big net in Central Africa

Where
211 Gervais Street, Columbia SC 29201, Phone (803) 779-3100
Tickets: Adult $8.95; Children $6.95