Duke’s World of Energy – where electricity rules and kids love pushing buttons (free educational things to do near Greenville)

Looking for something to do with kids that’s fun, educational, and free while touring beautiful South Carolina Upcountry? Then visit Duke’s World of Energy museum at the Oconee Nuclear Station (relax, it’s very safe…admitted, you are a little bit curious 🙂 ). Take the self-guided tour to learn how electricity is generated using water, coal and uranium. Watch videos to understand the nuclear plant operations and test your knowledge at the computer game stations.

Things to know before you go
1. Kids love pushing (our) buttons! Kids checking out the interactive map Luckily the World of Energy is filled with interactive exhibits and videos all with buttons waiting to be pressed. The most popular one is in the main room: a tridimensional relief map showing Duke’s power plants and key area attractions spread over the region’s lakes and mountains.

2. You’ll get a kick seeing some 1930s small home-appliances invented by Duke Engineers, like the electric toaster and iron machine. Other interesting “artifacts” a 1924 aid-kit and a streetcar conductor’s hat and coin changer.

3. Outside you can enjoy a 0.25 mile nature trail by the lake and a colorful butterfly garden and see the historic marker honoring early settlers and their 1715 expedition to dissuade the Cherokees from joining other tribes in the Yemassee Indian War.

Facts and Trivia
1. Oconee was the first nuclear station designed, built and operated by Duke Energy. Operating since 1973 it has produced more than 500 million megawatt-hours of electricity – first in the country to do so. Oconee has a generating capacity of about 2.6 million kilowatts making it one of the nation’s largest nuclear plants.

2. A single Uranium 235 fuel pallet, less than an inch long, Dance around with the atoms produces the energy equivalent to a ton of coal.

3. The nuclear plant has no airborne emissions like carbon and sulfur dioxide. In fact, the energy generated by the U.S. nuclear plants has prevented emissions equal to that produced by 130 millions cars!

Area Attractions
• Walhalla Fish Hatchery – see the life stages of, feed and even fish three species of trout.
• Centuries old Oconee Historic Station and Hagood Mill.
• History lovers and art collectors go visit Pendleton, “the Charleston of the Upstate” just 30 miles southwest of Greenville (hwy 76 and 28). The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notable attractions: Farmer’s Hall (oldest continuous operating hall in the country), Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula (1st licensed tavern), Old Stone Church (where Andrew Pickens and Gen. Anderson are buried) and Woodburn (4 story mansion)

• Legendary Isaqueena and Whitewater waterfalls.
• SC Botanical Gardens – country largest collection of nature-based sculptures and hundreds of exotic ornamental plants.

Under $5 admission
Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork State Park – finest fishing place in the Southeast. Swim year around.
• Oconee State Park – a variety of recreational activities and the start of scenic Foothills Trail.

Let the adventure begin at Table Rock State Park! Excellent hiking trails, all year long swimming, rock sliding and fishing.

The World of Energy is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Keowee, near the intersection of Hwy 130 and Hwy 183, about 20 minutes drive from Clemson, Pickens and Walhalla and close to an hour from Greenville. Here is the Google Map. The museum is free to attend and is open daily, M-F 9 AM to 5 PM, weekend noon to 5 PM. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day and New Year’s Day. Call 1-800-777-1004 for more info.

Have fun in Carolina God’s Country!


Visit Walhalla fish hatchery to see, feed and even fish trout (free things to do with kids near Oconee and Devils Fork State Parks)

If you are vacationing in beautiful South Carolina Upcountry bring your kids and loved ones to the Walhalla Fish Hatchery located off highway 107 half an hour drive from both Oconee and Devils Fork State Parks. It’s free, educational and an out of ordinary fun activity the entire family will enjoy.

Facts and history
The hatchery Rainbow trout on display is one of five in South Carolina and the only one involved in the culture of trout, a coldwater species. There are three types raised here: rainbow, brook and brown trout.

The Appalachian Mountains streams are not very fertile due their origination bedrock which produces low alkalinity in the water. Hatchery construction began in mid 1930s and first trout was released in 1937. In 1990 an oxygen supplementation system was added to increase production.

The growing cycle begins in the incubator room usually not open to public to protect the very sensitive eggs. Inside the hatchery building there are 12 concrete tanks where young trout is fed until it reaches 2 inches long and then is moved to the outside raceways. Each raceway is about 100 feet long and flows 600 gallons of water a minute. It takes about 14-16 months for the fish to reach the stocking size of 9 inches.

Each year over 200,000 trout fish are stocked by truck to rivers in Greenville, Pickens and Oconee counties. See a list and a map with all the streams at the interpretive display kiosk. Some remote locations along Chattooga River get stocked by helicopter!

Tips to know before you go
Best time to visit Dad gets food for his son is in the fall where you can see more of the trout’s lifecycle stages, particularly the eggs and the sac fry.

Main attraction for little kids is feeding the fish. There are feed stations along the tanks and the food is 25 cents. Pay once then ask your children to hunt for the plenty of fish-food laying on the ground.

You can call ahead (864) 638-2866 to schedule a guided tour. You may get lucky and get to visit the incubator room.

Things to do in the area
Tour the hatchery at your own pace; pick up a brochure to read more about the facilities, the growth operations and the trout lifecycle stages.

Fish in the pristine East Fork river which runs through the hatchery grounds; the picnic area has a barrier free fishing pier accessible from the parking lot.Fishing at East Fork

Hike the 2.5 miles trail along the river; you can get a trail map at the office.

Take 107 North for approximately 5 miles to see the gorgeous Whitewater Falls. At 700 feet long this series of falls is the highest in the East. From there you can drive to Lake Jocassee inside Devils Fork State Park the finest fishing place in the Southeast where you have plenty of recreational activities.

Drive south to the Oconee State Park where you can swim, canoe, kayak, fish, paddle-boat, play putt-golf or hike around the lake. Those more adventurous can access the start of the famous Foothills Trail.

Visit Duke’s World of Energy to learn how electricity is generated from water, coal and uranium. There are many interactive exhibits, a real-size nuclear reactor replica and fun games to test your scientific knowledge.

Address: 198 Fish Hatchery Rd, Hwy 107 N, Mountain Rest, SC 29664. The hatchery is near the intersection of Hyw 107 and 130 and here is the Google Map.
Admission is free. Open daily from 8 AM till 4 PM except on Christmas Day. May close occasionally during winter if the inclement weather conditions make it unsafe for visitation.

Happy trout fishing along the South Carolina upstate rivers!

Love trout? Then drive north into beautiful Western North Carolina to visit the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery (the largest in the state!) that’s beaming with brook, rainbow and brown trout!

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.

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

Outdoor and Wildlife Wonders at Charles Towne Landing

Charles Towne Landing: Quiet and relaxing family time. Learn about South Carolina and Charleston history. Bike or walk under serene live oak trees away from the city’s hustle and bustle yet just minutes from all the “civilization” amenities. Do nothing but smell the beautiful flowers and listen to the birds.

Funny otter at Charles Towne Landing

Get excited spotting alligators around the ponds spread throughout the park or watching the bison, black bears and puma napping all day at the Animal Forest zoo. Maybe we can learn from them and give ourselves a well deserved break in the Charles Towne Landing incredible outdoors. And is only $5… That’s a venti double latte…C’mon what else can you ask for?!

Read more about this hidden Charleston attraction here.

Happy outdoor relaxation in Charleston 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.