Columbia fun activities for kids – Arts, nature and fairy tales all for FREE!

In downtown Columbia kids learn to appreciate arts and history and to discover Mother Nature’s little treasures. My 4 years old and I had a great time interpreting sculptures at the Columbia Museum of Art, then “chasing” the waterfalls weave their way into the Finlay Park’s lake and finally “taming the wild things” at the Public Library. All of that for FREE on one weekend afternoon!

Beautiful view of Columbia from the top of Finlay Park

Columbia Museum of Art
The Columbia Museum of Art rewards you with one of Southeast’s most significant collections of European art from the 14th through the 18th centuries. Most notable things to see: Sandro Botticelli (this was his nickname given by his big brother!)– Nativity, Claude Monet – The Seine at Giverny and the amazing Tiffany glass collection.

Columbia Museum of Art photo

Tips to know before you go
1. Free admission on Saturday; Kids 5 and under enter for free anytime. A membership provides you free admission for a full year to 70 other museums in the Southeast. Call (803)-799-2810 for more info.

2. Downtown parking is free on Sunday. Beware during the week traffic is very slow due to construction on Main Street near the museum.

3. There is a family friendly tour on 1st Saturday of every month at 10:30 AM and public docent led tours every Saturday at 1 PM and Sunday at 1:30 PM.

4. You can access anytime anywhere for FREE (except the cost of your minutes) a cell-phone audio tour and hear the experts discuss selected art objects. Dial (803)-234-8969, then the art section number followed by the pound sign. There is a brochure with all the info at the museum desk.

5. Young kids are most attracted by statues, Chinese antiquities, contemporary art objects and the nice water fountain and sculpture in front of the museum.

The Art Museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays and on major holidays. Hours of operation: Wed, Thu and Sat 10 AM – 5 PM; Fri 10 AM – 9 PM and Sun 1 – 5 PM. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (60 and over) and military and $2 for students.

Columbia Public Library downtown
Go to the Children’s Room downstairs. It has a naturally lit air-conditioned open space decorated with natural trees and plenty of couches to relax on. Don’t worry about making noise there are only parents, kids and babies around…

Things to know before you go
1. Kids love choosing their own books. Lana made 4 trips picking up “her favorites”. If you want to choose the books, each age is color-coded.

Kid picking up books at Columbia Public Library

2. The library it’s not just about reading. Kids have fun “talking and playing” with the stuff animals (say hello to the Cat in a Hat everyone!), solving puzzles, drawing or decorating. In the end just spending quality time with their loved ones it’s all that matters.

Mom reading with her daughter at the Library

3. Richland County residents get a free library card and can check out 30 items per card (books, videos, CDs, DVDs or magazines). You can return them at any of the 9 RCPL locations.

Kids have fun reading at RCPL downtown

4. If you’re pressed for time the staff can suggest age-appropriate titles. You can even call ahead at (803)-929-3434 and books will be ready for you.
5. Free wireless Internet is available throughout.

Finlay Park
This is a great park in the middle of the city. The main attraction is the man-made waterfalls that stream down into the peaceful lake.

Kids by the Finlay waterfall

Finlay has many shaded picnic areas, 2 playgrounds, a big open grass field and miles of walking and jogging trails around the lake. Beware the park is a very popular spot with the homeless yet they will not bother you.

Family relaxing and taking photos by the waterfall:

Family photo at Finlay waterfalls

Hiking and jogging trail around the lake:

Finlay park walking and jogging trail photo

Main playground area:

If time permits tour for FREE the magnificent 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.

Enjoy the art, read books and have fun outdoors with your kids in beautiful downtown Columbia!

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Zip away at Carolina Adventure World video (fun activities with your dad near Columbia and Charlotte)

Still thinking of something fun to do with your dad this Father’s Day weekend? How about the ride of his lifetime? For just $25 he can zip all three lines over breath-taking scenery at the amazing Carolina Adventure World. That’s a standout gift he will enjoy and cherish for a very long time. The park is located right off of I-77, minutes drive from Lake Wateree State Park, about half an hour from Columbia and 50 minutes from Charlotte, NC.

Read my previous posts to get more facts about the Blue Sky “Giant” Zip Line and all other activities like ATV, motocross, RV and camping you can do in the park.

Here are 2 videos, first from the Giant zip line:

and second from the 3rd canopy zip line:

Happy zipping and riding with your loved ones at Carolina Adventure World!

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!

Lake Wateree Photos: A day of fun for the whole family

Lake Wateree is a fisherman’s delight big on big blues, crappie, bream, largemouth bass, striped bass and nightime cat-fishing. The parks even has a tackle and gift shop open daily till 8 PM; besides fishing supplies you can get snacks, drinks, souvenirs, firewood and fishing licenses.

Things to do
No worries if you’re not so big into fishing, there are plenty other activities to enjoy: tubing, canoeing and kayaking or plain old swimming. Of course there is nothing wrong with just laying around catching a nap or baking in the sun.

If you’re in to burn some calories while admiring the breath-taking natural surroundings hike the scenic 0.7 miles Deportes Nature trail or bike the paved roads in the park (no dedicated mountain bike trail yet).

Just minutes drive from the park is the fun-packed Carolina Adventure World park offering hundreds of miles of groomed ATV and motocross trails, and my favorite, canopy zip line rides. Right here in the heart of South Carolina!

Lake Wateree state park offers 72 sites, all with water and electrical service. Many will accommodate large RV. These sites go quickly in the summer months, so visitors should plan ahead.

Lake Wateree map and more info from the South Carolina state parks website.

Driving Directions
The park is about 35 miles north of Columbia and 75 miles south of Charlotte. From I-77: Take exit 41, follow secondary 41 N. to stop sign at Hwy 21. Turn left and go approximately 2-3 mi. to the first paved road. Turn right on Rd. 101 (River Rd.), the park is 5.5 mi. on the left.

For only $2 admission fee (free for kids under 15) that’s a family weekend getaway worth shouting about!

Biking Trails Photos at Harbison Forest Park (Columbia outdoor things to do)

Join in the fun along Firebreak, Spider Woman, Crooked Pine, Midlands Mtn and Lost Creek…no these are not featured films but rather awesome mountain bike trails, right in the middle of Columbia. Yes, that’s right, just minutes from downtown off of I-20, you can indulge in 3-4 hours of pure adrenaline pumping fun at the Harbison State Forest Park. This will be the best $5 you will spend that week (free for kids under 15)!

12 miles of biking trails, from easy to moderately difficult to extremely difficult (Spider Woman – yeah guys we always like to play hard to get :-)), await you to escape the city noise and office boredom. Fresh air, healthy, good for your body and soul, awesome views, challenging and rewarding experiences…that’s an outdoor family activity worth shouting about!

Get out there and have fun in the serene and always welcoming Harbison State Forest Park!

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!

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