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!

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Eel Moves Slowly At the State Museum (Columbia family attractions)

Come play around with some antique film making equipment at the wonderful State Museum in downtown Columbia. Currently on display at the museum are movie clips, memorabilia, props, costumes, posters and stories about all 250 Hollywood and independent films shot in South Carolina.
Watch eels slide through “grass” in a 19th century like movie. This is addictive!

Kids of all ages be a movie director for a day in Columbia South Carolina!

If time permits tour FOR FREE the stunning SC State House and be awed by its fascinating history, outstanding architecture, remarkable sculptures, monuments and Revolutionary War paintings.

State Museum, South Carolina art, history and science under one roof (Columbia fun things to do)

Housed in the former Columbia Mill building the State Museum features 4 floors of interactive exhibits covering art, history, natural history, science and technology. It is South Carolina’s and probably the Southeast’s largest state museums.

Playing with Leonardo da Vinci Machines

Playing with Leonardo da Vinci Machines

Curious to find out how Columbia came into place? In 1785 the South Carolina Senate approved to move the new state capital on the land near Garners Ferry on the Congaree River.

Among other nominations were Camden (the first proposal, later rejected), the Sumter District (supported by Gen. Sumter the “Fighting Gamecock”!) and the land near St. Matthews.

Columbia was America’s first planned capital city, designed and laid out in a two-mile square with streets named for agricultural products (how original!) and Revolutionary War heroes.

Not everyone seemed to agree the Columbia city planning was a very good idea. Col. Thomas Taylor who owned several hundreds acres along the Congaree River near the future site of Columbia is reputed to have said that the city founders “have turned a damned fine plantation into a pretty poor town”.

Interesting Things to See at the State Museum

The Cotton Mill exchange – The State Museum building once was a prominent textile mill, the Columbia Mill or “Duck Mill” as it was called. Opened in 1894 it was the world’s first totally electrically operated mill. It closed in the late 80s.

Columbia Mill

Learn the life and customs of Coastal Native Americans and the very moving story of Priscilla, a little girl abducted centuries ago from Sierra Leone.

Priscilla

Marvel seeing the 1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile one of the first automobiles in South Carolina and full size replicas of “Best Friend of Charleston” the first American-built steam locomotive and the H.L. Hunley, the Confederate’s best hope to break the blockade during the Civil War and first submarine to sink an enemy ship. To this day we don’t know why and how the Hunley disappeared.

2010 Update!
Here are the most recent findings, clues and theories on what might have happened to the Hunley. Check out these amazing artifacts on display in North Charleston.

Inside Hunley submarine

See the incredible dugout canoe! Kept underwater for centuries it was found in pristine condition, still attached to its roots, a rare archeological treat. Apparently the wood cracked and it was never finished.

Dugout Canoe

At the natural history exhibits the pre-historic animals steal the show. You will be awed to see full size replicas of a mammoth, giant armadillo, and a “cute” T-Rex as one might expect.

Mammoth

On the Science and Technology floor you can admire the gold medal of Dr. Charles Townes, South Carolina first Nobel Prize winner, who invented the laser; also on display outer space artifacts from moonwalker Charles Duke.

If you get hungry Crescent Café is open till 4 PM and offers deli sandwiches, hot-dogs, salads and soups, and bakery items like croissants, muffins and cookies. Beverages options are soft drinks, bottled water, coffee, hot chocolate and tea.

2009 UPDATE!

The museum hosts remarkable traveling exhibits so make sure to come back and enjoy them all. For example in 2008 we had a blast trying to figure out how to operate dozens of Leondardo da Vinci inventions (yes they let you touch and play with them!).

This year we were amazed seeing the most powerful natural forces at work: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, blizzards, floods and the world’s largest hail stone! Added bonus you can play weather man on a live TV screen. The Powers of Nature exhibit will run till first week in September 2009.

Giant hailstone at Powers of Nature exhibit

Giant hailstone at Powers of Nature exhibit

Where

Admission: Adults $7, children 3-12 $5. Military and senior discount is $1. For a full schedule of events, special tours, birthday parties visit the State Museum website or call (803) 898-4921 and (803) 898-4999 for group reservations.

Directions: The State Museum is located downtown at 301 Gervais Street across from Edventure Children’s Museum, few blocks west of the State Capitol.

Discovery Center

Learn and play at the SC State Museum!

The Hunley Submarine mystery and replica operation video (things to do in Charleston and Columbia)

To this day we don’t know what happened to the H.L. Hunley, the Confederate submarine built to help break the Civil War blockade. We do know it disappeared on the night of February 17 1864 after it sunk the Union ship the USS Housatonic (the world’s first submarine to do so in combat!)

If you are visiting Columbia you can see a full size replica at the SC State Museum downtown. Of course, nothing beats the original, which can be admired in Charleston at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center (here is a Google Map with the location). Tours are offered Saturday from 10 AM – 5 PM and Sunday Noon – 5 PM. Tickets are $12, seniors, military and members pay $10, and kids under 5 get in for FREE.

Hunley submarine replica

While in the area and you’re hungry for more military adventure go visit the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier. It has dozens of “little” war planes waiting for you to play with!

Interesting Hunley trivia
-Built in Mobile Alabama and hauled by train into Charleston
-Operated by 9 crewmen from one extraordinarily tight room…truly seating like sardines
-Prohibited to travel underwater by the Confederate commanders after 13 crewmen died in two accidents
-Reached the amazing speed of 2 knots in calm waters!
-Its observation ports had to be kept above the surface for the pilot to navigate.

Inside Hunley sketches at the State Museum

Let your children experience our country history in amazing South Carolina!

UPDATE!

Check out the latest clues uncovered at the Hunley recovery project. It’s about the sub bilge pumps!

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Out of “what to do this weekend” ideas? How about taking the kids to Jumps N More where they can safely burn energy bouncing and jumping and running around? It’s only $6.

Hollywood comes to South Carolina! (State Museum at least…)

Carolina movie lovers come visit the State Museum downtown Columbia for a super cool exhibit on all the Hollywood and independent films shot in the Palmetto State. Did you know that over 250 movies were filmed in South Carolina? You bet! Oscar Die Hard with a Vengeance set propswinning movies like Forrest Gump, Cold Mountain and The Abyss, as well as American classics, such as The Patriots, Days of Thunder, Prince of Tides, Renaissance Man, The Great Santini, and Die Hard With a Vengeance. Even the recently released and already award-buzzing comedy, Leatherheads, featuring George Clooney and Renee Zellweger calls Carolina “home”.

The exhibit is only $3 over the regular admission price of $5. So for a price of one movie ticket you get enjoy memorabilia, props and costumes and watch adrenaline pumping clips from dozens films made over the past 100 years, right in our backyard. That’s something we can all be proud about!

Interesting and Fun Facts to See
Sketch from Forrest Gump - Lt. Dan Jumps in the ocean1. You will jolly up seeing some of Forrest Gump original sketches: like the scene when he carries Bubba or the one when Lt. Dan finally makes peace with himself and jumps into the ocean.

2. “Fire engine causes fire evacuation!” The 1921 fire engine from The Chiefs TV series was accidentally driven into the building last November setting off the smoke alarms Fire truck from The Chiefsand causing evacuation of the Museum and the entire Dept. of Revenue.

3. Heavy winter snow in Greenville? That’s right. Portions of downtown were covered in artificial snow to convey authentic Siberian winter for The Printing movie set in pre-perestroika Russia.
Renaissance Man scene shot at Fort Jackson
4. Get a good laugh watching several edited clips depicting classic scenes actually shot in South Carolina even though the movies imply otherwise. Like the drive over “a New York bridge” you guessed it was Cooper River bridge; or the one from Renaissance Man’s army post clearly shot at Fort Jackson.

5. How about seeing up close and personal some of the costumes and props from your favorite movies? Like Tom Cruise’s jumpsuit from Days of Thunder, the scaffold gallows from The Patriots, a full size replica of the Hunley submarine, Eddie Murphy’s fat suit, set pieces from Die Hard with a Vengeance and the football team’s mascot from Radio.

6. Wanna take part in a movie? You can at the State Museum. You can drive a car pretending you’re in Leatherheads. Check this out! Driving automobile in Leatherheads

7. End your Hollywood tour with a look of some famos South Carolinian actors.

Where: At the State Museum through October 19, 2008. Open Tuesday – Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM; Sunday 1 – 5 PM; Open Monday between Memorial Day and Labor Day

Have fun and be proud in Columbia South Carolina!

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.

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