Columbia might be a state capital with a big university, but college kids and power brokers aren't the only people who have fun there. It's also a fantastic place for adventurous families.
The city is filled with top-notch attractions aimed at families with children of all ages. If you're looking for something to keep the kids busy, you're in for a treat.
EdVenture is the largest children's museum in the Southeast. It's home to Eddie, the biggest kid in the world, a 40-foot-tall sculpture of a child that little ones can crawl through to learn about the human body. Bigger kids can create, tinker and invent at Maker Works, while younger kids can play make-believe in a vet's office, a grocery store and so much more. Everyone can enjoy the butterfly garden, Blooming Butterflies, and frequent special programs add to the fun. EdVenture's setting, overlooking the beautiful Congaree River and the Three Rivers Greenway, can't be beat.
Three Rivers Greenway
Three Rivers Greenway is the gorgeous series of interconnected trails that follow along the Broad, Saluda and Congaree rivers as they meander through Columbia. It's perfect for a walk or a bike ride with the children. In the spring, look for the breathtaking (and endangered) Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies, which cover the rocky shoals in the middle of the river with glowing white flowers. Explore the old water works pump house. Clatter and race along the top of the dam, and look over the side to see the water pouring (or dribbling, depending on the time of year) from the Old Columbia Canal back into the river. There are several places to access the Greenway, but the easiest for families is either behind EdVenture or at Riverfront Park, 321 Laurel St.
Kayaking and Tubing
Walking along the river make you want to get in the water? It has that effect on a lot of people. Get yourself in a kayak or tube. While the rivers have some stout rapids in downtown Columbia, the Saluda is a flat, placid river just a few miles away at Saluda Shoals Park. It's the perfect place for families to kayak or go tubing. The park rents both by the hour.
Congaree National Park
For even more outdoor family fun, head to Congaree National Park, just minutes outside of Columbia. Walking through the enormous, towering trees on boardwalks over the black water of Congaree Swamp is the perfect adventure for families with kids of all ages. For those with older kids, try out one of the watery canoe "trails" threading through the park. Also check out some of the great family programming the National Park Service offers while there.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Consistently rated as one of the best zoos in the country, Riverbanks Zoo is a place no family visiting Columbia should skip. The first, and most obvious, attraction for kids are the animals themselves. And what an array of animals: gorillas, elephants, lions, tigers, grizzly bears and -- get ready for this -- koalas! Riverbanks is one of fewer than a dozen zoos in the U.S. that has a permanent koala exhibit. But there's more than animals: an extensive botanical garden, hiking trails, a carousel, rock-climbing wall, high ropes course, zipline and more. It's a wild adventure for sure.
South Carolina State Museum
Remember how your mom always warned you never to look directly into the sun when you were a kid? Well, now you and your children have a chance to find out what happens when you do it. But this time, it will be safe. The South Carolina State Museum features an incredible planetarium and observatory that lets you safely look right into the sun. It also offers four floors of exhibits that are all about South Carolina, ranging from history to technology to science and natural history, from dinosaurs to the Revolutionary War to airplanes. But that magnificent observatory is hard to beat.
Frankie's Fun Park
Looking for even more adventure? Frankie's Fun Park is your answer. Go-carts, bumper boats, laser tag, mini golf, batting cages and one enormous sensory-overloading arcade. It's a kid's dream.
Want to go on a scavenger hunt? Of course you do! Racing around a city in search of the answers to a sheet of clues is ridiculously fun for families of all ages, and it's a great way for Mom and Dad to go window shopping and explore a new city while the kids have fun. Try our Sally Salamander scavenger hunt or a scavenger hunt on the University of South Carolina's gorgeous Horseshoe.
There are lots more family-friendly things to do in Columbia, SC. See what you can discover!