Columbia might be known as the home of South Carolina's lovely State House and its languid grounds, its gracious Governor's Mansion and its ancient, shady gardens, and the University of South Carolina.
But the city is also home to lots of great things for active families with teens to do together. Check out some of our suggestions for fun things to do with teenagers while in the Soda City.
Fun on the River
Columbia sits at the confluence of the Saluda and Broad Rivers. Together, the two rivers become the Congaree River, right in the middle of downtown. These rivers aren't just beautiful to look at. They offer some of the most fun in all of Columbia.
On a famously hot Columbia summer day, there is probably nothing quite as fun as tubing. Imagine floating down the river, blue sky above, turtles sunning themselves on the rocks all around you, hands and feet (and as much of your bottom as you want) in the cool, crisp water. (Because the river water is released from a dam, it's always cold.)
If you're looking for a lazy river experience, head up to Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo, where a tubing trip takes you down a slow, calm section of river, with just the tiniest riffle. If you and your teenagers are up for a float with a little more excitement, tube the river in downtown Columbia, where a few rapids are just big enough for a thrill, but not too much work to take away from relaxation. Palmetto Outdoor Center provides tubes, PFDs and transporation for a fun day on the water.
Columbia is a fantastic place to go kayaking for the very same reasons that its such a great place to go tubing. While tubing is definitely for summers, kayaking is a great family activity in the spring and fall, too. The same places that rent out tubes also rent out kayaks.
Imagine standing on a wooden platform high up in the trees, staring out over the broad Saluda River. And now imagine leaping into the air and flying across the water! If that sounds like a fun afternoon to your teen, then head over to the Riverbanks Zoo. Zip the Zoo at the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden is an incredible zip line tour through the zoo, the gardens and even across the river. Two different experiences are offered, the Zipline Canopy Tour and the shorter River Zip. Advanced reservations are required. This is a trip to the zoo sure to appeal to teenagers.
Columbia is home to the state's flagship public university, the University of South Carolina. And USC is home to the Gamecocks, and some of the most exciting SEC sports in the country. Whether your teen dreams one day of going to USC, or even playing for one of it's dozens of Division I sports teams, everyone will have a great time at a Gamecocks game. A football game at Williams Brice Stadium, a basketball game at Colonial Life Arena or a baseball game at Founders Park is guaranteed fun for the whole family. But don't forget some of the less popular sporting events, too.
USC has 21 Division 1 sports teams, 12 for women and 9 for men, and there's a team playing almost all year round. So next time you're in town, check out an equestrian event with your horse-loving teenager, or a men's or women's soccer game with your cootie-loving teen. Take in a tennis match, or a beach volleyball game. There are so many USC sporting events to choose from, you'll find yourself shouting "Go Cocks" no matter what time of the year you visit.
Minor League Magic
The Gamecocks aren't the only sports teams in town. The Columbia Fireflies have moved into their new home at Spirit Communications Park, and the minor league baseball shenanigans have begun. The ambiance at the park is great, there are theme nights most games, and fireworks on the weekends. With theme nights like Prince tribute night and Star Wars night, a Fireflies game is probably even more fun than a major league game.
Owens Field Park
Across the street from a small airport from which is gets its name, Owens Field Park is the kind of hidden gem of a park that makes teens happy. Owens Field Park boasts an incredible, and friendly, skate park. It also offers an 18 hole disc golf course that's the official home for USC's disc golf team, as well as an inline hockey rink, and dozens of soccer and baseball fields.
Arts and Crafts
While Columbia certainly has a plethora of fun outdoor activities, it's also rich in opportunities for artsy teens. Columbia Museum of Art on Main Street has a great permanent collection, truly fantastic visiting exhibits and a wide array of classes for kids and teens of all ages.
After an afternoon at the CMA, it's just a very short walk down Main Street to the Nickelodeon Theatre, Columbia's art movie house. The Nick shows a huge range of films you probably won't see in your local cineplex, from foreign films to documentaries to classics. It's the perfect place for a budding filmmaker to spend the afternoon.
And don't forget that while USC's Gamecocks offer hours of fun for those who love sports, USC's Koger Center for the Arts offers just as much fun for those who love the arts.