When most people think of Columbia, SC, they think of it as the home of the University of South Carolina. But, Columbia is much more than a college town!
Columbia, SC is a diverse city center with a great arts scene, delicious dining, fun outdoor recreation and more. It has a vibrant and hip Downtown scene. Plus, surrounding neighborhoods each with their own unique characteristics.
And, there is always something to do in Columbia, which makes it a great destination for families! There’s no shortage of ways to keep your children entertained here.
Below, we’ll look at the top family-friendly activities in Columbia, SC.
About Columbia, SC
Columbia, SC is a wonderful city for young families. It offers many of the attractions you’d find in larger cities but has a small-town feel.
And, it won’t cost your family much to have a good time! Entertainment in Columbia is more affordable than in many neighboring cities, and there are even ways to explore the city for free.
Here are just a few reasons folks love Columbia:
- Various arts and culture districts with delicious dining
- Many beautiful lakes surrounding Columbia make for fun outdoor recreation
- It’s less than 3 hours to the beach or the mountains
Top Family-Friendly Activities
There’s nothing like spending quality time with family. Check out some of the top family-friendly activities in Columbia, SC. We’ve rounded up great options both indoors and outdoors!
These activities are perfect for a rainy day or for keeping the little ones entertained for hours!
1. Museums and History
Keeping the kids busy and expanding their knowledge at the same time is a win-win! Columbia is home to many museums and places for educational fun.
For something adults and kids can enjoy, go to the South Carolina State Museum. This is SC’s largest museum, which has permanent and changing exhibits, a planetarium, a 4D theater and more.
For younger children, check out EdVenture Children’s Museum. This museum encourages creativity and imagination and is full of interactive displays.
For art lovers and older children, the Columbia Museum of Art is a great option. This is a great way to help your children grow an appreciation for the arts! The CMA even hosts “stroller tours” and special walkthrough days for families.
2. Escape Rooms
Test your family’s mystery-solving abilities with an Escape Room! Escape Rooms are great for family bonding and fun for the entire family.
There are a few different Escape Rooms in Columbia, SC. Here are a few worth checking out:
- Check out 12 different private escape rooms at Escapology
- Escape Plan, which was voted one of the top 5 escape rooms in the US
- For a more intense game with older kids, go to Final Door
Since most escape rooms only take an hour to complete, make a whole night out of it! After you put your skills to the test, reward the family with some local ice cream at one of our favorite spots.
If you want to prepare your mystery-solving skills first, try out an at-home escape room game from Amazon!
You can never go wrong with an arcade for hours of fun and family rivalry.
Columbia is home to a few great arcades with things like:
- Classic games
- Virtual reality games
- Indoor playgrounds
- Food and drinks
For a place that has all of the above, check out Frankie’s Fun Park.
For older kids, check out Dave & Busters. Here, you can play all the arcade classics, eat, and hang out at the sports bar to catch the latest games.
Or, switch it up and go to Bowlero. Bowlero is best known as a spot to go bowling, but it has a retro arcade feel. Plus a few arcade games, food, drinks and more.
4. Support Local Theatre
Columbia, SC has a vibrant arts scene, and it’s not just for adults!
There are a number of ways to get kids involved in the arts at a young age, whether it’s watching a show or being in one.
One of the top spots for young theatre lovers to check out is Columbia Children’s Theatre. They host many shows throughout the year geared towards younger audiences.
For a show mom and dad will enjoy just as much, go to the Koger Center for the Arts. They host many family-friendly shows year-round.
Annie and Legally Blonde are two shows to look out for at the Koger Center in 2023!
5. Trampoline Park
If you have energetic kids at home, a trampoline park is a great rainy day or weekend activity. And, it’s a fun way for older kids or adults to let their energy out from time to time, too.
Most trampoline parks in Columbia have adventure courses, basketball hoops, games and more.
Here are some of the best trampoline parks in Columbia, SC:
Or, bring the fun to your own backyard! There are some nice large and enclosed trampolines on Amazon.
You can enjoy outdoor activities in Columbia year-round thanks to the city’s mild weather. There are many ways to get out and explore the city, but we’ve included some of our favorite outdoor activities below.
1. Go to a Local Park
One of the best (and free!) ways to get outside in Columbia is by visiting a local park.
All parks in the city are family-friendly, and have different features that the whole family can enjoy. Most parks in Columbia have playgrounds, picnic tables and shelters. Plus large grassy spaces, which are perfect for picnics or frisbee!
If you’re planning a picnic at a local park, don’t leave without an outdoor blanket like this large water-resistant picnic blanket from Amazon!
Here are some of the best local parks in Columbia, SC for a family day out:
- Finlay Park at 930 Laurel St.
- Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park at 312 Laurel St.
- Maxcy Gregg Park on Blossom St.
All parks are dog-friendly, but if you’re looking for an actual dog park Columbia has plenty of those, too!
2. Canoe or Kayak the River
Columbia is known for its river system, which is made up of the Congaree River, Broad River and Saluda River. And on a sunny Spring or Summer day, there’s no better family activity thank floating down one!
There are a few different ways to float the river. You can go through a company like Palmetto Outdoors to rent a tube, kayak or canoe, or you can bring your own to a drop-in spot.
If you want to bring a kayak, here are some top picks from Amazon worth checking out.
- Top inflatable kayak for 1-person: Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series
- Top inflatable 2-person kayak: Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
- Best Budget & Sit-on-Top Kayak: Pelican Sentinel Sit-on-Top Kayak
You can learn all how to canoe and kayak one of Columbia’s rivers here.
3. Riverbanks Zoo
Riverbanks Zoo is one of the top family-friendly attractions in the state. And nothing beats getting the kids out for a day of fun watching and learning about animals!
Here are some of the different ways to spend your time at Riverbanks Zoo:
- Check out the indoor and outdoor animal enclosures
- Feed the lorikeets or giraffes
- Walk through the botanical gardens
- Get adventurous on the ropes course
- Pet farm animals at the petting zoo
And if you’re looking for other zoos or aquariums, check out this article on our site that talks about some of the best in Georgia and South Carolina.
In short, you can see there are many fun ways to spend time with your family in Columbia, SC! Whether spending time indoors or outside, you can’t go wrong.
Want to make a weekend out of it? Check out this blog post on camping in Columbia, or plan a beach trip to one of the top 10 beaches closest to the city.
But most of all, have fun and enjoy the quality time together!