If you’re planning a trip to South Carolina and the capital city isn’t already on your to-do list, you’ll definitely want to add a stop. The sweet little city of Columbia is full of perfectly manicured parks, cute boutiques, delicious restaurants, and is actually a great place to bring the kids!
With an acclaimed zoo, an interactive children’s museum, lots of green space, and some fun bars and restaurants, you’ll find awesome things that you and your little ones will enjoy. The town is relatively compact and pedestrian-friendly so if you opt for a hotel downtown you’ll be able to walk everywhere.
If you’re planning a trip to Columbia, South Carolina and want to bring the kids along, check out our guide to the best things to do with little ones below. You’ll get some much-needed adult time and your kids will stay busy all day. Enjoy!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: Awesome Things to do with Kids in Columbia, SC!
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5 Awesome Things to Do in Columbia, SC with Kids!
1. See the Animals at the Zoo
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is most certainly the top thing to do in Columbia, and it might even be the top attraction in South Carolina! Originally opened to the public in 1974, Riverbanks has since earned the reputation as one of the best zoos in America and attracts a million visitors annually.
Riverbanks is a mid-sized zoo and is easy to navigate on foot due to its loop configuration. While many zoos are so large that you must take a shuttle or plan on being there for an entire day, you can see all of the best exhibitions at Riverbanks in just a few hours.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking this zoo is small, it’s home to over 2,000 animals! The botanical garden opened in 1995 and contains more than 4,300 species of native and exotic plants. The garden blooms year-round so no matter what time of year you visit, you’re sure to be impressed by this serene setting.
Children will love the “farm area” of the zoo where they can get up and personal with the goats and pigs, the giraffe feeding, and the “kangaroo walkabout” enclosure. The botanical garden features an interactive children’s garden to inspire kids to combine their imagination with the great outdoors.
Children and adults aged 13-61: $21.99 + tax
Children aged 2-12: $18.99+ tax
Seniors and military: $19.99+ tax
Children under 2: FREE
Hours: Open daily from 9:00am until 5:00pm
2. Visit the Children’s Museum
No matter what age your children are, they are bound to have a blast at EdVenture Children’s Museum! Once you enter the museum you’ll be greeted by Eddie, the massive statue of a little boy holding a dragonfly. Bigger kids can climb inside of Eddie and explore his organs via a system of ladders and slides (this exhibit isn’t great for younger kids due to confined spaces, some big steps, and lots of older kids running around).
The first floor features several fun rooms where kids can explore, learn, and play. Little kids will love the grocery store that includes kid-sized shopping carts and checkout lines that light up and make noise. There’s an actual firetruck where kids can put on a jacket and a helmet and sit in the driver’s seat.
The second floor has a special room for kids under 3 where they can run around without bigger kids to run them over. Depending on when you visit they may have a craft table or storytime. There’s also a nursing area and a large family restroom to make changing diapers easy on parents.
The second floor also has a very cool aerospace exhibit where kids can actually sit in the cockpit of a plane!
Children and adults: $11.95
Seniors and military: $10.95
Children 23 months and younger: FREE
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00am until 4:00pm, Sunday from 12:00am until 4:00pm
3. Go for a Walk in Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park is located just 30 minutes south of Columbia but even though it’s easy to get to, it’s still the 10th least visited national park in the US. But with over 26,000 acres of lush trees that form one of the highest temperate deciduous forest canopies in the world, it would be a pity to miss this beautiful landscape during your vacation in Columbia!
Congaree was designated a national park in 2003 so it’s one of the newer additions to the park system. Many visitors choose to canoe or kayak on the Congaree River to get a great view of the floodplain forest from the water.
But if you’re traveling with children, we’d suggest sticking to the 2.4-mile boardwalk loop trail that begins and ends at the Visitor’s Center. This wooden walkway is well-maintained, easily accessible, and mostly flat. So even if you are carrying a child on your back or need to bring your stroller, you should have no trouble completing this trek.
As you wander through the swampy forest you’ll be surrounded by mud and vegetation in every direction. If you’re lucky you may see deer, birds, snakes, and possibly even an alligator when you walk out over the lake. The trail is also well signed and has a handy guide to point out a few fun facts along the way.
4. Play at the Park
For a relatively small city, Columbia has a ton of green space that can be enjoyed by all! And many of the parks in Columbia have playgrounds that are perfect to help to wear your kiddos out before bedtime. Just note that Columbia gets quite hot so you’ll want to lather your babies up with sunscreen before letting them run wild.
Finlay Park is right near downtown and features a really a beautiful water fountain and a new playground for kids. Just note that this park doesn’t have a ton of shade, so a midday visit on a hot day isn’t ideal.
Guignard Park is a peaceful park with a creek running through the middle. The playground is modest but has some shade to keep your kids out of the blazing Columbia sun. Plus there are a few picnic tables around in case you want to bring snacks and have a little family picnic!
5. Enjoy a Beer
The city of Columbia has a young, hip vibe so you know there must be plenty of happening things to keep people entertained. Most of those things revolve around alcohol of course. And while a brewery might not be a place you’d normally take a child, in Columbia it’s pretty common.
Breweries are generally in warehouse-type settings so there’s plenty of room for little ones to run around. And brewery staff are generally laid back and won’t mind if your child isn’t perfectly behaved during your visit. Plus there are rarely very many things lying around a brewery that are at risk of being broken (other than pint glasses of course).
Weco Bottle and Beirgarten is our top choice for a kid-friendly bar in Columbia. Parents will appreciate the wide selection of canned beer and cider, as well as the cheap beer on draft out back. And kids will love the massive fenced yard where they can run wild. And for food, there are different vendors that set up shop on the back deck on different days. It’s the perfect place for parents to enjoy a cold one without worrying about entertaining the kids.
Columbia Craft Brewing Company is another great option for an afternoon beer in Columbia. There is space inside and outside for your kids to stretch out a bit. Plus they have a little bookshelf of games to keep older children busy while you take a load off.
What is your favorite kid-friendly activities in Columbia, South Carolina? Comment below so we can add it to the list!
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