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10 Tips & Tricks For the Best Day at Riverbanks Zoo: Columbia, SC

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Are you planning a trip to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC? Some call it the Riverbank Zoo, some call it the Columbia Zoo, no matter what you call it, we know you’ll enjoy a trip to this popular Columbia, SC zoo.

With over 2,000 animals spread across 170 acres, plus a brand new aquarium and reptile complex, there is so much to explore, learn and do! We will share all of our tips, what to expect, and how to prepare for your day of wild, memorable fun at this awesome zoo in Columbia, beside the Saluda River.



Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia Zoo, Columbia, SC
Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is made up of two large sections. You have the zoo side and then you have the botanical gardens side. This is where Waterfall Junction, the popular splash pad and play space, is located.

Waterfall Junction, Riverbanks Zoo Splashpad

It’s so cool, that we have a whole other article focused just on the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction.

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So Many Great Opportunities for Hands-On Fun at Fox Farm in Lexington, SC

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Have you been thinking about a visit to Fox Farm in Lexington, SC? Are you looking for a budget-friendly way to enjoy farm activities and a petting zoo with your family? At Fox Farm there are hayrides, horse rides, and animal pettings and feedings available at a really great price! We recently went here and have everything you need to know in order to have a farm load of fun! 

Looking for more farms to visit? Be sure to check out our list of more fun farms!

Horses at Fox Farm

Loads of Fun and Learning at Fox Farm 

Your family will love the quaint and welcoming atmosphere at Fox Farm! There is a lot to love about this locally-owned farm, but one thing that really stood out to me were all of the great opportunities for hands-on learning. From feeding farm animals to riding horses and everything in between, your children will be able to experience so much during your visit! 

You Must Schedule Your Visit in Advance 

Fox Farm is open for family visits most Saturday’s throughout the year. However, it is important to note that they are by APPOINTMENT ONLY. This is to make sure they have enough staff available in order to give you and your family the best experience possible. To schedule your visit you can email foxfarmsc@yahoo.com or call 803.351.2462. 

In my experience, scheduling our trip was pretty simple. The owners responded to my emails quickly and were easy to work with. When our initial date didn’t work out, they were very helpful in offering new dates and times that would work with both of our schedules. 

Petting a horse at Fox Farm near Columbia, SC

Fox Farm is Super Budget Friendly! 

At Fox Farm you truly get your money’s worth and then some! For just $7 per child, your kiddos will be able to enjoy all of the exciting things the farm has to offer – horse riding, animal feeding, a hayride, and playground. Adults are able to ride on the hayride and enjoy the barnyard for FREE. Horse rides for adults are an additional $3. 

What is There To Do at Fox Farm? 

Horse Rides

One unique thing about Fox Farm is that they offer horse rides! Saddle up and enjoy being led down the path and back again. Both of my kids (1 and 3 years old) loved riding the horses! My son was able to ride by himself and although he started off a little nervous and unsure, he very quickly loosened up and had the best time. They allowed me to ride on the same horse with my 1-year old which was so fun and memorable. 

Ride a horse at Fox Farm

Barnyard and Animal Feedings 

Head over to the barnyard to get up close and personal to several of the farm animals! Staff members call you into groups where they will then lead you around the barnyard and hand out food for feeding. Throughout your adventure, you will have the opportunity to pet and feed a donkey, alpaca, pony, sheep, rabbits, and more! 

Feeding a goat at Fox Farm in Columbia, SC

Hayride

Almost all of us have been on at least one hayride, but the hayrides at Fox Farm are unlike any other. Also referred to as “CRAAAZY Time”, your kiddos will have a lot of fun giggling and playing along with the driver throughout the ride. Along with this silly, bumpy ride you will also be able to see more of the property. 

Play Area

The play area is in the middle of the farm and has several great obstacles and activities for kids. They’ve got traditional swings, bucket swings, slides, and my son’s personal favorite, the tractor to “drive”. 

Fox Farm tractor

Schedule Your Next Party at Fox Farm!

Have a birthday party coming up? You might want to consider Fox Farm! Each party costs $200 and includes all of the activities mentioned above – hayride, horse riding, and a trip to the barnyard to feed and pet the animals. There are also a few add-on options available such as heater rentals for the cold months, BB gun shooting, and even the option to have a horse dressed up like a unicorn…talk about a memorable birthday! 

Fox Farm
133 Virginia Pine Lane
Lexington, SC 29073

What is your favorite memory from Fox Farm?

See the Spookiest Halloween Houses and Displays: Columbia, SC

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Ready to hop in the car for some totally free Halloween fun, checking out the spookiest Halloween displays in Columbia? We asked our readers to send us photos of their over-the-top, totally decked-out Halloween houses.

So, cue up Monster Mash and get ready to hit the road for a Spooky Halloween House Driving Tour.

While we’re waiting for a few more spooky homes to share in order to make our driving routes, here’s a sneak preview of some Halloween houses that are already delivering some spooky, festive fun to Columbia!

Jump in the car and check them out, and don’t forget to let us know if you’re house is one of the spookiest, creepiest, and most Halloween spirit-filled on your block. We want to know! Just fill out our Halloween Display form.

Spooky House Display, driving tour in Columbia, SC

Note: Parents, the display owners sent us a “scare rating” for their displays. The ratings are out of 5, with 5 being the scariest.

We have added our first driving route with spooky houses from Chapin to Lexington, SC. Use the map below to see the location of all the houses on our list and to access driving directions for our routes.

Columbia’s Halloween Houses

352 Eagle Pointe Drive, Chapin

Towering skeletons light up this yard along with pumpkins, spiders, and more.

Scary Rating: Not Reported

Halloween House on Eagle Point in Chapin, SC

2443 Old Lexington Highway, Chapin

This spooky Halloween house in Chaping, SC features animatronics, lights, and homemade decorations. This one has a bit of gore, so parents be warned.

Scary rating: 3 out of 5

112 Tom Blanchette Drive, Irmo

112 Tom Blanchtte Drive, Irmo, Halloween house

When you drive by this Halloween house you’ll find a scary pumpkin patch theme, including an inferno skeleton and other animatronics. But that’s not all. If you’re lucky enough to pass the backyard by boat, you’ll also see a spooky graveyard scene.

Scary rating: 3 out of 5

407 River Club Road, Lexington

Check out the creepy circus and evil carnival theme at this Lexington Halloween house. With an eerie orange glow, it features creepy clown dolls and animatronics.

Scary rating: 2 out of 5

312 Three Oaks Drive, Lexington

This yard is totally loaded up with spooky things including a 12-foot skeleton and lots of inflatables.

Scary rating: 0 out of 5

514 Sterling Ponds Drive, Blythewood

The spooky display at Sterling Ponds Drive features 12-foot skeletons, a flying witch, a graveyard, and various animatronics.

Scary rating: 4 out of 5

Get on this list!

We know there are more spooky, creepy, festive, lit-up, houses out there in Columbia that are totally full of Halloween fun. Proud of your display, don’t let our readers miss out! Let us know about your great Halloween decorations and displays. Just fill out our Halloween Display Columbia, SC form and include a picture!

More Spooky Routes

If you’re heading to the Upstate, you’ll want to check out these Halloween Display Driving Routes on Kidding Around Greenville.

Kidding Around Spotify Halloween Playlist

Enjoy some family-friendly Halloween music while you follow the tour, through the Kidding Around Spotify playlist we created. You can stream it through your car speakers with the Spotify App.

Halloween in Columbia, SC

For more Halloween fun, don’t miss our HUGE Halloween in Columbia, SC Guide!

Drive and Learn About Model Trains at AMROC in Columbia, SC

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Did you know that the Associated Model Railroad of Columbia, or AMROC, is regularly open to the public free of charge? Whether you’re an experienced model train hobbyist or just have a young child who likes trains, AMROC could be just right for you! You’ll be able to learn how to drive a model train, how the trains work, all about the different models, and more! See model trains in Columbia, SC at AMROC!

See model trains! Columbia, SC has a free model train museum at AMROC.

What is AMROC? 

Located directly across the street from the Governor’s Mansion, you will find the Associated Model Railroads of Columbia, also known as AMROC. AMROC is an organization made up of several members who build and operate a variety of model trains. They’ve got large “G Scale” models, tiny “N Scale” models, and everything in between. 

AMROC is Open to the Public at No Cost 

Every Thursday, excluding the first Thursday of the month, the members of AMROC open up the building to the public. They begin their demonstrations at 7 pm and are there to educate the community about model trains, give advice on modeling and servicing, and even allow the public to run their own model trains along the tracks. These Thursday events are completely FREE and they welcome all ages to join in on the fun! 

You will need to enter the building on the main level using the door along Laurel Street and across from Finlay Park. There is plenty of on-street parking and a parking garage right next door if needed! 

Kids drive the train displays at AMROC Columbia.

Become a Conductor at the Associated Model Railroad of Columbia 

My husband and I recently had the opportunity to take our kiddos to ARMOC and were greeted with knowledgeable model train engineers who were eager to get us involved. The members answered several of our questions and curiosities, taught us about the differences in each model, and gave us several neat facts about the trains. 

My 4-year-old son was given the opportunity to “drive” one of the model trains and to say his day was made would be an understatement! He was given the throttle and shown how to make the train stop, control the speed, blow the whistle, and make steam come out. He spent the majority of our time there being a little conductor and had so much fun doing so! 

We also had our 2-year-old daughter with us and while she was a bit too young to get as much out of it as my son, she still had fun watching the “choo-choos” and pointing out all the details within the displays.  

Associated Model Railroad of Columbia 

Quick Takeaways: Parent Review and Things to Know

Even though my daughter enjoyed the experience, I think it is best suited for children no younger than 4 years old.

Because of the large models, there isn’t tons of “wiggle room” so keep that in mind as you’re loading up. Strollers would be best kept in the car.

Also, be sure to talk with your kiddos about the importance of not touching the models or trains themselves unless they are given permission.

Happy chugging! 

Upcoming Seasonal Events at AMROC

Along with the Thursday events, AMROC also hosts several other events and demonstrations throughout the year! Some of their upcoming kid-friendly events include:

  • Track or Treat – October 26, 2023 from 7 pm to 9 pm
  • Christmas Show – December 2, 2023 from 10 am to 3 pm 

Associated Model Railroad of Columbia 
1800 Lincoln Street, Columbia 

Have you had the chance to check out AMROC yet?

Free Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Discover more totally fun and totally free things to do in Columbia, SC!

Free Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Your Family Will Love Hollywood Park in Columbia, SC

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Have you ever been to Hollywood Park in Columbia, SC? If you’re looking for a playground that offers shade, has great play equipment, an open green space, and a picnic shelter where you can enjoy snacks or lunch we’ve got just the place for you! Hollywood Park has all of these things and more. We recently went there and think it is a wonderful place to enjoy some fresh air and playtime with your kiddos! 

Hollywood Park: Charming, Cozy, and Quiet 

Located on the edge of downtown Columbia, in the cozy Hollywood Rose Hill Neighborhood, you will find Hollywood Park. The park itself is such a charming hidden gem. You will be welcomed with raised flower beds that are maintained by the neighborhood residents and a beautiful walkway leading into the park. 

Hollywood Park is completely fenced-in, making it an ideal place to go with little kids or large groups. While there is no designated parking lot for this playground, there are plenty of on-street parallel spaces. Another thing I noted while visiting this quaint play area was that there are no restrooms. Be sure to plan accordingly! 

Hollywood Park playground

Awesome and Shaded Playground at Hollywood Park 

The playspace at Hollywood Park is a perfect size and has tons of fun climbing equipment! One thing I really liked is that the majority of the play area was covered by large shade sails. This made a huge difference in keeping the equipment cool. The playground is made up of sand so keep in mind that close-toed shoes are ideal! 

There are two main play structures at Hollywood Park. One is much larger and fit for older kiddos. It has an awesome climbing wall, archway for climbing, and even monkey bars. The playscape for younger children is equally as awesome with a fun tunnel to crawl through and slides perfect for their size! While there are some swings at this park, there are no bucket swings. 

Hollywood Park Has a Great Green Space 

Another thing to love about Hollywood Park is the awesome green space! It is the perfect size for so many activities and open play. Bring a large blanket and have a fun family picnic, some bubbles for your toddlers, balls, or even play a fun game of tag. My son and his friend had a great time kicking a soccer ball around! 

Hollywood Park entrance

Picnic Tables and Shelter 

At the main entrance, you will see a huge covered picnic shelter with lights and a few picnic tables underneath. We sat here to have our lunch and it was perfect! There are also several other picnic tables found on the outskirts of the green space. These tables are under the trees and are shaded, making it a great place to read books, enjoy some snacks, or a place for littles to take a rest. 

Hollywood Park shelter

More Things to do Nearby 

From Hollywood Park, you are about 5 minutes from the “Five Points” area of downtown Columbia. Here, you will find great clothing boutiques, coffee shops such as Drip, and several places to get sweet treats or delicious meals. We would recommend trying out Gourmet Shop, Hometeam BBQ, Pawley’s Front Porch, or The Baked Bear if you’re looking for something sweet. 

Also within a 10-minute drive from Hollywood Park, you will find the University of South Carolina, SC State House, and The Vista area. The Vista is where you can find more shopping, restaurants, and coffee shops. You could even pack up a wagon or stroller and take a walk around the beautiful and well-established neighborhood streets all around. Whatever you decide, we hope your family has a great time exploring! 

Hollywood Park 
216 S Gregg St. 
Columbia, SC 29205

Have you taken your family to play at Hollywood Park? What did you like about this playground? 

Visit Farms and Win Prizes with the SC Agritourism Passport Program

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Looking for a fun way to explore our state’s different sources of plant- and animal-based products? The SC Agritourism Passport Program is an incentive program where people can earn free goodies for visiting places that are probably already on your to-do list! The good news is there are nearly two dozen farms not far from Greenville and Spartanburg. Visiting farms is more than a fun, family activity; it’s also a field trip-worthy educational opportunity! 

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See Dinosaurs, Critters, Minerals, and More At The Schiele Museum of Natural History In Gastonia, North Carolina

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Have you visited the Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium? Located in Gastonia, North Carolina the museum makes a great day trip. Expect to have a spectacular time exploring exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, critters, nature and so much more! If you haven’t been yet, you should definitely add it to your museum bucket list.

Schiele Museum of Natural History and Planetarium near Gastonia, North Carolina

Thank you to the Schiele Museum for providing admission to the museum so we could bring this review to our readers! The words and opinions in this article are those of the writer.

Read our Guide to Fun in Gastonia, NC for more fun you can have while visiting the museum.

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Pick apples, explore a corn maze, and eat pumpkin donuts at Stepp’s Orchard in Hendersonville, NC

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Stepp’s Apple Orchard is a family-owned orchard in Hendersonville, NC. They have u-pick apples, lots of fun family activities on weekends, and pretty amazing cider and pumpkin donuts.

Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard is the very first u-pick apple orchard in Henderson County and has been in operation for more than 50 years. They know what they’re doing, and we had to go check it out for ourselves. Honestly, I went for the pumpkin donuts. I love apple cider donuts, but pumpkin? Yes, please!

One thing that stood out to me immediately was just how super nice and helpful everyone at the orchard was. They have u-pick apples, pre-picked apples, a big store that sells homemade soap, t-shirts, and honey, a bakery, corn maze, pumpkin patch, jumping pillow, apple canon, and wagon ride. Some of these activities are only available on weekends, which I’ll tell you about in this review.

Stepps Apple Orchard
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Enjoy the Rivers of Columbia on Three Rivers Greenway Trail: West Columbia Riverwalk, Cayce Riverwalk, Saluda Riverwalk

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Are you looking for a great way to enjoy the beautiful rivers at a riverwalk? Columbia, SC has several riverwalk options on the Three Rivers Greenway Trail and the Saluda Riverwalk? No matter what time of year, the riverwalks within the Three Rivers Greenway Trail provide a fantastic place to exercise, take a leisurely stroll with your family, enjoy a picnic, fish, learn how to bike ride, and so much more. Below we’ve got all you need to know about the West Columbia Riverwalk, Cayce Riverwalk, and newly developed Saluda Riverwalk! 



Paved path at West Columbia Riverwalk

Be sure to also check out our list of 50+ totally FREE things to do!

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Get into the Fall Spirit with a Visit to Sky Top Orchard

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Fall is just about here! Time for corn mazes, fall festivals, and apple picking! One of the local favorites is Sky Top Orchard near Flat Rock, NC. Read on for local mom Jackie Vest’s tips and things to expect when you visit Sky Top Orchard, so you can make the most of your visit!

See our full list of Apple Orchards Near the Upstate. For more fall fun check out our Pumpkin Patch Guide and our Corn Maze Guide!

Guide to Fall in Greenville, SC

Looking for more fall fun? Here are over 30 things to do this fall near Greenville.

Experience Sky Top Orchard

The Sky Top apple season starts in August and runs through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, giving families plenty of opportunities to seek out their favorite varieties of apples. This orchard has over 22 different kinds of apples to choose from! They also churn out a regional sensation: apple cider donuts!

As soon as you pull up to the orchard and open your car door, you are drawn in with the delicious fried cidery-sugary smell wafting through the air. Plan on buying at LEAST a dozen. If you come on a busy weekend, you’ll need to wait in line for them, but don’t let that stop you!

Apple picking is an enjoyable activity for kids of all ages. While you may need to walk a bit to the row of choice, the picking is quick and easy work. Many apples are available low to the ground, easy picking for even the smallest kiddos. My boys (ages 5 & 7) hopped off the hayride, took off down a row, and filled up their bags before I even caught up with the little stinkers!

The orchard also offers plenty of play structures, Bee Train, a Gold Rush Gem Mine, a honeybee hive (in which kids can usually spot the queen bee behind the glass), a bamboo forest, some farm animals like sheep, chickens, goats, and peacocks, and plenty of delectable goodies in addition to the apples and cider donuts.

Pies, jellies, hot cider, fudges, and frozen apple cider slushies, to name a few! Outside food is acceptable and there are plenty of picnic tables or areas to spread a blanket – just be mindful of bees and limit sugary foods.

The orchard also does a great job accommodating large groups with hayride tours, apple picking, and educational programs which teach kiddos everything they could want to know about how apples grow through the seasons. This is a favorite field trip destination!

apple picking at Sky Top Orchard

Tips for visiting Sky Top

Be sure to check out Skytop’s FAQs for tips before you visit.

Bring cash or check – while they do accept credit cards, their wifi can be spotty so their credit card processing system isn’t always working.

Try to go on a Monday or early week. The weekends can get pretty busy.

Wear sneakers or other walking shoes that are okay to get dirty.

Bring quarters for feeding the farm animals.

Sky Top has real bathrooms now. No more having to use a port-a-potty.

Apple varieties are planted in accordance of when they are in season. They plant the earliest apples closest to the entrance and it progresses further away as the season goes on. In other words, the later in the season you visit the orchard, the further you will need to plan on walking to pick apples.

There are plenty of already-picked apples to choose from if you want all the fresh flavor without the work.

You must pre-pay for apples and you are required to pay for at least one peck per 6 people (around 10 pounds). A basket is provided.

Here is their picking schedule (which lists available varieties).

Sky Top Orchard is open 7 days a week from 9 am – 6 pm.

The orchard is located above Flat Rock, NC and here are directions to Sky Top Orchard.

We love this place and like so many others, we have made it an annual Mecca. I hope this has been helpful, see you at the orchard! Find our tips on picking apples with kids here.

When visiting Flat Rock, NC, consider our day trip guide to Flat Rock for more suggestions on activities in the area, including all that there is to do in very near Hendersonville, NC. Nearby attractions include the Team Ecco Aquarium, the Carl Sandburg House, and the Western NC Nature Center.

Has your family experienced Sky Top Orchard yet?