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Archive for the ‘Summer in Columbia’ Category

Lake Murray Public Park: The Perfect Swimming Spot This Summer in Lexington, SC

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Are you planning a trip to Lake Murray Public Park in Lexington, SC? If you are looking for a family-friendly place to take a swim this summer, Lake Murray might be just the place. At Lake Murray Public Park you’ll find both a beach area and lake swimming access that’s the perfect place to play, then jump in and cool off. We recently visited Lake Murray Public Park and have all the details you need to know from a mom’s perspective.  

Lake Murray Park beach

Saluda Shoals Park: Outdoor Family Fun in Columbia, SC

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Are you thinking about a visit to Saluda Shoals Park? If you’re looking for ways to enjoy the great outdoors, have some fun on the Saluda River or explore awesome play areas with your kids, Saluda Shoals is the place for you! Saluda makes for the perfect day trip activity or even a wonderful place to spend a few extra hours out of the house. We’ve got all you need to know about things to do, our favorite places to go within the park, and events you won’t want to miss out on!  

Things to do at Saluda Shoals in Columbia, SC

This article includes:
Admission to Saluda Shoals
Leo’s Landing Playground at Saluda Shoals
Saluda Shoals Splash Pad
Swim in the Saluda River
Trails at Saluda Shoals
Kayak and Canoe at Saluda Shoals: Rentals available
River Tubing at Saluda Shoals
More Things to Do at Saluda Shoals
Summer Camps at Saluda Shoals


Shaded Citadel Park in Columbia, SC is Great for Playtime

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Do you need a shady outdoor space to beat the spring and summer heat in Columbia? Citadel Park is sure to be a treat! This quaint, family-friendly playground has so many unique and cozy features including a “Little Free Library,” beautiful landscape and large green space, a designated toddler area, and plenty of sitting space. 

Citadel Park

NEW LOCATION and Adventures coming to Cottle Strawberry Farm in Columbia, SC

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Have you visited Cottle Strawberry Farm for strawberry picking? Columbia, SC has one of the largest strawberry patches located on a beautiful, huge farm where strawberries are plentiful. Plus, it is such a memorable springtime experience to visit a strawberry farm. Columbia, SC’s Cottle Strawberry Farm offers both u-pick and prepicked strawberries, plus lots of NEW activities for the 2024 season!

The first thing I noticed when pulling into Cottle Strawberry Farm outside Columbia, SC was the rows upon rows upon rows of strawberries. The place is huge and the berries are juicy, sweet, and delicious. 

The Strawberry Farm

Cottle Strawberry Farm is run by Ms. Joy Cottle, and the family has been farming the land for about 50 years. They have two strawberry picking locations, one in Hopkins, SC, and the other in Florence, SC. We went to the one in Hopkins, right outside Columbia. 

They host field trips and, of course, families and others who want to get outside and pick their own berries. Only school groups need to make reservations, and like we always suggest, it’s good to call ahead before you go since the weather is a constant variable for u-pick farms. 

Besides picking your own strawberries, the farm offers locally made strawberry bread, local honey, tomatoes, jams, and salsas. The farm has multiple roadside stands (addresses are listed below) and sells their berries and local goods at farmers’ markets in the area. 

Cottle Strawberry Farm strawberries

Like some other farms, they have cute, painted boards to measure how tall your kids are every year and take photos with cut-out heads in painted scenes on boards. They have lots of new things that they have added for this coming 2024 season as well.

Strawberry Picking at Cottle Strawberry Farm

The farm offers two sizes for upick strawberry picking – a quart ($5) and a gallon ($17). They will give you directions on parts of the strawberry patch that are good for picking. Then head out and get those berries. It’s always a good idea to wear closed-toed shoes when strawberry picking due to ants, other insects, and mud. And a hat, sunscreen, and water are also great things to have with you, especially as the weather heats up. 

It only took us about 30 minutes to fill up two gallons, so the berries are plentiful, to say the least. There is a lot of space to spread out so even if you are there when a field trip or two are present, you won’t feel crowded. 


Check back soon for Cottle Strawberry Farm u-pick opening date for the 2024 season. They are usually open Monday – Saturday 8 am – 7 pm and Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, but remember this can change due to conditions in the field. We will update further as

You pick berries are $5/quart and $17/gallon. Berries picked by the farm are $6/quart, $14/half gallon, and $20/gallon. We pick berries are available at select stands beginning in mid-March.

Visiting Cottle Strawberry Farm

Cottle Strawberry Farms has two locations: 

  • 9560 Garners Ferry Road, Hopkins, SC 29061| 803.695.1714
  • 3712 W. Palmetto St Florence, SC 29501 | 843.317.0031

They post regularly on the Cottle Strawberry Farm Facebook with the latest updates regarding hours and berries available. Also, be sure to get the stamp from the farm if you are working your way through the SC Agritourism Passport!

cottle strawberry farm agritour

Roadside stands are located at: 

  • 1249 Alice Drive Sumter SC 29150
  • Bower Parkway and Harbison Blvd (across from PetSmart)
  • 5143 Forest Drive, Columbia SC 29206
  • 714 Clemson Road, Columbia SC 29229 (in the parking lot of Rodney’s Rockets and Fireworks)
  • 1839 Sunset Blvd, West Columbia, SC 29169
  • 582 Highway 1 South Lugoff, SC 29078  (beside River Crossing Shopping Center)
Strawberry picking: Columbia, SC

Is there such a thing as too many strawberries?

More Strawberry Farms Near Columbia, SC

12 Completely Free Things to do in Columbia, SC This Summer

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Are you searching for free things to do this summer in Columbia, SC? Whether you’re looking for money-saving outdoor adventures, ideas for cooling off around water, or if you’d rather stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning, we’ve got tons of great ideas for you! 

Free things to do in summer: Columbia SC

Great Deal: Toucan Tuesdays at Riverbanks Zoo 

Take advantage of BOGO admission and ICEE’s at Riverbanks Zoo every Tuesday from now through August 8, 2023. We know, this one isn’t complete;y free, but it’s too good of a deal not to include on our list!

To participate in Toucan Tuesdays, guests will need to bring at least two non-perishable food items to receive buy-one-get-one-free on admission and ICEE’s. 

1. Home Depot Kids’ Workshop

Head to your local Home Depot on the first Saturday of the month for the free Home Depot kids’ workshop. On August 5th, 2023 kids will build a treasure chest!

Free fun at Home Depot Kids Workshop

2. Cool Off in the Splash Pads 

There are several fantastic splash pads to choose from all throughout the Midlands and the majority of them are completely FREE! From downtown parks such as Emily Douglas and Elmwood Roy Lynch to Will B. Caracter Park in Lexington, splash pads are a great way to beat the famously hot heat! Be sure to double-check the splash pad operational times before you go as some have limited hours.

For more information on splash pads take a look at our HUGE list of more than 30 places you and your family can cool off this summer! 

3. Admire Artwork at The Columbia Museum of Art

Looking for something to do inside this summer? On August 3, 2023, residents can enjoy free admission to The Columbia Museum of Art, courtesy of Dominion Energy! Head to Boyd Plaza in the evening for more free fun such as live music, food vendors, and more. 

4. Enjoy an Outdoor Movie

There is just something about an outdoor family-friendly movie that screams summer fun! Doko Meadows Park is hosting another free summer movie series all summer long:

  • August 19 – Moana 
  • September 16 – Double Feature! Top Gun & Maverick 
  • October 21 – Hotel Transylvania 

Looking for more options to see low-cost summer movies? Check out our Free Movies for Summer for all the details! 

5. Play a Shady Round of Disc Golf

During the middle of summer, being in shaded spaces is about the only way to make the outdoors bearable. Stay active in the fresh air by playing a round of disc golf this summer!

Almost all disc golf courses can be found twisting and turning in and out of shady, wooded areas so keeping cool is a lot more manageable. There are great disc golf courses at Owens Field and Earlewood

6. Stroll Through the Farmers’ Markets 

Columbia is home to tons of fantastic farmers’ markets! Most of them happen weekly and some are larger than others. One of the most popular farmers’ markets, The Soda City Market, takes place every Saturday and makes for such a fun, family-friendly morning!

Here you can find more than just produce, there are also local crafters, food trucks, fresh flowers, street music, and so much more. Don’t forget to take a look at The Best Farmers Markets all around Columbia

8. Participate in an Event at the Library 

The Richland Library is full of great activities and events for kiddos of all ages! Enjoy the cool air conditioning while also trying out a story time, craft activity, family game night event, or just go to let your kiddos discover new books and play with the educational toys!

Don’t forget to participate in the library’s summer reading challenge

Children's Area in Richland County Libraries

9. Explore a Shaded Park 

We know what you’re thinking, an outdoor playground in the Columbia summer sun is the last place you want to go, but we know of a few shaded parks that we think will be a perfect fit:

  • Citadel Park – large green space, tall pine trees, plenty of seating, separate play space for toddlers 
  • Doko Meadows – huge shade coverings, artificial turf, fenced in, restrooms 
  • Hollywood Park – tons of climbing structures, shade coverings, large green space, covered shelter  
Parks: Columbia, SC with playgrounds and fun places to explore

Don’t stop there! Find more great places to play!

The Kidding Around Columbia Parks and Playgrounds Guide

10. Swim and Splash at Lake Murray Public Park 

At Lake Murray Public Park you will find both a beach area and lake swimming access, making the perfect place to play then jump in and cool off! Along with swimming you can also kayak, fish, and boat.

Keep in mind that there are two places to park when visiting Lake Murray. One lot is completely FREE and the other parking area will cost $5, cash only.

The free lot can be found just past the main parking area and does require a little bit longer of a walk, but if you come prepared with wagons, strollers, or just overall light packing, it is totally doable even with kids! 

Lake Murray beach in Lexington, SC

11. Cool Off at a Public Pool 

Life is cool at the pool and there are several completely free public pools in and near Columbia! 

12. Check Out Events at Icehouse Amphitheater 

Icehouse Amphitheater has several upcoming events this summer that are completely free. From outdoor movies to live music and more, you won’t want to miss these fun, kid-friendly events! 

  • July 21 – Frozen II
  • July 28 – Top Gun Maverick 
  • August 31 – The Hitmen 
  • September 7 – Cat5 Band 

More free things

Kids Eat Free in Columbia, SC

Grab a free meal for the kids!

Kids eat free in Columbia, SC

Summer in Columbia, SC

Summer Guide to Columbia,, SC

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Columbia, SC

Find all the fun in one place!

What is your favorite free summer activity in Columbia? 

Your Paddleboard Adventure is Waiting at California Republic SUP: Lake Murray

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Did you know that you can rent stand up paddleboards at California Republic SUP on Lake Murray? Using a stand up paddleboard (SUP) is not as hard as it looks! It’s an awesome family adventure. You can rent boards for just $25 for 2 hours on beautiful Lake Murray. Plus with restrooms and a picnic area on site, you have everything you need for an awesome day out on the lake.

Our family started paddling last year and we’ve taken our boards all over South Carolina and even on road trips up to the coast of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s a lot of fun! So when we saw local mom, Heather N. on Facebook sharing her paddleboard adventure on Lake Murray with California Republic SUP, we knew we had to share this very affordable opportunity with our readers. Thanks, Heather for talking to us and sharing your photo!

Rent paddleboards Lake Murray in Columbia, SC
Photo Credit Heather N.

What is a Paddle Board or SUP?

A paddle board and SUP are the same thing. SUP stands for “Stand Up Paddleboard.” The boards are hard, made of foam, fiberglass, or even wood. There are also inflatable stand up paddlebaords. Paddlers can sit, kneel or stand on their boards as they paddle.

At first standing up feels a little wobbly, but it really isn’t difficult. Want to stand up? My tip is do it quickly. You’d think you should try to stand up slowly. But in reality, that’s more time to lose your balance. Just move to your knees and then stand up. Find your balance once you’re standing, not as your standing.

Renting SUPs on Lake Murray

Where can you rent paddleboards on Lake Murray? California Republic SUP! Renting a paddleboard is a great way to try the sport and its also extremely convenient. You don’t have to transport the board or figure out where you’re putting the board in the water. You just show up and the boards are ready and waiting for you.

California Republic SUP rents boards for just $25 for 2 hours on the lake. You’ll find them at SouthShore Marina in Leesville, just a little over a half hour from downtown Columbia.

California Republic SUP: Mom Review

Local mom, Heather N. took her 8-year-old son paddleboarding with California Republic SUP and they had a fabulous time! She says owner “Steve is easy going and passionate about paddleboarding. He runs summer camps and is great with kids!”

And, if you have no idea what to do with this board thing, no worries! Heather says, “He will give a demo before you paddle out. The lake is so peaceful and it’s not as hard as you think it’s going to be. You can sit, kneel or stand.” 

I second this. Using an SUP is definitely not as hard as it looks.

Heather told us her 8 year-old was confident and able to paddle on his own without help. But, parents should know that the adult boards are big enough for a child to ride along instead of paddling their own board if that’s better for your family.

If you want to bring along your phone to capture some family memories, Steve sells a waterproof phone case so you can safely bring your phone along. I highly recommend these. We own one for our paddle board adventures. They are great because, in addition to being waterproof, they float. And, the front and back are clear and soft, so you can use the phone without removing it from the pack. Steve also has leashes for sunglasses available for sale.

Safety on the Lake

Life jackets are included in your rental AND they are required. The marina location means you do need to keep an eye out for boat traffic while you’re paddling. No matter where you paddle it’s always important to be alert and aware of your surroundings!

Things to Bring When You Paddleboard: California Republic SUP

  • Sunscreen/hat
  • A bottle of water
  • Towel
  • Snack or lunch to enjoy on the lawn by the marina
  • Some people prefer water shoes when they paddle. Personally, I only use them when it’s cold or when paddling in a saltwater or marshy area where crabs and the like may be present. You won’t need to worry about that in Lake Murray!

The details: How to rent paddleboards on Lake Murray

California Republic SUP sometimes offers open paddle hours on weekends, but due to changing demand, they may be moving towards a reservation-only style of operating. So, we definitely recommend reserving your paddleboards before you go! Reserve your boards by calling or texting Steve at 803.608.5033.

When you arrive, you’ll find plenty of parking on site. You’ll see a small sandy beach, where your boards will be waiting!

More from California Republic SUP

  • Ladies’ Night: Thursdays 6 to 8 pm (Make reservations as these sell out!)
  • Paddleboard Fitness
  • Yoga on paddleboards
  • Summer camps
  • California Republic SUP also sells paddleboards

Check it all out on the California Republic SUP Facebook page. You’ll find they post about their weekly event offerings regularly.

California Republic SUP
3072 US-378 Leesville, SC

Lake Murray Lexington, SC

We love Lake Murray!

Want to swim? Here’s what you need to know about the Lake Murray Public Park.

Columbia Fireworks! 4th of July Celebrations in Columbia, SC

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Have you been on the hunt for ways to celebrate the 4th of July in Columbia, SC? It’s time to bring out the red, white and blue because there are family-friendly events happening all weekend long offering things such as parades, concerts, Columbia fireworks, baseball games, and more!

We’ve gathered a list of these Independence Day events all around Columbia, SC, and know you will find the perfect celebration for you and your family below! 

If you are looking for New Year’s Eve Fireworks in Columbia, visit our article on New Year’s Eve in Columbia, SC.

4th of July in Columbia, SC

Sesquicentennial State Park: Gorgeous Splash Pad and $5 Kayak Rentals in Columbia, SC

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Have you visited Columbia, SC’s Sesquicentennial State Park? So close to downtown Columbia, this large park feels like a wooded retreat far away. Enjoy the outdoors, picnics, hiking, rent a kayak or pedal boat, and even have fun at a splash pad at Sesquicentennial State Park!

Sesqui State Park is a great place for a seriously budget-friendly day of adventure with your family!

Sesqui State Park

Play, Dig & Splash: Riverbanks Zoo Splashpad, Waterfall Junction

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Have you visited the Riverbanks Zoo Garden? The Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC are fun to visit any time of year, with a variety of attractions that keep everyone entertained, like the big attraction: Riverbank Zoo Splashpad!

At the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction you will find several beautiful and award-winning flower gardens, a huge splash pad, a dinosaur fossil dig, and several areas for exploration and play. We’ve got all you need to know to plan your trip from a mom who visits frequently! 

Waterfall Junction, Riverbanks Zoo Splashpad

This article includes:
Tickets for Waterfall Junction in Riverbanks Botanical Gardens
Parking for Waterfall Junction
About Riverbanks Botanical Gardens
About Waterfall Junction
Splashpad at Waterfall Junction
Toddler Splash Zone
Dino Dig
Greenspace at Waterfall Junction
More Things to Do at Waterfall Junction
Packing Checklist for Waterfall Junction and Riverbanks Botanical Gardens

Riverbanks Zoo

Visiting The Riverbanks Zoo and want to see the animals? You’ll want to jump over to our guide for the Riverbanks Zoo, as this piece focuses on the amazing gardens and water play spaces at the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens.

Tickets for Riverbanks Botanical Gardens  

Tickets can be bought online prior to your arrival or at the gates. To save a little bit of time, we recommend purchasing tickets in advance! Tickets to the gardens and Waterfall Junction are included in tickets for the animal side of the zoo. We discuss more about tickets and annual membership options in our guide for Riverbanks Zoo. 

Parking for Riverbanks Gardens and Waterfall Junction 

You can get into the Botanical Gardens/Waterfall Junction one of two ways.

  • If you’re looking to stop by and say hey to the animals first, parking in the main zoo lot at 500 Wildlife Parkway will be the best option for you. 
  • The second way to get to the Botanical Garden and Waterfall Junction side of the zoo is to park in the lot specifically designed for the gardens at 1300 Botanical Parkway. This parking lot is a bit smaller than the main lot and fills up quickly, especially on the weekends. Also found beside this parking lot is a nice-sized picnic shelter. Since outside food is not allowed in the zoo, this is a perfect spot to have a packed lunch before loading back into the car after your day of fun! 

Regardless of which parking lot you decide to park in, you can get to both the garden and animal side of the zoo easily. There is a tram that takes you back and forth or you can walk across the bridge connecting each side. If you’ve got littles or a lot of things to carry/push, it would be best to utilize the tram as the walk is a bit long and can get somewhat strenuous at times. 

Stroll Through the Gardens

At the Riverbanks Zoo Botanical Gardens, you will find more than 5,700 species of plants spread across 70-acres. And let me tell you, it is just as beautiful as it sounds! With several different gardens such as the walled garden, bog garden, and shade garden (just to name a few) there are no areas that won’t be fascinating and wonderful to look at!

Even in the cooler months, the zoo does a fantastic job at making sure the gardens still look as beautiful as possible. There are restrooms and sitting benches all throughout the gardens. Also, the walkways throughout the gardens are paved, making pushing strollers or wagons easy.  

Approaching Waterfall Junction at Riverbanks Zoo Garden

Riverbanks Zoo Splashpad

Within the Botanical Gardens, you will find Waterfall Junction – Riverbanks Zoo Garden’s very own huge splash pad and kiddy play zone! This area spans across 3-acres and includes a splash pad, life-size dinosaur fossil dig, a large treehouse, playhouses, and an open green space for endless fun and imagination! 

Waterfall Junction is open year-round, however, the splash pad is only open throughout the summer. All water functions turn off 15 minutes before closing. 

Splash Pad at Waterfall Junction

You haven’t been to a splash pad until you’ve tried out the one at Waterfall Junction! It is massive and will have your kiddos laughing and playing in the summer sun for hours.

Recently, the splash pad got a bit of an upgrade and now features soft, rubber flooring making it much less slippery and easier on little toes, however, water shoes are still a great idea. 

Think of the splash pad as 2 separate levels. The largest and first area includes a 25-foot waterfall surrounded by several water sprays all around. From here, your children can play and walk through a pretend stream complete with running water. 

Waterfall Junction

Toddler Splash Zone at Waterfall Junction

A little further down you will find a wooden bridge and another set of stairs down to the toddler splash zone. The toddler zone is operated by buttons to turn the sprayers off and on. There are a variety of water sprays here, no zones with standing water for added safety, and no sprayers that shoot out an intense amount of water.

There are also several Adirondack chairs and large umbrellas for shade that can be found here. Speaking of tots…if your children are not yet potty trained, swim diapers must be worn while at the splash pad! 

Toddler splash pad at Riverbanks Zoo Garden

We Love Waterfall Junction

There are several things to love about the splash pad, but one thing worth giving extra attention to is the fact that there are lifeguards that can be found all throughout the water areas!

While there aren’t many places with standing water, the splash pad itself is pretty spread out making it difficult to see your kids at all times, especially if you’ve got more than one to keep track of. It definitely gives some peace of mind knowing that there are extra sets of eyes on your tribe!  

Right next to the largest part of the splash pad you will find a covered picnic area that offers plenty of shade, tables, and chairs, and a great place to set down your bags or enjoy lunch and snacks. You will also find a concession stand, changing stations, and restrooms close by. 

Dino Dig 

Do you have any dino lovers in your family? If so, you won’t want to miss the dino dig! Here, you will find a huge sandpit with replicas of life-sized dinosaur bones scattered all around. There are plenty of buckets and shovels for your kiddos to use and put their archaeologist skills to the test! 

Dino Dig at Riverbanks Botanical Garden

Because this area is made up of sand, I highly suggest going here either before or after your children are done at the splash pad and have on their dry clothes. Most of the dig area is covered by large shades, however, there are a few parts that aren’t. If your kids are anything like mine, they will gravitate towards those tiny areas that aren’t shaded so I highly recommend bringing extra sunscreen and sun hats!  

Green Space 

In the middle of Waterfall Junction sits a large green space with endless amounts of open-ended fun! There are several hula-hoops, a wooden balance beam, and big building blocks that can be found here. Bring some bubbles or a ball to share, spread out a towel and have a family picnic, or just let your kids jump and run…the options are endless in this space! 

Greensapce at Riverbanks Zoo Garden

Other Things To Do at Waterfall Junction at Riverbanks Zoo Garden

Also found within Waterfall Junction are giant tree houses, playhouses, and a small, hidden playground. The tree house is 2 stories tall and gives great views of nature all around. The playhouses are situated right off of the green space and are great areas for the imagination to flow freely. 

To find the playground you will have to go to the toddler area and head left into what looks like a little grassy area. There is a wooden play structure with climbing ropes and a tunnel slide that can be found here. I like this area because it is a bit quieter than the other attractions and is a nice place to go for a bit of a break and reset if needed. 

Waterfall Junction Checklist

There is a lot to remember when you’ve got to load up your kids for a day out of the house, especially when there is a potential for water to be involved. Here are some things we don’t want you to forget when you visit the Riverbanks Zoo Splashpad at Waterfall Junction:

  • For the splash pad and Waterfall Junction
    • Water shoes
    • Towels
    • Sunscreen
    • Water bottles
    • Sunglasses
    • Sun hats 
    • Dry change of clothes
    • Swim diapers if not yet potty-trained 
    • Ball or bubbles for green space – not necessary, but fun! 
  • For the gardens
    • Stroller or wagon – can be rented at the zoo if needed 
    • Walking shoes
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug spray
    • Water bottle 

Riverbanks Botanical Gardens 
1300 Botanical Parkway
West Columbia, SC 29169 

Daily from 9 am – 5 pm 

Has your family visited the Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction yet? What attraction did you enjoy most? 

Splash in the Sprinklers at Elmwood Roy Lynch Park in Columbia, SC

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Are you looking for a fun place to cool off in Columbia, SC this summer? It’s time to pull out the sunscreen and water shoes and load up your herd for a trip to Elmwood Roy Lynch Park! Here you will find a splash pad, updated playground equipment, large zipline, and endless amounts of fun!  

Sign at Elmwood Roy Lynch Park

Elmwood Roy Lynch Park Quick Summary

  • Splash pad
  • Butterfly garden
  • Two imaginative playgrounds
  • Zip-line
  • Fenced park with only one entrance
  • No Restrooms