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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, 2023 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! 

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 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

Free Movies for Summer, Plus Super Cheap Options in Columbia, SC

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Are you wondering where you can find free movies for summer in Columbia, SC? Regal Movies, the Town of Blythewood, the Icehouse Amphitheater, and The Big Mo are hosting summer movie events that your whole family will love! Below we’ve got the details on where you can see movies for free or super budget-friendly this summer. 

Let’s Go to the Summer Movies: Columbia, SC  

It’s no secret that taking your family to the movies can be quite expensive – the tickets, popcorn, drinks, and candy all add up QUICK! Maybe you’ve even got a toddler or two that you’re just not sure are ready to make it through a whole movie in a crowded, evening theater, but taking them during the day or even to an outdoor venue might seem a little more manageable!

This summer we found great options to not only make going to the movies cheap but also fun and memorable for your whole tribe. Try these summer movies for kids and families this year and don’t break the bank to do it!

free movies for summer, Columbia, SC

Beat the Summer Slide! FREE Summer Reading Programs: Columbia, SC

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Have you been searching for summer reading programs to keep your child reading, motivated, and learning throughout break? While summer is usually time for mental breaks, going on family trips and sleeping in, there can also be time for slowing down with a good book in hand.

Whether your child will be starting out this upcoming year as a preschool or kindergartener or if you’ve got older, high school teens, we’ve got a reading program for everyone…even you! 

Find all the “summer reading programs near me” you could possibly desire on this list!

Summer reading programs near me: Columbia SC summer reading prizes

Read to Succeed This Summer 

We’ve all heard the statistics and recommendations on reading – reading to your babies and tots will help develop their speech and literacy understanding, low reading levels, unfortunately, lead to increased school drop-out rates, reading increases knowledge, and so on.

The summer months are a great time to encourage your child to read while also having fun! Long car trips, plane rides, and stormy summer days make for the perfect opportunity to open up a book of their choice. Let kids read for enjoyment instead of purely school-related outcomes, while also practicing super important reading skills.

Read Together

Make it a family affair and jump into the challenges with them, model the behavior you’re wanting to see, and help them earn their potential rewards. Read books together, out loud. Or, share the books you’ve read individually. Consider how you can share your books. Present a book report, skit, poster, or find some other creative way for each member of the family to share their favorite book read this summer.

Below you will find both local and virtual reading programs throughout the summer and several of them can earn your children awesome prizes! 

2023 Summer Reading Programs in Columbia, SC

Win prizes for reading, or develop those reading and literacy skills with these summer reading programs and incentives in the Columbia, SC area.

First, start with your local library.

Lexington County Public Library Summer Reading Program

The Lexington County Library’s summer reading program offers programs for kids and all ages, even adults! This year’s theme is “All Together Now” and begins June 1, 2023. This theme will focus on friendship, unity, and spreading kindness throughout our community. There will be several summer reading kick-off parties around Lexington beginning on June 1:

June 1, 2023

  • Gilbert-Summer Library from 12 pm – 2 pm
  • Chapin Branch Library from 5:30 pm – 7 pm

June 3, 2023

  • Pelion Branch Library from 10 am – 12 pm

June 5, 2023

  • Gaston Branch Library from 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
  • Cayce-West Columbia Branch from 5 pm – 7 pm

June 6, 2023

  • Batesburg-Leesville Branch from 2 pm – 4 pm
  • Irmo Branch from 4 pm – 6 pm

June 7, 2023

  • Icehouse Amphitheater from 3 pm – 6 pm

June 9, 2023

  • South Congaree Branch from 10 am – 12 pm
  • Swansea Branch from 2 pm – 4 pm

Each event has free admission and will have activities planned. You’ll be able to sign-up for the summer reading challenge and get your reading packet. Be sure to check out each library’s website to get more information on special events that will be at your local kick-off party! 

Richland County Library Summer Learning Challenge 

The Summer reading challenge for the Richland County library begins on June 1, 2023 and ends on August 13, 2023. The goal is to earn a total of 30 points by collecting 1 point each time your child reads for 30 minutes, attends a summer learning challenge program, or completes a learning activity of their choice. Points must be tracked on the “Paper Tracker” which can be picked up at the library or printed from the website. 

Once completed, take your child’s tracker to the library and receive a medal, FREE passes for one adult and one child to the Columbia Museum of Art, $2 off coupon for the family book sale, BOGO coupon for Pelican’s SnoBalls, and a FREE pass to a select Columbia Fireflies baseball game. 

Richland Library Reading Club 

This reading club is led by library reading specialists and is for rising 3rd-grade students. The club is designed for children who are reading below their grade level and who need some extra help with phonics and reading strategies throughout summer break! You must register your child for this club by going online or calling 803.929.3434. Reading Club sessions are as follows:

  • June 12 – June 16, 2023
    • Monday – Friday from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm 
  • July 10 – July 14, 2023
    • Monday – Friday from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm 
  • July 31 – August 4, 2023
    • Monday – Friday from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm 

This reading club is only available at the Richland Library located at 1431 Assembly Street, Columbia. 

Chuck E. Cheese Summer Reading Program 

I love this program because it offers some flexibility for parents to decide on guidelines/challenges based upon reading level, age, and family needs. All you need to do is print off the 2-week long “Reading Rewards” Calendar and give your kids check-marks each day that they complete the reading challenge(s) you have set. Once the chart is finished, it can be redeemed at your local Chuck E. Cheese for 10 FREE play points.  

Your Child’s School

Don’t forget to check for summer reading activities at your child’s school. They may have programs or even book recommendations based upon grade and/or reading level! 

Prisma Health Literacy Summer Program 

This program is run by certified speech therapists and is offered to children between the ages of 6 – 11 years old. These are group-based sessions where children will build upon their knowledge of reading, writing, and comprehension. For more information or to enroll please go to the Prisma Literacy Program website or call 803.434.1260. 

Summer Reading Challenges at Bookstores With Prizes

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

Have a rising 1st – 6th grader? This program is for them! The Barnes & Noble reading program will challenge your kiddos to not only read 8 books of their choice, but also write about their favorite part in each book.

Your child(ren) will then need to bring their completed reading journal to any Barnes & Noble store between July 1 and August 31, 2023. Once completed, they will receive a free book which they can choose from a list found on the Summer Reading Journal.

Books-A-Million Summer Reading Challenge

This summer, your children can earn a free water bottle when they complete the Books-A-Million summer reading program. They will need to choose and read 4 books from the reading list which can be found in-store or online and then write about each book in their summer reading log. Take the finished reading log to any store to claim their prize! 

Virtual Summer Reading Programs

Clemson University Summer Reading Program 

Clemson’s summer reading program is divided into several 6-week long courses. Visit their website and choose which grade your child will be in this upcoming school year, see a list of books they will read, and register for dates and times.

Half-Price Books Summer Reading Program

Go online at Half Price Books Summer Reading to register for this summer’s reading club which officially begins June 1 and will go until July 31, 2023. Throughout the summer, your children will be able to download several activities that will keep them engaged, learning, and excited about reading! There will be various themes throughout the weeks to keep the challenge entertaining!

You can also find a list of recommended books online according to your child’s age group! 

Pizza Hut – Camp Book It

Parents can go online to and register for Camp Book It where they can track their child’s reading all summer long. When your child meets their monthly reading goal, you will receive an emailed certificate for a FREE one-topping personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut! 

Reading is Fundamental   

Your kiddos can travel the United States on a virtual reading marathon this summer with Reading is Fundamental! There are various activities each week to go along with their books as they learn about beaches, parks, museums, and the great outdoors. Along with the reading log and book recommendations, children will also have free access to DIY postcards, coloring sheets, and more.

Scholastic Summer Reading Home Base 

From May 4 – September 7, 2023 your kids can track their reading, attend virtual author events, engage in educational games and more by creating an account for them on “Home Base.” By keeping up their reading streak, your children will not only be able to gain access to more virtual fun, but they will help “unlock” donated books that will be distributed to children with limited or no book availability. Reading for a purpose – how rewarding! Sign up for Scholastic Home Base.


Have a teenager at home? Going to be on-the-go a lot this summer? We’ve found the perfect summer reading program for you! Sync is designed for teens 13 years and older and will give them 14 weeks worth of audiobooks for a grand total of 28 books all for FREE! All you’ll have to do is register your child for Sync online so they can get started! 

How will you encourage reading in your home this summer? 

Take Your Family River Tubing in Columbia, SC

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Are you wondering where to go river tubing? Columbia, SC brings that famously hot (and humid!) South Carolina summer that’s perfect for a refreshing float down a river. Sounds great, but now you may be wondering, where are the places to go tubing near me? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some river tubing spots in Columbia, SC!

Where to go river tubing: Columbia, SC

River Tubing is a Fun and Relaxing Way to Beat the Heat!

We do our best to stay relaxed and cooled off this time of year, which is no easy feat.  One great way to beat the heat this summer is by taking a dip in one of the many rivers running through Columbia. And what better way to experience the river than floating down it in a tube?

River tubing has been a popular pastime in our city for a long time and for good reason! It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with friends and family while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Canoe and kayak rentals

Best Way to Go River Tubing: Columbia, SC

Columbia has several options for river-tubing. Whether you’re an experienced tuber, or looking for your first adventure, here are a couple of the best ways to go river tubing in Columbia, SC:

Tubing at Saluda Shoals Park

Saluda Shoals Park offers one of the best options for a beginner! This is my family’s favorite spot for a quick river outing. It’s such a convenient location with parking right near the launch ramp.

You enter Saluda Shoals at the main entrance and follow the signs for the boat ramp/river. When you arrive, there’s a small shack in the parking lot where you can rent tubes and pay for a shuttle service from the staff. The tube rental is $15 and it includes shuttle service. The shuttle service will follow you to the exit of the river in your car, and then shuttle you back to the launch ramp. That way when you exit the river your car is ready and waiting for you!

There’s usually a decent amount of people enjoying the river on a nice day so if you’re unsure of where to go just follow the crowd! It can take about 1 – 1.5 hours to float from the entrance to the exit, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot some adorable river otters on the way!

Saluda Shoals River

Here’s our Kidding Around Review of Saluda Shoals with more information about all the fun things this Columbia park offers.

Tubing at Palmetto Outdoors

If you’re looking for a more adventurous tubing experience, Palmetto Outdoors might be the choice for you!

Palmetto Outdoors offers a really great river tubing trip for different size groups, down the Lower Saluda River. They have an online scheduling service as well as a cash-only walk-up reservation! They make it super simple and fun to make a day of being on the river.

The 3-hour-long excursion ranges from the Riverbanks Zoo to the Gervais Street Bridge. This portion of the Saluda does contain class II rapids so children under 10 are not permitted.

Shuttle times are offered 7 days a week during their open season at the top of every hour from 10 am – 4 pm on Saturdays and 12 pm – 4 pm all other days. They meet you at the West Columbia Riverwalk with equipment ready to go.

The standard tube rental is $20 per person and this includes the shuttle service. There are several rental options so check out their website for more details!

Grab and Go Tube Rentals

Have another place you want to float on a tube? Palmetto Outdoors offers a grab-and-go option for $15. There’s no shuttle with this option, but you can take the tube wherever you’d like as long as you have it back by 7 pm.

Lake Murray is a popular spot to bring the tubes.

Canoe and Kayak

Palmetto Outfitters also offers kayak and guided tours! Paddle Congaree National Park with them or try a guided kayak trip to see Spider Lilies.

Plan Your Next River Tubing Adventure

River tubing is such a fun and unique way to discover the beauty of Columbia’s waterways. With multiple options for renting tubes and exploring the rivers, you’re sure to find an experience that works for you and your family!

Tubing near Greenville, SC

If not, check out these tubing options in the Upstate and WNC area. These will make a totally awesome summer day trip.

No matter which option you choose, you can’t go wrong with spending some time outdoors getting some Vitamin D, and floating your worries away in a refreshingly cool river.

Do’s and Don’ts for River Tubing

  • Do wear a life jacket. Most places include life jacket rentals but ask just in case. Don’t skip a life jacket, even if you’re a good swimmer.
  • Do bring sunscreen and a hat.
  • Do bring water shoes, bottled water, and snacks. Don’t bring things can’t lose, like jewelry, car keys, and cell phones.
  • Do take along a long stick to use to maneuver the tube.
  • Don’t bring alcohol – most places don’t allow it anyways.
  • If a waiver is required, Do download and sign it in advance. This will save you time!
  • Do read all the rules and regulations of whatever place you choose. They are all different.
  • Do bring a towel and change of clothes that you can use after your trip.

Where to splash and swim: Columbia, SC

Looking for more places to beat the heat? Here’s our giant list of places to splash and swim in Columbia, SC.

30+ Places For Your Family to Cool Off, Splash Around, and Swim Near Columbia, SC

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Looking for a place to splash, swim, or cool off in Columbia, SC? Beat the heat this summer in “famously hot” Columbia, SC with some swimming at a Columbia, SC splash pad, public pool, or swimming hole! With temperatures quickly approaching the mid-90’s and only getting hotter, it’s almost impossible to not be around water for much longer.

Whether you’re looking for splash pads, public pools, lake and river access, or water parks we’ve got it all! Below you will find an extensive list of outdoor places in and around Columbia to cool off with your family this summer and the good news is, the majority of them are FREE!  

Where to splash and swim: Columbia, SC

Water safety is so important! Please always be cautious and aware of your children while in and around water. Some of the places listed may not have on-duty lifeguards. Swim at your own risk and be sure to always check for dangers, wear lifejackets when appropriate, and stay alert.    

Here’s Where to Cool Off in Columbia:
Splash pads and spray pools in Columbia, SC
Public Pools in Columbia, SC
Natural Swimming Spots in Columbia, SC: Lakes, rivers, and creeks
Columbia, SC Water Parks