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

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Kids eat free in Columbia, SC

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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? 

Kayla Simmons
About the Author
Kayla grew up right outside of Charleston, SC and is a proud graduate of the University of South Carolina. She has lived in Columbia for a combination of 5 years. Kayla has a background working with special needs children, but now enjoys nothing more than being a stay-at-home mom of two. She enjoys keeping her kids busy by finding unique play spaces and events, involving them in hands-on activities and watching them learn about the world through play. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercise and spending quality time with her family and friends.

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