50+ Free Things to Do in Columbia, SC

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Looking for free activities in Columbia, SC? You can fill up a day in Columbia without spending a dime! We’ve compiled a list and it is packed full of free and cheap ideas for you. Grab your family and make some fun-filled memories together for free. Here’s our list of free things to do in Columbia, SC with kids!

Free Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Free Things to Do Outside in Columbia, SC

Go on a walk: Head to Columbia’s Riverwalk for a walk with your family. With more than 20 miles of riverwalk and trails, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. You can find shade under the trees and bridges, and parking is free!

Paved path at West Columbia Riverwalk

Have a picnic at the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina: The Horseshoe at USC is a perfect place to have a family picnic and spend the afternoon. Bring some outdoor toys and bikes and enjoy the weather together. While there’s plenty of shade, you will need to bring a little money to park.

Play tennis: Head to one of Columbia’s public recreational tennis courts.

Cool off at a pool or splash pad: One of the most fun things to do in the summer is taking your kids to a pool or splash pad. While the Maxcy Gregg and Greenview Pools have a small fee ($3 – $4 depending on age), the splash pads and spray pools are free and open to the public. 

We have a huge list of 30+ places to cool off, swim, and splash in Columbia, SC. Many of them are totally FREE!

Elmwood Roy Lynch Park Splashpad
Splashpad at Elmwood Roy Lynch Park in Columbia, SC

Spray Pools and Pads in Columbia *Be sure to call the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department at 803.545.3100 or check online for operating hours.

  • Anna’s Park – 1315 Liberty Hill Avenue
  • Drew Park – 2102 Walker Solomon Way
  • Edisto Discovery Park – 1914 Wiley Street 
  • Emily Douglas Park – 2500 Wheat Street
  • Heathwood Park – 800 Abelia Road
  • Hyatt Park – 950 Jackson Avenue
  • Lorick Park – 1600 Lorick Avenue
  • Mays Park – 4100 Trenholm Road
  • Melrose Park – 1500 Fairview Road
  • Pacific Park – 200 Wayne Street
  • Pinehurst Park – 2300 Pinehurst Road
  • Roy Lynch Park – 900 Abbeville Street
  • Sims Park – 3500 Duncan Street

Play at one of the local parks or playgrounds

What kid doesn’t love to run around at a cool playground? There are plenty of beautiful parks with great playgrounds in the Columbia area.

The Community Park of Irmo, Elmwood/Roy Lynch Park, and the Owens Field Skate Park & Pump Track are all great parks with playgrounds and other amenities such as walking trails, ball fields, zip lines, and splash pads.

If you are looking for a great park with shade to avoid those famously hot Columbia days, Hollywood Park is an excellent choice. For the days you’re wanting to be more immersed in nature, check out Doko Meadows Park.

If you are needing an all-inclusive playground, then Leo’s Landing is definitely the park to go to.

In West Columbia, Carraway Park has an amazing playground space!

The playground at Carraway Park in West Columbia

Sesquicentennial State Park has lots of amenities, including $5 kayak rentals. Park admission is required unless you have SC State Park Annual Pass. If you do, admission is free.

Ride bikes: Grab your bikes and go on a bike ride. Download the Sprocket app, an app created by The Cola Town Bike Collective, to help you find the perfect, safe bike route for you and your family.

Go fishing: Enjoy free fishing thanks to the South Carolina Fishing Tackle Loaner program where you can borrow a rod, reel, and tackle box for FREE. Some fishing spots to consider are Lake Murray (head to Dreher Island State Park) or Saluda Shoals Park.

Go Swimming at Lake Murray: Pay $5 to park at the closest parking lot or use the free parking and walk. Either way, enjoy the beach and swimming area on a sunny day with your family.

Playing at Lake Murray Park
Lake Murray Park

Go see a movie: The Icehouse Amphitheater in Lexington shows movies every now and then. Be sure to check their schedule for upcoming shows and other events. You can also enjoy a summer movie for free at Doko Meadows park.

Or, check out this list of free and cheap movies this summer in Columbia.

Head out for a hike: There are plenty of hiking trails in Columbia. From paved multi-use trails to longer, more rugged trails, you’ll find something for you and your family to enjoy. Check out our list of some of the best hiking trails with free admittance in the Columbia, SC area.

  • Cayce Riverwalk | Main Entrance: 201 Naples Avenue, Cayce, SC 
  • Columbia Canal and Broad River Trail | 312 Laurel Street., Columbia, SC
  • Saluda Riverwalk | Candi Lane, Columbia, SC
  • Guignard Clay Quarry Loop | 634 Old State Road, Cayce, SC
  • Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve | 2207 Conservancy Road, Kershaw, SC
  • Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve | 883 Peachtree Rock Road, Lexington, SC
  • Congaree National Park Hiking Trails | 100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC

Stroll down Main Street for Soda City Market: Every Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm, vendors gather on Main Street for a European-inspired street market for the Soda City Market. Everything sold is unique, hand-crafted, and produced in the Southeast. While strolling and perusing what the vendors have to offer, you’ll hear music and be able to do a lot of people-watching.

Throw a frisbee around at one of the disc golf courses: Grab your disc golf frisbee and play disc golf for free. Udisc has a list of courses in the area.

Go on a public art tour: You can treat this as a scavenger hunt if you’d like, but there are plenty of public art installations around Columbia that you can visit for free. One Columbia has an interactive map for you to find art spots.

The art in Columbia includes the “world’s largest fire hydrant” sculpture located on Taylor Street in Columbia, SC, between Marion and Bull Street.

West Columbia Interactive Art Park

You can also visit the Interactive Art Park in West Columbia. It’s free!

Grab the family and head to one of the many Columbia area farmer’s markets! One of the most popular, The Soda City Farmers Market in Downtown Columbia, has tons of vendors and is a lot of fun for the entire family. You can also check out The Market at Icehouse, located at the Icehouse Amphitheatre in Lexington.

First Thursdays on Main: First Thursdays on Main include free live music and even free admission to cultural venues, like the Columbia Museum of Art on select First Thursdays. Food and other items are available for purchase.

Attend a FREE event at Congaree National Park, like the Ranger Guided Owl Prowl hike. You might get a chance to see or hear one of these amazing creatures in the wild! But even if you don’t, you’ll learn a lot and have some fun!

Play pickleball: Pickleball has become quite a popular hobby in the last few years! There are several public pickleball courts all throughout Columbia that operate on a first-come, first serve basis:

Go Geocaching: Have you ever been geocaching? We can assure you that this is an activity that your whole family will get hooked on! Geocaching is an outdoor game, very similar to a treasure hunt, where you use GPS to locate different “treasures” hidden by others.

Richland County has set up an interactive geocaching game where you can learn how to keep our waterways clean, experience local art, and hunt for geocaches! Start by downloading a “Drains Aren’t Dumps Passport” and you will quickly be on your way to discovering awesome treasure.

Decorate, Hide, and Find Painted Rocks: Most of us are familiar with discovering painted rocks hidden throughout the city, but what you might not know is that there is a Facebook group called Columbia-SC Rocks! People will post pictures of their decorated rocks and give hints as to where they can be found. Along with hunting for them, it’s super fun to paint a few with your kiddos, go around to some of their favorite places, and hide them for others to enjoy.

Visit the Sandhill Children’s Garden: The Sandhill Children’s Garden is located near the Farmer’s Market on Clemson Road, across from the Sandhill Shopping Center. Here you will find beautiful gardens, birdhouses, neat flowers, and much more. There are sometimes even small events that take place here. Looking to introduce your children to volunteer work? The Sandhill Children’s Garden is almost always looking for new volunteers to keep the gardens looking spectacular!

Eat Free

Kids Eat FREE in Columbia: While you’re out and about on your free things to do adventure, grab a cheap meal by taking advantage of these kids eat free deals.

Kids Eat Free in Columbia, SC

Free Things to Do Inside in Columbia, SC

See model trains! Visit the Associated Model Railroad of Columbia on most Thursday evenings for free! Learn about model trains, watch the trains chug through the beautiful displays, and kids may even get a chance to drive a train!

Note: They are not open on the first Thursday of the month.
1800 Lincoln Street, Columbia 

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

Go Bowling: There are several bowling alleys in the Columbia area where kids up to age 15 can bowl for free in summer. You’ll still need to rent shoes or bring your own.

Anchor Lanes – 1000 Columbia Avenue, Irmo
Royal Z Lanes – 8512 Two Notch Road, Columbia
Stars and Strikes – 700 Columbiana Drive, Irmo

Head to the library: Richland County Libraries and Lexington County Library both have children‘s programs you can participate in, which include storytime, crafts, and movies.

Grab a free DIY Kit from Home Depot: Home Depot has free Kids Workshop kits that you can pick up on the first Saturday of each month from 9 am – 12 pm while supplies last. 

Don’t miss 10+ FREE Things to Do for Kids Across the USA.

Participate in a DIY-U Lowe’s Event: Lowe’s has both in-store and online DIY workshops that are completely free! Workshops for kids usually take place once each month and are led by Red Vest experts. This is a GREAT hands-on activity that your kids will love! Be sure to register in advance for these events!

Tour the South Carolina State House: Want to get a little education with your activity? Head to the State House for a free guided or self-guided tour. Tours are given every half hour from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm Monday through Friday when the chambers are not in session. The State House is also open for tours each Saturday. You do not have to make a reservation, but you can call ahead if you’d like to.

Visit Fort Jackson’s military museum at the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum for an educational trip in disguise. Guests can directly interact with soldiers, ask questions, and learn about the history and evolution of combat training.

Visit the Melton Observatory on the USC Columbia campus. You’ll get a chance to use their huge telescope to check out the sun, moon, galaxies, planets and more!

Bonus! Are you a homeschooling family? The SC State Museum offers FREE admission to homeschooling families. The South Carolina State Museum is a great place to go explore and learn something new!

Free Events in Columbia, SC

What’s free and happening soon in Columbia, SC? This is a list of upcoming events that are free! That means there is no admission cost to attend these events, and may mean there are free crafts, entertainment, food, and more! However, there may be charges and fees for activities or food at some of these events so do check event websites for details.

Just click on each event for more information.



Bonus: Cheap Things to Do in Columbia, SC

Looking for a few more fun things to do for cheap? If you’re looking for some great family activities that won’t break the bank, we have a couple more ideas for you!

Two Girls and a Farm in Lexington, SC

Petting Zoo Meet & Greets

Ready for animal fun? Bring the family to Two Girls and a Farm for just $20 for a family of 4. That even includes a bag of animal feed.

More Fun, Free Things to Do

McPherson Park mini golf

There are more free things to do in Greenville, SC.

Take a day trip, for free.

Looking for more fun things to do in Columbia, SC? We’ve compiled the ultimate Columbia list for you.

About the Author
How does Kidding Around® bring readers high-quality and up-to-date content month after month and season after season? We have a dedicated team of writers and editors who regularly update our fabulous content to keep it current and relevant for our readers. This team combs lists of events, heads out into the community to experience new Upstate offerings, and communicates with local businesses. Many of our updated articles and event lists, like this one, reflect the contributions and hard work of multiple Kidding Around® team members.

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