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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.

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.

This article includes:
How Much Time Do I Need to Visit Riverbanks Zoo?
Tips and Tricks: Visiting the zoo in Columbia, SC
When is the best time to visit Riverbanks Zoo?
Riverbanks Zoo Map: Getting around
What should I bring to the Riverbanks Zoo?
Can you feed animals at the zoo in Columbia?
What other rides and attractions are at Riverbanks Zoo?
Can I bring food and snacks to the Riverbanks Zoo?
Special Events at Columbia’s Zoo
What is Bridge to the Wild?
The New Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center


Your Family Will Love the All-Inclusive Playground at Leo’s Landing in Irmo, SC

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Have you been to Leo’s Landing at Saluda Shoals in Irmo, SC? Are you looking for a modern park that is more than just your typical swing and slide set-up? Whether you’re looking for a new go-to park or somewhere special to visit every once in a while, Leo’s Landing inclusive playground at Saluda Shoals park is sure to be the perfect place to exceed all of your expectations! This playground features all-inclusive play equipment, covered picnic shelters, and several safety features that will make your outing a great one! 

Leo's Landing Playground in Columbia, SC at Saluda Shoals

See more about Saluda Shoals Park in Columbia, SC.


Jump, Skate, and Play Laser Tag at Flight Adventure Park in Columbia, SC

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Are you searching for an indoor place to have fun with your family in Northeast Columbia, SC? Whether you’ve got toddlers, teenagers, or a mix of both, Flight Adventure Park is the perfect place for you! Here your kiddos can jump on trampolines and bounce houses, roller skate, play laser tag, and more! Below you will find all you need to know about Flight Adventure Park – from purchasing tickets to information on all the awesome attractions! 

Things to Do at Flight Adventure Park:
Ninja Course
Roller Skating
Laser Tag
Turf Field

This article includes:
About Flight Adventure Park
Tickets and Pricing at Flight
Things to Do at Flight Adventure Park
Deals and Events at Flight Adventure Park

Ninja course at Flight Adventure Park

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? 

25+ Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free (or Cheap): Columbia, SC

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Are you on the hunt for restaurants where kids eat free in Columbia, SC? Look no further! Whether you’re looking for freebies, general deals, or sweet discounts, we’ve got a comprehensive list of restaurants to cover it all. 

Kids Eat Free in Columbia, SC

We know taking your family out to eat can get quite pricey, not to mention chaotic. So, we made this easy and called each of the listed restaurants below to get their promotions confirmed. However, please keep in mind that these promotions can change rapidly so it’s always a good idea to triple-check before you go. 


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


2023 Vacation Bible Schools: Free VBS Columbia, SC

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Are you looking for 2023 VBS programs near Columbia, SC for your children? VBS programs bring together summer fun, crafts, games, and friends often without any cost. If you’re looking for VBS programs in the Columbia area, wondering “Where is a free vbs near me?” you’ve come to the right place. We’ve pulled together the important details for VBS programs happening this year. We’ll keep updating this list as we get closer to summer, so bookmark and check back frequently.

Add your VBS! If you are a coordinator for a VBS program and would like your program listed, please email

VBS Columbia, SC, the answer to "Where is a free VBS near me?"

This article includes:
June 2023 VBS Programs in Columbia, SC
July 2023 VBS Programs in Columbia, SC

We’ll be updating this list throughout the VBS season. Check back soon for more options!


25+ Summer Activities in Columbia, SC

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School break is here and you need some super fun summer activities in Columbia? We have some great ideas! From where to swim, to the perfect splash pad, amazing summer day trips, and even the best indoor places to play, summer is full of fun in Columbia, SC! Use our list as a springboard to all the amazing adventures you will have this summer!

Summer Guide to Columbia,, SC

Top Summer in Columbia Quick Links:
Summer Camp Guide to Columbia
VBS in Columbia, SC
Places to Cool Off, Swim, and Splash
Free Things in Columbia

Looking for more? See our HUGE guide of Things to Do in Columbia with kids’ activities, family adventures, and more for every season.