Are you wondering how you’re going to keep the kids busy this Thanksgiving Break in Columbia, SC? Need ideas on what to do after the big meal? We’ve created a large list of events and activities that your whole family will enjoy – extended relatives included. From Thanksgiving Day races to seasonal shows and lights, ideas for the outdoors, and everything in between, you and your loved ones will have several great ideas on how to enjoy Columbia this Thanksgiving.
Things to do in Columbia for Thanksgiving
You’ve double-checked your ingredients, deep-cleaned the baseboards, and made sure there are enough chairs, but now you’ve got to figure out how to keep everyone sane. Finding events that appeal to the whole family can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help take some of the pressure off.
Best Things to Do During Thanksgiving Break in Columbia, SC
Keep in mind some of these places might be closed on Thanksgiving Day and/or have different holiday hours. Be sure to call and double-check that they are open before you head out.
Participate in a Turkey Day Race
I don’t consider myself a “runner”, but I did run my first 5K last year and it just so happened to be a Turkey Day race! It was much more exciting and fun than I ever thought it would or even could be! Lucky for us, Columbia has three Turkey Day races to choose from and one of them even has an option for a kids/fun run. Burn off some calories and get home just in time to begin the festivities!
19th Annual Turkey Day 5K Run & Walk – Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands
Time: 5K begins at 9 am, 1-mile fun run begins at 9:10 am, Thanksgiving Day
Details: This race will be held at Colonial Life Arena and registration is open from now until the morning of the race. There will be a $100 gift card from Buffalo Wild Wings awarded to the best-dressed turkey costume!
19th Annual Turkey Day 5K Run & Walk
Newberry’s Turkey Trot
Time: Doors open at 7:30 am and race begins at 8 am on Thanksgiving Day
Details: This is the 2nd Annual Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk and will be held at Downtown Fitness Compound. This is a free event and is open to the community. Light refreshments will be available after.
Newberry’s Turkey Trot
Shandon Turkey Trot & Burn 5K
Time: Race begins at 10 am on BLACK FRIDAY
Details: Don’t have time on the morning of Thanksgiving for racing? This 5K takes place on Friday, November 24, 2023. Runners are encouraged to wear their best thanksgiving costumes as there will be prizes for the top 3 best-dressed. Strollers and leashed dogs are also welcome to join in on the fun!
Shandon Turkey Trot & Burn 5K
Enjoy The Performing Arts: Nutcracker in Columbia, SC
Ready to get into the holiday spirit? Immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of the performing arts is a fun, family-friendly way to kick off the holiday season. Columbia Music Festival Association is presenting Ann Brodie’s Carolina Ballet “The Nutcracker” with Columbia Festival Orchestra at the Township Auditorium with shows running from November 22, 2023 through November 26, 2023.
The Nutcracker at Township Auditorium
Kick-Off Christmas by Going to a Light Display
One of my family’s favorite ways to get into the Christmas spirit is by going to a light show. There are A TON of them in Columbia that are very well done and perfect for all ages. Holiday Lights on the River and Carolina Lights are very popular and have been put on for several years. Both of these are drive-thru light displays with stops about halfway through for cookies, s’mores, gifts shops, etc.
Displaying for the second year in Columbia is the Fireflies Light Show at Segra Park. Families will be able to walk around the baseball field to see several spectacular displays. There will also be other fun seasonal activities such as crafts, shopping, yummy treats, and more!
The Wild Lights at Riverbanks Zoo is another walk-through display. Zoo members can get into this event for FREE! Keep in mind that because this event is held at night, most of the zoo animals will already be put away.
The festive and family friendly Sleigh Bell Stroll at Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo is another event to mark on your calendar! Taking place Tuesday, November 21 from 6-8 pm, families will take a 2 mile walk through the Holiday Lights on the River and can purchase concessions from Tin Can Kettle Corn. Please do not bring dogs to the stroll and pre-registration is required (register by 11/20/23). If timed runs are more your speed, check out the Sleigh Bell Trot on Monday November 20th which is a four-mile timed run through the Holiday Lights on the River complete with awards for several age categories! Registration required.
See all the light displays near Columbia in our Columbia Christmas Light Guide.
Enjoy the Outdoors
With cooler temps and less humidity, Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy nature! There are plenty of options for paved paths around Columbia that make pushing strollers, riding bikes, or even rollerblading much easier!
My family’s favorite place to go is the West Columbia Riverwalk. We will often load up my son’s balance bike, the wagon for my youngest, and pack lunches; there are great options all around for an outdoor picnic! Once we’re done walking, we like to head right across the street to Carraway Park – one of my son’s absolute favorite playgrounds in Columbia!
If you’re looking for non-paved hiking paths, Sesquicentennial State Park is a great option. My family and I recently did the loop around the pond and while it starts off paved and open, it quickly becomes more adventurous and makes for a fantastic family hike! Another great option would be Harbison State Forest as there are tons of different trails with a variety of difficulty levels and lengths.
Begin Your Holiday Shopping
It’s that time again! Have you started your holiday shopping? If you’re looking to score some deals on Black Friday we suggest going to either Columbiana Mall or Village at Sandhills as both of these places have a large variety of stores all in one place.
On the hunt for something a little more unique or handcrafted? Try out Soda City Market on Saturday morning from 9 am to 1 pm. There will be more than 100 vendors selling a variety of great gifts – paintings from local artists, handcrafted jewelry, soaps and lotions, unique clothing items and much more.
If boutique stores are more your thing, Five Points, The Vista, or State Street in West Columbia would be best for you. Along with popular and delicious restaurants, these areas also have antique stores, clothing boutiques, and gift shops that will have a little bit of everything.
Go to a Museum
Columbia is home to many great museums! If you haven’t been to them, you should definitely consider giving one (or all) of these a try!
Edventure Children’s Museum is packed full of hands-on, educational activities for babies and elementary-aged students. They’ve got a space exhibit, pretend play rooms, an area specifically for tots, an outdoor play space, and so much more!
The SC State Museum sits right across from Edventure and while there isn’t a ton of things for preschool kids, there is still plenty to do and see. Here your kids will be able to dive into South Carolina history and learn about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, see dinosaur and marine fossils, and visit a planetarium.
If anyone in your family loves art, the Columbia Museum of Art is the perfect place to go! With sculptures, paintings, photography, and more, you and your family will be fascinated with all of the beautiful work on display.
Have Fun at a Local Family-Friendly Brewery
You may be looking for an option this Thanksgiving where your family can combine the best of both worlds – adult conversations and entertainment for the kiddos! Breweries can be a great option because they have such a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere with food options for everyone. Here are some of the most kid-friendly breweries around Columbia where you can find large outdoor seating areas, live music, and entertainment for kids!
Savage Craft sits right in the heart of West Columbia and offers a HUGE outdoor seating area and green space. Also within eyesight is the West Columbia Interactive Art Walk. If the kiddos get antsy, take them on a quick stroll with huge murals and interactive instruments.
River Rat Brewery is neat because from the rooftop you can see Williams-Brice Stadium. It also proves to be extremely family-friendly with a large outdoor play area complete with rideable kid’s vehicles, cornhole, and a variety of other games.
Steel Hands is another kid-friendly brewery that can be found in Cayce. They have a large outdoor area, covered seating, and an outdoor stage where live performers and bands can often be found.
Stay Cozy at Home
Maybe you’re looking to stay a little more low-key this Thanksgiving break. There really is something so refreshing about staying in the comfort of your own home, slowing down, and enjoying family time. Let’s face it, though, if you’ve got littles you still have to have some sort of activities lined up!
- Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – such a classic and timeless tradition!
- Out with the old and in with the new – Have your children help you clean out their toys to prepare for Santa’s deliveries
- Ask your kiddos to make their Christmas Lists
- Write and mail letters to Santa
- Make crafts with your kids to give to relatives throughout the holidays – a few years ago I made handprint ornaments with my son (using just a few ingredients that I already had on hand) and the grandparents LOVED them!
Enjoy a Quick Day-Cation
Sometimes it’s fun to load everyone up for a spontaneous day trip! There are 3 great cities within 2 to 3 hours from Columbia that offer fantastic attractions for kids and families.
Another fun day-cation spot is Greenville, SC! Head over to our Kidding Around Greenville site for more events and ideas such as the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, great hiking trails, Disney on Ice details, and more! Greenville has its own list of fun things to do over Thanksgiving break.
We’re hoping for great weather throughout Thanksgiving break, but if Mother Nature decides otherwise, here are some ideas for playing indoors:
- Trampoline parks
- Skating Rinks
- Skateland Fun Center
- Sports & Skate Station USA
- Three Fountains Skating Rink – ice skating
- Hands-on Art Studios
- Mad Platter – pottery
- Studio Cellar – canvas painting
- Painting With a Twist – canvas painting
- Escape Rooms
- Escapology Escape Room
- Escape Plan Columbia
- Great Escape SC
- Local libraries
Give your time
Thanksgiving is a good time to think about others in our community. Check out our Columbia Volunteer Guide for simple ways to give back in a big way!
What is your favorite thing to do with your family over Thanksgiving break?
Planning Thanksgiving Dinner in Columbia?
Check out our guide to Thanksgiving Day Restaurants Around Columbia, SC.
Ready for dessert? Here’s where to pick up holiday pies near Columbia.
Looking for more things to do in COLA?
Check out our huge guide of things to do in Columbia, SC.