Columbia, SC

Last year we camped on Lake Murray and didn’t realize how close it was to Columbia. We decided to come back and dedicate a whole weekend to exploring this historic riverside city. Columbia is only 3.5 hours from Raleigh so a perfect distance to feel like you’re exploring somewhere new without having challenging trip logistics. 

Thursday Night: 

Check into the Graduate Hotel in the heat of downtown Columbia for a convenient, comfortable, and family friendly stay. The Graduate Hotel offers a family suite complete with two twin size train beds, a living room and pull out couch, plus the separate king size room with additional full bathroom. We loved staying here because it was close to everything, had easy parking, tons of outdoor seating options, and a café for breakfast/coffee and dinner/drinks.


Roll out of bed and head downstairs to grab complimentary coffee at the bar OR hop in the car and head to Small Sugar for delicious, locally sourced goods. Everything we tried at Small Sugar was incredible and they have plenty of outdoor seating for wiggly kids. 

After breakfast head across the river to spend the day at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. This 170 acre zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden has attractions that will delight the entire family! If you’re still in the naptime stage of life I would recommend splitting the zoo up into two sections and doing the zoo, aquarium, and attractions half the day and the botanical gardens with Waterfall Junction, dino dig, and treehouse the second half. 

We recommend purchasing the Experience Columbia CoolPASS which includes the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Edventure Children’s Museum, and SC State Museum for one discounted price.

After a full day of fun Steel Hand Brewing is the perfect place to kick back with a cold beer and let the kids play in the grassy outdoor area. You might even get lucky and enjoy live music during your dinner. 


No trip to Columbia is complete without picking up breakfast (or brunch) from The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli! They are still doing curbside pickup so order your decadent cinnamon rolls and savory grits ahead of time. 

Don’t forget to stop by Soda City Market on Saturday morning! It’s a lively gathering of local vendors and food trucks compete with live music and fun activities. 

Edventure Children’s Museum is the largest children’s museum in the southeast and is the perfect place to let your kids’ imaginations run wild. We especially loved the outdoor water area, airplane simulations, and climbing through the giant insides of Eddie (the largest child in the world!). 

In the same parking lot as Edventure is the South Carolina State Museum which has 4 floors of exhibits, a planetarium, and a 4D interactive theater. 

Palmetto Outdoor is right across the river from Edventure and offers kayak and tubing trips and is the perfect way to cool off from the South Carolina humidity. Or visit the West Columbia Riverwalk Park and Amphitheater for a relaxed stroll along the river.


For the last day of your trip we recommend a day at Lake Murray or Congaree National Park. 

If you choose Lake Murrary check out one of the many adventure companies offering boat, jet ski, kayak, and paddle board rentals. If you want a more laid back lake day make the drive to Dreher Island State Park and enjoy the lakeside trails and beach. 

If Congaree National Park is on your must see list we recommend one of the boardwalk trails or Bates Ferry Trail. If your kids are up for a water adventure choose from one of the five river outfitters for a kayak or canoe adventure along the Congaree River.

Wherever your Columbia adventure takes you you’ll be greeted by friendly faces, art filled streets, and story filled historic buildings. There are endless opportunities for family friendly fun and we can’t wait to see all of your pictures exploring this beautiful city! Visit Experience Columbia SC for more trip inspiration and itineraries.

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