When the newness of summer wears off (oh, around day three or so), the kids start climbing the walls for something to do and you still have another month before you take your week-long vacation, you need a fast solution. A stop-gap. A diversion. A getaway!
You don’t want to break the bank, and you can’t really take that much more time off work, but a mini excursion sure would be nice right about now.
Here’s an insider’s itinerary for a 24-hour getaway - with kids - in Columbia SC. Pack up, gas up, and do this:
10 a.m. Explore Soda City Market + Main Street
At Soda City Market (every Saturday morning on Main Street) find the Belgian Waffle Truck for them, Avocado Toast SC for you, myriad artisan vendors, tons of cute dogs wagging by and a giant exotic bird that might just sit on your kid’s shoulder. All of this is on Main Street where you will also find gems like Mast General Store, Blue Flour Bakery, and Columbia Museum of Art. While there, see if you can spot Sally Salamander. We hear she has slithered into a couple of hiding spots in the Main Street District.
12:30 p.m. Lunch at Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli + Stroll on Devine Street
With ginormous cinnamon rolls and “NYC Pushcart Dogs” as staples, pretty much the entire menu at Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli is kid-friendly, but they have plenty of options for a more sophisticated palate, too. It’s worth strolling up Devine Street after you finish. Duck Duck Goose (@ShopDuckDuckGoose), a brand new children’s shop is coming to Devine Street in late summer, but if you happen to beat them to Columbia, Devine is teeming with other fun retailers, including Half Moon Outfitters, with a great selection of gear (and fun t-shirts to take home) for the whole family.
2:00 p.m. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
At Riverbanks Zoo, hit Waterfall Junction if your kids are small. They’ll love taking the tram from the main park through the cool trees and emerging in a magical land with a giant treehouse to explore, a sand pit for fossil digging, and spraying, spewing and cascading water to keep them cool. For those with older kids (they must be at least 48” tall to do this without adult supervision), head to the Sky High Safari, a ropes course overlooking the animals in the park. Been-there tip: Just make sure you have a bathing suit (or a change of clothes!) and towel for Waterfall Junction and closed-toed comfy shoes for climbing at Sky High Safari.
6:00 p.m. River Rat Brewery
“You have a baby…in a bar…” Perhaps, but River Rat Brewery welcomes families and has kid-sanctioned dining options like pizza and tacos and for the adults they have locally crafted beer and delectable bites like brisket mac and cheese. Find outdoor dining, corn hole and other games on their spacious lawn, and since Columbians are known for being a friendly lot, you (and your kids) might just make some new friends.
8:30 p.m. Bowling at The Grand
Summer is meant for eschewing bedtime, and The Grand is just the place to keep the family party rolling. This is not your grandpa’s bowling alley. Between the Instagram-worthy architecture and the happening location on Main Street, you can bowl a game or two in style. But, if your tots are basically zapped after all the fun at River Rat, save this for next time and proceed to directly to your hotel.
10:30 p.m. Tuck In!
Hotel Trundle (just a couple blocks from The Grand) is a locally-owned boutique hotel that just opened in 2018. Each room is unique and cozy (some have kitchenettes, so ask) and the location is right in the heart of downtown.
8:00 a.m. Morning Stroll + Breakfast
Walk down to Drip Coffee (opens at 8 a.m. on Sundays) for a much-needed jolt and an artisan breakfast sammy or Nutella French Toast. Another close-by option is Crepes et Croissants. They don’t open ‘till 10 a.m. on Sundays, but if you packed some granola bars to hold the kids over, it’s worth the wait. (If your littles rise early, walk them down to the impressive State House grounds and take in some history).
10:30 a.m. Congaree National Park – Boardwalk Stroll
You don’t have to go deep into the woods and pack copious amounts of gear (unless you want to) to have a national park experience for your family. Stop by Congaree National Park on your way out of town and enjoy the interactive visitors center and stroll the boardwalk, taking in the sights and sounds of nature before hitting the road.
If you have 48 hours to spare instead of 24 (lucky you!), work these into your itinerary:
-Lunch at the “original” Groucho’s Deli in Five Points. Order like a local: STP with “45” sauce for you, Junior Apollo with honey mustard for them.
-Tube down the (refreshingly chilly) Saluda River at Saluda Shoals park. Insider tip: Ask them to tether your family’s inner tubes together (like a little barge of togetherness!) if you have younger ones you don’t want floating solo.
- Visit EdVenture Children’s Museum (the largest of its kind in the Southeast) and the South Carolina State Museum with its 4-D theatre, planetarium and four floors of science and history. They share a (free) parking lot so plan to do these two in the same day.
-Stop for ice cream at Sweet Cream Co. on Main Street. Ask for the Secret Handshake Flavor.
-Save money with the Cool Pass or Culture Pass, which allows discounted admission to three attractions.
- Dinner at Henry’s on Devine- Their chicken tenders are some of the best in town (or so I’m told by the age group that knows these things) and their burgers are top-notch.
Check out our website for more on family-friendly fun in Columbia SC!