The Best Free and Cheap Things to Do in Columbia


Do you ever feel stuck with what to do on the weekend, when you have a random day off or it’s just another day at home with the kids?

I’ve lived here for eight years and my husband grew up in Columbia. A lot has changed since then, especially for families. When he was growing up, he didn’t think there was that much to do. Now that we have children, he realizes how much Columbia has grown.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here for years or are new to town. These top free and cheap things to do in Columbia will be hits with families and kids of all ages.

Free Things to Do


All the Richland and Lexington county libraries are stellar! They offer interactive baby classes, toddler time, fun Lego building classes, teenage activities and much much more! See all that’s happening at your nearest location below!

Richland Library

Lexington Library


This is one of my go-to free activities in Columbia. As you can see below, there are so many playgrounds to choose from. I certainly have my favorites and yes, some are better than others. It doesn’t matter what side of town you’re on, this city clearly makes moms and families a priority! Which one is your favorite?

Downtown: Roy Lynch Park, Citadel Park, Hollywood Park, Valencia Park, Trenholm Park, Rosewood Park, St. Anna’s Park

Cayce: Granby Garden Park, Cayce Historic Museum, Burnette Park, Guignard Park

Lexington: Virgina Hylton Park

Irmo: Irmo Community Park, Columbiana Centre Mall

Splash Pads

Columbia is dubbed as “famously hot.”.That’s because it’s really, really hot here, especially in the summer. We don’t have the cool mountain air and we don’t get the beach’s breeze. We get hot, humid stagnant air. Thank goodness we also have several splash pads in the area to beat that heat! Check out our list of the ones in the area and what they offer.

Roy Lynch Park


Just what the name implies. Take a walk, bike ride, run or stroller cruise down this peaceful idyllic path along the river. This is the West Columbia entrance.

Riverfront Park

Along the same lines as the Riverwalk, the Riverfront Park is beside the river as well and hosts Columbia’s original waterworks and hydroelectric plant. It’s just as beautiful as the Riverwalk and also a hotspot for local photography sessions because of its unique industrial character and structures.

Farmers Markets

Who doesn’t love a good farmers market? Unique artisans with their perfected craft, local produce and flowers, as well as some of the best food trucks in the state. Check out our list of the farmers markets in the area, and give my two favorites below a visit and let us know which one your favorite is!

Soda City 

SC State Farmers Market


We don’t do much hiking with a three-year-old and an eight-month-old. But when we didn’t have kids, we loved to hike and explore our beautiful world around us. Check our list of kid-friendly hiking trails along with tips to make the most of your visit! Just make sure you load up on the bug spray and have plenty of water!

SC State House

The state house is a beautiful landmark in the heart of downtown Columbia. It holds the Governor’s office as well as the seats for the House and Senate. There are free tours, as well as self-guided tours, Monday through Friday. Otherwise, it’s a really beautiful property to walk around!

Things to Do For $20 and Under

Skate Station USA

Roller skating has come a long way! Gone of the days of repeatedly falling until you got the hang of it. Now rinks offer an “assistance rack” that can help even the littlest of skaters learn with assistance. Your back will thank you.

Mondays: Family Night, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $3 per person or $6 for immediate family, up to five people. Family includes mother, father, and up to three of their own children. Open all Mondays except Labor and Memorial Day.

Fridays: 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. $6

Saturdays: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. $3, 2 to 5 p.m. $4, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. $6

Sundays: 2 to 5 p.m. $4


Remember the days of bowling? It was before smartphones and Netflix. Find the location nearest to you for discounted daily specials. Primetime days are Friday and Saturday.

AMF Bowling

Anchor Lanes

JC’s Lexington Bowl

Royal Z Lanes

Fireflies Game

The Fireflies are Columbia’s local baseball team. You can sit in a wide grassy area called “the berm” for only $5. Or you can get seats near the middle and other places around the stadium for $10 (still a really good deal!). If you have young children, I would recommend the berm. It is inclined, like a small hill, but it’s far less restrictive and there’s room to play. They also have a couple water spray stations and a bounce house area. 

There is plenty of room and things to do for littles

The Nickelodeon

The Nickelodeon (also referred to as “The Nick”) is a nostalgic vintage style theater on Main Street, in downtown Columbia. It’s got unique indie movies and a fun atmosphere. This activity would be best suited for middle and high school age kids, but from time-to-time they have a kid-friendly movie as well as family favorites. 

Frankie’s Fun Park

Frankie’s is a huge property with full arcade, mini golf, road course, laser tag, fun house, batting cage and drop zones. You could spend hours of fun at Frankie’s. This is definitely a place for kids of all ages! You can have fun there for less than $20, but me mindful it’s easy to spend much more there once you get on a winning streak!

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is one of the best zoos on the East Coast and in the country, per Trip Advisor. The animal side has all kinds of animals you would expect to find at a zoo, plus a few unique species, as well as several new babies! The aquarium is a destination itself. The zoo is very walkable, tons of food options and there are plenty of places to sit and get shade.

The garden and children’s area boast a waterfall splash pad, mini splash area for younger children, larger than life treehouses, many outdoor games and a playground. Tickets are pricey, but if you stay the whole day and do both sides, it would definitely be worth the visit. If you live locally, homeschool or stay at home and have young children, a membership would totally be worth it for your family! They also have free & dollar days, so make sure you follow them on social media or sign up for their newsletter so you’re in the know.

Adults $19.95

Children (2-12) $16.95

Children (under 2) FREE

(other discounts may apply)


Edventure is our local Children’s Museum. There are two different levels of exhibits. Some favorites are the fire truck, cultural experience, supermarket, down on the farm, arts and craft room and aviation center. I would say it’s fun for all ages up to around ten years old. 

Children & Adults $11.95

Under 2 FREE

(other discounts may apply)


While it’s lovely to walk along the river, some prefer a more active approach to enjoying the scenery. For those wanting to literally “be in” nature, there are is always tubing available. We just bought our tubes, since we live here and it was way cheaper to do so. But if you’re on the fence about it and want to try it out first, Palmetto Tubing would be a good place to start. They provide everything you need, including transportation. You may be ready to go on your own once you’ve been down a route or two!

Tubing (ages 10+):

Deluxe Tube $25

Standard Tube $20

Grab-n-go $15 (ages 5+)

There are so many fun things to do in Columbia! Why should you have to pay a ton of money to have fun? There are plenty of free and inexpensive things to do here.

Have you already tried some of these recommendations? Or if you’re coming back after checking things off this list a couple times, what are your favorites? Did you find something new in Columbia to share? Please leave a comment below about your experience and our beautiful family friendly town!



  1. Thanks for this information. Do you have any suggestions for a young person to get involved and meet people? My son is moving to Columbia after graduating from here in Missouri, and he’s nervous about moving out on his own. My wife and I love God and are very involved in our church, but he has not been since moving to college. I don’t know if he would be interested in church activities, but anything is possible.
    Thanks for any input!

    • We’d be happy to help! What are his interests? Will he be living on campus at USC? Feel free to email me at [email protected] and I’d be glad to talk in more detail with you. I’m sure he’ll find some great activities and groups that will be a good fit for him!


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