Looking to explore Columbia, SC without breaking the bank? In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the vibrant capital city of South Carolina, where you can uncover a variety of cost-free activities that will leave you amazed. From fascinating historical sites to breathtaking natural wonders, there’s something for everyone to enjoy without spending a dime.
Get ready to dive into the rich history and culture of Columbia as you visit free attractions that offer a unique perspective on the area’s past. Explore museums and landmarks that showcase military history, delve into captivating stories from local residents, and gain insight into the diverse heritage of this remarkable city. Whether you’re an art enthusiast seeking galleries with free admission or a nature lover looking to immerse yourself in scenic beauty, Columbia has it all.
So buckle up and get ready for an unforgettable experience as we guide you through the top free things to do in Columbia, SC!
- Free Things To Do in Columbia SC
- Columbia Museum of Art
- Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
- Saluda Shoals Park
- South Carolina State House
- South Carolina State Museum
- Soda City Market
- Governor's Mansion
- Columbia Fire Department Museum
Free Things To Do in Columbia SC
If you’re looking for free things to do in Columbia SC, you’re in luck! This vibrant city offers a variety of activities and attractions that won’t cost you a dime. From scenic parks to live entertainment, there’s something for everyone to enjoy without breaking the bank.
Take a leisurely stroll along the scenic Riverwalk Park
One of the best ways to soak up the beauty of Columbia is by taking a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk Park. This picturesque park stretches along the Congaree River and offers stunning views of nature. You can walk or bike along the paved trails, take in the fresh air, and even spot wildlife like birds and turtles. It’s a great place to relax, unwind, and enjoy some peaceful time outdoors.
Immerse yourself in nature at Congaree National Park
For nature enthusiasts, Congaree National Park is a must-visit destination. This beautiful park is home to one of the largest intact tracts of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. You can explore miles of hiking trails that wind through towering trees and lush vegetation. Keep an eye out for unique wildlife species like deer, bobcats, and even fireflies during certain times of the year. The park also offers ranger-led programs and events that provide educational opportunities for visitors of all ages.
Enjoy live music and entertainment at outdoor venues downtown
Columbia’s downtown area comes alive with live music and entertainment throughout the year. Various outdoor venues host concerts, festivals, and performances that are free for everyone to enjoy. Whether it’s jazz, rock, or classical music that tickles your fancy, you’re sure to find something that suits your taste. Grab a blanket or lawn chair, pack some snacks or grab food from local vendors, and settle down for an evening filled with toe-tapping tunes under the stars.
Visit the South Carolina State House
The South Carolina State House is a historic landmark that offers free guided tours to visitors. This impressive building showcases stunning architecture and houses various exhibits that highlight the state’s history and government. You can learn about important events, influential figures, and see artifacts that tell the story of South Carolina. It’s a great opportunity to gain insight into the state’s rich heritage.
Explore art galleries and museums
Columbia is home to several art galleries and museums that offer free admission or have designated free days. The Columbia Museum of Art features a diverse collection of artwork from around the world, while the McKissick Museum focuses on Southern culture and history. Take your time to appreciate paintings, sculptures, historical artifacts, and other fascinating exhibits without spending a dime.
Columbia Museum of Art
If you’re looking for a cultural experience in Columbia SC, the Columbia Museum of Art is a must-visit. This art museum boasts an impressive collection of American and European art that will captivate both art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.
Admire an impressive collection of American and European art
At the Columbia Museum of Art, you’ll have the opportunity to admire a diverse range of artwork from different periods and styles. From classical European paintings to contemporary American sculptures, there’s something to suit every taste. The museum houses over 7,000 works of art, ensuring that you’ll never run out of things to see and appreciate.
Explore rotating exhibits showcasing diverse artistic styles
One of the highlights of visiting the Columbia Museum of Art is the chance to explore their rotating exhibits. These exhibits feature artworks from both local and international artists, allowing you to immerse yourself in different artistic styles and perspectives. Whether it’s a thought-provoking photography exhibition or a vibrant display of abstract paintings, each exhibit offers a unique experience.
Attend free gallery tours led by knowledgeable guides
To enhance your visit to the museum, take advantage of their free gallery tours led by knowledgeable guides. These guided tours provide valuable insights into the artworks on display, helping you better understand their historical context and artistic significance. It’s like having your own personal art expert guiding you through the museum!
During these tours, feel free to ask questions about specific pieces or artists that pique your interest. The guides are passionate about art and are more than happy to share their knowledge with you.
In addition to these guided tours, the museum also offers self-guided audio tours for those who prefer exploring at their own pace. Simply grab a headset and listen as you wander through the galleries.
Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
The Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park is a great place to visit if you’re looking for free things to do in Columbia, SC. This beautiful park offers a variety of activities for people of all ages.
Walk or bike along the picturesque canal trail
One of the main attractions at the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park is the scenic canal trail. You can take a leisurely stroll or ride your bike along this picturesque path, enjoying the peaceful surroundings and fresh air. The trail stretches for miles, providing ample opportunity to explore nature and get some exercise.
Spot wildlife while picnicking by the riverbank
Another highlight of this park is its proximity to the riverbank, where you can enjoy a relaxing picnic while taking in the beautiful views. As you sit by the water’s edge, keep an eye out for wildlife that may be passing by. You might spot birds, turtles, or even an occasional deer roaming around.
Learn about local history through informative signage
While exploring the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park, you’ll come across informative signage that provides insights into the area’s rich history. These signs offer interesting facts and stories about how the canal played a significant role in shaping Columbia’s development over time. It’s a great way to learn more about the city’s past while enjoying your time outdoors.
In addition to these specific features, there are other aspects of this park that make it worth visiting:
- The park offers various recreational facilities such as a skate park where skateboard enthusiasts can showcase their skills.
- It is conveniently located near downtown Columbia, making it easily accessible for residents and tourists alike.
- There are ample parking lots available nearby so that visitors don’t have to worry about finding a place to park their vehicles.
- The park serves as an excellent green space within an urban setting, providing residents with an escape from city life.
- If you’re interested in exploring more parks in the area, you can also check out Sesquicentennial State Park or Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.
Saluda Shoals Park
Go hiking or biking on miles of scenic trails.
Saluda Shoals Park is a fantastic place to explore nature and get some exercise. With its miles of scenic trails, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to go hiking or biking. Lace up your sneakers or hop on your bike and get ready for an adventure!
The park offers various trail options, catering to different skill levels and preferences. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a leisurely stroll or an experienced hiker seeking a more challenging trek, there’s something for everyone at Saluda Shoals Park.
As you venture along the trails, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and breathtaking views. Take in the sights as you immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. You might even spot some wildlife along the way!
Relax by the river and enjoy a peaceful picnic spot.
If you’re in need of some relaxation and tranquility, Saluda Shoals Park has got you covered. The park features picturesque spots by the river where you can unwind and enjoy a peaceful picnic with family or friends.
Find a cozy spot under the shade of towering trees, spread out your blanket, and indulge in some delicious snacks while taking in the soothing sounds of nature. It’s the perfect opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with loved ones amidst serene surroundings.
Engage in water activities like kayaking or fishing.
For those who love water activities, Saluda Shoals Park offers exciting options to satisfy your adventurous spirit. Grab a kayak or canoe and set off on an exhilarating journey down the river. Feel the rush as you navigate through gentle rapids while soaking up stunning river views.
If fishing is more your style, grab your gear and cast your line into one of the park’s designated fishing areas. See if luck is on your side as you try to reel in some fish from these well-stocked waters.
Dog park and splash pad for added fun.
Saluda Shoals Park goes above and beyond to ensure everyone has a great time. The park features a dedicated dog park where your furry friends can run, play, and socialize with other dogs. It’s the paw-fect place for them to burn off some energy while you enjoy the park’s other amenities.
There’s a splash pad where kids can cool off on hot summer days. Let them frolic in the water jets and have a blast as they splash around. It’s a guaranteed way to keep them entertained and help beat the heat.
Saluda Shoals Park truly offers something for everyone. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for adventure or someone seeking relaxation in nature, this park has it all.
South Carolina State House
Take a guided tour to learn about state government history.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Columbia, SC, visiting the South Carolina State House should be at the top of your list. This iconic building is not only the seat of government but also a symbol of South Carolina’s rich history and heritage. One of the best ways to explore this historic landmark is by taking a guided tour. These tours provide fascinating insights into the state’s government history, allowing visitors to learn about the legislative process and the significance of the State House in shaping South Carolina’s past and present.
During a guided tour, knowledgeable guides will lead you through various sections of the State House, sharing intriguing stories and historical anecdotes along the way. You’ll have an opportunity to marvel at stunning architecture and intricate details that adorn this magnificent structure. From grand halls with marble columns to ornate ceilings and beautiful artwork, there is much to admire within its walls. The architectural style reflects both Greek Revival and Victorian influences, making it a visually captivating experience.
Witness democracy in action during legislative sessions.
One unique aspect of visiting the South Carolina State House is having the chance to witness democracy in action. If you time your visit right, you may have an opportunity to observe legislative sessions taking place inside this historic building. This firsthand experience allows you to see how laws are debated, discussed, and ultimately decided upon by elected officials.
Sitting in on a legislative session can be an eye-opening experience as you witness representatives passionately advocating for their constituents’ interests. It provides valuable insight into how our democratic system functions at a state level and allows you to better understand how laws are made.
While observing legislative sessions can be an informative experience, it’s important to note that availability may vary depending on when you visit. It’s always advisable to check ahead of time if any sessions are open for public viewing during your planned trip.
South Carolina State Museum
The South Carolina State Museum is a must-visit attraction in Columbia, SC. With its diverse range of interactive exhibits, educational programs, and special events, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Let’s dive into the highlights of this fantastic museum.
Explore Interactive Exhibits
One of the main draws of the South Carolina State Museum is its interactive exhibits that cover a wide array of subjects. From science and history to art and culture, there’s no shortage of things to explore. You can learn about the state’s rich history through immersive displays that showcase artifacts and stories from different eras.
For science enthusiasts, there are exhibits that delve into various scientific disciplines such as astronomy, geology, and paleontology. You can marvel at dinosaur fossils, discover fascinating facts about space exploration, or even try your hand at conducting experiments. The hands-on nature of these exhibits makes learning fun and engaging for visitors of all ages.
Visit the Planetarium
One of the standout features of the South Carolina State Museum is its planetarium. Step inside this domed theater and prepare to be amazed by captivating celestial shows. Whether you’re interested in learning about constellations, exploring distant galaxies, or witnessing breathtaking views of our solar system, the planetarium offers an immersive experience like no other.
Sit back and relax as you’re transported on a cosmic journey through time and space. The state-of-the-art technology used in the planetarium creates a realistic simulation that will leave you feeling awe-inspired. It’s an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge about our vast universe while enjoying a mesmerizing visual spectacle.
Attend Educational Programs and Special Events
The South Carolina State Museum goes beyond its exhibits by offering a variety of educational programs and special events throughout the year. These programs cater to visitors of all ages and provide unique opportunities for learning and entertainment.
For children, there are interactive workshops where they can engage in hands-on activities related to science, art, and history. These workshops are designed to spark curiosity and foster a love for learning in young minds. The museum hosts summer camps that combine education with fun, allowing kids to explore different subjects in an exciting and interactive way.
Adults can also benefit from the museum’s educational programs. From lectures and panel discussions to workshops and demonstrations, there are plenty of opportunities for lifelong learners to expand their knowledge on various topics. The museum also organizes special events such as cultural festivals and live performances that celebrate the diversity of South Carolina’s heritage.
Soda City Market
If you’re looking for some free and fun things to do in Columbia, SC, one of the top recommendations is to check out the Soda City Market. This vibrant farmers market takes place every Saturday on Main Street and offers a unique experience for locals and visitors alike.
Browse through an array of local produce, crafts, and food vendors
At the Soda City Market, you’ll find a wide variety of vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handmade crafts and artisanal products. Take your time strolling through the market and explore the different stalls that line the street. You’ll be amazed by the diverse range of goods available, showcasing the talents and creativity of local artisans.
Experience a vibrant atmosphere with live music performances
One of the highlights of visiting Soda City Market is the lively atmosphere created by live music performances. As you browse through the various vendors, you’ll be serenaded by talented musicians who add an extra layer of enjoyment to your experience. The upbeat tunes create a festive ambiance that will put a smile on your face as you soak in all that the market has to offer.
Sample delicious treats from various food trucks
Food lovers rejoice! At Soda City Market, you’ll find a mouthwatering selection of food trucks offering delectable treats for every palate. From savory dishes like gourmet burgers and tacos to sweet indulgences like homemade ice cream or freshly baked pastries, there’s something to satisfy every craving. Grab a bite to eat from one (or more!) of these food trucks and enjoy your meal while taking in the bustling atmosphere around you.
There are plenty of reasons why it should be at the top of your list when visiting Columbia:
- Support local businesses: By shopping at this farmers market, you directly support local farmers, artisans, and small business owners who work hard to bring their products to market. It’s a great way to contribute to the local economy and invest in the community.
- Discover unique treasures: Whether you’re searching for one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry, quirky home decor items, or locally sourced produce, Soda City Market is the perfect place to find unique treasures that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s an excellent opportunity to discover hidden gems and support independent creators.
- Enjoy a family-friendly outing: The market is a fantastic destination for families with children. Kids can enjoy exploring the stalls, sampling tasty treats, and listening to live music. With its lively atmosphere and diverse offerings, Soda City Market provides a fun-filled experience for all ages.
- Take part in special events
The Governor’s Mansion in Columbia, SC is a must-visit destination for those looking to explore the city’s rich history and architectural significance. Although you can’t go inside the mansion itself, there are still plenty of things to see and do in the surrounding area.
Admire the grandeur of this historic residence from outside
As you approach the Governor’s Mansion, you’ll be awestruck by its grandeur and beauty. The mansion is an impressive example of Greek Revival architecture, with its stately columns and elegant design. Take a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into creating such a magnificent structure.
Learn about its architectural significance
While you can’t enter the mansion, there are informational plaques located outside that provide interesting facts about its history and architectural significance. You’ll learn about the various governors who have called this place home over the years and gain insight into why it holds such importance in South Carolina’s history.
Capture memorable photos amidst beautiful gardens
The Governor’s Mansion is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens that offer a picturesque backdrop for your photographs. Stroll through the well-maintained paths, admire the vibrant flowers, and find the perfect spot to snap some memorable pictures. Whether you’re an avid photographer or just want to capture some memories of your visit, these gardens are sure to impress.
Explore other attractions nearby
While visiting the Governor’s Mansion, take advantage of its central location and explore other nearby attractions. Just across from the mansion is Finlay Park, a popular gathering spot with walking trails, picnic areas, and even a small lake where you can rent paddleboats. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy some time outdoors.
If you’re interested in learning more about South Carolina’s history, head over to The State House which is just a short walk away from the mansion. This iconic building serves as both a working government building and a historical landmark. Take a guided tour to learn about its fascinating past and explore the beautiful grounds.
Columbia Fire Department Museum
Now that you know some of the best free things to do in Columbia SC, it’s time to start exploring! From the fascinating exhibits at the Columbia Museum of Art to the natural beauty of Saluda Shoals Park, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city. Don’t forget to visit the South Carolina State House and the Governor’s Mansion to get a taste of its rich history.
So grab your walking shoes and embark on an adventure through Columbia SC. Immerse yourself in art, history, and nature as you discover all that this city has to offer. Whether you’re a local looking for new experiences or a visitor seeking unique attractions, these free activities will surely leave a lasting impression.
Remember, there’s no need to break the bank when exploring Columbia SC. Take advantage of these free opportunities and make memories that will stay with you long after your visit. So go ahead, embrace the spirit of adventure and dive into everything this wonderful city has in store for you!
What are some free things to do in Columbia, SC?
Columbia, SC offers a variety of free activities for visitors and locals alike. Here are some great options to explore without spending a dime:
- Are there any free museums in Columbia, SC?
Yes! The South Carolina State Museum offers free admission on certain days of the month. It’s a fantastic opportunity to delve into the state’s history, culture, and natural wonders.
- Can I enjoy outdoor activities for free in Columbia, SC?
Absolutely! Riverbanks Zoo & Garden provides complimentary access to their beautiful botanical gardens. Take a leisurely stroll amidst stunning flora and fauna or pack a picnic for a relaxing day outdoors.
- Are there any parks or trails that don’t require an entrance fee?
Definitely! Congaree National Park is just outside Columbia and offers free entry year-round. Immerse yourself in nature by hiking its scenic trails or paddling along the Congaree River.
- Is it possible to visit art galleries without paying admission fees?
Yes, indeed! The Columbia Museum of Art allows visitors to enjoy their collection for free on select Sundays each month. Marvel at captivating exhibitions showcasing both local and international artists.
- Can I attend events or festivals without spending money?
Absolutely! Keep an eye on the city’s event calendar as there are often free concerts, festivals, and cultural celebrations taking place throughout the year. Don’t miss out on these vibrant experiences!
Remember to check individual websites or call ahead for any updates regarding hours of operation or specific restrictions related to COVID-19 guidelines.
So why wait? Grab your friends and family, make memories, and explore all the incredible cost-free attractions that Columbia has to offer!