Dreher Island State Recreation Area
A tranquil retreat just 30 miles from downtown Columbia, Dreher is comprised of three linked islands plus some shoreline, so watery activities are a big draw. The state recreation area is especially popular for boating and fishing, with a well-stocked tackle shop providing most necessary supplies. Camping, hiking, and family picnics are also enjoyed here. (803-364-4152)

Finlay Park
Originally opened in 1859 as Sidney Park, this historic site experienced a rebirth in the early 1990s when it was given a complete overhaul and re-dubbed Finlay Park. The Vista district's green space features playgrounds, a lake, waterfalls, a fountain and playing fields, plus plenty of paved pathways for strolling and grassy areas for picnicking. The city hosts the free Sizzlin' Summer Concert Series here each year. (803-545-3100)

Congaree National Park
Not only is this 22,000-acre swampy forest designated a National Park, it's also an International Biosphere Reserve, a National Natural Landmark, a protected Wilderness Area, and a "Continentally Important Bird Area." The tallest trees in the eastern US are right here, along with all sorts of snakes, turtles, raccoons, possums, wild boar, frogs, birds, and lots and lots of insects. Plan a stroll along the elevated boardwalk, or get closer to nature with a backcountry hike, camping canoeing or kayaking. Rangers offer interpretive tours and programs as well. (803-776-4396)

Memorial Park
A peaceful destination in the Vista, Memorial Park is perhaps best known as the site of monuments commemorating local military men and women who served in the Vietnam and Korean Wars and WWII. It's an ideal spot for relaxing with a picnic, taking a leisurely stroll or tossing pebbles into the creek. (803-545-3100)

Columbia Riverfront Park
For area runners, cyclists and walkers, Riverfront Park is a top choice. The long strip of sidewalk flanks the Congaree, offering visitors cool shade beneath a canopy of trees. Stop at one of the benches scattered along the river to take in the scenic view. A pedestrian bridge spans a surging section of the river (803-545-3100)

Sesquicentennial State Park
A suburban oasis, Sesquicentennial Park is 1419 acres of peace and relaxation. You can fish, canoe or kayak on the 30-acre lake, hike and mountain bike on miles of trails, participate in nature interpretation programs, enjoy a picnic, or swing, slide and jump at the playground. Originally constructed by the CCC in the 1930s, the park is also home to what is considered the oldest building in the county, a mid-1700s log cabin. (803-788-2706)

Granby Park
Granby Park is part of the southern section of the Three Rivers Greenway project, which will eventually link several communities across a 12-mile stretch between the Broad, Saluda and Congaree Rivers. In addition to unpaved paths that are popular with bicyclists, the park has a paved, lighted, half-mile walkway that accommodates wheelchairs and families with strollers. Other features include areas for picnicking and boating. (803-545-3100)

Saluda Shoals Park
A great place to spend a blistering summer's day, Saluda Shoals Park is situated on the banks of the Saluda River and has a variety of diversions for kids and other intrepid explorers. Within the 270-acre park's forested confines are paved and unpaved paths for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding, a canoe/kayak launch area, sweet fishing spots, and picnic facilities with barbecue grills. There's also Saluda Splash, a touch-activated water playground that kids will never want to leave. (803-772-6865)

Maps and Directions

Dreher Island State Recreation Area 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: Lake Murray
Finlay Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Parks
Neighborhood: THE VISTA
Congaree National Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: SOUTH OF TOWN
Memorial Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Military, Parks
Neighborhood: THE VISTA
Columbia Riverfront Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: Downtown
Sesquicentennial State Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: Columbia Northeast
Granby Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: OLYMPIA
Saluda Shoals Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Outdoor Activities, Parks
Neighborhood: Irmo / St Andrews
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