Outdoor Activities

If shopping malls and crowded city streets aren't really your cup of tea, then our 10Best list of outdoor activities should be more in line with your interests. If some fresh air and sunshine is what you need, Adventure Carolina is popular with 10Best users who have spent time in Columbia.


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.

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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

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The Vista

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sitting unobtrusively in Lake Murray is tiny Bomb Island (also known as Lunch Island and Doolittle Island), a summer roosting ground for hundreds of thousands of purple martins. For a couple of months, the vibrantly colored birds arrive nightly on the 12-acre island for a good night's rest. Lake Murray Tours offers twice-weekly cruises out to the island, which is the largest purple martin sanctuary in the country.

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The Vista
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.

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Adventure Carolina offers a variety of guided kayaking and canoeing trips on Columbia's rivers. The popular "After Work" trip on the Congaree lasts about 3 hours and is ideal for first-timers and families (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the summer). Weekend trips range from shorter jaunts to full-day excursions. If floating is more your speed, schedule a tubing trip, which is great for families and friends just looking for a fun, relaxing day in the sun.

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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.

Read more about Congaree National Park →