Guide to Fun Activities Around Columbia for Special Needs Children

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As a mom of a little one with special needs, I know how stressful and confusing it can be to search for activities my child can safely participate in. Every small act that makes our lives just a little easier is always a welcome relief… so in an effort to help you find your little one something fun to do in an accepting environment, I have pulled many mom minds together to compile a list of our favorites!

SC State Museum

This museum is packed full of fun things to do and is also designed for children of all abilities. It has a planetarium, 4D theater, observatory, and discovery center in addition to it’s more than 70,000 piece collection of art, artifacts, fossils, and more.

For kiddos with special needs, the SC State museum also offers an accessibility night the 2nd Tuesday of every month. This includes free admission for children with special needs and one adult. Additional adults are $8.95/each and the planetarium and 4D shows are $3 each. On accessibility night the museum has a 5 p.m. sensory friendly special planetarium show, 6 p.m. character meeting & story time, and 7 p.m. special sensory friendly 4D show. On clear nights the children can even enjoy viewing the sky in the observatory. In addition, accessibility nights include access to calming spaces and resource rooms.

Location: 301 Gervais St., Columbia, SC 29201

For more information you can call the SC State Museum at 803-898-4921 or click the link above for their website.

Saluda Shoals Park

This park provides an outdoor experience that your little ones are sure to enjoy and it’s beautiful outdoors playground has recently undergone some massive reconstruction to ensure that children of all abilities are able to have fun and enjoy the outdoors equally. They now have a wheelchair accessible glider, interactive music area, various slides, a platform swing, a restroom designed to address the needs of children and adults with physical disabilities, and so much more!

One of our kiddos favorite things about this park is the splash pad! During the warm months (April through September) they can enjoy this water wonderland for only $3 from 9:00am to 8:00pm Monday – Sunday. (Note: Splash pads are always a hit with our ASD son and there are plenty of them around the midlands! Check out our list here)

Location: 5605 Bush River Rd., Columbia, SC 29212

For more information you can call Mark Baker at 803-213-2051 or click the link above for their website.

Ausome Gym

At 8,000 sq. ft., the Ausome Gym is the first and only indoor sensory integration gym in the midlands. With it’s state-of-the-art equipment, specialized play areas, and 7 days a week access, it is the perfect go-to for play time, party time, or even therapy time. You can drop in any time for a small admission fee or purchase a membership for your child!

My ASD son, who’s three years old, absolutely loves this gym and it has never disappointed us. We even had his birthday party here a few months ago!

Location: 2 Harbison Way, Columbia, SC 29212

For more information you can call the Ausome Gym at 803-995-9673 or click the link above for their website.

Ausome Gym
Fun at Ausome Gym!

Plex HiWire

Kids of all ages love Plex and there are few of them around the midlands. They offer activities from trampoline parks, to ninja warrior obstacle courses, bounce houses, ice skating, game arcades and more! They are packed full of excitement in every corner, but for our special needs kiddos, Plex HiWire also provides a sensory friendly environment every first and third Sunday of the month from 9 a.m. to 10 .am. It’s a great opportunity to get them in a safe indoor area to burn off some of that abundant energy!

Location: 1019 Broad Stone Rd., Irmo, SC 29063 and 741 Fashion Dr., Columbia, SC 29229

For more information you can call Plex in Irmo at 803-732-1900 or Plex in Sandhills at 803-360-7300.

The Miracle League of Columbia

This amazing non-profit organization provides children of all ages with mental and physical disabilities the opportunity to play baseball and softball as a team, regardless of their abilities or experience levels, safely on a custom-designed, rubberized turf. All games are played at Owens Field Miracle League Field in Columbia and all players receive a jersey and a hat.

Location: 1111 Parkside Drive, Columbia, SC 29203

For more information, you can call The Miracle League at 803-545-0456 or click on the link above for their website.

Owens Field Miracle League Park Playground

For an all inclusive playground which features assisted fun glider, swing and cozy dome, Owens field park is a must visit! This “boundless playground” was designed to accommodate children with mental and physical disabilities.

Location: 1351 Jim Hamilton Blvd., Columbia, SC 29205

For more information you can contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 803-545-3100.

EdVenture Children’s Museum

There is always something fun going on at EdVenture! Whether you want to just visit and let your child explore for a few hours, sign up for some afterschool programs or camps, or even have a birthday party, this museum has it all!

It is designed for kids of all abilities and to make the experience just as magical for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and sensory processing differences, they even provide sensory friendly time for the first hour of every first Sunday of the month!

My son loves to visit on sensory Sunday! Every different room provides amazing interactive hands-on activities that really get his imagination working!

Location: 211 Gervais St., Columbia, SC 29201

For more information you can call the Edventure Children’s Museum at 803-779-3100 or click the link above for their website.

Fun at EdVenture
Fun at EdVenture

Dream Riders

This amazing non-profit organization was created specifically to serve people who have mental and/or physical disabilities. Their certified instructors and specially trained horses provide a unique alternative from the normal “clinical” therapeutic settings.

They operate year round with weekly small group lessons and semi-private lessons for some advanced special riders. Dream Riders is accredited by PATH Intel. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) and they participate in the equestrian sport offered by SC Special Olympics.

Location: 156 Sandy Hill Rd., Lexington, SC 29072

For more information you can contact Dream Riders at 803-957-7906 or click the link above for their website.

Riverbanks Zoo And Garden

Ranked in USA Today’s top 10 best Zoos in North America, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is packed full of fun things to do and see for people of all ages! Although they do not offer special days for children with disabilities, they do provide resources, information, and accommodations for their guests with special needs.

They offer family restrooms that are equipped with manual flushing devices, a quiet room at the entrance of the Zoo inside the Guest Relations area, wheelchairs and strollers that are available for rent, and a list of times in which the zoo is normally less crowded.

Riverbanks also provides a list of areas around the zoo and garden where children can go after becoming overstimulated as well as a list of areas where crowds tend to form and may cause overstimulation for your child.

Location: 500 Wildlife Pkwy., Columbia, SC 29210

For more information you can call Riverbanks Guest Relations Office at 803-602-0942 or click on the link above for their website.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films

For the movie lovers who need a sensory friendly environment, AMC Theaters are the perfect solution! Every second and fourth Saturday of the month (family friendly) and Tuesday evening (mature audiences), AMC provides unique movie showings where they turn the sound down, turn the lights up, and allow your little ones to get up and boogie, walk, shout or sing as much as they like!

Location: 421 Bush River Rd. Unit 80, Columbia, SC 29210

For more information you can call AMC Classic Dutch Square 14 at 803-750-5130 or click the link above for their website.

Crooked Creek Park

Crooked Creek Park is guaranteed to offer something for everyone in your family! This park has six athletic fields, six tennis courts, paved and unpaved walking trails, a disc-golf course, a 53,000 square foot community center which contains a full gym, fitness areas, racquetball courts, meeting rooms and even an indoor walking track.

For parents of children and adults with cognitive, physical, or emotional disabilities, this park also provides therapeutic recreation programs to help increase confidence, courage, and independence. These programs include a multitude of indoor and outdoor activities such as afterschool programs, sports, theatre, respite services, and more!

Location: 1098 Old Lexington Hwy., Chapin, SC 29036

For more information regarding the therapeutic recreation programs, you can call Jordan O’Keefe at 803-213-1194 or click on the link above for their website.

I hope you find this list to be helpful and we are always looking for more to add to it! Do you have any additional activities that would be useful for our parents of special needs children? 

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Brooke Moore
Brooke is many things, but normal is not one of them! She’s a native of SC who was raised in Bamberg and has been living in Columbia since 2017. She’s a Mom of 3; JD (20), Alyssa (15) and Will (3). Brooke and her husband Chris married in 2014. Together, they’ve become avid advocates for autism awareness in support of their son Will. Brooke holds a Masters in Information Technology and works as an IT Security Risk Analyst. In addition to her love for writing, Brooke also loves running, bow hunting, and tattoos. She’s a Christian who’s definitely not without flaw, a survivor, and an advocate for survivors of domestic violence & sexual assault. Her greatest loss has been the unexpected loss of her Mother in 2016. Her greatest loves are God and her family. Her greatest accomplishment was walking away and her most valuable lessons learned are to never take a moment for granted and never judge a book by its cover. In her spare time she writes for her blog at BrookeMcAlhaney.com and feeds her social media obsession on Facebook.

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