But what about those days when the temps are over 100 degrees and you break a sweat just walking to the car, so you decide to stay home? Or those lazy, stormy days where everyone is going stir-crazy, and you just have to get out of the house? Or during colder temps when you just want to take refuge inside?
After a while you’ve all trampled on each other last nerves, the kids have ganged up on you to make the biggest mess possible, and even the most devoted video game user has screen fatigue. Check out this list of indoor activities to keep kids occupied and entertained on any budget.
Free (and Almost Free) Activities
Mall Play Areas (and more)
The mall has a playground area with an outdoor theme — tree slide, play canoe, forest animals to climb on and more. Height restriction is 48 inches, so it’s great for those learning to walk or more experienced movers (located near JC Penny’s). Be sure to bring some dollars and quarters to ride the merry-go-round at the food court, coin-operated amusement rides and ride-around stuffed animals.
100 Columbiana Cir, Columbia, SC 29212 (803) 732-6255
A climbing and sliding structure is located near the Food Court, as well as coin-operated amusement rides.
7201 Two Notch Rd, Columbia, SC 29223 (803) 788-4678
There is a climbing and sliding structure near the food court that has been roped off for awhile. However Barnes and Noble has a children’s area with puzzles and tons of books (obviously). Bonus: There are glass elevators and escalators can provide lots of indoor entertainment. Since the mall has few stores, there is plenty of room for kids to run.
3400 Forest Dr, Columbia, SC 29204 (803) 782-7575
Many, if not all, local libraries offer a play area for children. They also offer various story times, puppet shows, family game nights, craft clubs, etc. Check out these links to see what is offered at the branch closest to you. Richland Library Downtown even boasts a state-of-the-art mother’s room (trust us, it’s top-notch!).
There is a small, cute children’s play area on the first floor. The rest of the museum requires admission. Join them monthly for Glady’s Gang, a free art class, but be sure to reserve your spot online since space is limited and fills up quickly.
1515 Main Street, Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 799-2810
Activities That Cost
The whole museum is really a huge, educational play area — a giant firetruck kids can climb onto and explore, a farm with a tractor that cranks up, a real life cockpit kids can climb into … just to name a few. There is a dedicated play area for ages three and under on the 2nd floor in My Backyard (including a non-walking area with age-appropriate toys and a nursing area). Check their calendar for special events and activities that may be of interest.
211 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 779-3100
There are many places to “play” in the State Museum, particularly in the hands-on Science area on the 3rd floor. There is also a play area on the 1st floor with a tree house, building area, performing stage, and much more! Children may also be interested in the life-sized train you can climb aboard, as well as the schoolhouse, stuffed animal exhibits like the woolly mammoth, 4-D theater, and featured exhibit.
301 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29214 (803) 898-4921
Indoor Play Facilities
This indoor park includes jumping activities such as Olympic trampolines, two basketball hoops, a designated toddler area for children, wipe out, ultimate dodgeball, a giant airbag, ninja course, and of course, a bunch of interconnected trampolines to experience adventure on every visit.
2245 Charleston Highway, Cayce SC 29033 (803) 570-8184
Frankie’s offers fun for all ages! Mini golf, batting cages, road courses, drop zone, bumper boats, arcade, and more!
140 Parkridge Dr, Columbia, SC 29212 (803) 781-2342
With locations in Irmo and Northeast, there is a facility close to everyone! Flight offers indoor trampolines where guests can purchase flight passes for jump times. Both locations also have Jumping Jacks inflatable bounce houses that can be purchased at an additional cost. You can also find video games, laser tag, roller skating, indoor soccer, and ice skating (though availability may be limited depending on location).
741 Fashion Dr., Columbia, SC 29229 (803) 360-7300
1019 Broad Stone Rd., Irmo, SC 29063 (803) 732-1900
7451 Garner’s Ferry Rd., Columbia, SC 29209 (803) 723-2193
Surge features a variety of attractions and obstacles with fun games and activities for all ages. Come try your skill as an American Ninja Warrior, play dodgeball with your friends, practice flips in the trampoline park, or just let your little one bounce in the toddler area.
230 Business Park Blvd, Columbia, SC 29203 (803) 807-9838
Designed for children ages 0-5, PlayMatters offers rooms designed for each age inspired by the transformative Piaget, Montessori, Bandura and Waldorf philosophies. Through imaginative play children learn critical thinking skills, how to follow simple directions, build expressive and receptive language, increase social skills and learn how manage their emotions.
3685 Leaphart Rd A, West Columbia, SC 29169 (803) 312-5117
A family-friendly environment for families, children, and adults to gather to play games, build friendships, and sometimes just hang out. They host weekly events, special tournaments, demos, charity functions, and more! They offer Board Games, Trading Card Games, Classic Games, Educational Games, Roleplaying Games, Miniature Games … there’s something for everyone!
736-C, St Andrews Rd, Columbia, SC 29210 (803) 996-3473
Chuck E Cheese has arcade games, rides, and other activities kids can enjoy for a nominal fee (token purchase required). If the kids get hungry, pizza and snacks are available (and there is a salad bar if you opt to eat healthier).
1775 Burning Tree Dr, Columbia, SC 29210 (803) 772-0435
Chick-fil-A, select McDonald’s, and other fast-food establishments
These places offer indoor playgrounds to help beat the heat. Be sure to check the area of town closest to you for availability. Chick-fil-A always offers great service and clean facilities and some McDonald’s (like the one in Irmo – currently closed but scheduled to open soon) have huge multi-level equipment with table parents can sit at inside the play area.
Cici’s Pizza offers a small arcade. It’s a great way to keep kids occupied for a while if you’re grabbing a meal or just looking for something to do to beat the heat or brave the cold.
Locations vary throughout Columbia. Find the restaurant closest to you.
Located in the Irmo/Harbison area at Columbiana Mall, Dave & Buster’s offers video games and a giant arcade that is sure to keep kids and adults entertained. Save up tickets to win prizes and enjoy a full menu and bar when you need a break from game play. Bonus: it’s connected to the mall so you can head down to the carousel or children’s play area later.
100 Columbiana Circle Suite 5, Columbia, SC 29212 (803) 576-4800
Located in Lexington, the Flight Deck is an aviation-themed family restaurant. Pictures of planes and helicopters cover the walls, and replicas adorn the ceiling and tables of the dining area. There is a diverse menu sure to please any palate and the best part is there is a family friendly arcade kids love!
109 Old Chapin Road, Lexington, SC 29072 (803) 957-5990
This gaming café offers board games, card games (like Pokémon), apparel, merchandise, events (for children and adults), and more! In addition, there is a coffee shop inside so you can grab a drink or a snack and let your child enjoying the gaming experience.
5060 Sunset Blvd, Lexington, SC 29072 (803) 520-7414
Other Indoor Activities
Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center and Sea Lion Landing at Riverbanks Zoo
500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210 (803) 779-8717
Admittedly, this is a smaller visitor’s center, and you could probably go through it in about an hour. Check out the movie, habitats, “tree house,” gift shop, and Blue Sky’s mural while you’re there!
100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC 29061 (803) 803-776-4396
401 Laurel St, Columbia, SC 29201 (803) 252-7366
Spotlight Cinemas (the old St. Andrew’s Multi Cinemas) offers $3 movies all the time. Although these releases have been at the box office for a while, it’s still a great option that won’t break the bank. And you won’t feel bad if you have to leave the movie early because your little one is uncooperative.
527 St. Andrews Road, Columbia, SC 29210 (803) 807-2441