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 awhile you’ve all trampled on each other last nerves, the kids have ganged up on you to make a 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.
Featured Sponsor :: Summit Adventure Park
Our brand new 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. We aren’t just a trampoline park, we’re an adventure park!
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 a train table, puzzles, tons of books (obviously) and regularly scheduled story times and activities. 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, except on Sunday when the permanent collection is free to the public. 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 mini grocery store and vet clinic … 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 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, preforming stage and much more! Children may also be interested in the life-sized train you can climb aboard, as well as the school house, stuffed animal exhibits like the wholly mammoth, 4-D theater and featured exhibit.
301 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29214 (803) 898-4921
Indoor Play Facilities
This brand new 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
This gymnastics center in Irmo offers an open play for $10 per child (ages crawling through 5 years old) every Wednesday from 10 a.m. – noon. Padded floors offer worry-free play and activities for kids include a bounce house with slide, padded trampoline, balance beams, hula hoops, climbing wedges, children’s play area and more!
1674 Lake Murray Blvd, Columbia, South Carolina 29212 (803) 201-4994
Frankie’s offers fun for all ages! Mini golf, batting cages, road courses, drop zone, bumper boats, arcade, laser tag and more! Plus a “Fun House” for ages 2-12 which includes multiple levels of obstacles and slides to keep the little ones busy for hours ($8 for all day play). Best of all, the only entrance and exit to the fun house is located in the adult seating room where you can kick back and relax while keeping an eye on the kids.
140 Parkridge Dr, Columbia, SC 29212 (803) 781-2342
Located in Irmo at the NorthWest YMCA, this play area includes a three-story, soft climbing structure with slide. At times, kids enrolled in summer camps and after school programs utilize the facility, as well as members of the Y. It is also available to non-members for $7 per child and you must stay and watch your own children.
501 Kennerly Rd, Irmo, SC 29063 (803) 407-8007
With locations in Irmo and Northeast, there is a facility close to everyone! The Plex offers indoor trampolines where guest can purchase flight passes for jump times. Both locations also have Jumping Jacks inflatable bounce houses that can be purchased at an additional cost ($9 jump all day). 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) 560-6600
This 8,000 sq. ft. facility is the first and only sensory integration gym in The Midlands! Their state-of-the-art equipment and specialized play areas give your child the opportunity to reach goals related to sensory processing, attention, movement, strength, behavior regulation, language, social interactions, safety, and self-care skills – while having fun!
2 Harbison Way, Columbia, SC 29212 (803) 995-9673
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
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) 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 awhile 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.
Urban cookhouse offers healthy, farm to table cooking, and also boasts a fun children’s area with play kitchen, chalkboard, activities and more!
3000 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29205 (803) 779-5070
Other Indoor Activities
Aquarium Reptile Complex and Birdhouse at Riverbanks Zoo
These are not specifically play areas — however they are are indoor attractions at the zoo. Enjoy checking out the massive fish tanks full of all sorts of sea life, as well as snakes, alligators and other creatures in the Aquarium Reptile Complex, in addition to penguins and other fowl in the Birdhouse. Be sure to visit around feeding time for extra excitement. Other smaller indoor exhibits include the gorillas, koalas, and sea lions. It’s kid-friendly fun and learning!
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 in the box office for awhile, 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. Just be sure to stop by the ATM before you go — this theater is cash only.
527 St. Andrews Road, Columbia, SC 29210 (803) 807-2441