Explore SC: Weekend Trip to Columbia, SC


Who would have thought that a retro “Guess Who?” board game would be the highlight of our weekend trip with our two boys recently. We arrived in Columbia, SC with two eager children and entered a bold and bright pink hotel, excited to spend some much-needed family time together. I had an itinerary planned out for the next few days in the city known for its beautiful college campus and family-friendly activities.

What to Do & Where to Explore

We checked into a family suite at The Graduate Columbia hotel on the University of South Carolina’s campus, complete with two train beds in the kids’ room and a pink couch. The décor was loud and eccentric with USC alumni mementos decorating the walls and desks. We were completely immersed with the college and dorm room life again. We dug into the old school board games and books in the living room of our suite and played until almost dinner time.

When we set out to explore that evening, we headed to the historic Vista district which features outdoor bars, restaurants, people watching, and the city market. We sat on the covered patio at Grill Marks, where we devoured mouth-watering cheeseburgers and handspun milkshakes. The atmosphere was light, inviting, and friendly.

The following morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast of bagels and fruit from The Carolina Café and walked the four minutes to the notorious Horseshoe on the USC campus. As we ate our breakfast and admired the stunning trees and gardens, we noticed how eerily quiet it was that morning. The semester had just ended for students, and we were up early for college kids. We were impressed by how captivating and historic the college campus of USC was. We were so enthralled exploring the area spontaneously that we were almost late for our timed ticketed entry to the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens.

We arrived at the enormous zoo which houses over 2000 different animals, a botanical garden, and a splash zone area. Some of the attractions were closed due to Covid but we still had a hot and exciting day watching the exotic animals frolic, some of our favorite creatures being the baboons, koalas, giraffes, and king cobras. We ended the day with a classic favorite, ice cream with sprinkles.

There were activities that we didn’t have time to partake in on this quick trip that I also suggest, including the EdVenture Children’s Museum, which is the second-largest children’s museum in the world.

With Columbia being roughly about two hours from Charleston, we have plans to go back in the fall to catch a USC home football game and grab some yummy treats at The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli. With so much to see and do, Columbia is a vibrant and full-of-life city ready to be discovered by all.

After arriving back home and looking at the photos of my children that I had captured over the weekend, I realized the most joy I saw on my seven-year-old’s face was while playing “Guess Who?” with me on our hotel room floor. A 1987 board game in a college dorm-inspired hotel room can be as much fun as all the touristy attractions. Really, it isn’t about where you go, but that you do go, unplug, and focus on the things that matter. Whether you fly across the country or drive a few hours down the road, it’s just about the memories made with those who matter.

Interested in learning more about Columbia, SC? Check out our sister site, Columbia Mom!

Check out some of our other Explore SC articles!

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