With Summer quickly approaching, dreams of family summer adventures begin to emerge on the “end of the school year” horizon. The choices for family getaways can sometimes seem overwhelming. Questions like “Will this be something that all ages will enjoy?” and “Will this break the bank?” often come to mind.
As a mother of three children of varying ages — 6, 15 and 16, who is also on a budget, these questions are always at the top of my list. One thing I absolutely love about living in Columbia, is that it is central to so many vacation-friendly locations. Jumping in the car for a quick weekend getaway to places such as Greenville, Augusta, Charlotte, Charleston or even Myrtle Beach, is as easy as gassing up and taking a road trip of two and a half hours or less.
Charleston, approximately an hour and a half drive away, is my hometown and has countless family-friendly attractions. Although staying downtown in the Historic District can be pricey, the proximity to the abundance of Lowcountry “must-do’s” can balance out cost-wise. Downtown Charleston offers something for everyone from The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry where you can visit a Medieval Castle, to the Market area (a teen favorite) where you can find unique local goods and delicious Charleston cuisine, to horse drawn carriage tours, and even the South Carolina Aquarium which recently added Shark Shallows, an enormous touch tank where you can have a first hand encounter with sharks and rays.
Make sure to use the free DASH Trolley system to move from one downtown destination to another, or simply put on comfy walking shoes and hit the pavement. If that weren’t enough, Charleston is surrounded by several beautiful beaches like Folly Beach or Isle of Palms County Park that would add an unforgettable element to your trip. From world class shopping, family fun, and down home eats, Charleston is a perfect family destination.
Greenville is another great spot for family vacationers. The Downtown Greenville area is, in my opinion, one of the best and most beautiful areas I have visited. From the amazingly picturesque Reedy River Falls and Liberty Pedestrian Bridge in Falls Park to the unique and upscale shops that line the wide sidewalks of Main Street, Greenville is a definite contender for one of the best family vacation destinations.
After checking out the shopping district and park, make sure to catch the Greenville Zoo and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate. Greenville also offers some educational fun at the Roper Mountain Science Center, where you can take part in their Butterfly Festival in June or appease your astronomy lovers in the planetarium. Lots of fun, beauty and adventure await your family in the Upstate.
Another family favorite is Myrtle Beach. Of course it’s a great destination if you love the beach, but there is so much more to do and see. Broadway at the Beach offers something for everyone. This shopping/entertainment district features retail stores, unique restaurants and entertainment venues such as Wonder Works, an “upside-down” hands on science museum of sorts that you don’t want to miss, and Ripley’s Aquarium.
Other must-see attractions during your visit include the various water parks, putt-putt golf ranges, and the Skywheel which offers breathtaking views of the beach and surrounding areas. Last but not least, make sure to visit a Calabash-style seafood restaurant for fresh seafood and a variety of other food offerings that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
Charlotte, North Carolina is the next on this list of Top 5 Family Destinations near Columbia. There are so many different kinds of adventures that await you in the “Queen City” that it is hard to narrow the choices down. If you are looking for shopping areas and entertainment, then check out SouthPark Mall and Concord Mills. One standout feature of SouthPark Mall is the American Girl Store. Your little ones can shop, have lunch with their dolls in the cafe, or even set up a hair appointment for their dolls. Concord Mills features shopping and also a fairly new attraction, the Sea Life Aquarium.
Another awesome and child-friendly attraction that should not be missed is Imaginon. Imaginon is both a spectacular library and also a children’s theatre. For the thrill-seekers in the family, Carowinds, an amusement park in the area, is a perfect choice. Charlotte is also, of course, home to the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets, so your sports enthusiast would definitely want to catch a game during your stay.
Lastly, Augusta, Georgia, which is about an hour and fifteen minutes away, is also a promising destination for family fun. In the summer, the nearby J. Strom Thurmond Lake offers a great area for boating, fishing, water sports, picnicking and swimming.
In the actual city of Augusta you don’t want to miss the beautiful Augusta Riverwalk that runs along the Savannah River and features a candlelight jazz series during the summer. History buffs may enjoy the Augusta Museum of History. The Premier Outlets of Georgia at Augusta, scheduled to open this spring, will offer great shopping deals and various eateries.
No matter what adventure your family chooses to embark on, any of these destinations are sure to provide countless moments of family bonding and lifetime memories. Happy traveling!!