One of my favorite activities with the kids is to go outdoors: it wears them out and keeps them healthy. I absolutely love the beauty the Midlands has to offer and over the last 2 years of living here, I have discovered many new places. Some of these became favorites, ones the kids beg endlessly to visit. I wanted to give you a list of my favorite parks in the Chapin/Irmo area.
Criteria For Choosing a Favorite Park
I am from Europe, where everything is much, much, smaller and closer. I miss being able to walk to my favorite restaurants or parks. I think this is why I am constantly on the lookout for outdoor spots that are also close to us. Another reason why I enjoy a nearby play area more is because in this season of my life, I don’t often feel like driving 30 minutes both ways, pack lunch and deal with a late nap time just so we can go downtown Columbia for fun. Those days claim their place in my week, but I also need low-key favorites.
While I absolutely adore South Carolina’s year around (mostly) snow free weather, I can’t say the same for the extremely humid, summer heat. Let’s face it, the over 100 degree weather gets old real quick. Not to mention I really, really don’t want to risk skin cancer, but I really, really hate applying sunscreen. Not everybody feels the same way, but nevertheless, all of us enjoy a little break from the heat. Thankfully, the Irmo/Chapin area offers several shaded parks to hide at during the hot summer months.
Even though the kids seem perfectly content either way, it is still nice to have a clean restroom, a few picnic tables or a nice playground in a park. I also like it when I am able to park safely, away from traffic and close enough to easily carry all the kids’ special equipment (a.k.a. bikes, food, drinks, diapers). Since I love taking walks, a trail is always a plus, especially if it winds through wooded areas to enjoy nature in the midst of city life.
Top 5 Favorite Parks in the Irmo/Chapin Area
#5 – Crooked Creek Park
1098 Old Lexington Hwy, Chapin, SC 29036
This park has an awesome playground with a canopy over it! How cool is that? Crooked Creek also offers a walking path that is shaded by beautiful trees, great for a walk or bike riding. There are picnic tables by the walking path and beside the covered bathroom areas near the sports fields. However, the trails aren’t in the best of condition, and since some parts are steep my kids find riding their bikes too difficult.
#4 – Saluda Shoals Park
5605 Bush River Rd., Columbia, SC 29212
In this park, you will find a splash pad, need I say more? The trails are also nice and shady, plus the playground has a canopy over it. I truly enjoy biking with my kids on the shore of the Saluda River or visit the Information Center where they can read and play. Saluda Shoals is packed full of picnic shelters and tables, and due to the size of the park, the possibilities for discovery are endless. The downsides are that Saluda Shoals is a bit of a drive and there is a $5 admission fee per car (and $3 per child for the splash pad).
95 Woodcross Dr, Columbia, SC 29212
Pros: Everybody knows where the Harbison shopping area is and we in the Chapin/Irmo area sure venture out there more often than not to make a Target or Starbucks run (if you don’t, you are missing out). Why not take a slightly different turn off the Interstate and discover a beautiful, quiet pond with a shaded trail and playground right in the heart of all that shopping and dining? Even better, the pond is surrounded by ducks galore, my kids’ most favorite. Con: The only thing I don’t like about the trail is that parking is difficult on the side of the road.
#2 – Lowman Home Life Trail
2101 Dutch Fork Rd, White Rock, SC 29177 (the park is right past the White Rock post office, inside the community)
This trail is part of an assisted living community and while it doesn’t have a playground, it is beautiful. We can pretty much walk there from our neighborhood, a big plus in my (European) book! Every time we venture there, which is close to weekly, my kids have a blast! There is a pond with ducks to feed, and a big loop to walk or bike around. Huge trees and gazebos offer safety from the blazing sun and present great opportunity for a picnic. My kids enjoy gathering leaves, sticks, acorns and play tag or march and sing. On some days, all we need is simple fun, which the Life Trail provides. Not to mention, that my little ones get a kick out of the work-out spots throughout the park that are for the elderly residents. The Life Trail is a piece of quiet in the business of everyday life. And don’t forget to visit in the fall when the colors are unbelievable! Since the Life Trail is not primarily intended for children and families, there is no playground or restrooms, but it doesn’t bother us one bit.
#1 Irmo Community Park — TOP FAVORITE!
7505 Eastview Dr, Irmo, SC 29063
This is Irmo’s newest park and we are simply in love with it. To start off, the park is brand new, so everything is beautiful, including the restrooms. (This came in handy when I needed to bathe my son there one day. No2 accidents anyone?) Irmo Community Park is almost literally right off I26, easy to find and close-by. There are 3 playgrounds, two for older and one for younger kids, and this is the area’s only park I know of that offers swings! The ground of the play areas is not mulch but rubber, which made it so much more comfortable and safe for my wobbly son to safely try walking on last year. The grass is lush, wonderful to lie down on or do some bare feet running. The brand new trail is perfect for walking or biking around the playgrounds and the tall trees provide the much needed shade. There are also tables and a shelter for picnics. The park’s open theater offers family movies in summer nights as well as hosts many events year around. There is also a mini house by a small pond with a little table and bench inside, show me a kid who doesn’t love it! If you have never been, do your kids a favor and go there, tomorrow. I am having a hard time finding any cons!
The 3 Runner-Up Parks
150 State Rd S-32-752 Columbia, SC 29212
Honestly, this really IS the other top favorite spot for our whole family to hang out at, but since entry is only available for SCANA employee members, I did not want to list it in my Top Favorite List. There is a nice playground, picnic shelters, gorgeous view, boat landing and of course a sandy beach! If you are a member or ever receive an invite, go!
1009 Bickley Road, Irmo, SC 29063
This was the first park we have ever been to when we first moved to Columbia. We lived just a couple of minutes away from Ballentine Park and I spent many hours playing with the kids there. Ballentine Park therefore, will always hold a special place in my heart, reminding me of the times when we faced hardships of transition and the bittersweet feelings of leaving the old behind and starting something new. This park really lacks shade, but the playground is very nice.
200 Leisure Lane, Columbia, SC 29210
A nice little park with two separate playgrounds for younger and older kids, a picnic shelter and walking/biking trails. Area is shaded by trees, and it’s home to several sports fields for intramural teams.
Plan Your Visit!
I hope you and your littles will enjoy these parks throughout the summer. You will definitely see me at these locations and I won’t be hard to spot: just look for the woman who is non-stop talking Hungarian to her cute little girl and boy. Do say hi! See you around!