Summer days in Columbia

So you are in Columbia taking classes, working or simply hanging out. What are the odds you get bored at some point this summer? Have some mini-adventures of your own, get out of the house and try something new. Grab your friends and make the most of your summer break by doing one of the fun ideas listed here.

Intramural sports

Want an easy way to stay active during the summer? Grab some friends and join an intramural sports team, no experience necessary. This is an easy way to get involved on campus, make new friends and showcase your skills. Sports offered during the summer include kickball, bowling, flag football, soccer and golf. Visit the campus recreation website for more information. 

Stargazing at Melton Memorial Observatory

You’re in for a breathtaking experience if you decide to spend a night stargazing at the Melton Memorial Observatory. A visit to this 90-year-old observatory is free to the public, and the astronomers inside are prepared to give you an exquisite tour of the night sky. The observatory also will host events for students, faculty and the community in connection with the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. The observatory is open on Monday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. 

Garden Grill

Support the students of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management this summer and stop by the Garden Grill for lunch. Located on the McCutchen House patio, this hidden gem serves burgers, sandwiches and salads. Hours of operation, menu items and weekly deals can be found online.

Visit a campus gym

Campus gyms are open throughout the summer. Blatt is free to any faculty, staff or student with a valid Carolina Card, and summer access passes to the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center are available for purchase. Group exercise classes are also available. Visit the campus recreation website for more information.   

Soda City market

The Main Street district is filled every Saturday morning with local businesses at the Soda City farmers market. Vendors line the streets, selling a range of locally made products, including  fresh produce, bread, soaps, jewelry and other items. You can even get breakfast or lunch from a local food truck. Bring your pup and make a morning of it.  

Visit a park

After days of sitting on the couch, binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix, you’ll need to get up and spend some time outdoors. Luckily, Columbia is home to many parks that are filled with things to do. Take your dog out for to play in Riverfront Park or for an evening stroll in Finlay Park. If you really want an adventure, lace up your hiking boots and head over to Congaree National Park, South Carolina’s only national park. Congaree has several hiking trails and Carolina students can rent a canoe from the Outdoor Recreation office there. 

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Located just a few minutes from campus, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is the perfect way to spend a day in Columbia. The zoo is home to nearly 2,000 animals and includes many historical landmarks as well as a botanical garden. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, add in a run through the zip-line canopy or climb the rock wall. Best of all, tickets are 15 percent off if you purchase online. 


Anyone who has spent a summer in Columbia knows that not every day can be spent outside. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the heat, visit one of the exquisite museums in town. The Columbia Museum of Art, located on Main Street, showcases unique exhibitions of artists and their collections, and provides guided tours that are free with admission. The South Carolina State Museum on Gervais Street is filled with many unique and historical exhibits, a planetarium, observatory and a 4-D theater. Both museums also host events throughout the week.  

Catch some Fireflies

Spirit Communications Park will provide many nights of entertainment this summer as the Columbia Fireflies take on other Class A opponents in the South Atlantic League. From hot dogs to home runs, fans fill the stadium to cheer on the home team. The team plays about a dozen home games each month during the summer. Check out the Fireflies website for special promotions and a complete schedule.

Lake Murray

If that Columbia heat and humidity is really getting to you, head to Lake Murray for the day. There are a few places to hang out and relax, but one of the best places to go is Bundrick Island (aka Sandy Beach), which is not an island at all, but a peninsula. It is only accessible by boat or bicycle, which makes it all the more interesting and fun. Additionally, Lake Murray has marinas and parks, hiking trails and fishing. There’s only a $3 parking fee, so pack your sunscreen and your friends and head out for some exploring.   

Columbia public pools

Not able to go to Strom all summer? No access to a pool at all? No problem. Columbia has two local pools to beat the heat: Maxcy-Gregg and Greenview. Maxcy-Gregg is the closest to campus, located just off Blossom Street inside Maxcy-Gregg Park. It features an Olympic-sized pool, perfect for simple sun-bathing. Greenview has a more elaborate set up with a slide and a waterpark for kids and is only about 15 minutes north of campus on Main Street or SC 277. 

Day trips

As a centrally located city, Columbia sure does have its perks when it comes to day trips. Charleston and Downtown Greenville are two-hour drives away and Charlotte, N.C., is even closer, making these cities perfect for short getaways. Try a new restaurant in Charleston, ride a rollercoaster in Charlotte, or explore Greenville's natural beauty.

Tag us!

Let us know if you participate in any of these activities. Tag @UofSCStudents or use #UofSCSummer on Twitter or Instagram. You could be featured on our social media.

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