Headlines in the Midlands
Top Ten Summer Outdoor Activities in Columbia
July 12, 2012
This summer, many people are unable to afford a vacation and time off from work, but may be looking for a way to enjoy the beautiful weather on a budget. Columbia has plenty of activities to keep you active and your wallet full this summer, from parks, rivers and lakes to the zoo. Get active this summer by doing one or all of my Top Ten Summer Outdoor Activities in Columbia, and have a vacation right in your own back yard!
Number 10: Golf
Golfing is a great outdoor activity that you can enjoy with your friends this summer. Oak Hills Golf Club was rated one of the top places to play golf in Columbia by Golflink.com members. Oak Hills Golf Club, located at 7629 Fairfield Road in Columbia, was named in Golf Digest's "Places to Play" in 2006. College students and seniors can play during primetime with a golf cart for only $25.00 during the week, and all others can play for $37.00 on weekdays and $47.00 on weekends. Other amenities include a pro shop, practice facilities and a bar and grill. Individual lessons begin at $50.00 with the option to purchase multiple sessions at a discounted rate. To book your tee time, look for specials or get more information, visit Oak Hills Golf Club's website at http://www.oakhillsgolf.com. If you are interested in joining an organization, the South Carolina Golf Association can assist you in everything from the rules of the game to tournaments to magazines. Visit http://scgolf.org/ for more information.
Number 9: Visit a Park
There are so many great parks in and around Columbia to visit! You can sightsee, hike, camp, picnic, canoe, kayak and walk your dog! Entrance into Congaree National Park is free. Congress established the area as Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976, and in 2003, the name and designation was changed to Congaree National Park. Sign up for a canoe tour and learn more at http://www.nps.gov/cong/index.htm.
If you feel like taking a horse ride, try Saluda Shoals Park. You don't need experience; instructors will give you a tutorial before riding on the trails. You can book the horseback ride by calling the Environmental Education Center at 803-213-2053. Costs range from $35 to $50. There is also a place to enter your boat, canoe or kayak into the Saluda River as well as a picnic area. To enter Saluda Shoals Park, it costs about $3 to $4. There's also a water playground, Saluda Splash, for kids open now through September 3rd, and wristbands cost only $3. The Barking Lot Dog Park is a place to take your dog to have some fun! Dogs must be pre-registered, up-to-date on their shots and spayed/neutered. Dogs are able to run leash-free and make new friends! Fees are also required. To learn about fees and policies, go to http://www.icrc.net/parks/saluda-shoals.aspx.
Sesquicentennial State Park is another great location with multiple activities. A retreat center and camping sites are great for overnight stays. Guests can rent kayaks and canoes, go fishing, hike on nature trails, or ride on the 6-mile bicycle loop. Admission is $2. Senior citizens pay $1.25 to enter and kids 15-years-old and younger enter free! A dog park is also available at Sesquicentennial State Park! Dogs can go leash-free in this 2-acre fenced in area. Daily and annual permits are required and available at the park office. Dogs must also be up-to-date on vaccinations and spayed/neutered. The park also has a special summer event known as Summer Movie Night. Movies are for all ages and are free with paid park admission. Movies start at dark every second Friday of the month through August. For more information on these activities, visit http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/sesqui/introduction.aspx.
Number 8: Fishing
Fishing is a great way to relax and enjoy nature during summer months. Lake Murray and Saluda River are popular fishing spots in Columbia. The Saluda River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a fishing club in Columbia, has partnered with several organizations in order to preserve Saluda River and other trout habitats. They have monthly meetings that often involve education on subjects such as conservation, water quality, flow levels and other fish topics. Meetings take place at the Green Quad on USC's campus every second Monday of the month. The club has day and weekend outings that anyone can sign up for through the website. To learn more about this organization, go to http://www.saludatu.org/. For fishing gear, go to The Tackle Shop located at 743 Meeting Street in West Columbia.
Number 7: Tennis
Tennis is a great way to stay active this summer. There are many public courts in and around Columbia, and equipment is as easy as buying a racket and tennis balls. The Columbia Tennis League is a place for people of all ages and experience levels to meet and compete in matches. During the summer, mixed doubles and combo doubles usually play. To become a member, you first find a team through either contacts listed on the website or bulletin boards. Then you register with the team and pay a registration fee, which is around $15 to $30 depending on the team. Places to play in Columbia are listed on the league's website as well. For more information on how to join the league or where to play, visit http://www.columbiatennisleague.org/. For tennis equipment, go to Hardcore Tennis Columbia at 2901 Devine Street in Columbia.
Number 6: Go to Riverbanks Zoo
Riverbanks Zoo is an exciting place to visit in Columbia. Tickets are reasonably priced at $11.75. Military and senior citizens can enter for $10.75, children for $9.25, and children who are 2-years-old or younger enter for free. Visitors can enjoy animal exhibits, demonstrations, the botanical garden, feeding the animals and much more! There are many fun events during the summer to enjoy as well! Toucan Tuesdays have already begun this summer. On every Tuesday, two people can enter the zoo for the price of one if they bring two canned goods to donate to Harvest Hope. They also have an ongoing event called Zoovie Nights. On certain Fridays in June and July, visitors can pay $5 to watch a family movie at the zoo. For adult fun, come to Brew at the Zoo August 3rd at 7:00. Tickets are $40 pre-purchased and $50 on the day of the event. Designated drivers can purchase tickets for $15, and cabs will be waiting outside until 10:00. Visitors can taste domestics, imports and micros while walking through the zoo listening to live music. For more information on these and other events, go to http://www.riverbanks.org/.
Number 5: Boat Riding
Why not take a break from the heat by boating on Lake Murray this summer? If you don't have a boat, that's not a problem. Brown Marine in Chapin offers rentals daily. Pontoon rentals are $125 during the week and $175 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Brown Marine also sells and repairs boats. For more information on these services, visit http://www.brownmarinesales.com/. Also, be sure not to miss Lake Murray's 4th of July Celebration and Boat Parade on June 30th. The parade begins at noon and fireworks will begin around 9:00 p.m. Radio stations 106.7 and 98.5 will play patriotic music that the fireworks show has been choreographed to!
Number 4: Bicycling
A biking community is growing in Columbia through clubs, organizations and stores catering to cyclists. Carolina Cyclers is a club formed in 1964 for bikers in the Midlands. The club sponsors local events and creates evening rides for both members and non-members. Anyone can join, from beginners to professionals. Club meetings are held every fourth Monday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at Za's on Devine Street. Popular places to ride are Harbison State Forest, Congaree National Park and Caughman Road Park. For information on upcoming cycling events and races, go to http://www.carolinacyclers.org/. To buy or rent cycling equipment, visit Outspokin on Devine Street. Their website has information on everything from their products to local trails and group rides to information on cycling. Outspokin also offers bike fittings and repairs.
Number 3: Running
Running is a great way to stay in shape this summer without paying gym membership fees. Equipment is as simple as clothes and shoes with a variety of settings in Columbia to choose from. Popular running spots in Columbia include West Columbia Riverwalk, Dreher Shoals Dam Walk, Three Rivers Greenway and Harbison State Forest, to name a few. Strictly Running, a store in 5 points, has all the information you could need from finding the right shoe to where the upcoming races will be held. Visit their store to buy great clothing and shoes or visit their website for information on upcoming races and results at www.strictlyrunning.com. Some upcoming events are Born in the U.S.A. Four Miler on July 4th, Capital City Safe 5k Run/Walk on July 20th, and Hot Summer's Night 5k & Fun Run on August 4th. Running clubs are a great way to meet fellow runners and find a group to run with safely. The Columbia Running Club and the Carolina Marathon Association are two such clubs in the area. To learn more about these clubs, go to http://www.colarunclub.com and http://www.carolinamarathon.org.
Number 2: Ride Dirt Bikes and ATV's
One place in Columbia stands out as a great place to ride dirt bikes and ATV's – Carolina Adventure World. Carolina Adventure World is the Southeast's largest ATV and dirt bike riding park, with over 2,600 acres of land. The tracks and trails are great for all ages and experience levels. You can bring your own equipment or rent from them. Entry is $25 for adults, $15 for children and free for kids 3-years-old and under. Spectators can pay only $10 to enter. There is also a rock crawl, barbeque pit, welcome center, storage facilities and camping and RV hookups. You can also rent a cabin for overnight and weekend getaways. Upcoming events include half off specials on Thursdays in July and August and a golf cart rally from July 20th-22nd. For more information about Carolina Adventure World, visit their website at http://www.carolinaadventureworld.net/.
Number 1: Canoe and Kayak
If you are interested in canoeing or kayaking, Get Your Gear On offers tours and equipment to suit your needs. The store has been open for six years, three years at its current location, and began mainly as a consignment store. Now, they offer an almost equal mixture of new and lightly used equipment. Staying true to their mission of "keeping the outdoors affordable," the prices start at half the usual retail amount. The store, located near Riverbanks Zoo, carries gear for kayaking, canoeing, camping, climbing and hiking, as well as outdoor clothing. Co-owner Hartley Barber understands that the benefits of these outdoor activities go far beyond staying in shape.
"Well, canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking and camping - all of that stuff is great for you physically because of the exercise, but the real benefit is mental, in my opinion," Barber said. "It's the ability to get away, relieve some stress and have some fun. It's something that once you invest a little bit of time in, the pay-off is tremendous. You just feel better; the air is great, the water is great, and the exercise is fantastic. It's something that you can do for the rest of your life. It's not a sport that you're going to time-out on."
Get Your Gear On has been selling a lot of hammocks and rock climbing gear this summer, as well as refurbishing bicycles for riding trails around the Midlands. Grand Trunk has recently come out with a sleeping bag that wraps around a hammock. These sleeping bags allow you to be cocooned inside the hammock and stay warm in the colder months. You can buy this and other great products at Get Your Gear On today.
The store offers canoe and kayak tours through the Saluda, Broad and Congaree Rivers all year, with experienced guides. Tours cover all skill levels, price ranges and ages. Barber says that a beginner would be fine on any of the trips, but the Upper Saluda and Congaree River trips are the best because they are the calmest waters. The Lower Saluda tour is the whitewater trip and although a beginner would be safe to try it, this is the most challenging of the tours. The best deal, according to Barber, is the Three River Extravaganza. Though some trips cost as little as $35, this trip gives you a tour through three rivers and an extra hour for only $60. But the real reason it is a great trip is the ability to see a diverse group of aquatic life.
"There's a bald eagle's nest, osprey, ducks, geese and striper bass," Barber said. "In the Upper Saluda last week, I saw alligator carp, which scares some people, but I think it's a beautiful fish; it's prehistoric looking. The Saluda River tends to be a little more clear so on the upper stretches, you can actually see up to about 10 or 15 feet into the water."
The Moonlight Paddle is a special event occurring monthly on the Friday and Saturday closest to the full moon through September. Starting at 7:30 p.m., groups paddle through the Congaree River towards the barge canal for about two hours to catch a glimpse of the full moon in a picturesque setting.
"The Moonlight Paddle is the best way to see the full moon locally," Barber said. "From the river's perspective, it's just beautiful when it comes up over the trees."
Get Your Gear On also offers private lessons by appointment if needed. The first session is typically two hours for $30, in which you practice eddy-hopping, ferrying and rolling. The amount of sessions needed is dependent upon the individual.
Overnight tours and camping are also available with expert tour guides, as are guided fishing trips. The Congaree Blue Trail goes through Congaree National Park and is a two-and-a-half day trip. It's over 50 miles starting at the Gervais Street bridge and ending at the 601 bridge. Fishing trips are by appointment and the owners are looking to expand that area soon. Get Your Gear On has recently partnered with California Republic in Irmo to open up an outpost on Lake Murray for daily rentals. California Republic rents paddle boards, and Get Your Gear On rents canoes and kayaks. People can rent these for $10 for the first 30 minutes and $5 for every half hour beyond that. Rentals are available Friday and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The post is located on the Little Peninsula on Horse Creek next to the South Shore Marina.
Soon, the store will begin a contest on facebook in which people take photos of themselves wearing the popular Get Your Gear On logo apparel and doing something active. The pictures can range from humorous to extreme, and the winner will win a gift yet to be determined.
Anyone wanting to join kayak or canoe clubs can join Palmetto Paddlers or the USC Outdoors Club. There is also a "loose" organization called Saluda Yakerz, started by friends of the owners of Get Your Gear On, which has become a community resource for paddling enthusiasts. These activities and organizations are a great way to connect with people in your hometown.
"Kayaking and canoeing is also a great way to build relationships, whether they be familial or outreach into communities, such as church groups, business groups, or anything else," Barber said. "It's a great way to exercise and build friendships."
For more information about Get Your Gear On, go to http://www.getyourgearon.com.