Navigating the Midlands' top family attractions

The StateApril 22, 2014 

Here are local "expert" tips on how to navigate your kids through Columbia’s big attractions for families — the SC State Museum, EdVenture, and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden — and have a little bit of fun yourself.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

500 Wildlife Parkway (803) 779-8717

1. Hang out with the monkeys at Riverbanks. Head over to the siamang island around 10 a.m., recommends Ashlee Young of Columbia, who brings her two children there often. “They always start ‘talking’ to each other around that time. My daughter laughs at the ‘whooping’ and swinging.”

2. Get your photo taken at the gorilla statue. “We get a family picture there,” Young said.

3. Climb the turtle statue. It’s another photo moment for Young and her family.

4. Watch the penguins swim. “The kids just sit and watch the penguins swim and play and they fuss when I tell them it’s time to move on,” says Elizabeth Nesbitt of Sumter.

5. The best time to go to the zoo is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And arrive early. “We always had luck going early in the morning to the zoo; it doesn’t seem as crowded as the afternoon or early evening.

EdVenture

211 Gervais St. (803) 779-3100

1. Toddler Tuesday is awesome. Stacey Gregory’s daughter, Ella, was a big fan when she was younger. “They had painting, sand tables and age-appropriate toys for her to play with,” Gregory said. “It was nice to be able to do some of the messier activities like painting and not have to clean up the mess.”

2. Plan an outing in the summer. You’ll be glad you did. “EdVenture will provide us with a cooler day of fun during the hot Columbia summer,” Gregory says.

3. Let the kids run through Eddie. Eddie (the giant child that dominates the museum) is not only educational. “The children are learning and having fun while wearing themselves out,” Gregory says.

4. A simple phone call can help you avoid crowds. “EdVenture hosts many field days for schools, so I suggest calling ahead to see how many are planned for the day of your visit,” Gregory says.

5. Even young ones can find something to like. “My eight-month-old likes to see all the colors and listen to all the noises the exhibits make,” says Dawn Hopkins of Columbia. Try the Sound Studio in the Maker Works exhibit.

SC State Museum

301 Gervais St. (803) 898-4921

1. Finn the shark might be a centerpiece, but there’s another star. “My kids to this day still call it the mammoth museum because they really love to see the great big mastodon in the animal section,” says Beth DeWolf, who lives in Northeast Richland with her husband and two kids.

2. It’s not just for kids. “It has a lot to offer adults, too,” DeWolf says. “We’ve taken my parents and in-laws there as well.”

3. It’s never crowded, and that’s good. “... Because it’s so big,” DeWolf says. “ There’s three levels, so they get in the explorer mode and they wear themselves out.”

4. It’s a great place to shop. The Cotton Mill Exchange features a wide array of South Carolina products. “They have awesome gifts,” DeWolf says. “We always stop there.”

5. You can go out of this world. DeWolf’s sons love exploring the space exhibits, especially when they can climb upon a replica of a moon buggy. There will be more to see when the museum’s observatory, planetarium and a 4-D theater open later this year.

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