To go or not to go? Don’t let that be the question this summer when it comes to family fun.
Sure, a week at Disney has long been the hallmark of family vacation time. But all that Mouse magic can put a serious dent in your wallet. By our calculations, a week in the happiest (and most hyped) place on Earth would cost $2,500, not including food. Gas, accommodations, park admission, souvenirs — it’s enough to make you want to stay at home.
But don’t forgo making memories altogether. Just set your sights on more local adventures. For nearly the same price — $2,532 — you could rack up an entire summer of fun closer to home and have a little left over for snacks or souvenirs. Let us show you how:
Mileage figured from downtown Columbia round trip. Gas cost calculated at $4 a gallon for a vehicle getting 15 mpg.
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Disney World $2,173.94 — Magic Your Way Package for family of four (both children 10 or older), with Park Hopper passes for seven days, seven nights at Disney All-Star Movies resort
Trip expense: It’s 860 miles round trip. Figure in some side trips and driving at Disney World, go with 1,000 miles, in a vehicle getting 15 mpg with gas $4 per gallon: total is about $260.
Total cost, minus food and other expenses, $2,433.94.
Add in a few souvenirs and we’ll say $2,500 before food.
Coast and Coasters in Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach has something Orlando doesn’t — a beach. Take a mini-break at the shore and still get a thrill at the new Hard Rock Park.
$606 for three nights midweek at an oceanfront hotel $202* (average for standard room without tax or fees)
$93 for gas for 350 miles roundtrip, including in-town driving
$217-for four tickets for Hard Rock Park
Thrill rides and water park wonders at Carowinds
Hang out on the hottest rides like the Afterburn or stay cool in the big water at the new Bondi Beach wave pool and Boomerang Bay water park.
$183 for four tickets at $45.99
$47.46 for gas, 178 miles
Parades and fireworks on Lake Murray, Saturday, July 5
Wave at the decorated boats motoring and sailing in the annual boat parade in the afternoon (it starts at noon). Then spend the day at the south side beach. You can stake out your patch of sand to view the evening fireworks or head back up on the dam for a better view over the lake for the 9:15 p.m. display.
$3 for parking
$9.60 for gas, 36 miles
INFO: LAKE MURRAY DAM, HIGHWAY 6, LAKEMURRAYCOUNTRY.COM
Columbia Blowfish Baseball
Head to the ballpark on July 12 and July 19 to toss the ball around with the Blowfish boys of summer on the field before the game.
$18 for tickets (two adults, two children)
$3 game program
$6 souvenir baseball
80 cents for gas, three miles
INFO: CAPITAL CITY STADIUM, 301 S ASSEMBLY ST., (803) 254-3474, WWW.BLOWFISHBASEBALL.COM
Tubing the Saluda River
Laugh and splash through a lazy afternoon floating down the Saluda River perched in a comfy tube.
$60 for four tubes at $15 (cost includes tube rental, life jacket, shuttle to put-in)
$2.13 for gas, eight miles
INFO: PALMETTO OUTDOOR, 731 MEETING ST., WEST COLUMBIA, (803) 360- 4697, WWW.PALMETTOOUTDOOR.COM
Congaree National Park
Make reservations for a four-hour guided canoe trip inside the park along Cedar Creek; where giant bald cypress and tupelo remind you why this is a regional treasure.
Free (every other Sunday, reservations required at least two weeks in advance)
$8.53 for gas, 32 miles
INFO: 100 NATIONAL PARK ROAD,
HOPKINS, (803) 776-4396, WWW.NPS.GOV/COSW/
Chattooga River rafting adventure
A scenic five-hour rafting adventure down the premier white-water river in S.C.
$356 (four participants, 10 and older at $89 for weekday trip, includes lunch, weekends and BBQ; Fridays are more expensive)
$85.87 for gas, 322 miles
INFO: Wildwater Rafting, Long Creek, S.C., (800) 451-9972, www.wildwaterrafting.com
Join the popular zoo with a family membership, and cool off with a special members night Friday, July 18. The zoo is open after hours that evening, and will have specials on concessions as well.
$59 (annual membership for two adults and two children)
$3.20 for 12 miles
INFO: 500 WILDLIFE PARKWAY, (803) 779-8717, WWW.RIVERBANKS.ORG
Jet ski on Lake Murray
Who needs Space Mountain when you can rocket your way across a cool waterway on a rented jet ski.
$150 (two one-hour rentals at $75, does not include fuel)
$22.93 for gas, 86 miles
INFO: WET AND WILD JET SKIS, SPINNERS RESORT, 101 SANDALWOOD ROAD, BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, (803) 665-6736, WETANDWILDRENTALS.COM
Columbia Museum of Art Family Fun Night 5:30-7:30 p.m. July 11
Make merry and make art with the kids at this family event that includes music from the band Lunch Money, puppets and theater performances.
$14 (two adults, two students) museum admission
$1.60 for six miles
INFO: MAIN AND HAMPTON STREETS, (803) 799-2810, WWW.COLUMBIAMUSEUM.ORG
Saluda Splash at Saluda Shoals Park
Cool off in the interactive splash zone. Dry off and bike or stroll along shaded paths throughout this river retreat.
$12 ($3 per person)
$7.20 for gas for 27 miles
INFO: 5605 BUSH RIVER RD., (803) 731-5208, WWW.ICRC.NET/SALUDASHOALS
Palmetto Falls Water Park at Fort Jackson
Make the most of a summer day on this park’s two water slides, pools and lazy river.
$38 at $9.50 per person
$5.33 for gas, 20 miles
INFO: 3381 MARION AVE., (803) 751-4056, WWW.FORTJACKSONMWR.COM/WATERPARK/
Frankie’s Fun Park
There’s no mouse, but plenty of amusement, from go-karts to putt-putt and climbing walls to bumper boats. Take a swing at the batting cages or take aim at laser tag.
$200 (combined cost for four tickets to all attractions except arcade games)
$6.90 for gas, 26 miles
INFO: 140 PARKRIDGE DRIVE, (803) 781-2342, WWW.FRANKIESFUNPARK.COM
Relieve the Sunday boredoms once a month by exploring the natural and cultural history of South Carolina; and get in cheap.
$4 (four tickets on $1 Sundays, first Sunday of each month)
$1.87 for gas, seven miles
INFO: 301 GERVAIS ST., (803) 898-4921, WWW.MUSEUM.STATE.SC.US
Trail Ride on horseback
Saunter along cowboy style on a one-hour guided trail ride in Blythewood.
$160 ($40 per person)
$15.46 for gas, 58 miles
INFO: BEAR CREEK STABLES, 288 PINE GROVE ROAD, BLYTHEWOOD, (803) 786-5394, WWW.BEARCREEKSTABLES.NET
EdVenture, July 8
From 5 to 8 p.m., the children’s museum is having a Family Night. Take in all the fun EdVenture has to offer, including BubbleLoosa and AirPlay this summer.
$4 admission ($1 each for two adults, two children)
$1.87 for gas, seven miles
INFO: 211 GERVAIS ST., (803) 779-3100, WWW.EDVENTURE.ORG
Purple mMartin cruise
Get back to nature with a visit to Bomb Island the roosting site for thousands of purple martins. Lake Murray’s Southern Patriot cruises to the preserve in a two and one-half hour trip that often includes a spectacular sunset.
$108 (four tickets at $27)
$10.40 for gas, 39 miles
INFO: SOUTHERN PATRIOT, LAKE MURRAY MARINA, 1600 MARINA ROAD, (803) 749-8594, LAKEMURRAYTOURS.COM
— Compiled by Robin Cowie Nalepa