15 family-friendly attractions in South Carolina to enjoy this summer

Peter Watson

From synchronized fireflies and a festival of flowers to boat cruises and river trails, happy travelers of all ages can kick up the fun in South Carolina this summer with endless thrills, activities, and hands-on learning.

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Starry nights at the Roper Mountain Science Center in South CarolinaRoper Mountain Science Center

It’s time to return to the great outdoors!

After a long year of spending time indoors and apart from loved ones, South Carolina is the perfect location for families to safely reunite and explore its wide variety of outdoor activities.

Thanks to the state’s rich history, unique environmental offerings, and agricultural abundance, there are various educational moments that parents will appreciate – and children will simply enjoy.

From the mountains to the Midlands to the coast, families can explore on land, by water, and even look to the stars to create the ultimate family vacation.

Family-friendly attractions in South Carolina

Learn more about some of the state’s can’t miss spring/summer family outdoor excursions

1. Croft State Park

Location: Spartanburg

Croft State Park is an ideal place to welcome springtime, with 2.5 miles of hiking trails and more than 20 miles of biking trails.

Along with hiking and biking, fishing, boating, and paddling are available for visitors of all ages looking to take to the water.

There are three picnic shelters perfect for an outdoor lunch, and 50 campsites available for RV or tent camping.

As a bonus, the park is pet-friendly so your four-legged companions can join.

2. Huntington Beach State Park Nature Center

Location: Murrells Inlet

Huntington Beach State Park opened a new nature center after its previous center was destroyed in a lightning strike fire four years ago.

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Huntington Beach State Park's new nature centerClayton Stairs/Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce

The new nature center is a $1.2 million investment and features a birding area, a classroom, and an exhibit area with an ocean animal touch tank, and live reptile tanks.

3. Reconstructed A Journey Through the Reconstruction Era

Location: Columbia

The area’s first history centered trail highlights eight locations and 10 trailblazers of the post-Civil War period to provide a new perspective to residents and visitors on how the past has shaped our modern nation.

4. Synchronized Fireflies at Congaree National Park

Where: Hopkins

After pausing last year due to the pandemic, this iconic event returns with new COVID-19 safety protocols as a drive-through event, limited to 25 vehicles per night.

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Synchronous Fireflies light up the forest at dusk in South Carolina's Congaree National ParkNPS

Visitors can obtain their tickets to see the amazing phenomena of the fireflies synchronizing their flash through a lottery system.

5. Starry Nights at Roper Mountain Science Center

Location: Greenville

Roper Mountain Science Center is opening up its planetarium for immersive views of educational and exciting movies.

Tickets also include a ride on the virtual roller-coaster and guided viewings of the Upstate’s night sky.

6. Revolutionary Rivers Trail

Where: Florence

The 66-mile nature trail follows the Lynches Scenic River and offers paddlers a unique experience of floating through swampland that was used as a guerilla warfare-style battleground during the Revolutionary War.

The trail also features a series of short excursions and overnight rustic camping opportunities.

7. Lindsay Pettus Greenway

Where: Lancaster

This 2.1-mile hiking/biking trail is also home to some great family activities.

Join Lancaster County Parks & Recreation every 2nd Saturday to create fun arts and crafts using materials found in nature.

After a Greenway visit, visitors can enjoy lunch or a treat from one of the local food truck vendor friends in the Visitor Parking Lot.

8. Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina

Where: Pendleton

Explore the museum inside and out to learn about the interpretation and preservation of South Carolina’s agricultural heritage.

Families can explore its various indoor exhibits and can also connect with nature through the outdoor garden and many animals.

9. Carolina Wren Splash Park + Scavenger Hunt

Where: Anderson

Hidden in plain sight, Downtown Anderson is dotted with small bronze replicas of the Wren bird, making for a fun scavenger hunt while experiencing all downtown has to offer including the splash park!

Clues & map can be found online, or visitors can pick up a map from the Visitors Center 110 Federal St. Suite 8 Anderson, SC 29627

10. South Carolina Festival of Flowers

Where: Greenwood

Greenwood is known for its spectacular topiaries on display throughout Uptown every summer, and this festival is the perfect time to bring the family to enjoy the gorgeous displays and southern hospitality

. The festival also hosts Kidfest where the little ones can enjoy a Sidewalk chalk art contest, Carolina Choo-Choo train rides, and more!

11. Wateree River Veterans Park

Where: Lugoff

The latest addition to the city’s green space includes a 650 meter (2,112 ft) concrete walking trail, floating kayak and canoe launch, and access to the Wateree River.

12. Coastal Expeditions Dolphin & History Boat Cruise

Where: Beaufort

Cruise along the waterfront as the captain shares stories about local history, beginning with Native Americans and into Spanish exploration, followed by the French settlement and English colonization.

Along the way, spot playful bottlenose dolphins, nesting bald eagles, and ospreys on the hunt.

The 1.5 hour-long tour is the perfect introduction to Beaufort’s incredible history and abundant wildlife.

13. Camden Riverfront Environmental Park

Where: Camden

For the first time in more than a decade, the public now has recreational access to the Wateree River in Camden thanks to this eco-attraction.

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The new Camden Riverfront Environmental Parkcityofcamden.org

Visitors will enjoy its meandering kayak lagoon with waterfall, riverfront kayak and canoe launch, 0.9-mile natural surface trail, and demonstration islands for agricultural and wildlife education.

Future developments include boardwalks connecting to the lagoon’s Duck Head Island and covered observation platform.

14. Landsford Canal State Park

Where: Catawba

Spider Lilies will be in bloom along the banks of the Catawba River from mid-May to mid-June.

Take a hike along the Canal or Nature trails to see the lilies in bloom or paddle the Catawba for a waterfront view!

15. Glendale Shoals

Where: Spartanburg

Near the historic Glendale Mill on Lawson’s Fork Creek this scenic spot features waterfalls cascading over a dam where kayakers are occasionally spotted.

Visitors can enjoy a stroll around the area, where wildlife is often visible, and the sense of calm tranquillity is abundant.

The waters may be a little cool in the spring but are welcoming to waders, nonetheless.

Coming Soon: American Surf Parks

Where: Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach will soon be home to South Carolina's first man-made surf park, called American Surf Park.

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Coming soon: South Carolina's first surf parksurfworks.com

The park's surfing lagoon will generate up to 1,000 waves per hour, with heights between 2-6 feet.

The development will also include an amphitheatre to accommodate up to 15,000 people.

Preliminary renderings of the park have been completed and the build is expected to begin in 2021.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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