When people in Columbia think “day trip,” the first place that often comes to mind is Charleston, and for good reason: The location consistently ranks as the best city in America by Travel + Leisure Magazine, among other accolades.
But the Palmetto State has much more to offer in the way of day trips from Columbia, especially for those looking for a more relaxed pace. Here are some day trip ideas from Columbia that aren’t downtown Charleston.
Congaree National Park
Of the 63 national parks in the United States, only 10 fall east of the Mississippi River. One of those just so happens to be right in our back yard. Congaree National Park’s biggest draw is its annual synchronized firefly displays in late spring, but the park has plenty to offer the remainder of the year, including boardwalk and canoe trails. Best of all, it’s completely free to visitors. Estimated drive time: 30 minutes
Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary
Two words: pig cuddling. This organization cares for abandoned, abused, neglected and elderly pigs, and it’s always in need of volunteers. People over the age of 18, or 16 with a parent’s supervision, can sign up for a variety of tasks around the farm, including a spot on the coveted cuddler team. Estimated drive time: 40 minutes
This small town has a few off-the-beaten-path attractions worth a visit. There’s the Button King Museum, filled with button-covered objects like shirts, instruments and even a hearse; the Pearl Fryar topiary garden, featuring three acres of sculpted hedges; and the South Carolina Cotton Museum, detailing the history of the cotton industry. The town’s real claim to fame, however, is the Lizard Man, a local Bigfoot of sorts whose three-toed footprint has been cast in plaster and now sits on display inside the cotton museum. Estimated drive time: 50 minutes
UFO Welcome Center
Whether it’s a whimsical roadside stop or a potential safety hazard is up for debate — loose floorboards and stray power chords characterize the homemade space craft. With that being said, Carolinians have to see the UFO Welcome Center for themselves in order to fully appreciate it. If visitors are lucky, they might catch creator Jody Pendarvis working on the attraction, which is located in front of his trailer, and maybe snap a photo with the local legend. Estimated drive time: one hour
Pogues unite: Those who venture all the way to the end of Folly Island will find the Morris Island Lighthouse, which was featured in the popular Netflix series “Outer Banks.” Located just outside of Charleston, this beach is a popular gathering place for surfers, fishermen and families alike. The area is full of restaurants and shops typical of any good beach town. Estimated drive time: two hours
This town is chock-full of Southern charm. Make sure to visit the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park for views of the bay, and drop by the Chocolate Tree, where Forrest Gump got his iconic box of chocolates. Another 30 minutes down the road will take you to the most popular state park in South Carolina: Hunting Island. Estimated drive time: two hours 10 minutes
Table Rock State Park
The views more than make up for the strenuous journey. Several scenic vistas accompany the trail to the top. Drive about 20 minutes up the road for a reverse view of Table Rock from the overlook at Caesar’s Head State Park. Estimated drive time: two hours 15 minutes
Maybe one waterfall just isn’t enough. Maybe you need 250 of them. Quite appropriately, Transylvania County is known as the “Land of Waterfalls.” Favorites include looking glass falls and sliding rock, a natural waterslide. For those wanting to keep dry, check out downtown Brevard for shopping and dining. Estimated drive time: two hours 30 minutes