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  • Flowers at Soda City Market

27 Free Things to do in Columbia for the Class of 2027

We all know college can get expensive. With tuition, books, meal plans and insurance, going out and exploring with your friends may not always fit in the budget. Luckily, Columbia is full of free and fun things to do all year long! Here’s 27 free things to do in Columbia for the Class of 2027.

Soda City Market

Soda City is easily the most popular farmers market in Columbia. Wake up early one Saturday morning, grab some friends and enjoy a nice walk down Main Street!

River Walk(s)

Options, options, options! The Columbia area has several river walks and river access locations. The most popular spot is River Front Park on Huger Street. It is the perfect spot to walk, run or even go for a swim if it’s hot out.

Antique Mall/Vintage Shops

Just across the Blossom Street bridge is an awesome antique mall in West Columbia. Not only is this warehouse-size spot full of cool retro items, but it is also surrounded by local vintage shops.

Columbia Museum of Art

On the first Thursday of every month from 5 to 8 p.m., the Columbia Museum of Art offers free admission to the public! Getting to view awesome art pieces for free? I think that’s a yes for me.

Public Art Tour

Speaking of art, Columbia is filled with public art pieces and installations. Murals, sculptures and statues make our city one of the coolest places to walk around. You can find an interactive map of Columbia’s public art here.

Mural Photos

While you and your friends are on your public art tour, feel free to take pictures in front of your favorite pieces! What’s better than an impromptu photo-op? 

Parking Garage Photos

Another popular place for taking pictures is on top of Horizon Parking Garage. This sets you up for the best view of Columbia! So, whether you’re trying to take some neat shots of the city, or update your Instagram profile picture, find a spot and snap away!

Trivia at Village Idiot

Lots of local places offer trivia nights throughout the week, but my favorite spot is Village Idiot! Their trivia varies each week and makes for an awesome (free) night out with friends. Not to tempt you, but their pizza is amazing, so if you’ve got a few extra bucks, bring them!

Live Music

Musicians are everywhere in Cola. Walking down Main Street is where you’ll probably hear the loudest voices. Both The Columbia Museum of Art and Market on Main often host local musicians, so go give them a listen if you get the chance.

Owens Field Pump Track and Skate Park

For the skaters out there, you’re in luck. About a five-minute drive from campus is Owens Field Park. There’s a pump track, skate park and lots of smooth ground to roll around on.

Home Sports Events

Supporting the Gamecocks is always a good time. And what’s even more of a good time is being able to do it for free! Be sure to download The Cockpit app to check out each sports team’s schedule and reserve tickets to attend.

Weightlifting and Exercise Classes at Strom

Breaking a sweat doesn’t have to be boring. Grab a group of friends and head over to Strom! It has an awesome weight room, rock climbing wall, pool and even offers some great exercise classes

State House Tour

If you love history, the South Carolina State House is an awesome place to go. You can stroll around the gorgeous grounds and participate in a self-guided tour or you can get the full tour from a trained tour guide!


For those of you who don’t know, geocaching is an outdoor activity where participants use GPS and other clues to find little boxes or containers (called geocaches) all over the world. Columbia is a great place to attempt one of these geocache courses, but only if you’re up for a challenge! You can find various courses online.

Horseshoe Botanical Walk

USC’s A.C. Moore Herbarium staff offers an hour botany walk on the Horseshoe on the third Tuesday of every month! They meet on the steps of McKissick Museum and discuss various plant life located on the Horseshoe. This is a perfect opportunity for anyone who has (or wants) a green thumb!

South Carolina Military Museum

If you are a history buff, or just interested in all things military, head over to the South Carolina Military Museum! While donations are appreciated, admission to the museum is free! Why not make an afternoon of learning about the military legacy of the Palmetto State?

Richland Library

Richland County Library cards are free to all Richland County residents and property owners, and USC students, and are super easy to sign up for! Just log onto richland library website and fill out a quick form. You’ll immediately be given a library card number and have full access to all of their physical and online resources!

Governor's Mansion

Did you know that you can tour the governor’s mansion for free? There are three tours offered on Tuesday through Thursday each week at 10, 10:30 and 11 a.m. Simply book an individual or group tour and enjoy walking through the historic home of our S.C. governor!

Congaree National Park

If you’re a nature lover, go enjoy a day outside at the Congaree National Park! This is a popular day out for a lot of Columbia locals. Happy hiking!

Lake Murray Public Park

The Lake Murray Public Park in Lexington is an awesome place to go swim! It has a small beach area, lots of picnic tables and covered eating areas, and several public grilling spaces. While parking costs a few dollars, it is 100% free for pedestrian entrance.

Lake Murray Dam

For those of you who like a good outdoor walk or run, the Lake Murray Dam is the perfect place to go! Across and back is roughly 3.2 miles which makes for an awesome 5k training spot or a pretty place to walk! Who doesn’t love exercise with a scenic view?

Disc Golf

Disc Golf is a popular activity in Columbia! There are tons of locations to get outside and play a round with a group of friends. If this sounds appealing, you can check out all of Columbia’s courses here.

Outdoor Movie - Icehouse Amphitheater

If you’re up for a 25 minute drive, the Icehouse Amphitheater in Lexington is a fantastic place to go! Enjoy an outdoor movie, live music or several other free events that they offer! Just be sure to pack a picnic blanket or some lawn chairs.

Biking Through Columbia/Campus

You’ve probably already heard, but the University of South Carolina has been given a Silver Bicycle Friendly University Award from the League of American Bicyclists. This means that our campus has lots of biking accommodations. Likewise, if you don’t own a bike, Columbia has several spots where you can rent one. These are called Blue Bikes! Grab one of these and pedal through our awesome city!

Stair Climb at Finlay Park/South Carolina State House

If you’re familiar with the Rocky movies, you’ll see where I’m going with this. If not, it’s still a good workout! Go challenge yourself with a stair climbing workout at the South Carolina State House or Finlay Park on Laurel Street.

Tour McKissick Museum

Located on the Horseshoe, you can tour the McKissick Museum for free! While it is on campus, its history and tours are about so much more! Go learn something new!


What’s better than helping others? There are plenty of opportunities to serve others at USC and in the Columbia community. For example, each month, USC has a service Saturday where you can try multiple service opportunities!

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.