In the heart of the region known as the Upstate of South Carolina, is the vibrant city of Greenville, home to colleges, businesses, festivals and art venues. Picturesque and artsy, this city offers plenty of cheap and fun activities for families with kids, including an active parks system and museums. After your kids have found all nine bronze mice hidden along Main Street -- a local rite of passage and part of the city’s Art in Public Places initiative -- enjoy some budget-friendly playtime.
1. Play at the Park
There’s never an admission charge to play in Greenville’s parks. Falls Park has plenty of room to run around, a dramatic suspension bridge crossing the Reedy River and pretty public gardens. Bring a picnic, and kids can spend an entire day exploring the park. The playgrounds at Legacy Park are popular with local families -- kids and parents will appreciate the mix of playgrounds, open green spaces and paved walkways. With tennis courts, a horseshoe pit, a disc golf course and a playground, kids will have no trouble burning energy at Gower Estates Park.
2. Learn Something New
Admission to the Greenville Museum of Art is always free, and kids will enjoy exploring the museum’s small but accessible collection of American art. Bring sketchpads, and encourage kids to create their own masterpieces as you explore the major movements of American art in the Contemporary Collection. In addition to plenty of books, the Greenville Library hosts a variety of free events and activities for kids throughout the year, including craft workshops, concerts and book clubs. Check the library’s online calendar to see what’s coming up. Admission to the butterfly garden, arboretum and nature trail at Roper Mountain Science Center is free on weekdays.
3. Get Close to Nature
Load up your bikes and head to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The 17.5 mile trail system winds along the Reedy River along an old railroad bed, making a picturesque setting for long or short family bike rides. There’s no charge to use the trail. Kids can soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the garden in the Five Senses Garden in the Children’s Garden at Linky Stone Park. Encourage your children to look for the statues scattered throughout the garden -- they’ll spot familiar characters including Peter Rabbit and Winnie-the-Pooh. Kids 15 and younger get free admission to Paris Mountain State Park and adults only pay $2 to enjoy the miles of hiking trails and lake.
4. Make a Splash
Go after 4 p.m., and admission to the 7th Inning Splash Park at Lakeside Park is a bargain $3. Kids can zip around on the bowl slide, run through the splash pad or just swim in the pool. Kids can enjoy the water playground, lazy river, flow rider and slides at Discovery Island waterpark for just $4 per person after 4 p.m. Logging pool time at the Westside Aquatic Center is expensive if you pay daily, but the $25 monthly pass for kids is a good deal if you know you’ll be swimming often. Kids can swim in the center’s indoor pools year-round.