Family Travel 2011

Megan Sexton



Looking for free things to do before school starts? Read on

Posted 7/30/2010 11:14:00 AM

What family isn’t looking for a way to stretch vacation dollars?

There are plenty of free -- or nearly free -- places and activities to take advantage of in South Carolina. Here is a look at four:

Catch some history

The Cowpens National Battlefield in Gaffney is a Revolutionary War battle site that commemorates the victory of Brigadier Gen. Daniel Morgan over his dreaded foe, Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, in the cause for American Independence. It was an important link in a chain of events that ultimately led to the defeat and surrender of the British commander Lord Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown, Va. The battlefield is a unit of the National Park System, a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior.

The 845-acre park is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and features a visitor center, battlefield, trail, auto loop road around the perimeter of the battlefield, and a picnic area.

It‘s free to visit. The only charges are to reserve the picnic shelter. The battlefield is at 4001 Chesnee Hwy, Gaffney.

There also are re-enactments and other events scheduled throughout the year. For more information and a listing of the events, see

Cool off in Charleston

Kids can get cool off in downtown Charleston at the city’s Waterfront Park.

There are two splash areas, offering an area for toddlers and young kids to play in the water, and an area with stronger sprays that is a big hit with older kids (and more than a few parents, too).

The waterfront park covers 8 acres along Charleston Harbor, and offers places to relax, picnic, read and soak in the sites.

Stroll the boardwalk

The new Myrtle Beach boardwalk and promenade opened this year, letting you stroll along the oceanfront from Pier 14 at 14th Avenue North to the Second Avenue North pier.

Along with being a perfect place for a family walk, the 1.2 mile long boardwalk is home to festivals and events all summer long.

The mid-section of the boardwalk, from Plyler Park to the former Pavilion amusement park site at 8th Avenue North, has more of a carnival feel, with dining and shopping areas. The southernmost end of the boardwalk leading to the 2nd Avenue North pier is more of a meandering oceanfront park.

On Tuesdays and Saturday nights, you can catch the free concerts at Plyler Park. On Wednesday nights, take in the fireworks display off the 2nd Avenue North Pier. Sunday nights you’ll find juggling, acrobatics and carnival performers, Thursday there will be a strolling bagpiper on the boardwalk, while Friday brings a strolling Dixieland band.

If you do want to spend some money, there are shops along the way from Pier 14 to the Second Avenue Pier.

Movies and music at the park

Columbia’s Finlay Park, one of the city’s most popular parks, features a man-made waterfall, two playgrounds and plenty of open space. It’s also home to two free weekly events for families in the summer.

On Friday nights, check out Movies in the Park. Family activities begin at 8 p.m. and the movies start at sunset. See for a listing. And don’t forget to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on.

On Saturday nights in the summer, grab your blanket, lawn chairs and picnic basket and head to Finlay Park for a free concert in the shadow of downtown.

The Summer Concert Series has been a family favorite for years, with bands bringing a different style of music each week, from blues to beach to big band.

You are not allowed to bring grills, alcohol or pets, but food and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are sold by vendors.

The music runs from 8-10 p.m., but families arrive earlier to grab a spot, feast on a picnic and let the kids enjoy the playground. Finlay Park is at 930 Laurel St.