Are you changing your vacation plans due to high gas costs and the expense of, well, everything? If you’re thinking about trying a stay-cation in the Upstate, SC area, you’ve come to the right spot. At Kidding Around we know a lot about local family fun, and we’ve even tried out the staycation idea already this summer. So, take that week off, or plan that long weekend. We promise, you can have a vacation experience and still sleep in your bed every night.
What is a Staycation?
Mix “stay” and “vacation” and you have “staycation.” Plan to do vacation-like things, while staying at home. Maybe this means eating out, maybe it means just a week off of work and enjoying the outdoors, maybe it means doing a few of those fun family things to do that have been on your list for awhile. Either way, it can be just a relaxing, if not more, than a traditional vacation.
Staycation Pros: Why you should try a staycation this year
- Save gas money! No road trips are required to arrive at your destination.
- No packing and no loading the car with what feels like half your house.
- No pet sitter or house sitter is required, which can save you more money.
- You won’t hear “Are we there yet?” 100 times. Ok, maybe we can’t promise that.
- No money spent on lodging.
- Sleep in your own bed. I don’t know about you, but while I love to travel, I miss my bed.
Staycation Tips: How to staycation
Wondering how to plan a staycataion? Or how to get that relaxed vacation feel in your own house? Here are the tips that helped us enjoy our staycation.
- The temptation not to relax on staycation is real. Most people won’t consider it a vacation if they’re using time off to fix that broken toilet paper holder, stain the deck, or replace the faucet. Save the home improvement projects and chores for another time, unless the whole family agrees on a “working” staycation. Likewise, if you are a work-from-home person, leave the computer off if you can. Our rule of thumb was, “if we wouldn’t do the thing at a vacation rental house, we’re not doing it on staycation.”
- If your budget doesn’t allow for eating out for every meal, plan some low-effort and fun home meals. Maybe that means some fun charcuterie boards, maybe that means sandwich bar night, or maybe it means just hot dogs over a fire in the backyard. Toss some baked potatoes in the crockpot so when you get home from your day you can just load them up with ham or bacon or whatever the kids want. Don’t plan anything labor-intensive. Also consider lower-cost take-out options like grabbing a rotisserie chicken, a bag of salad, and some fun cookies at the grocery store. Or order a family meal – we love Viva Chicken’s Family Dinner on Thursday nights or a Kroc Center’s Kroc Pot meal (order by Sunday night for the following Wednesday or Thursday).
- Have a list of things you’d like to do, same as you would if you traveled to a new city. This will help you avoid sitting home and being bored (unless that’s what you want to do, of course!)
Summer Staycation Things to Do in Greenville
Since we’re not spending money on lodging, maybe that will open up your budget a little to spend on local activities that you ordinarily wouldn’t be able to do. Or, maybe you’re looking for free or very cheap things to do on your staycation. Either way, we have some great ideas.
The Upstate area waterparks may not be huge when compared to what large theme parks offer, but they still offer family fun and have a lot of good things going for them. Our kids had a blast and that makes for happy parents.
Benefits of visiting a local waterpark:
- They are much more affordable than large amusement parks.
- There are several local water parks near Greenville, so you won’t have to drive far and spend a lot on gas.
- Smaller parks mean less stress trying to keep track of everyone, shorter lines, and you’ll get a chance to experience all the attractions multiple times if you wish.
Plan a visit to one of the Upstate, SC waterparks during your staycation:
Go Bowling, Catch a Movie and Play at an Arcade
We took our kids to The Big E in Gaffney, SC, on a rainy day of our staycation. But there are certainly closer options to do all these things if you’re looking to save money on fuel.
We did enjoy our trip to the Big E and overall it was quite affordable. If you go on a Monday movie tickets are only $5. Get the refillable popcorn bag and toss some plastic cups in your purse so that everyone can have their own container.
Bowling is one of those things we just never really got around to with our kids. We did it maybe once or twice and then, well, everything is expensive when you have four kids. But, it was a staycation and the Big E’s bowling is also pretty affordable at $5 per person per game, and $3 shoe rental. So we did it and had a lot of fun. We are also all terrible bowlers.
The last thing we did at The Big E was to turn our kids loose in the arcade. We were able to load a set amount of money on one play card and watch the kids from the tables on one side of the arcade. They had one card and had to share, but $25 on the card had all four of them busy for about 40 minutes.
Stay Closer to Home and Save More Money
These arcades, movies, and bowling options might be a little closer to your home, and we have some free options, as well.
- Upstate Pinball Arcade
- Pinky’s Revenge– 80’s arcade in Taylors Mill
- Paradise Lanes in Spartanburg and Spare Time in Greenville both also participate in Kids Bowl Free
- Summer Movie Deals at Greenville theaters
- Free Outdoor Movies
- Check your local library for movie events. Many of them are hosting free family movie nights.
- Get some yummy takeout or favorite snacks and have a movie night at home.
Solve an Escape Room
Escape rooms can be a super fun thing to do with your family! Work together and enjoy seeing how your kids’ minds work as they mull over each puzzle in the room.
Our family did Yuletide Magic at Escape Artist in Greenville. It’s a family-friendly room, nothing scary at all, and it was super fun to experience the holiday theme in the summertime! We did succeed in getting out and we all had a great time. Our crew was made up of three adults, and four kids ages 9 -13. Even younger kids would enjoy this room, though they may not be able to assist much in the actual puzzle-solving.
Escape Artists has lots of other rooms, especially if you have older kids! And, they just opened some new options at their second location at Hampton Station.
- 209 E Stone Avenue, Greenville
- 1320 Hampton Avenue Bay 11C, Greenville
Low Cost or Free Options
- Pick up an EXIT game. We get them for about $15 at Barnes and Noble but you can also find EXIT games on Amazon. They are a one-time use escape room in a box. Is it the same experience as an escape room? No. Does it require a similar type of thinking and problem-solving? Yes. Are they fun? You bet. We have a blast with them on family nights.
- Local libraries host escape room games in the summer, especially for teens. It won’t be a family project, but they’ll have fun and maybe you’ll find a good book to read.
- You can find a number of free and very low-cost printable escape rooms and apps. Let us know if you find one you love!
Get Out On the Lake
We drove down to Columbia, SC to visit family camping at Sesquicentennial State Park where we rented kayaks, pedal boats, and paddle boards for just $5-$10 an hour. Similar options are available at state parks in the Upstate, too, so you don’t have to drive that far.
But, Sesqui has a free (with park admission) splash pad that is really nice. If you have younger kids who like splash pads, that might be worth the drive alone.
You can also head to Oconee State Park to rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and pedal boats for just $5 an hour. Oconee State Park also offers mini-golf, so you can totally make a day of it.
For more places to paddle and rent kayaks, check out our list of 20+ Places to Paddle near the Upstate!
Just want to float or swim? Grab your pool float (you can get tubes for $5 at Target) and head to Mile Creek County Park on Lake Keowee. There’s a small beach area, a playground, and places to picnic. It’ll only cost you $5 per car admission. Pack your family some of their favorite snacks and you can have a totally fun staycation day for just a few dollars.
Pick a Fun Place to Dine Out
At a place like Gather GVL everyone can order something that they like because you have menu options for a variety of local eateries all in one spot. Visit Gather GVL on Wednesday night at 6 pm and you can enjoy playing music bingo for free while you eat. We had a lot of fun!
Another fun option is Cartwright Food Hall in Downtown Greer. They are a brand new food hall and offer several local eateries under one roof.
Spend Less Money
In our experience, eateries like this are a little more affordable. We bring our water bottles with us so we’re not buying drinks, and because you order and pick up your food at a window, there are no servers to tip. If you’re on a budget, consider getting some fries and an appetizer to share for a treat, and then getting a more filling dinner at home.
Learn Something New Together and Get Crafty
Hollowed Earth Pottery
The big splurge on our Staycation was an Intro Pottery Class for all six of us at Hollowed Earth Pottery. That place is simply fantastic with amazing teachers. All of us had an awesome time. If you have a lot of kids, you know that almost never happens. But it did.
We learned so much and made real pottery currently sitting on our mantle. It was so great that my husband and I signed up for the next class for date night. The intro class is $75 a person and that includes creating two pieces which Hollowed Earth will glaze and fire for you to pick up a couple of weeks after the class.
Classes are recommended for ages 10 and up, but our 9-year-old had no problems. The piece in the picture above is one she made.
For cheaper or free options, consider:
- Paint your own pottery studios like Color Clay Cafe
- Get crafty and get lunch at the same time at TRee House Cafe and Art Studio
- Make FREE kids crafts monthly at JC Penney, and complete kids workshop kits at Lowes and free kids projects at Home Depot. Events are available monthly.
- Don’t forget library summer reading events. They cover so many topics from animals to arts and crafts and history. They are a really great way to get out of the house, do something fun together and keep the money in your wallet.
Walk the sidewalk, check out the shops, and grab an ice cream or a coffee, just like you would if you were somewhere far away. Be a tourist right here. You just might find your new go-to spot.
Don’t Forget Greenville’s Favorites
Haven’t taken the kids to TCMU lately? Maybe staycation is the time to do it!
- Greenville Zoo
- The Children’s Museum of the Upstate
- Upcountry History Museum
- Roper Mountain Science Center: Brand new summer exhibits!
A “Nearcation”: Day Trips
If “staycation” is a word, I propose the addition of “nearcation.” Day trips aren’t exactly staying, but, they aren’t requiring an extended time on the road or overnight accommodations, either. If you can afford the gas, they can make for a really fun, lower-cost adventure.
- Don’t miss Team Ecco Aquarium
- You can visit this model train museum for free: Apple Valley Model Railroad
More ideas for low-cost day trips:
If you want to take an overnight trip but not go too far, we have lots of options for you within a 90-minute drive to help save on gas.
Tell us what you have planned for a Greenville staycation!