Fort Jackson, South Carolina is home to the Army’s main center for basic training. However, the high pace operational tempo of many of the billets that service members hold while stationed at Fort Jackson can make planning regular family outings and date nights difficult. Connection to both local friends as well as each other means seizing every chance you can to get out and explore.
This large Army base is located in the middle of two different landscapes, offering plenty of things to do for just about everyone. It is just under two hours west of the capital city of Charleston and the shores of the Atlantic ocean and about the same distance away from the mountains of Greenville. However, the closest large city is Columbia, South Carolina, which offers plenty to do in the downtown area.
Things to do when stationed near Fort Jackson, South Carolina
Two memberships you won’t regret
An annual membership to the South Carolina State Park Pass makes exploration easy and economical. The interactive park finder will help you discover over 47 destinations, from the mountains of Greenville all the way to the shores of Charleston.
The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is a sure bet for families. More than just a zoo, the Botanical Garden section is home to “Waterfall Junction,” which boasts a 25-foot waterfall, several splash zones, and a giant wooden treehouse area. The education center also offers classes for all ages, providing an incredible opportunity to foster a love for zoology. How many times in life can you hand feed a giraffe in a bathing suit and shorts?
Other adventures close to Fort Jackson
Here are some outdoor adventures to take advantage of that are close to Fort Jackson:
- Lake Murray — Get your beach fix without the drive by setting up along the shore of this local reservoir.
- Dreher Island — Camp, hike, or fish lakeside with the feeling of a remote adventure just outside the city.
- Float or paddle the Saluda River — Decompress and soak in some rays floating down the Lower Saluda.
Other popular places to splash include Sesquicentennial State Park and Saluda Shoals.
Cool off indoors by checking out the State Museum, EdVenture Children’s Museum, or a night at Segra Park watching the Fireflies Minor League Baseball game.
Sample a Saturday in downtown “COLA”
Settle into Saturdays with the weekly Soda City Market located in downtown Columbia. Think food, friends, music, and freshly grown seasonal fare. Post brunch, wander into the Columbia Museum of Art to catch the latest exhibit or stroll down the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park for date night-worthy vistas.
- Favorite fried chicken — Enjoy the quintessential crispy Southern classic smothered in fresh lime aioli. We highly recommend washing it down with a prickly pear aioli margarita from the local favorite Cantina 76.
- Favorite coffee spots — Coffee purists will tell you Indah is where it’s at, and with Cottontown’s uber-trendy location, we feel all the hipster vibes. For the best brew on-the-go, we recommend Loveland.
- Favorite local barbeque — Midwood Smokehouse gets our vote for two reasons. First, the pimento French fries, burnt ends, and delicious pulled pork. Second, it’s the location. Positioned near Whole Foods and the always tempting Duck Donuts, it’s easy to justify making a whole afternoon out of this stop.
Day trips from Fort Jackson
Greenville, South Carolina is known for its food scene, 32-acre downtown Falls Park, walkability, lively music, outdoor recreation, and a laundry list of tours to take.
The Greenville Zoo is a great place to bring the kids for a day trip, and they will love to have a family picnic at the Falls Park on the Reedy. Enjoy a quick bite at Smoky Dreams Barbecue and grab a sweet treat at Luna Rosa Gelato Cafe.
You can also head to the shores of Charleston for a quick beach getaway. This historical city offers tours by buggy, ferry, or charter boat. There are a number of amazing restaurants to try including Highcotton Charleston or Husk, both of which offer traditional Southern dishes sourced from local farms.
For kids, you can visit the Charleston Museum, the South Carolina Aquarium, or the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.
You can also relax on the beaches or make a weekend staycation out of it by staying at the Foster Creek vacation rentals aboard Joint Base Charleston.
Local pro-tip: Anyone who has been stationed at Fort Jackson can tell you that it gets hot there. Temperatures can and do soar well into the high 90’s and “winter” rarely, if ever, means snow. Understanding your heat tolerance will help you plan an amazing Southern afternoon with well over 200 sunshine-filled days per year. You may want to consider securing access to some form of water to keep you cool during the hot days.