Finlay Park is an oasis in the heart of downtown. You may have driven past it many times on Assembly and never enve knew it was there. It has hosted a number of events from festivals and political rallies to road races and Easter Sunrise services. This beautiful 18-acre park has had two lives. It was first dedicated in 1859 as Sidney Park, named in honor of Algernon Sidney Johnson, a Columbia city councilman. Sidney Park has a short life as the Civil War broke out soon after. The park fell into disrepair after the Civil War and served as a site for commercial ventures until the late 1900's.
In 1990 the park was reopened and has become a beautiful diamond in the downtown area, offering a green oasis in contrast to the glass, asphalt and concrete in the urban environment. It serves as the site for such events as Columbia Kids Day, Mayfest, The Summer Concert Series, Let's Share, plus many more activities.
In 1992, the park was renamed Finlay Park, in honor of Kirkman Finlay, Mayor of Columbia whose vision to reenergize the area known as the Vista, between Main Street and the river, has been extremely successful. The beautiful site known as Sidney Park was converted to Finlay Park. A statue of Finlay has been placed in the park, showing him sitting on a bench. There is some confusion over whether the name should be spelled Finlay or Finley and you will even find official park signs spelled with the two different spellings. This article is sticking with the "Finlay" spelling!
Finlay has 2 playground areas, a man-made lake, waterfalls, a fountain, playing fields, a pergola with swings, and a snack bar that is open in the summer. This is one of the largest handicapped accessible parks in the country. The paved paths are also ideal for strollers. You can easily spend a whole day here with kids of any age.
The park is situated between the streets of Assembly, Taylor, Gadsden and Laurel and remains one of the treasures of Columbia. It is across the street from the Governor's Mansion and has one of the most photographed views of downtown.
To get there, from I-126 take the Huger St. exit. Take a left on Laurel and the park will be on your right.