Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens

Earlier this month, my family took a weekend trip to Columbia, South Carolina and spent sometime at the extremely popular Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens.  We have heard a lot about this zoo over the years and thought it would be a great idea to take a small family weekend trip to check it out.

The Riverbanks Zoo opened in 1974, and with more than one million annual visitors, it is one of South Carolina's largest tourist attractions.  The zoo is home to over 2000 animals and has numerous exhibits.  One of the things we like the best about this zoo is that it is flat and the entire zoo is a loop.  Though there were off and on rain showers at the start of our visit, there are numerous indoor exhibits to keep everyone dry.

This iguana can be found in the Aquarium Reptile Complex.
The zoo has a number of kid friendly exhibits and experiences from feeding giraffes, lorikeets, carousel rides, and more.  A number of these experiences and attractions are at an extra cost to your admission which can easily be purchased at various ticket counters on a re-loadable card.

For adults, there is ziplining which one can zipline through the zoo, over the Saluda River, and the entire grounds.  Depending on how much and what you want to experience the cost can be anywhere from $35-80 for non-zoo members.  Reservations are required.

In addition to the Zoo, the botanical gardens are part of the general admission to the park.  Opened in 1995, the gardens can be accessed via crossing the Saluda River over a pedestrian bridge and a tram ride up the hill.  Visitors do not have to take the tram to the gardens, they can walk.  However, it is a rather steep climb.  If you prefer, there is parking on the gardens side of the facility.
Fountains are the centerpiece of the walled gardens.
The 70 acre gardens have thousands of different species of plants and has an extensive trail network.  The focal point is the 34,000 square foot walled garden which is home to many season displays and beautiful fountains.

The gardens also has plenty of things for kids to do.  Waterfall Junction, which opened in 2016, offers a large dinosaur themed dig area, a splash pad, treehouses, and more.  If your kids are like ours, they could spend all day at the dino dig and the splash pad.

The zoo is a great day trip or part of a whole weekend trip from anywhere in the Carolinas and Georgia.  Admission is $15.95 for ages 13-61, adults over 62 and military are $14.95, kids 2-12 are $13.50, children under 2 are free.  You can save15% by purchasing tickets online in advance.  Also, if you are a member of the North Carolina Zoo you receive discounted pricing of 50%.

Getting There:


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