A beloved family-friendly attraction in the capital city, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is the state’s leading animal facility. It has over 2,000 creatures and is AZA-accredited.
The facility also includes sprawling botanical gardens, which opened in 1995. The zoo first opened in 1974 to teach locals about these species and conservation. Over one million visitors come to the 170-acre site annually.
What to See at Riverbanks Zoo
The animals at Riverbanks are divided into sections based on their habitats. Among the favorites of visitors are the sea lions, Western lowlands gorillas, and the ring-tailed lemurs.
An Australian section allows guests to get up close with koalas, lorikeets, and even walk through the home of the kangaroos and wallabies. The Aquarium Reptile Complex features fish, snakes, turtles, and other invertebrates.
The zoo itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for the structural remains of South Carolina’s textile industry and the Civil War. In addition to the animals, guests can explore the nature trails and botanical garden, which has over 4,000 species of plants that bloom year-round.
Waterfall Junction is a children’s garden and play area within the park. And back at the zoo, guests can go on the zipline courses that go over the river.
Tips for Visiting Riverbanks Zoo
Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Garden is located a short drive from downtown Columbia, located at 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, South Carolina 29210. They’re open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Parking is free.
Admission is $21.99 for those 13 and up, $18.99 for children, and free for those under 2. Military and seniors get in for $19.99 with ID. Entry includes admission into the zoo and botanical garden.
Where to Eat Near Riverbanks Zoo
The zoo has eleven stalls with food if you get hungry during your visit. Base Camp Provisions has ice cream and popcorn, The Coop has chicken tenders and fries, Tuskers Restaurant is a certified green eatery with sandwiches and pizza, Watering Hole has flatbreads and beer, and Wild Burger has burgers.
Outside of the zoo, Waffle House is the closest restaurant. If you prefer something local, Rush’s is a local chain with barbecue, burgers, and milkshakes. DeLucca’s Italian Grill has Italian dishes like lasagna, baked spaghetti, and pizza.
Where to Stay Near Riverbanks Zoo
Embassy Suites by Hilton Columbia Greystone is the closest hotel to the zoo, just down the street, with large suites, free daily breakfast, and complimentary happy hour. Tru by Hilton Columbia Greystone has free WiFi and a fitness center. Homewood Suites by Hilton Columbia, SC has large rooms with full kitchens.
My visit to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden was coordinated by Capital City Lake Murray Country SC and Laurie Rowe Communications.