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“Great Experience”

Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden
Ranked #1 of 109 things to do in Columbia
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to nearly 2,000 animals that represent more than 350 species from around the world. A visit to the Zoo will play host to an array of wild adventures from a diving expedition on a Pacific coral reef to a safari through the plains of Africa to an interactive Outback encounter with a flock of sociable lorikeets. The Botanical Garden boasts 70-acres of unparalleled beauty and is considered one of the America's best public gardens. Dramatic and themed gardens showcase more than 4,300 species of native and exotic plants, providing a living classroom for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The Garden also is the gateway to natural river views and spectacular valley overlooks. In addition, guests can view structural remains dating back to the early 1800s with South Carolina's textile industry and the Civil War.
Reviewed May 11, 2013

No charge for parking, reasonable admission rate. Enjoyed all the exhibits! Staff walked the grounds and gave explanations about many of the animals.

1  Thank luvbuz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviews (2,352)
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1,835 - 1,839 of 2,352 reviews

Reviewed May 10, 2013

A truly lovely zoo! The animals look well cared for and there is so much to see at the zoo. It is easily a full day out. Attractive surroundings too. Will definitely visit again when I have the chance!

1  Thank Ann S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 9, 2013

It's been decades since my last zoo visit, so maybe this is par for the course now, but I was VERY impressed with this little jewel.

The staff was wonderful, and went out of their way to be helpful. For instance, I rented one of their excellent strollers soon after they opened. We returned to our hotel around 2:00 for a nap. When I asked about the possibility of "re-renting" a stroller upon our return without paying an additional fee, I was told that I could park the stroller in a protected location and return for it later in the day. Sure enough, it was waiting for me at 4:00, including the canteen that I'd left in the drink holder by mistake! Don't count on this kind of service on a busy day, but it sure demonstrates the willingness to go the extra mile for their visitors.

Assuming the average person already knows that a zoo contains a variety of animals, I'll skip past that to note the additional features.

The cafe, with indoor and outdoor seating, had one of the fastest and most efficient counter services I've ever experienced in a similar situation. In addition to the usual fare, this one has two kinds of artisan sandwiches. The food is pricy, but not ridiculously so. There are also a variety of snack kiosks throughout the property.

The priciest food is at the locations where you can feed the animals. For two dollars at the giraffe site, for instance, you get a mere pinch of lettuce. So little, in fact, that you really can't share it between multiple children, so this activity is not family-friendly if you're on a tight budget.

For a similar price, you can purchase rides on a carousel, pony, or train. There is a free playground for very young children, right next to the only activity that I didn't like. There is a section where older children can climb a plastic tree or rock wall. There were no crowds the day I visited, but this activity had a long line that didn't move because once a child was strapped it, he was essentially able to monopolize his strap for as long as he wanted. There were only around eight safety belts and four of them were held hostage by a group of young teens the whole time we waited.

A very unique activity was the fairly new ropes course, which is several stories high. After you are strapped into a harness, you walk yourself through a series of rope challenges at your own pace. If you intend to try it, be aware that you won't be permitted to wear flip-flops or other sandals without rear straps. My eight year old climbed like a monkey. My six year old froze halfway across the tightrope. If she hadn't been accompanied by her young adult cousin, she might still be clinging there. Her panic didn't seem to elicit any concern or assistance from the staff members, so I would hesitate to recommend this for unaccompanied children.

We purchased the membership package for our group of six. This entitled us to entry and unlimited access to most of the attractions (ropes course was extra even for members). Since it came with 12 free guest passes, my sister's family was able to enter as our guests, although they didn't receive the wristbands for free rides. We'll be able to use its reciprocal privileges at many other zoos in our future travels over the next year.

I strongly recommend the single and double wide strollers for those with young children. They are easy-access and roll freely with very little effort.

1  Thank Ju_JuAthens_Georgia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 8, 2013

Typical zoo but great for little kids. The food is better than average for this type of atmosphere and is not ridiculously over priced. It is a great place to spend the day with the family.

1  Thank ashtaylon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 7, 2013

Had a wonderful time with the family after military graduation. Really enjoyed ourselves, weather cooperated, very impressed with some of the exhibits especially the kangaroos! Would absolutely recommend to anyone with some extra time in Columbia.

1  Thank ntracey411
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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