Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
Explore your inner wild child at Riverbanks, hands-down one of the nation’s prettiest zoos, and be swooped into the natural world on a campus easily maneuverable for even your youngest partygoer.
The 170-acre oasis for animals, plants and visitors alike is nestled along the banks of the Lower Saluda River and home to 2,000 animals in habitat as well as an ever-growing State Botanical Garden.
The zoo is ideally mapped out in eight landscaped districts: the African Savanna, the Aquarium Reptile Complex, the Birdhouse, the Farm, Gorilla Base Camp, Koala Knockabout, the Ndoki Forest and the Saluda Factory Interpretive Center.
“Cola” is koala crazy, so plan to spend time with these furry friends from Down Under. Did you know South Carolina’s sister state is Queensland? It’s true! The koalas at Riverbanks are authorized by the Australian government to live at Koala Knockabout, a complex expressly designed for their care. There’s even a walk-in restaurant cooler solely to house their eucalyptus (nom nom).
Meal times are a special experience at Riverbanks. All across the zoo you can register to view or help with feedings-- no VIP status required-- just sign up! Learn what sea lions, penguins, elephants, lorikeets and monkeys feast on, keeping them in top shape. But the ultimate up-close experience will get you eye-to-eye with a herd of giraffe. At Giraffe Overlook you can feed these patternista mammals every day from 10 AM - 1:30 PM. It’s Riverbanks residents’ most popular attraction (they really love observing Homo Sapiens).
When it’s time to wiggle, soar over the campus at Zip the Zoo; there’s seven treetop ziplines and a 1,000-foot flight over the Saluda River, but if you’re ready for some shade then hop the tram to the Botanical Gardens via an 800 ft. long bridge. Horticulture magazine named it one of the 10 Gardens That Inspire and HGTV called it one of the 20 Great Public Gardens across America. The Old Rose Garden is a classic with its world-renowned collection of antique Noisettes and Woodlands Walk is a real treat with its exposed stone ruins of an antebellum-era textile mill bordering a native forest.
For nearly 50 years, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has nurtured spaces for all living things creating diverse experiences for every visitor. It is one of the most “peopled” zoos in the country, twice named Travel Attraction of the Year by the SE Tourism Society, and an all-around unparalleled experience for the whole family.
When is the best time to visit the animals at the Riverbanks Zoo, and are they out at all times of the year?
Rain or shine, hot or cold, you'll find all the animals on exhibit at the Riverbanks Zoo. Unless, of course, there's extreme weather, repairs being made to an exhibit, or for medical reasons, but those things rarely happen. The best times to catch these animals in action are at opening and right before the zoo closes. They're generally more active when they go on exhibit in the morning and right before it's time to call it quits for the day.
What are the food options at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden?
With so much to see and do at Riverbanks, you'll definitely work up an appetite. Luckily, there is no shortage of delicious food options. You'll find restaurants and snack stands all throughout the zoo serving everything from ice cream and cotton candy to flatbread pizzas and burgers. Grab a park map to see where each spot is located.
What are some signature events at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden?
Adults can beat the summer heat by going on a suds sippin' safari at Brew at the Zoo. This annual event boasts a variety of craft beer samples and live entertainment for guests to enjoy.
Looking for a scary good time? Bring the kids and celebrate Halloween at Boo at the Zoo. Put on your best costumes and let your little goblins run wild among the animals along a decorated trick-or-treat trail.
Get into the holiday spirit with Lights Before Christmas. Each holiday season Riverbanks puts on a display of twinkling lights of every color, and in every shape of animal, to create a magical experience for guests of all ages.
There are plenty more events to explore, so be sure to check their calendar to see what fun is coming up next!