JL's Columbia SC Real Estate Blog: Columbia, SC Attractions - Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Columbia, SC Attractions - Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Columbia, SC Attractions - Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Columbia, SC Attractions - Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens


 Home to more than 2,000 magnificent animals, the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens are a must see for anyone in the Columbia, SC area. The beautiful 170 acre site makes wonderful use of it's surroundings and features natural habitat exhibits, scenic river views and walking paths, inspiring valley overlooks, and some fascinating historic sites.

 For more than 30 years, Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens have offered a wonderful place for families, individuals, and groups to connect with and learn about the world's wildlife. Twice awarded the Governor's Cup for South Carolina's most outstanding tourist attraction, Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a crown jewel for recreation and education in the Southeast.


Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC

 Riverbanks Zoo and Garden plays host to visitors from all across the country and the world. It's exhibit lined paths invite visitors to stroll through at their on pace embarking on a journey to see some of the world's most wondrousanimals. Stop in the bird house to see the penguin exhibit and natural habitats full of various birds from African and Asian rain forests. Or stop in the Gorilla exhibit to see these massive and magnificent creatures on display and don't forget to stop in the state of the art aquarium that feature bright, colorful saltwater fish as well as a host of various reptiles to entertain your interest and curiosity.

 Just one trip and you will be hooked by this awe striking place and it's glory. It has been one of my favorite places in Columbia, SC since I was a child, but you certainly don't have to be a kid to enjoy all it has to offer. All you have to do is pass through the entrance and you will feel like a child again as you can't help but feel taken in by all the beauty that surrounds you.


Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC

 As if the animals themselves are not enough to make you want to come visit the Zoo, the botanical gardens are an attraction all their own. This 70 acre site boasts tons of eye catching color and beauty from thousands of blooms and is actually several gardens in one. With multitudes of lush, green shrubs and bushes to blooms of all shapes, sizes, and colors, you'll immediately fall in love with this area of Riverbanks.

 The backside of the Botanical Gardens has a walking trail that winds it's way along the Broad River and allows visitors to hike to and from the gardens. With fountains in the middle and plants from all across the globe, this is an excellent place to learn and see some nature's greatest creations. Fountains within the garden aid the serene experience and give the sound of running water to complete the spectrum of senses touched by this fascinating place. A perfect way to cap off or begin your visit to Riverbanks.


Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens

 In case you are still not completely convinced that this wonderful display of nature is a great place to visit, then let me explain that Riverbanks Zoo and Garden also plays host to several important historical sites. Located on the nature trails near the botanical gardens, each one has it's own significance for both Columbia's and the nations history.

In February of 1865 Confederate Soldiers burned down the Old State Road Bridge, a covered bridge that crossed the Saluda River, in an attempt to keep Sherman's army from entering the city of Columbia, SC. The abutments and supporting piers can be seen from the the Saluda River foot bridge, the bridge that connects the zoo to the botanical gardens. Sherman ordered his men to construct a temporary floating bridge to cross the river, and it is believed that the lumber came from the old Saluda Mill. Of course, the rest is well known history.


Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens Camp Sorghum, located on the garden side of the river below the old state road, and was a confederate prisoner of war camp. Established in 1864, it consisted of a 5 acre open field with no walls, fences, buildings, or facilities. Instead wooden boards placed 10 feet within the boundary presented the deadline for the camp and escapes were common. By the end of 1864, a reported 1,300 Union solders were held in the camp before being moved to the Columbia Mental Hospital and then North Carolina upon word of the Federal approach. The camp received it's name from cornmeal and sorghum molasses that made up a staple of diet.

 Also located along the river on the garden side is the ruins of the Saluda Factory District. One of the oldest and largest textile mills in the state, during the Antebellum Period, it was made from local granite and completed around 1830. During the Civil War it was used to produce cloth for Confederate Uniforms and is surrounded by other buildings. Though burned by Federal Troops, the ruins are still visible on the Woodlands Walk.

Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC

 These are only a few examples of sites that make up the historical significance of Riverbanks Zoo and it's surrounding grounds. It's easy to spend an entire day here, so come early and plan to be here for a while attempting to discover it's many wonders. If you get tired, there are tons of benches to help take a load off and watch the animals nearest to you at the time. There is a playground for the children as well as a Mari go round near the Saluda River Foot Bridge.

 There are plenty of places throughout that you can grab a beverage, especially if you visit during the hot days of Summer. The temperature can stretch a little high here during certain times of the year, another reason to come early. There are even a couple of sit down spots like the Kenya Cafe if you need some lunch to recharge the batteries before continuing to embark on your journey through this magnificent Zoo.


Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens

 Riverbanks Zoo and Garden also plays host to several special events throughout the year. In Summer there is the Brew at the Zoo, which gives people the opportunity to sample great beer and wine while walking the grounds. This one of course is an after hours event and require separate tickets. There is also the Boo at the Zoo for the kids in October near Halloween. Parents and children are invited to come tour the zoo at night in full costume for tons of fun. And of course there is the famous Light Before Christmas which displays millions of lights for visitor to marvel at while touring the ground in the evening.

Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located at 500 Wildlife Parkway off of the Greystone exit of I-26. Riverbanks is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. Adult tickets are $9.75, children 3-12 $7.25, and seniors and military are $8.50. Special hours and prices for other events. For more info visit www.rivierbanks.org.


Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SCRiverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC









Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SCRiverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC


JL Boney, III - Columbia, SC Realtor - Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate

 I specialize in Columbia, SC real estate and the surrounding areas, including Blythewood, SC, Kershaw County, Fairfield County, and Lexington, SC. If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in Columbia, SC or any of the surrounding areas, I would love the opportunity to speak with to see how I can help. Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me if I can be of service to you.

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Comment balloon 7 commentsJL Boney, III • August 25 2009 05:11PM


JL - This is truely a spectacular attraction. Great photos

Posted by Claude Cross, Charlotte NC Homes For Sale (Homes By Cross, Inc. ) over 10 years ago


I love zoos, and I love botanical gardens, so this appears to be shangri la for me! Excellent post!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 10 years ago

Morning JL, Excellent local post, lots to do in your neck of the woods. Man the that photo of the jellyfish (I'm assuming it's a jellyfish) is totally awesome, I love it!!! I'm thinking black lights and posters this morn.

Posted by Cynthia Bartch over 10 years ago

Our zoo is a great family event for us all year long. The joy of having it so close. Maybe we will see you there at the friends of the zoo events.

Posted by Chip Jefferson (Gibbs Realty and Auction Company) over 10 years ago

Claude- I love the place, thanks.

Richard- Don't forget the ruins and historical sites my friend, you are a history buff too I'm sure.

Cynthia- There are tons of things going on here. The picture is of Jellyfish and they are under a black light. The other day I was cleaning out some old boxes stored at the Mother's house and found lots of my black light posters I had when I was younger. I'm thinking about putting them up here at the house, but I don't think my wife will let me.

Laura- It's a good possibility that you will.

Posted by JL Boney, III, Columbia, SC Real Estate (Coldwell Banker) over 10 years ago

Hi JL-I would love this place. It has a lot of stuff to see. Great job putting it all together. <SMILE>

Posted by Sharon Lee, Retired and loving life (Sharon Lee's Virtual Assistance) over 10 years ago

Sharon- I thought when I wrote this that it would be the type of place you might like.

Posted by JL Boney, III, Columbia, SC Real Estate (Coldwell Banker) over 10 years ago