Riverbanks Zoo & Garden – Columbia, South Carolina

Jun 1, 2012 at 5:35 a.m. ET

Spend a day in the wild without leaving the city!

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Once you've seen one zoo, you've seen them all, right? Wrong!

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is a real gem in the Columbia area. It doesn't have as big of a selection of animals as some of the larger zoos, but it has all of the popular attractions you expect to see.

Some of the exhibits are small, but that means the animals are closer to you, which is a bonus when you're there to see something specific.

The zoo staff puts on different shows throughout the day. These usually involve one or two people from the zoo walking out an animal and answering your questions. They'll probably let you pet it and pose for pictures, as well. These aren't really advertised throughout the zoo, but they're happening all day. Check the schedule online if you really want to catch them all.

What this zoo may lack in rare animal exhibits it makes up for with the garden. The botanical garden is pretty big (74 acres) and is filled with themed gardens and even a historic site, neither of which you expect to see when you come to the zoo. It's a nice change of pace.

Columbia gets hot in the summer (and we mean HOT), and it tends to seem about 20 degrees F hotter when you're standing on the pavement all day. Drink lots of water and bring along a spray bottle to keep cool.

You aren't allowed to bring in your own food and drinks, and the cost to eat there can be a little expensive. Eat before you get here if you don't want to spend a fortune on food. One fairly priced item is the giant Icee in a souvenir cup. It's about $9, but you get free refills of Icee and soft drinks the rest of day. That's a bargain, especially when it's 100 degrees F outside!

Address: 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, SC 29210

Phone: 803-779-8717

Website: riverbanks.org

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