Destination Riverbanks

Thanks to the unwavering support of the leaders and citizens of Richland and Lexington counties and our generous members and donors, an exciting multi-million dollar expansion is now underway at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. By 2016, Riverbanks promises a world-class experience at every turn.

The Road Ahead Visitors to Riverbanks will soon enjoy a wider entry to accommodate crowds, a doubled-in-size gift shop, new guest services building, state-of-the-art seal/sea lion exhibit and interactive children’s garden.

New Seal/Sea Lion Experience

Riverbanks’ future sea lion exhibit will have a similar feel to San Francisco’s Pier 39 where many sea lions live today. The habitat will feature fantastic underwater viewing opportunities from varying viewpoints for guests to watch the fin-footed favorites in action. Shaded seating will provide added comfort during planned presentations.

Slated to Open Spring 2016.

Enhanced Grizzly Bear Habitat and New River Otters

Riverbanks’ grizzly bear exhibit will be relocated to make way for an expanded gift shop. Plans include an expanded habitat with unparalleled views of the bears as otters swim in the foreground.

Slated to Open Summer 2015.

Larger Entrance Plaza with Enhanced Guest Services

Before visitors enter the Zoo gates, they will discover a beautifully designed open entry plaza featuring a 4,500 square-foot gift shop and a new guest services building boasting ticket booths, guest services offices, first aid, lost and found, and a new nursing room.

Slated to Open Summer 2015.

Improved Parking and Visitor Access

The larger entry will eliminate a number of existing parking spaces, but more parking options will be added in other areas for better traffic flow throughout the year.

Slated for Spring 2015.

Interactive Children’s Garden

Plans are also underway for an interactive children’s garden where kids will have the opportunity to climb, crawl, dig, splash and play while exploring creeks, ponds, tree houses and nature.

Slated to Open Late Winter 2015.

Hard Hat Happenings As we pave the way for the future, we plan to keep our members and guests informed. Check back here often for the latest listing of renovation changes and updates.

Turn Right for Riverbanks

As Riverbanks rebuilds at the main Zoo entrance, entering the park has taken a momentary turn. Members and guests are now being redirected to a temporary entrance that welcomes visitors into the Carousel Plaza. For the best parking, members should plan to arrive early and turn right (instead of left) when crossing over the railroad tracks. Parking for vehicles displaying disabled placards will remain the same. We appreciate your patience as we build a bigger, better entryway.

New Zoo entrance tentatively set to re-open in the summer of 2015.

Renovations Result in a Few Animal Moves

Embarking on a major expansion requires plenty of strategic moves to make way for the renovations. Here’s what’s in the works now: The Zoo’s grizzly bears have moved temporarily to Tulsa Zoo (OK) while their new habitat is being built. In anticipation of the coming sea lion exhibit, the red-ruffed and ring-tailed lemurs have moved to new digs within the Zoo; they are now located in the Riverbanks Conservation Outpost (small mammal tunnel). The Malayan tapir and babirusas are staying warm behind the scenes for the time being. Stay tuned for more movin’ and shakin’ updates.

A New Look for the ARC

A renovation of the Aquarium-Reptile Complex is now underway, in celebration of the popular building’s 25th anniversary. Set for completion by early January, members and guests can look forward to an enhanced ARC experience boasting a new color scheme, upgraded flooring and newly designed graphics. The facelift is scheduled to take place in three phases so that visitors can continue to enjoy many of their favorite ARC exhibits.

Slated for completion January 2015

New Snack Bar in Store

A new snack bar is coming to the Zoo! The Ape Island Snack Bar wes recently demolished in preparation for a brand-new concession stand, named Solo’s Market after one of Riverbanks’ iconic apes. Solo the siamang arrived at Riverbanks on October 5, 1973, just eight months before the Zoo first opened. He delighted visitors for 33 years and in that time sired six offspring. Described by his keepers as self-assured, calm and a superb parent, Solo was loved by all who knew him. Solo’s Market will feature hand-battered chicken tenders, fried pickles, ICEES and other tasty snacks.

Slated to open Spring 2015

Botanical Garden Gears Up for Growth

In preparation for the all-new 3-acre children’s garden coming to Riverbanks Botanical Garden, the “secret garden” play area, originally designed and built by playground designer and local resident Jim Mosteller, has been dismantled. Thanks to Mr. Jim’s selfless efforts, the secret garden has been a source of learning and enjoyment for many children and families over the last several years. The Discovery Garden is also closed. As families now await the much-anticipated new botanical attraction, kids can continue to climb and slide on the playground near the carousel at the Zoo. The Garden’s new outdoor adventure is slated to open in late fall of 2015 and promises to connect kids to nature as they climb, crawl, dig, splash and play in a safe and exciting environment complete with tree houses, creeks, ponds and a dinosaur dig.

We’ve Packed Up the Trunk and Moved…

With all the moving and shaking that is happening around the Zoo’s main entrance, we can’t forget that Elephant’s Trunk Gift Shop, the Zoo’s main retail store, will be doubling its size over the next year. ET, as it is fondly called by Riverbanks staff, has packed up and moved to a temporary location behind Carousel Ice Cream while its larger location is being built. Be sure to check out what’s in store at our new digs on your next visit.

Riverbanks members get 10% off with a valid membership card!

Kenya Cafe Reopens as Tuskers

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden’s flagship restaurant recently underwent a major facelift resulting in more indoor seating, a more efficient layout, stylish upgrades — and a new name! Now open, Tuskers is Columbia’s wildest new restaurant and rental facility. Menu items include fresh hand-made salads, Artisan sandwiches, 100% Angus beef burgers, hand-battered chicken tenders and fun kids’ meals. Be sure to swing by during your visit and enjoy an exceptional dining experience with views of zebras, ostriches and giraffes!

View Park Map
(PDF last updated Nov 2014)

Weekly Progress Reports Destination Riverbanks is well underway! Old exhibit demolition is nearly complete and we are looking forward to bringing you a larger Zoo entrance, dynamic grizzly bear and otter habitats, and state-of-the-art seal/seal lion experience. Join us as we grow! Check out our weekly photo reports, provided by Rodgers Builders:

Weekly Photo Report — December 8–12, 2014

Buildings and viewing shelters are really starting to take shape!

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Weekly Photo Report — December 1–5, 2014

Moving right along, we're soaring to new heights with walls and framing!

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Weekly Photo Report — November 17–21, 2014

From wood framing and steel studs to concrete slabs and masonry walls, there’s so much growing on at Riverbanks!

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Weekly Photo Report — November 10–14, 2014

Guest services building starting to take shape with steel beams and columns; grizzly bear and otter exhibits progressing nicely with foundations and retaining walls; and sub-grade excavation taking place at sea lion!

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Weekly Photo Report — November 3–7, 2014

Construction continues to ZOOm along! Exciting times at Riverbanks…

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Weekly Photo Report — October 27–31, 2014

Exciting progress being made with otter holding area and guest services building!

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Weekly Photo Report — October 20–24, 2014

Real, visible progress continues…

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Weekly Photo Report — October 13–17, 2014

Pipes, foundations and Phase II, oh my!

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Weekly Photo Report — October 5–10, 2014

Visible progress!

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Weekly Photo Report — September 22–26, 2014

Despite the rain, foundations have been poured for the new guest services building and gift shop!

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Weekly Photo Report — September 15–19, 2014

Rain, rain, go away!

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Weekly Photo Report — September 8–12, 2014

Movin’ and shakin’…

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Weekly Photo Report — September 1–5, 2014

Progress, progress… The new guest services building footprint is starting to take shape!

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Weekly Photo Report — August 25–29, 2014

Steady progress continues…

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Weekly Photo Report — August 18–22, 2014

Utilities, utilities, utilities…

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Weekly Photo Report — August 11–15, 2014

Well, this week was consumed with the relocation of utilities, rough grading, exhibit backfill and rain.

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Weekly Photo Report — August 3–8, 2014

Details, details…

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Weekly Photo Report — July 28 – August 1, 2014

Clearing land in preparation for new growth…

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Weekly Photo Report — July 21–25, 2014

Progress continues…

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Weekly Photo Report — July 7–11, 2014

The excitement builds as demolition begins.

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Weekly Photo Report — June 30 – July 3, 2014

Demolition preparations begin! Lots of exciting changes coming our way…

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