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 can now enjoy a wider entry to better accommodate guests, a doubled-in-size gift shop, new guest relations center, relocated grizzly bear habitat, brand-new otter exhibit, interactive children’s garden, and state-of-the-art sea lion exhibit. The final step: A pedestrian bridge traversing the railroad tracks is coming soon!

Larger Entrance Plaza with Enhanced Guest Amenities

Before visitors enter the Zoo gates, they will encounter a beautifully designed new entry plaza featuring a 4,500 square-foot gift shop and a new guest relations center boasting more ticket booths, new guest services offices, first aid station, lost and found and an all-new lactation room.

Now open.

Grizzly Ridge

Riverbanks’ popular grizzly bear brothers have moved in to a bigger, better habitat where guests can enjoy nose-to-nose views of these amazing animals.

Now open.

Otter Run

Already a new visitor favorite, playful river otters greet guests as soon as they enter the Zoo’s attractive new entry plaza. This charismatic exhibit offers unparalleled, shared views of the neighboring grizzly bears.

Now open.

Improved Parking and Visitor Access

More parking options already have been added for better traffic flow throughout the year. Ultimately, a new pedestrian bridge will traverse the railroad tracks from the new parking area at Rivermont Drive to the Zoo.

Bridge slated to open late summer 2016.

Waterfall Junction

The single largest addition to the Riverbanks’ campus since the Botanical Garden was completed in 1995, this 3-acre, interactive experience engages visitors of all ages with a dino dig, tree houses, creeks and ponds, encouraging exploration, imagination and nature play.

Now open.

Sea Lion Landing

With a similar feel to San Francisco’s Pier 39, where many sea lions live today, Sea Lion Landing will feature fantastic underwater observation opportunities from varying viewpoints for guests to watch the fin-footed favorites in action. Shaded seating will provide added comfort during planned presentations.

Now open.

Construction Cam Watch our progress in motion!

Pedestrian Bridge Construction

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.

Sea Lion Landing Now Open

Two weeks earlier than predicted, Sea Lion Landing officially opened to the public on May 26, 2016. This marks the final phase of the Destination Riverbanks expansion, the Zoo's largest development effort in its 40-year history.

Waterfall Junction Now Open

Waterfall Junction, the all-new 3-acre children’s garden coming to Riverbanks Botanical Garden, connects 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.

Pedestrian Bridge Underway

Construction to build a new pedestrian bridge from the new Rivermont Drive parking lot to the main Zoo entry is now underway. When complete, the bridge will allow visitors parked in the new lot to safely cross over the railroad tracks. While the bridge is being constructed, guests may encounter a temporary gravel road crossing through a portion of the Zoo parking lot. The bridge is slated for completion late August 2016.

Komodo Dragons Move to Larger Space

Riverbanks’ two growing Komodo dragons have moved to a new, larger location at the Zoo. The lizards are taking up residence in a new indoor exhibit across from the siamangs, where guests can observe them through two large viewing windows. By spring, the dragons will also be able to explore a spacious backyard next to the Koala Knockabout.

New Main Entrance Now Open

The Zoo’s new main entrance officially opened Friday, July 3. This beautiful new entryway boasts new restrooms, a new guest relations center with more ticket windows, a guest relations desk, first aid station and private lactation room for nursing mothers. The entry plaza also features a doubled-in size gift shop. Zoo members get 10% off all gift shop purchases with a valid membership card.

All-New Otter and Bear Exhibits Now Open

Riverbanks is pleased to announce that Grizzly Ridge and Otter Run are now open. Guests now have the opportunity to get nose-to-nose with grizzly bears and North American river otters.

View Park Map
PDF last updated June 3, 2016

Weekly Photo Reports Destination Riverbanks is nearing completion! Waterfall Junction children’s garden is now open, Sea Lion Landing is slated to open June 9, and the pedestrian bridge is well underway. Check out the weekly photo reports below, provided by Rodgers Builders, tracking progress at Sea Lion Landing and the pedestrian bridge:

Weekly Photo Report — May 16–20, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — May 9–13, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — April 25–29, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — March 28–April 1, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — March 21–25, 2016

“Curtains” have been lifted from the construction fence! Guests can now get a real sense of the scope of Sea Lion Landing, which promises to be one of the best zoo exhibits in the country.

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — March 14–18, 2016

More Reports

Weekly Photo Report — March 8–March 11, 2016

The excitement continues to build! Sea Lion Landing is expected to open June 9, 2016.

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — February 29–March 4, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — February 22–26, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — February 15–19, 2016

Sea Lion Landing is going to be amazing!

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Weekly Photo Report — February 8–12, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — February 1–5, 2016

Many of the mesh construction banners have been taken down at Sea Lion Landing, giving a wonderful view of what's to come. Be sure to take a look on your next visit!

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — January 25–29, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — January 18–22, 2016

Closing in on the finishing touches!

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Waterfall Junction Children’s Garden Update — January 20, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — January 11–15, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — January 4–8, 2016

Weekly Photo Report — December 28–31, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — December 14–18, 2015

Steady progress continues at Sea Lion Landing!

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — December 7–11, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — November 30 – December 4, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — November 23–25, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — November 16–20, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — November 9–13, 2015

Waterfall Junction Children’s Garden Report — October 30, 2015

Riverbanks’ “sleeper project” continues to progress. This place is going to be cool for kids and adults alike!

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — November 2–6, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — October 26–30, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — October 19–23, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — October 12–16, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — October 5–9, 2015

Rodgers Builders continues to make steady progress at sea lion, even in the aftermath of South Carolina’s historic flood event.

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Weekly Photo Report — September 28–October 2, 2015

Sea Lion Landing is going to be a really big deal! Crews installed 20,000 pounds of acrylic viewing window today.

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Weekly Photo Report — September 14–18, 2015

An awesome sight, the first of the viewing panels have been installed!

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Weekly Photo Report — September 8–11, 2015

Amazing progress taking place at Sea Lion Landing!

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NEW — Children’s Garden Report — September 2015

Another amazing project… The children’s garden in the Botanical Garden is really taking shape! Stay tuned for more updates on the children’s garden through the fall.

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — August 31 – September 4, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — August 24–28, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — August 17–21, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — August 10–14, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — August 3–7, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — July 27–31, 2015

Things are really moving along at Sea Lion Landing!

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Weekly Photo Report — July 20–24, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — July 13–17, 2015

Progress, progress!

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Weekly Photo Report — July 6–10, 2015

Now turning our attention to sea lion… the building footprint has really taken shape!

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Weekly Photo Report — June 29 – July 3, 2015

It’s official! Phase I of Destination Riverbanks is now complete! Make plans now to see the beautiful new Zoo entrance, grizzly bear and otter exhibits. More to come…

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — June 22–26, 2015

Final touches are being placed on Phase One as it nears completion, and sea lion is progressing nicely!

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Weekly Photo Report — June 15–19, 2015

Main entrance gate is nearly complete — and the sea lion structure is starting to take shape!

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Weekly Photo Report — June 8–12, 2015

Satch asks Butch for his input on the punch list!

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Weekly Photo Report — June 1–5, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — May 25–29, 2015

Closing in on Phase I completion…

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Weekly Photo Report — May 18–22, 2015

The excitement continues to build!

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Weekly Photo Report — May 11–15, 2015

Moving forward…final touches are being made in preparation for the introduction of grizzly bears and otters!

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Weekly Photo Report — May 4–8, 2015

Details, details…

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Weekly Photo Report — April 27 – May 1, 2015

Phase I looking fantastic; Phase II moving right along!

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Weekly Photo Report — April 20–24, 2015

Things are really coming together with Phase I (entry, grizzly bear and otter)!

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Weekly Photo Report — April 13–17, 2015

Moving right along!

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Weekly Photo Report — April 6–10, 2015

Exciting times at Riverbanks!

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Weekly Photo Report — March 30 – April 3, 2015

Gaining momentum!

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Weekly Photo Report — March 23–27, 2015

Weekly Photo Report — March 16–20, 2015

New guest relations center, gift shop, grizzly bear and otter exhibits continue to be on track for a summer opening!

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Weekly Photo Report — March 9–13, 2015

Exciting progress continues…

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Weekly Photo Report — March 2–6, 2015

Destination Riverbanks continues to make major headway!

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Weekly Photo Report — February 23–27, 2015

Wow! The new guest services building, grizzly bear and otter exhibits are really coming along!

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Weekly Photo Report — February 16–20, 2015

Through rain, sleet, and freezing temperatures, the Destination Riverbanks construction crew keeps on keeping on!

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Weekly Photo Report — February 9–13, 2015

Building our way to an awesome future!

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Weekly Photo Report — February 2–6, 2015

Exciting times at Riverbanks!

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Weekly Photo Report — January 19–23, 2015

Steady progress continues…

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Weekly Photo Report — January 12–16, 2015

Lots of framing and exhibit rockwork happening at the Zoo!

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Weekly Photo Report — January 5–9, 2015

Things are really taking shape at Riverbanks!

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Weekly Photo Report — December 29, 2014 – January 2, 2015

Ringing in the New Year with more exciting progress!

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Weekly Photo Report — December 15–19, 2014

We’re seeing remarkable progress towards Destination Riverbanks every day! Swing by soon and watch us as we grow…

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

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…

View Weekly Progress Report (PDF)

Weekly Photo Report — November 30 – December 4, 2015

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