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 better accommodate guests, a doubled-in-size gift shop, new guest relations center, state-of-the-art seal/sea lion exhibit, relocated grizzly bear habitat, brand-new otter exhibit and interactive children’s garden.

New Seal/Sea Lion Experience

Sea Lion Landing will have a similar feel to San Francisco’s Pier 39 where many sea lions live today. This dynamic habitat 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.

Slated to Open Spring 2016.

Enhanced Grizzly Bear Habitat and New River Otters

Grizzly Ridge, a bigger, better bear exhibit, is being 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.

New River Otter Exhibit

Otter Run is sure to delight as beloved river otters greet guests when they enter the Zoo’s attractive new entry plaza. This charismatic exhibit also will allow unparalleled, shared views of neighboring grizzly bears.

Slated to Open Summer 2015.

Larger Entrance Plaza with Enhanced Guest Amenities

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 relations center boasting more ticket booths, new guest services offices, first aid, lost and found, and lactation room.

Slated to Open Summer 2015.

Improved Parking and Visitor Access

The larger entry will initially 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 Completion Summer 2015.

Interactive Children’s Garden

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

Slated to Open Fall 2015.

Construction Progress Video

Construction Cam Watch our progress in motion!

New Entrance Plaza

New Seal / Sea Lion Exhibit

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 accessible 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 are staying at Tulsa Zoo (OK) while their new habitat is being built; the bears will return this summer. A few outdoor bird aviaries were removed in anticipation of the new sea lion exhibit; one new aviary recently opened. The Malayan tapir and babirusas are back on exhibit. Stay tuned for more movin’ and shakin’ updates.

Solo’s Market Now Open

A new snack bar has opened at the Zoo! The brand-new concession stand is 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 features hand-battered chicken tenders, fried pickles, potato spirals, ICEES and other tasty snacks.

New Bird’s Eye View

The first of several new bird aviaries recently opened, adjacent to the all-new Solo’s Market. Additional aviaries will be built throughout the Zoo soon to replace those that were demolished to make way for the new sea lion exhibit.

Garden Branches Out with New Tram Stop

With an exciting 3-acre children’s garden on the horizon, Riverbanks has moved the Botanical Garden tram stop to a more centrally located area near the amphitheater. Guests no longer need to exit or enter through the Visitors Center, and the walk from the Garden entrance is now much shorter! The tram will now transport guests from the Saluda River footbridge to the Rose Garden pavilion and back.

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.

Slated to Open Fall 2015

A New Look for the ARC

The Aquarium-Reptile Complex recently underwent a renovation in celebration of the popular building’s 25th anniversary. Members and guests can now look forward to an enhanced ARC experience boasting a new color scheme, upgraded flooring and newly designed graphics.

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!

View Park Map
PDF last updated May 14, 2015

Weekly Photo Reports Destination Riverbanks is well underway! Buildings are going up and exhibits are being built — much of it in clear view for our members and guests to see. This exciting project will ultimately bring a larger Zoo entrance with enhanced guest amenities, 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—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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More Reports

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…

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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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