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Get up close with penguins. Touch a tortoise. Help prepare a snack for the bears. Get an inside look at animal care, learn about the Zoo’s efforts to save endangered species, and find out how you can help! Choose from interactive and educational one-hour encounters.

Grizzly Bear

Sunday afternoons, seasonally.
Register for Backstage Encounter

See Riverbanks from an extraordinary perspective. Help the animal care staff prepare an afternoon snack for the grizzlies. Each guest will have the opportunity to feed a bear behind-the-scenes before watching them enjoy their hidden treats on exhibit. Don’t leave your camera at home—there will be many photo opportunities!

  • $45 Riverbanks members and $60 general public. Admission not included in tour rate.
  • Ages 8 and up only; children under 18 must be accompanied by a Riverbanks Backstage Encounter ticket-holding adult.

Penguin

Saturday mornings year round.
Register for Backstage Encounter

Join the Zoo’s penguin colony for a chilly backstage encounter. Get an up-close view of these flightless birds and learn how Riverbanks feeds and cares for them. Make sure to bring along a camera—there will be plenty of cool photo opportunities!

  • $45 Riverbanks members and $60 general public. Admission not included in tour rate.
  • Ages 8 and up only; children under 18 must be accompanied by a Riverbanks Backstage Encounter ticket-holding adult.
  • Behind-the-scenes area is not ADA accessible.

On Stage with Sea Lions

Saturday afternoons year round.
Register for Backstage Encounter

Experience Sea Lion Landing like never before—and maybe get your feet a little wet. See the inner workings of this state-of-the-art habitat, and then join the animal care staff on deck during our public training demonstration. Make sure to bring along a camera—there will be countless photo opportunities!

  • $80 Riverbanks members* and $100 general public. Admission IS included in tour rate.

    *$35 tour upgrade fee required for Patron and above members.
  • Ages 8 and up only; children under 18 must be accompanied by a Riverbanks Backstage Encounter ticket-holding adult.
  • Portions of this behind-the-scenes area are not ADA accessible.

Giraffe

Sunday mornings, seasonally.
Register for Backstage Encounter

Meet some of the tallest mammals in the world and gain a greater Backstage perspective. Discover the unique aspects of giraffes and learn about the quality care they receive at Riverbanks. Each guest will have the opportunity to stand tall (without a ladder) and feed one of our gentle giants a leafy lunch. Don’t forget your camera for some great photo opportunities!

  • $45 Riverbanks members and $60 general public. Admission not included in tour rate.
  • Ages 8 and up only; children under 18 must be accompanied by a Riverbanks Backstage Encounter ticket-holding adult.
  • Behind-the-scenes area is not ADA accessible.

Giant Tortoise

Sunday afternoons, seasonally.
Register for Backstage Encounter

Meet the oldest Riverbanks residents face-to-face in the tortoise habitat. Each guest will have the opportunity to touch and handfeed the Zoo’s giant Galapagos tortoises. Make sure to bring along a camera to capture this memorable experience!

  • $45 Riverbanks members and $60 general public. Admission not included in tour rate.
  • Ages 8 and up only; children under 18 must be accompanied by a Riverbanks Backstage Encounter ticket-holding adult.
  • Behind-the-scenes area is not ADA accessible.

Otter

Sunday afternoons, seasonally.
Register for Backstage Encounter

Join us for an “otterly” enriching afternoon Backstage where you will meet our playful pair of North American river otters. After preparing the animals their favorite fishy snack, guests will venture out on habitat to hide the tasty treats. You otter not leave your camera behind — there will be many fun photo opportunities!

  • $45 Riverbanks members and $60 general public. Admission not included in tour rate.
  • Ages 8 and up only; children under 18 must be accompanied by a Riverbanks Backstage Encounter ticket-holding adult.
  • Portions of this behind-the-scenes area are not ADA accessible.

Registration Information

  • Preregistration is required for all Riverbanks Backstage experiences; visit the eTicket store to register. Experiences run approximately one hour and take place on most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Patron and Gold-level Members: Please call 803.602.0003 or email to redeem your two free Riverbanks Backstage passes and schedule your encounter. (Sea Lion Onstage tours require an upgrade fee.)
  • Admission to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is not included but is required.
  • Only guests ages 8 and up are permitted on Riverbanks Backstage experiences.
  • All guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a ticket holding adult.
  • Closed-toed shoes are a safety requirement on all backstage experiences.
  • Guests are encouraged to arrive at the designated area 10 minutes before scheduled Riverbanks Backstage experiences.
  • ADA accessible options are not always available within behind-the-scenes areas. Please call 803.602.0803 for information.
  • Due to the unpredictability of animals, backstage experiences are subject to change or cancellation. Participants must abide by staff instructions at all times.

Cancellation and Refunds

  • Guests who arrive late may miss certain components or may not be accommodated due to limited tour availability.
  • Times, prices, and tour components are subject to change.
  • Cancellations with less than 24-hours notice are nonrefundable.
  • Riverbanks Backstage experiences take place rain or shine. Refunds within 24 hours of the start time will only be given if the program needs to be canceled by Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. Tour guide will contact registered guests if cancellations occur.