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The Riverbanks Zoo And Garden In Charleston SC

Discover the wonders of the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Charleston, SC. Immerse yourself in captivating wildlife, stunning botanical gardens, and thrilling adventure activities. Explore their history, conservation efforts, educational programs, and visitor facilities. Plan your ultimate nature escape today!

Located in Charleston, SC, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is a premier destination for those seeking a captivating wildlife experience. With its expansive grounds and array of animals and botanical wonders, this renowned zoo and garden offers visitors a unique opportunity to connect with nature like never before. From the ferocious kings of the jungle to the graceful elegance of exotic birds and colorful blooms, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden promises an unforgettable adventure for all ages. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an animal lover, or simply looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this article will serve as your ultimate guide to exploring the wonders of the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Charleston, SC.


Establishment and early years

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Charleston SC has a rich history that dates back to its establishment in the early 1970s. The zoo was inspired by a desire to provide a world-class wildlife sanctuary and botanical garden in the heart of South Carolina. With the support of the community and government, the zoo was developed on a sprawling piece of land along the banks of the Congaree River. In its early years, the zoo focused on acquiring a diverse range of animals and creating naturalistic habitats for them to thrive in.

Expansion and development

As the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden gained popularity and recognition, it embarked on a journey of expansion and development. The zoo continually invested in new exhibits, adding more space for animals and enhancing the visitor experience. Over the years, several notable exhibits have been added, including the African Savanna, Koala Knockabout, and Sea Lion Landing. The zoo’s dedication to expansion and continued improvement has made it one of the top zoos in the country.

Accreditation and recognition

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a prestigious recognition that signifies the zoo’s commitment to animal welfare, conservation, and education. The AZA accreditation sets high standards for animal care and management, as well as for the zoo’s role in conservation efforts. In addition to AZA accreditation, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has received numerous awards and recognition for its exceptional exhibits, conservation efforts, and educational programs.

Location and Size

Geographical location

Located in Charleston SC, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden benefits from a prime geographical location. Situated along the banks of the Congaree River, the zoo offers stunning views and a tranquil setting for visitors to enjoy. The strategic location of the zoo also allows for easy access for both local residents and tourists visiting the charming city of Charleston.

Area and layout

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden spans over 170 acres, making it one of the largest zoos in the Southeastern United States. Visitors can explore a variety of exhibits and landscapes, including lush gardens, diverse animal habitats, and serene walking trails. The zoo’s layout is carefully designed to provide an immersive experience, with each exhibit seamlessly integrated into its natural surroundings.



The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to a diverse array of animal species from around the world. From majestic elephants to playful primates, visitors can observe and learn about the rich biodiversity of our planet. The zoo boasts impressive exhibits, such as the Elephant Observation Post, where visitors can witness these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Other popular animal attractions include the Gorilla Base Camp, Penguin Coast, and the Reptile Complex.

Plant life

Alongside its impressive collection of animals, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden boasts a stunning botanical garden that showcases a wide variety of plant life. Visitors can stroll through beautifully landscaped gardens, featuring colorful blooms, towering trees, and tranquil water features. From the Asian Garden to the Walled Garden, each area offers a unique horticultural experience that delights and inspires.


For those seeking a more exhilarating experience, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden offers exciting adventure activities. The Sky High Safari is a ropes course that allows visitors to test their agility and reach new heights while overlooking the zoo grounds. The Ziplines at Riverbanks provide an adrenaline-filled journey through the treetops, offering breathtaking views of the zoo and surrounding areas.

Special exhibits and events

Throughout the year, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden hosts a range of special exhibits and events that offer visitors a chance to learn and engage in unique experiences. From the Butterfly House and the Dinosaur exhibit to seasonal events like Boo at the Zoo and Lights Before Christmas, there is always something new and exciting to discover at the zoo.

Conservation Efforts

Breeding programs

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is deeply committed to conservation efforts, including breeding programs for endangered species. Through these programs, the zoo aims to increase the population of vulnerable species and ensure their survival for future generations. The zoo has successfully bred and reintroduced several species into the wild, including the red wolf and the black howler monkey.

Partnerships with other organizations

To maximize its impact, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden collaborates with various local and international organizations dedicated to conservation and wildlife preservation. By working together, these partnerships aim to share knowledge, expertise, and resources to address the ongoing challenges faced by endangered species and their habitats.

Education and awareness initiatives

In line with its commitment to conservation, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden places a strong emphasis on education and awareness initiatives. The zoo offers educational programs and workshops for schools, focusing on teaching students about the importance of wildlife conservation and biodiversity. Additionally, the zoo hosts regular events and awareness campaigns for the general public, aiming to foster a sense of appreciation and responsibility towards the natural world.

Visitor Facilities

Parking and admission

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden provides ample parking facilities for visitors, ensuring a convenient and hassle-free experience. Whether arriving by car or public transportation, visitors can easily access the zoo and garden. Admission fees are affordable and offer great value, considering the vast range of attractions and experiences available within the zoo grounds.

Information centers and maps

To enhance the visitor experience and provide necessary information, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has strategically placed information centers and maps throughout the grounds. These centers serve as points of reference, providing visitors with important details about animal exhibits, schedules for special events, and additional amenities. Detailed maps ensure that visitors can navigate the zoo and garden with ease.

Dining and shopping

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden understands the importance of catering to visitors’ dining and shopping needs. The zoo offers a range of dining options, from quick-service cafes to full-service restaurants, ensuring that visitors can satisfy their hunger while enjoying their time at the park. In addition, the zoo features several gift shops where visitors can purchase unique souvenirs, educational materials, and sustainable products.

Behind the Scenes

Animal care and veterinary services

The successful operation of the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden relies on its dedicated team of animal care professionals and veterinary services. These experts work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the well-being and welfare of all animals within the zoo. From regular check-ups to specialized veterinary care, every effort is made to provide the highest standard of care for the animals.

Training and enrichment programs

Enrichment programs play a crucial role in keeping the animals at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden mentally and physically stimulated. Dedicated trainers work closely with the animals to provide training sessions and interactive activities that encourage natural behaviors and promote overall well-being. These programs not only benefit the animals but also provide a unique opportunity for visitors to observe the fascinating bond between trainers and their animal companions.

Botanic Garden operations

The botanical garden at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden requires meticulous planning and care to maintain its beauty and diversity. A team of horticulturists, artists, and landscape experts work diligently to design and maintain the various gardens, ensuring that each garden thrives and provides a stunning backdrop for visitors to enjoy.

Education and Outreach

School programs and field trips

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden offers a comprehensive range of educational programs tailored to meet the needs of students at various grade levels. These programs include interactive workshops, guided tours, and hands-on activities that aim to spark curiosity and promote conservation awareness. Field trip opportunities allow students to observe animals in their natural habitats, engage with expert educators, and deepen their understanding of the natural world.

Adult and community education

Education is not limited to school-aged children at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. The zoo offers a variety of programs and workshops for adults and the broader community. From lectures on wildlife conservation to gardening workshops, there is something for everyone to learn and engage with, regardless of age or background.

Virtual resources and programs

In response to the changing landscape of education and outreach, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has embraced virtual resources and programs. Through online platforms, the zoo provides virtual tours, live animal encounters, and educational resources that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. These initiatives enable a wider audience to participate in the zoo’s educational offerings and connect with its mission.

Events and Activities

Annual events and festivals

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden hosts several annual events and festivals that draw visitors from near and far. These events celebrate the changing seasons and provide unique experiences for families and individuals alike. Whether it’s the springtime celebration of the Festival of Gardens or the festive Lights Before Christmas during the holiday season, these events create lasting memories for all who attend.

Zoo camps and birthday parties

For children who are passionate about animals and nature, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden offers exciting summer camps and birthday party packages. These immersive experiences allow children to get up close and personal with their favorite animals, learn from expert educators, and discover the wonders of the natural world in a fun and engaging way.

Private events and rentals

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden serves as a spectacular backdrop for private events and rentals. Whether it’s a wedding, corporate event, or family gathering, the zoo offers a range of venues that can accommodate various group sizes and event types. These unique settings, surrounded by nature and wildlife, create truly memorable experiences for guests.

Sustainability Initiatives

Waste management and recycling

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is committed to reducing waste and implementing effective recycling practices. Recycling stations are conveniently located throughout the zoo, encouraging visitors to dispose of their waste responsibly. Additionally, the zoo employs efficient waste management strategies, ensuring that waste is properly sorted and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

Energy conservation

To minimize its environmental impact, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has implemented various energy conservation measures. These include using energy-efficient lighting, employing solar panels, and reducing energy consumption in buildings and exhibits whenever possible. By prioritizing energy conservation, the zoo sets an environmentally responsible example for visitors.

Green design and construction

In line with its commitment to sustainability, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden incorporates green design principles in its construction and renovation projects. This includes using environmentally friendly materials, incorporating sustainable building practices, and maximizing energy efficiency. By adopting these green design strategies, the zoo decreases its carbon footprint and contributes to the overall health of the planet.

Support and Membership

Donations and sponsorships

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden relies on the generous support of donations and sponsorships from individuals and organizations to continue its vital conservation work. Contributions help fund animal care, education programs, habitat preservation, and the ongoing development of the zoo’s facilities. Donors and sponsors play a critical role in ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.

Membership benefits and levels

Becoming a member of the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden offers numerous benefits and opportunities for individuals and families. Members enjoy unlimited access to the zoo and garden, discounts on special events and programs, and exclusive member-only experiences. The zoo offers different membership levels to cater to the diverse needs and interests of its supporters, allowing everyone to find a membership option that suits them best.

Volunteer opportunities

The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden provides a range of volunteer opportunities for individuals who are passionate about conservation and wildlife. Volunteers play an integral role in supporting the zoo’s operations, from assisting with animal care to engaging with visitors and participating in conservation programs. By joining the zoo’s volunteer program, individuals can make a meaningful contribution while gaining valuable knowledge and experiences.

In conclusion, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Charleston SC has established itself as a premier destination for tourists and locals alike, offering a unique blend of wildlife conservation, botanical beauty, and unparalleled educational experiences. With its dedication to animal welfare, conservation efforts, and sustainable practices, the zoo continues to inspire and educate visitors while ensuring a positive impact on the environment. Whether you’re exploring the diverse array of animals, strolling through the meticulously maintained gardens, or participating in educational programs, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden provides an immersive and unforgettable experience for all who visit.

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