Updates at Riverbanks Zoo: newest attractions, rental and food prices (what’s fun to do in Columbia)

This post is a follow up to my previous article on Riverbanks Zoo I wrote back in March. Three months later it’s worth noting Great photo with the train the zoo’s newest attractions and prices updates, especially on food.

Those of you new to the blog or just recently moved into town, Columbia Riverbanks Zoo is THE family attraction in the city.
Rain or shine, from spring to winter, this is the place to be if you have kids, or a bunch of relatives visiting for the weekend. For moms it’s the best and most affordable “baby-sitter”.

Things to know before you go

1. The most popular thing kids want to do now is riding the new “Spots and Stripes Railroad” miniature train located near the farm (where the pony rides used to be…don’t worry the ponies are still going strong at the zoo, just moved across the little bridge. It’s also 1 buck more ($5)). The train ride is $2 for EVERYBODY onboard (unlike the merry-go-around where only the child fare is paid). There are only 3 carts and lines to get in get very long quickly. My advice is to do the ride as soon as you get to the zoo, and if possible, early morning. The rides go from 10 AM to 4:30 PM.

2. Next thing kids love to do is watching the SpongeBob 3D movie. This is $2 (children under 5 get in for free) and it runs every half an hour. The movie is pretty lame and only lasts for 20 minutes (you do get to keep the glasses)…but hey I’m not the intended audience 🙂 My 4 years old daughter saw it twice already. Girls enjoying the cooling fans However there is something interesting to see inside the theater: the rat moles exhibit. The baby rat will put on a show as you wait for the movie to start.

3. The cooling fans spread throughout the park, although not an attraction per say, it’s the zoo’s best idea ever in these hot Carolina summer days: The ones by the bird show cabin are just irresistible. Babies, kids, parents and grand-parents come here to catch a well-deserved break. Also two thumbs up for the one by the playground near the carousel.

Admission Fees
• Adults $9.75
• Children (3-12) $7.25; under 3 get in FREE
• Military (with ID) $8.50
• Seniors (over 62) $8.25

Safari Bucks

You get 10 for $8. They are only sold in sets of 10, good for 6 months and are accepted at all retail and food locations (beware they will not give change back to the safari bucks).
• Pony rides 5 bucks
• Train ride 2
• 3D theater 2
• Carousel 1
• Giraffe and lorikeet feeding 1

Kenya Cafe summer prices

Snacks
• Small popcorn $2.25
• Pretzel 2.50
• Nachos 3.25
• Cotton Candy 3
• Peanuts 3
• Medium drink 2.50
• Dipping dots ice-cream cup 4

Stroller Rentals
Require $5 deposit and there is 7% sales and use tax on top of rental price
• Single 6 bucks
• Double 9
• Wheelchair 6
• Wagon 11

Happy Safari at the Riverbanks Zoo!

Congaree National Park: a natural wonder near Columbia (free things to do with kids)

Congaree National Park is the largest and few remaining bottom land hardwood forest in North America. A short drive from Columbia the swamp park (more exactly a floodplain forest) stretches over 11,000 acres along the Congaree and Santee rivers. Congaree National Park

With its serene cathedral like canopy it is the world’s tallest deciduous forest, with trees reaching up to 170 feet (as high as a 17 stories sky-Congaree National Park grand Loblolly pine treescraper!); it is taller than famous forests in Japan, Himalaya and Europe.

This natural wonder still looks as it did more than 500 hundreds years ago when early Europeans – like Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto – came to South Carolina looking for gold, silver, precious stones and natural resources.

Congaree National Park cypress kneesThe Congaree Indians camped, fished and hunted along the Congaree river more than 13,000 years ago. They believed the swamp was “filled with ghosts”. Congaree means “dragged the bottom of the boats”, an accurate description of the swamp’s appearance most of the year.
During the Revolutionary War, the Congaree swamp gave refuge to Francis Marion and his patriots companions (hence his nickname: The Swamp Fox), as they repeatedly harassed and sabotaged the British troops.

For its incredible biodiversity and historic importance the Congaree National Park has been designated a Natural National Landmark, an International Biosphere Reserve and Globally Important Bird area. Scientists and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world come year around to visit and study this natural wonder.

Tips to know before you go
At the Congaree park you can enjoy all the usual outdoor activities: camping, fishing, canoeing, biking, walking and bird watching.
Congaree National Park boardwalk trailBe mindful of the perennial bugs and mesquitoes so wear long sleeves shirts and plenty of repellant. If you plan to walk the 2.4 miles self-guided boardwalk that loops around the Visitor center make sure to carry some water; there is no drinking water along the trail (you can fill up at the Visitor center). The boardwalk is suitable for strollers, bring these along to avoid some drama later on. Congaree National Park Weston Lake stop

There are about 20 stops along the trail and many have benches you can rest on. Those more adventurous canoeing along the river bring food and supplies to last 2-3 extra hours beyond your originally planned time travel. Note that Congaree National Park offers FREE ranger guided canoe tours every other Sunday.

Attractions along the boardwalk trail

Congaree National Park Dorovan Muck mudThe famous Dorovan Muck, the Congaree swamp’s dark mud is essential for breaking down pollutants into harmless ingredients.
Congaree National Park hollow tree with bats
Hollow trees that house thousands of evening bats, which can consume up to 600 mesquitoes an hour. The swamp is home to 6 different bats varieties.

Eerie looking Congaree swampA remnant of lucrative bootlegging enterprise…national champions the grand Loblolly pine trees…frightnening lightning marks on many trees…eerie and alien looking (as one might expect in this ancient forest) swamp…Paw-Paw and cabbage dwarf palmetto trees…and plenty of wildlife, in particular birds. See some great photos I took last weekend in this Congaree family fun slideshow.

If you like spending time in the swamp you will definitely enjoy visiting the “Black Water Swamp” at Cypress Gardens north of Charleston (exit 199 on I-26). It is mosquitoes free!

Where
Congaree National Park is located about 20 miles from downtown Columbia, South Carolina in the Hopkins / Gadsden community. It’s open year around except on Christmas Day and is FREE.

From Interstate 77, take Exit 5, turn off onto SC Hwy 48 East (Bluff Rd.) and follow the brown directional signs. Travel southeast fourteen miles on Bluff Rd, turn right onto Mt. View Rd. and follow it 0.8 miles. Turn right onto Old Bluff Rd. and travel 0.6 miles. At the large park entrance sign, turn left onto and proceed one mile to the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Detailed driving directions and map: http://www.nps.gov/cong/planyourvisit/directions.htm

Happy family travel in beautiful South Carolina!

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EdVenture Children Museum: Ball and Gravity video

Gravity always wins. It’s mesmerizing…you can do this over and over. Try it for yourself at EdVenture in downtown Columbia, the largest, funniest and most interesting children museum in the South.
Read more about the wonderful EdVenture

Little Mozart fun video at EdVenture Children Museum

Young kids have fun playing and even hopping on music at the EdVenture Children Museum. Who knows, maybe the next Mozart will come about! 
For more information on EdVenture see my previous post

Happy Carolina Vacation!

EdVenture Children Museum: Discover Carolina’s World of Wonders, Education and Family Fun (Columbia things to do with kids)

EdVenture is the South largest children museum and one of Carolina’s most attractive family friendly tourist destinations. Located in downtown Columbia besides along the beautiful Congaree River and besides the State Museum, this four-story award winning museum will let kids 12 and younder explore the wonders of science, art, medicine, history and culture in a fun and exciting hands on environment.

There are more than 350 interactive exhibits. Children can check out a real fire truck, buy groceries, be a farmer, doctor or an engineer for a day; play musical instruments, anchor the news on TV, climb and slide down Big Eddie (the planet’s biggest kid!), navigate the ocean, solve mysteries, study how the body works, and experience other cultures.

Tips to know before you go

1. Go early morning and during weekdays to avoid the big crowds. The museum is open 9 AM to 5 PM (Sunday opens at noon).

2. Start on the 2nd floor. Young kids will enjoy playing musical instruments and explore the seasonal exhibits. Older kids will be absorbed at the live TV and newspaper stations. There is a quiet play and reading area for babies and toddlers.

3. Get them “exhausted” climbing Big Eddie up and down. That can easily take up to 30 minutes.

4. Catch a snack break at the Clubhouse, open 11 AM to 2 PM (closed on Sunday).

5. Continue your tour on the first floor. Main attraction here is the fire truck. Young kids love to go shopping at the grocery store or play farmer.

6. Cool off at the water exhibit outside. They will get wet no matter what you do, but the fun is guaranteed.

7. If there’s still time and energy left drive to the Columbia Riverfront Canal park nearby for fresh air and an amazing walk down the river.

8. For even more educational and truly inspirational activities be a proud South Carolinian at the magnificent State House. You can enjoy for free its fascinating history, outstanding architecture, remarkable sculptures, monuments and Revolutionary War paintings.

Check out the following photos for a sneak peak inside the museum:

Nothing like playing live music on TV!

EdVenture Live Concert
You can see the food digestion process in action

Check out a real fire truck! You can dress like a fireman and test your skills going down the fire pole
EdVenture Posing with Fireman

Bob the Builder boys have a blast driving the bulldozer…
EdVenure Bob the Builder

Little Beethoven in the making?
EdVenture Music Instruments
Kids have fun getting wet at the water conservation and energy education exhibit
edVenture Children Gaving Funwith Water

Older kids always get a good workout climbing the ropes outside
EdVenture Outdoor Climbing

Fishing with the big net in Central Africa

Where
211 Gervais Street, Columbia SC 29201, Phone (803) 779-3100
Tickets: Adult $8.95; Children $6.95

EdVenture Children Museum: In Pictures Education and Fun

At the EdVenture Children Museum in downtown Columbia, kids of all ages have lots of fun playing with all the science exhibits, driving the fire truck, anchoring the news, exploring exotic Earth places, playing with the band on TV, being doctor for the day, creating music, or just climbing Big Eddie up and down.

You can read my detailed post, for more information about the museum.

Let A Day at EdVenture photos speak for themselves: