Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day: wild fun, special treats, free activities and funny moments

On September 25th the Riverbanks Zoo celebrated its animals and visitors with special treats, surprises and fun activities for kids. The event was free with zoo admission ($11.75 adults, $10.75 seniors and military, and $9.25 children 3-12). Here are the highlights:

Fun stuff for kids
Feed Little Boy, the zoo’s only American alligator. Visitors who bid and won this “behind the scene” adventure got to participate in the alligator training session. They were literally feet away from the crocodilian monster!

Children get up close to Little Boy

A real special treatment...getting to feed Little Boy, the Riverbanks Zoo alligator

Kids made their own craft using pasta shells, string and construction paper and also got a free tattoo.

Make your own pasta craft

Fun free activities for kids at Riverbanks Zoo

Kids got to learn more about animals at the zoo, touch a bear skull and claw, cayman teeth and leathery skin, etc.

Hands on learning at Riverbanks Zoo special Enrichment Day

These are some very big teeth!

Animal treats
The grizzly bears seemed the most pleased with their watermelon and molasses covered boxes.

I have a sweet tooth...

The grizzly bears love their sweet treats on Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day

Chalka, the silverback gorilla, was intrigued by his colorful snack tube filled with goodies.

Chalka is happy with his new edible toy

Hmmmm, what can it be?

This youngster giraffe couldn’t pull away from the tree. Most likely the zoo staff covered the bark with a delicious treat, as he kept licking and licking it…

Funny baby giraffe playing at the zoo

Peek-a-boo! Giraffe playing hide and seek at the zoo

The lion got a little frustrated trying to open his present filled with tantalizing smelling meat. Eventually he hauled in the cave to “finish” it off in private.

Lions enjoy new toys special treats at Riverbanks Zoo

Reveal yourself to me says the Lion King

Although we missed the elephant feeding session we still got to see the ladies giving themselves a nice mud spa treatment.

Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day

As you get older you need to take good care of your skin...

Big and small, feathers and fur all animals got a special treat on Enrichment Day. This exotic bird enjoyed a fresh juicy orange.

Exotic bird enjoys new fruit at Riverbanks Zoo

I love oranges!

The male baboon will take no chances! He claimed this treat as his very own.

Claiming the colorful prize Riverbanks Zoo Enrichment Day

This treat is mine!

While at the zoo take the free trolley to the Botanical Gardens filled with hundreds of flowers, ornamental plants, trees, spices and funky art. There is a special children’s garden and a nice shaded playground.

Mark your calendar for the Boo at the Zoo, a Riverbanks Zoo & Garden Halloween Spooktacular! October 14-16 and 21-30, 6-9PM. Tickets are $6 members ($8 regular admission).


New at Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia wild fun thing to do!

I haven’t been to Riverbanks since the “Lights Before Christmas” event. Last Saturday my daughter and I braved the crowds and the heat to see what’s new at the zoo.

Newest exhibit: Kangaroo Walkabout
Although is hard to replace the feisty sea lions (remember Big Boy?) the kangaroos and wallabies held their own on the fun factor. Kids love to get close (really close!) to the strange looking creatures. The are two staff guides that monitor the animals and are happy to answer questions.

Red Necked Wallabies – Wallabies are the smaller cousins of the kangaroos.

Columbia Zoo newest exhibit

Happy to sit next to young wallabies

The red-necked wallaby is the largest of all the wallabies.

Like kangaroos, wallabies get around by hopping and raise young in a pouch in the female’s belly. They spend the dawn and dusk hours eating grasses and other plants, and rest during broad daylight.

Red-Necked Wallabies have been killed for their fur and because they eat same grass as sheep.

Red Kangaroos – Males are called “boomers”, females “flyers” and the young are called “joeys”. Kangaroos can live up to 20 years of age.

Handsome young male Columbia Zoo

Is fun watching the kangaroos only feet away

In the wild, males live lot less than females (5-10 years vs. 10-15 years) due to constant fighting with other males and their mostly solitary life.

An adult male red kangaroo can weigh 200 pounds and grow to be 5 feet tall, truly remarkable considering at birth he is as big as a jelly bean!

Kangaroos are mostly nocturnal. During the day they cope with the heat by licking their wrists.

They can hop over 6 feet tall fences, leap over 25 feet and reach speeds of 30 mph! When threatened, kangaroos stomp the ground with their hind legs and thump with their tales. They can deliver a powerful kick if necessary!

The Gorilla exhibit is still a family favorite. There is renewed interest after the short yet exciting escapade last year and the sad departure of Kimya, the youngest male, this year.

Silverback gorilla survivor Columbia zoo

The one gorilla who did not get away...

2010 Price and Food Updates:

Admission is now $11.75 adults, $9.25 children (under 3 get in FREE), $10.75 military and seniors. There is a new $28.75 (per person) Combo Pass that includes admission and unlimited rides.

Really cute meerkat Riverbanks Zoo

The Meerkat Manor of Columbia!

There are 2 new “Explorer” membership options, $99 individual and $149 family, which provide unlimited rides and attractions on top of the usual benefits.

See all the details here.

You can get a $20 Day Pass for unlimited rides and feedings. The price for each individual attraction has not changed ($5 pony ride, $2 train ride, $2 3D Theater, $1 carousel, and $1 giraffe and lorikeet feeding).

Best place to eat is still the Kenya cafe, which is open year around and offers indoor A/C seating. All grill meals include french fries and cost around $4. Choose from burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, chicken and BBQ sandwiches. There are grab-and-go salads, deli sandwiches, yogurt, fruits and more.

Stay wild, be cool at the Riverbanks Zoo!

Riverbanks “Lights Before Christmas”: Snow, marshmallows, Santa, train rides and dazzling lights magic

Every year we come to Riverbanks Zoo to experience the Lights Before Christmas. It’s a fun evening, especially for kids. The whole park is lit up, there is laughter, joy and the smell of Christmas.

Christmas Village

Christmas Village

What kids love to do at the zoo
1. Play in the “snow” and chase falling snow-soap flakes. This is as close as it gets to a white Christmas around here.

It's snowing mom!

It's snowing mom!

2. Ride the mini train. Here is the Spots and Stripes Railroad video from last summer ($2 per person)

3. Ride the Merry-go-around ($1 per kid)

4. Cooking marshmallows over the coal burning fire. You get 4 on a stick ($2)

Marshmallows Time!

Marshmallows Time!

5. Run, climb and slide at the playground. In fact that whole area is great to let your kids loose. There is also the carousel, marshmallows fire, restrooms and food stands.

Fun things for parents
1. Get a Starbucks coffee or hot-cocoa. The hut is strategically positioned right by the entrance.

2. Stay in line with the kids for a moment with Santa. It seems grown-ups are more enchanted photographing their prodigy in Santa’s lap than the children do. When asked what she wants for Christmas mine replied “A lollipop!”…now you tell me?

What you want for Christmas?

What you want for Christmas?

3. Cooking marshmallows…yep we like it too!

The Lights Before Christmas event is open till December 30 every day until 9PM (except on Christams Eve and Christmas Day). Admission is $8 adults, $6 children 3-12 and free for kids under 3. Members get a one time free entrance to the event.

Lion King at the zoo

Lion King at the zoo

Merry Christmas!

Shark, motor boat or statue? Big Boy sea lion acts funny at Riverbanks Zoo (video)

Treat or trick? Come see Big Boy sea lion Halloween action daily at 10:30 AM and 3 PM at the amazing Riverbanks Zoo.

Big Boy doing a flipper stand at Riverbanks Zoo

Big Boy doing a flipper stand at Riverbanks Zoo

He swims like a shark, rides the waves like a motor boat, jumps, flips, rolls over and even does an upside-down “flippers” stand still. All just to get some fish and your laughs (Big Boy goes crazy when crowds cheer him on!)

This is truly an animal show worth shouting about! And the loud holler monkeys couldn’t agree more 🙂

Other notable Zoo animal feedings and demonstrations:

• Penguin presentation 11 AM and 3:30 PM
• Gorilla presentation 11:30 AM
• Raptor aviary show 1:30 PM

Don’t miss out on Riverbanks’ latest blockbuster attraction the miniature ride on the Spots and Stripes train ($2 safari bucks per person, daily from 10 AM to 4 PM).

If you’re first time zoo visitor read my previous post for some great tips to make the best of your trip. FYI admission fees to Riverbanks:
• Adults $9.75
• Children (3-12) $7.25; under 3 get in FREE
• Military (with ID) $8.50
• Seniors (over 62) $8.25

Cheer for your favorite animal at the Riverbanks Zoo Funny Summer Olympics

OK it’s not near the level of the Olympic Games in Beijing. But don’t tell that to the animals at Riverbanks Zoo downtown Columbia! They’ve trained and trained and are competing effervescently every day to put on a quality show just for you. The kids love to cheer them on. If nothing else is worth visiting the Zoo just to ride the instant children attraction the Spots and Stripes Railroad miniature train. You be the judge!

Wow the bears are really going at each other in the heavyweight wrestling event!
Bears wrestling at Riverbanks Zoo

Everyone said she’ll never make the Olympic team. Boy she proved them wrong! It’s such a beauty to see her conquer the pole vault. And all the monkeys are cheering and jumping the ropes as she attempts the world record!
howler monkey at Riverbanks Zoo

Complete silence in the stadium. The gorilla is deeply concentrating in her last attempt at the javelin event. If she wins, we are told there will be a Gorilla Presentation at 11:30 AM.

The track and field jewel, the zebras 100 meters dash it’s finally about to start. Expectations are high and there are talks of breaking both the world and Olympic records!

The goats proved impenetrable at the net in the volleyball competition! It helps being constantly fed by enthusiastic kids ($0.25 cents, however I’ll save the quarters and just pick up the food laying around all over the place)!
Goat feeding at the Riverbanks Zoo Animal Farm

She said this Funny Olympic Games will be her last. Such a shame to lose a queen platform diving sea lion! Don’t despair, you can still admire her and company daily at Riverbanks Zoo: Sea Lion Feeding at 10:30 AM and Sea Lion Training at 3 PM

She’s a rookie…but very talented and the pony delivers! Gold medal at the equestrian obstacle course. Pony rides are by far the main Zoo attraction for girls. They run daily from 10 AM – 3 PM and is 5 Safari Bucks per ride.
equestrian obstacle course at Riverbanks Zoo

The baboons continue their badminton tradition and claim first spot in the singles competition. Rumors has it the guy received extra grooming to keep his nerves in check!
baboon badminton at Riverbanks Zoo

Perfect landing and a statuesque body stance at vault individual apparatus event! The frilly lizard gets a whopping 16.900 the highest score today!

Here comes the lion in the Decathlon track and field event! The animals king looks a little rattled don’t you think? By the way the amazingly cute lions cubs where moved from the aviary exhibit. Don’t worry they’ll soon join the regular lions exhibit.
King Lion at Riverbanks Zoo

As usual it’s a nerve wrecking nail biting 4×100 medley race, the most sought after medal of all swimming events. Seems that the yellow stripped fish team has an edge at the butterfly exchange. Make sure to stick around for the Aquarium Dive Demonstration at 12:30 PM.
Aquarium exhibit at Riverbanks Zoo

The elephants are on a roll at the lift and jerk weightlifting event…yeah well when you weigh several tons I don’t think there is much competition to stack up against you!

Can the giraffe basketball dream team redeem itself and finally bring home the gold? So far so good. Autograph signings and feedings from 10:00 AM-1:30 PM daily (1 Safari Buck)
Giraffes feedings

What wonderful animal athletes! Live the Funny Olympic spirit daily at Riverbanks Zoo!

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

• 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!

Riverbanks Zoo: amazing photos, funny videos and great tips for moms (things to do with kids in Columbia)

You are never bored at the Riverbanks Zoo. There is always some drama unfolding with the animals and people alike. It’s relatively cheap, you get plenty of exercise and fresh air walking in the beautiful surroundings, and most important, the little kids can scream their hearts out and run around for a couple of hours while no one there really cares. When my daughter Lana was months old she got her best hour-long naps as we were strolling pass the big cats exhibits.
Fun climbing bronze statue at Riverbanks Zoo
Tips to know before you go
1. Get the membership it will pay for itself after two family visits.
2. Go during the week. By all means avoid Friday which is free day for Richland and Lexington counties residents and when most school, church and senior tours visit.
3. Get the 10 safari “bucks” for $8 ticket. This will save you $2 and lets you do a girls magnet pony ride or a 3D movie (each costs $4), two carousel runs ($1 per run and you get to join in for free…yeah! better not eat anything heavy ahead of time), and you can feed the animals along the way ($1 each). At the farm go with the goats, they’ll put on a show.
4. Know the animal shows and feeding times; this is when animals are most active and crowds gather to a specific location (so you’ll know when and where to get away!)
5. Young kids love to climb the many bronze statues scattered around the park. Let them do it; you’ll get a rest, they get a great kick out of it and it’s also a good motivation to keep them going “to the next one”.
6. If you plan on eating while at the zoo, Kenya café is your best bet although don’t expect Wolfgang Puck style dining. Get the hot-dog and fries combo with the yogurt smoothie or the salad box (each about $2.00). There are water fountains throughout the zoo so don’t spend money on drinks…unless it’s your only option to shut the kids up.

What you might run into at the zoo

Scrawny-looking lion is bored to death by the endless exhibit of photo shooting humans. He’s looking for refuge along the more self-assured matriarchs.Lion roaring at Riverbanks Zoo

Flute singing gorilla finds peace by the shade secluded rocksGorilla singing at Riverbanks Zoo

Laying around and eating upside down the lazy sloth got it all figured out. Flower, power.
Lazy Sloth Eating at Riverbanks Zoo

The stone face impenetrable alligator. If you ask me I think it’s a fake; he never moves!
Alligator sunbathing at Riverbanks Zoo

Relaxed lady elephants enjoy an afternoon snack, always socializing or scratching a perennial itch. They truly seem in their element in spite of the relatively small enclosure.

Elephants at Riverbanks Zoo

Super model frilly lizard will make sure to hold the pose until you get your best shot. Very professional indeed!

Riverbanks Zoo frilly lizard

The impassable tiger yawns heavily unfazed by the ruckus nearby Riverbanks Zoo Siberian tiger yawning

Brady Bunch little parrots will delight kids of all ages for a $1 nectar cup. Relax, stay still, pray for no “oops accidents” and enjoy the show. Check out these funny videos to get even a better idea of all the fun that awaits you there:

Parrots Eating Nectar

Little Parrots’ Food Fight

Gorilla Leaves When Phone Rings

American Idols at Riverbanks Zoo?

Riverbanks Zoo
500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, SC 29210
Open daily 9 AM to 5 PM (6PM weekends), except Thanksgiving and Christmas day
Adult $9.75, Children (3-12) $7.25, under 3 years old are free.
Discount rates available for seniors, military personnel and groups
For more information and year round calendar of events visit http://www.riverbanks.org/ or call (803) 779-8717