CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - This week's spot comes highly recommended by meteorologist Al Conklin. He charged me to make the trek to Columbia, SC to see the palmetto state's number one tourist attraction, the Riverbanks Zoo. Conklin recently took a trip with his family. " It's pretty inexpensive, it's easy to get to... right down I-77 it's not a real long trip and the animals are up close and personal so what more can you ask for."
More than a million people walk through the gates of the zoo each year. The students at Saluda River Elementary School in Columbia were just a few of the many enjoying the exhibits. Several exhibits are interactive and allow you actually touch the animals. Student, Braxton Lewter got a chance to feed a giraffe. "It was all gooey and it felt like slime except for a little harder in the middle," Lewter joked.
Communications manager, Lindsay Burke showed me around. She says the zoo is a cheap and fun option for families."It's very affordable. There are not many attractions that are as affordable as we are that offer the opportunity that we do. You can see grizzlies and lions and tigers. You can see a giraffe. You can walk through with the wallabies, said Burke.
This zoo definitely offers some in your face encounters and experiences. It costs less than ten dollars to get in, and you can tour a whole globe of animals. Only at Riverbanks will you learn Galapagos Turtles like to be scratched. If feathered friends are your thing, take a chance at holding a lorikeet and giving it a drink.
My favorite animal was definitely Louis, the baby Giraffe. Al's favorite," Probably the baboon... Big dummy."
The zoo also provides educational opportunities. Each exhibit is equipped with an ID sign full of facts about each animal.. They also offer free presentations where visitors can ask zoologists questions. Burke says visiting is beneficial for all animals. "That's one of the best ways that you can support wildlife and causes for conservation is by attending the zoo and educating yourself.
START: Charlotte, NC US
1. Start out going SOUTHWEST on S TRYON ST toward W 4TH ST. (go 0.5 miles)
2. Turn RIGHT onto W HILL ST. (go 0.1 miles)
3. Merge onto I-277 S/US-74 W. (go 0.8 miles)
4. Merge onto I-77 S via EXIT 1B toward COLUMBIA (go 82.2 miles)
5. Merge onto SC-277 S via EXIT 18 toward I-20 W/COLUMBIA/AUGUSTA. (go 8.0 miles)
6. Take US-76 W. (go 2.3 miles)
7. Take the GREYSTONE BLVD. exit toward RIVERBANKS ZOO. (go 0.2 miles)
8. Turn LEFT onto GREYSTONE BLVD. (go 0.2 miles)
9. Turn LEFT onto RIVERMONT DR. (go 0.0 miles)
10. Turn RIGHT onto WILDLIFE PKWY. (go 0.1 miles)
11. 500 WILDLIFE PKWY is on the RIGHT. (go 0.0 miles)
END: Riverbanks Zoo, 500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210 US
TOTAL ESTIMATED TIME: 1 hour 36 minutes | DISTANCE: 94.45 miles