Just visited Riverbanks for the first time yesterday for a day trip. We have been to several zoos on the east coast.
Value 9/10- For $11 per adult, you can not go wrong here. The zoo is on the small side, but you do get to see a majority of species that are present at other zoos.
Atmosphere 6/10- The zoo is under construction in many parts, but they are expanding which is a positive. The paths are relatively wide, yet for some attractions where u feed animals, the spaces are on the small side.
Food 5/10- There is no value here, u are better off eating a large meal at a decent price before u enter the zoo. Good and drinks are expensive and the food is not the best.
Intangibles 3/10- The major issue we had, based on our other zoo experiences is the signage, it's non-existent. Yes they give u a map, but a sign post with arrows would make the experience so much more easier.
Staff 8/10- Any staff members we spoke to that were either feeding, cleaning, walking around or at the concession stands were friendly and helpful.
Botanical Gardens 7/10- Quite nice, didn't think it held a candle to Daniel Stowe though. If u do the woodland walk about, it's very long. They should post the distance of the trail. You see some enormous rocks along the trail and woods galore, very peaceful and very quiet.
Columbia itself 4/10- It's a college town when class is in session. We drove around and it appears to be a very depressed area in many parts, especially for being a state capital. Lots of closed store fronts, a "mall" that has maybe 5 stores open and it looks like Belk is heading out as well.
Conclusion 5/10- I would definitely suggest it as a day trip if ur nearby. The zoo itself is small and u can probably cover it in 3 hours taking ur time, taking pictures etc. Wouldn't suggest it for a several day stay. It's clean and well maintained. Some of the indoor attractions were a little smelly. It's definitely not the best zoo in the country, but it has great value for what u see.
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