Guide to local zoos and aquariums
June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month, and families can explore local zoos and aquariums to learn more about wildlife and sea life. The Upstate is near several zoos and aquariums, and we’ve compiled all the details you need to plan a day trip with your little ones.
Greenville Zoo: Operated by the city of Greenville, the Greenville Zoo is home to 14-acres of wildlife habitats, including exhibits for lions, orangutans, giraffes, monkeys and giant tortoises. The zoo’s conservation program means baby animals are added to the zoo’s family often. Oz and Evita, the Greenville Zoo’s ocelot pair, recently welcomed their second litter, and a baby siamang was born in January to parents Oscar and Ella.
Beside Greenville’s Cleveland Park, visitors can picnic inside or outside of the zoo, and special events occur almost every month. The zoo is also available for birthday parties and summer camps.
The Greenville Zoo is open seven days a week, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults and $5.75 for children ages 3-15. For more information, visit www.greenvillezoo.com
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden: Located in Columbia, Riverbanks Zoo & Garden features more than 2,000 animals and one of the nation’s top botanical gardens, all on 170 acres in the state’s capital city. Purchasing a general admission ticket gives you entry to both the zoo and gardens, but an extra fee will gain you admission to special rides and attractions, too.
The zoo is also home to Waterfall Junction, a 3-acre interactive children’s garden featuring tree houses, kid-size playhouses, a dinosaur dig and splash zone. Guests can also feed the zoo’s resident giraffes at the giraffe overlook 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. , feed the lorikeets at koala knockabout, and mingle with kangaroos in the kangaroo exhibit. There are also pony rides, a carousel, rock wall climbing, a miniature railroad, and the Sky High Safari, a four-story vertical ropes challenge.
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily with extended hours until 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays now through Oct. 1. Admission is $15.96 for adults, $13.50 for children ages 2 – 12, and free for children 2 and younger. For more details, visit www.Riverbanks.org.
WNC Nature Center: The 42-acre WNC Nature Center in Asheville, North Carolina, is home to award-winning exhibits that educate guests about the wildlife of the Southern Appalachians, including river otters, black bears, wolves, cougars, hawks and owls. The center features 60 species of wild and domestic animals and hundreds of species of plants. Special events, such as wild walks that take visitors behind the scenes.
Admission is $10.95 for adults and $6.95 for children ages 3 – 15. Children ages 2 and younger are admitted free. The center is open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
For more details, visit www.wildwnc.org.
South Carolina Aquarium: The S.C. Aquarium is the state’s official aquarium. Located in Charleston at Charleston Harbor, it features more than 10,000 plants and animals, such as alligators, loggerhead sea turtles, eels, seahorses and sharks. Its largest exhibit is the Great Ocean Tank, which extends from the first to the third floor of the aquarium.
The aquarium is also home to a sea turtle hospital, through which the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources transports injured or stranded sea turtles, where aquarium staff and volunteers then nurture the animals back to health.
Admission is $24.95 for adults, and $17.95 for children ages 3 – 12. The aquarium is open daily 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more details, visit http://scaquarium.org.
Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium: Accredited through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Sea Life Charlotte-Concord is located inside of Concord Mills Mall in Concord, North Carolina. A little over an hour’s drive from the Upstate, this aquarium contains 10 interactive exhibits, including a giant Pacific octopus, jellyfish, coral reef and stingrays. There’s also a walk-through tunnel that allows visitors to see above and around them inside the aquarium.
General admission is $19.95 for adults, $14.95 for children ages 3 – 12, and free for children 3 and younger, but you can save $5 by purchasing your tickets online at www.visitsealife.com/charlotte-concord.
Georgia Aquarium: Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is one of the world’s largest aquariums, featuring one of the largest single aquatic habitats and one of the most abundant collections of aquatic life in the world, according to its webite. There are seven distinct galleries and more than 100 different exhibits, including the Ocean Voyager, which is home to four whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet. In fact, the Georgia Aquarium is the only aquarium in North America that is home to manta rays and whales sharks.
In addition to its regular programs, this aquarium also offers special encounters with whale sharks, dolphins, penguins, sea otters and Beluga whales along with behind the scenes tours.
Georgia Aquarium is open daily, and hours vary by season. Early bird tickets are offered at a discount online for $30.95 regardless of age, and children 2 and younger are always admitted free. Otherwise, ticket prices range from $37 –$28 depending on the date of purchase.
For more details, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.
You can save money
Most zoos and aquariums offer a special membership, which offers free or discounted admission year-round. In addition, these memberships provide free or discounted admission to more than 130 other zoos and aquariums. See the list at www.aza.org.