Riverbanks Zoo New Aquarium & Reptile Center Review

Being members of the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens in Columbia, South Carolina, we were among the very first to check out the new and long awaited Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. The building will open to the public on March 2, 2023. Read on to see our first impressions.

Long Lines

We always get to the zoo early, so we didn’t have much of a line to wait in to get in. They are only letting a certain number of people in the building at a time, but it didn’t take long. When we came out, however, there was a line stretching way back to the Giraffe area, so get there early if possible. I have a feeling that the lines will be long for quite a while. This has brought a lot of interest to the zoo.

Our Impressions

We’ve been waiting for this Aquarium to open for a long time. When we joined the zoo last year after I retired, the building had just been started. It was supposed to open in November, but supply chain issues delayed that like so many other things. Finally, it’s really nice to see this new addition to the zoo.

This is a replacement to the Aquarium and Reptile Center that was already at the zoo. It’s been a long time since we visited it, but I do remember the old building as being small and hot. This new building seems to be nicely air conditioned, which is definitely a plus. It was quite comfortable and bright inside, even in very warm weather, and the building was large. You’ll enter through the doors to the right, make a full circle, and come out through the doors on the left. It probably took us about 45 minutes to check out the entire exhibit area.

The building was already full of people when we got in the door, but watching the children and the adults, they were loving it. It seemed like it had pretty much the same fish and reptiles as it used to have, but in nice new updated areas. I especially loved the glow in the dark Moon Jellyfish, they are so cool.

If you’re into snakes, there are quite a few different species on display. The same with lizards and frogs. I love the blue Dart Frog, but I wouldn’t want to be the one handling it.

There are a number of aquariums with beautiful tropical fish, sharks, turtles, birds, etc. Plus, there are some other small aquariums that are going to eventually contain more species of fish, including seahorses. One of the aquariums is huge with large fish in it. Check out my pictures below in this slideshow, there are quite a few. I can’t wait to see what they’ll add to the new aquariums.

Is it worth a trip to the zoo?

I love a zoo any day, so for me, this new addition is a definite plus. If you can, splurge for a zoo membership. We got ours last May, and we use it almost every single week. We park at the Botanical Gardens on Sunset Drive, then take the hiking path behind the rose gardens to get to the zoo bridge. It’s a nice walk, and has some history that you can discover while you’re walking, including a small museum. This trail is not accessible to wheeled vehicles because of the three stairways on the trail. Also, the botanical gardens are really nice to walk through.

Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden’s isn’t the biggest zoo that we’ve been to, but it has some great exhibits. I love watching the young Gorillas play with each other, and there’s one White Faced Monkey who always greets us like he knows us. And we finally got to see the new baby Koala and Meerkat! Be sure to check out the new Aquarium & Reptile Conservation soon.