Located across the Saluda River from Riverbanks Zoo, The Riverbanks Botanical Garden may not be as appealing to young children as the animal exhibits, but it is a delight for those who have a fondness for nature, gardening, and flowers. The gardens are literally ablaze with color. Beautiful pinks, vibrant yellows, soft whites, and brilliant purples. Whether it be spring, summer, or fall the Botanical Garden is a sight to see.
Much younger than the neighboring Riverbanks Zoo, the Botanical Garden opened in 1995 and is made up of 70 acres containing 4,200 species of native and exotic plants. The walk across the brick-paved foot bridge expanding across the Saluda River provides some awesome scenic views and photo ops.
You can also park at the Riverbanks Botanical Garden Entrance at 1300 Botanical Parkway West Columbia instead of entering from the Zoo.
Once across the bridge, you can wait for a tram to drive you up to the upper gardens or you can walk on foot. It is about a 3/10 of a mile hike uphill. (Might be best to take the tram up and walk back down.) The tram runs about every 10 minutes.
The tram lets you off right in front of the Visitor’s Center, behind which is a beautiful walled garden. To the right is an amphitheatre. The Visitor Center is quite large, but there’s not a whole lot of interest. ( The bathrooms might be some of the cleanest and least crowded you find so they are worth a stop.) The building appears to be mainly offices and meeting rooms.
Exit the rear door of the Visitor Center and you will be treated to an expansive and beautiful view of the Walled Garden. A canal that expands 300 feet is the focal point of the garden. Cascading fountains spread out along the length of the canal provide visual interest. Most of the plants are well labeled.
In addition to viewing the walled garden, you may also want to take a hike along the Botanical Garden trail system which not only runs alongside part of the river, but passes several areas of historical significance including the location of one of South Carolina’s first water-powered textile mills as well as the place that General Sherman’s troops camped out during the Civil War before marching into and setting fire to the city of Columbia.
Every Thursday evening in the month of May, enjoy live music in the garden from 6 to 9pm. Cash bar and food available for purchase.
Don’t forget to save time to head over to the Riverbanks Zoo where you’ll find elephants, giraffes, gorillas and much, much more.
1300 Botanical Parkway
West Columbia, SC