COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden will reopen this weekend after two months of being closed, but there will be many safety requirements in place for guests who go, including requiring reservations to get inside.

The zoo said Wednesday it will reopen on Saturday, May 23. The announcement came about an hour after South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster lifted restrictions allowing attractions such as zoo, museums, and aquariums to reopen. 

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The zoo said it has implemented a phased reopening to help ensure the continued safety of Zoo staff, guests and the animals. The three-tiered approach limits attendance and programming, supports social distancing and increases Riverbanks' already rigorous safety measures.

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"We've been diligently preparing for the Zoo's reopening for several weeks and look forward to welcoming our members and guests," said Susan O'Cain, director of communications at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. "The phased schedule will allow us to reopen safely while continuing to deliver a world-class experience and support the mission of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden."

Riverbanks will require online ticket reservations for all members and guests as part of phase one. Time slots will be available every half hour beginning at 9:00am each day. Anyone without an advance online reservation will not be admitted.

For guest safety, the zoo now has additional handwashing and hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the park. In addition, all Riverbanks' employees are required to wear facemasks; guests also are strongly encouraged to wear masks during their visit.

The following indoor buildings and attractions are scheduled to be open during the initial phase with limited capacity and an increased cleaning and disinfecting routine:

  • Aquarium-Reptile Complex
  • Birdhouse
  • Endangered Species Carousel
  • Farm Experience
  • Giraffe Feeding
  • Guest Relations
  • Spots 'n' Stripes kids' train

Waterfall Junction also will be open; however, the Aflac Splash Zone, Lil' Sprouts Splash Zone and Dino Dig will remain closed.

Dining options with outdoor seating and open-air stands will be open including Wild Burger, The Watering Hole, The Coop, Kodiak Point, ICEE and Dippin' Dots.

Tram service will not be offered during the first phase of reopening. Guests may walk between the Zoo and Garden along the tram pathway or drive around and renter the park with their same day, timed-ticket reservation. Parking is available at both Zoo and Garden entrances.

"We are taking every precaution necessary and will continue to follow the advisement of our state and local leaders to maintain the highest health standards and keep our community safe," O'Cain said.

Following Riverbanks' temporary closure on March 16, only essential staff have been allowed on-site to provide vital care to the animals and plants, habitats and infrastructure.