If you’re looking for a fun place that’s an easy drive from Columbia, look no further than Greenville, SC! (Ok, I am originally from Greenville so I will admit I am a little biased.)
My dad and stepmom reside close to downtown so I am always up for a trip to Greenville because there is always something fun to do. With so many beautiful parks, green spaces, and very walkable downtown, Greenville is a wonderful place to take the family for a day trip or a weekend away.
There are numerous unique restaurants and shops all along Main Street and in the West End. Greenville also boasts lots of activities for kids: The Children’s Museum, Gunther Theater, a children’s garden, and the Greenville Zoo are just some of the attractions offered to families.
My stepmom and I took my daughter to the zoo one morning while we were there visiting family. Although the Greenville Zoo is a bit smaller than Riverbanks, it does offer some things to make it worth a visit. I grew up visiting the Greenville Zoo, but it’s been a while since I’ve been there, so I was interested to see what had changed since I had last been.
Perhaps the most notable feature about the Greenville Zoo is that part of Cleveland Park runs along the zoo, which makes it fun to play, have a picnic lunch, and then see some cool animals. Cleveland Park is very large and runs throughout the downtown area – this specific part of the park has nice new playground equipment covered with shade sails, covered eating areas, walking trails, and tennis courts. There was even a Kona Ice truck there too!
Once you enter the zoo you will notice that it is possible to get right up close to the exhibits; there are no trenches or other natural barriers that distance you from the animals. Greenville Zoo has several species of larger monkeys and primates, while Riverbanks has mostly smaller species. We even got to see a mom and baby orangutan interacting with each other, which was so cool!
My personal favorite animals were the two Amur leopards that call this zoo home. They were very active when we were there and it was amazing to see them so close. While Greenville Zoo’s landscaping can’t compare to the beautiful gardens of Riverbanks there are several “quiet gardens” along the main path, and there are beautiful large trees that provide lots of shade.
It was fun to go somewhere different, and with the smaller size of Greenville Zoo, it would be feasible to do other family activities during a day trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the Children’s Museum on this visit so I will just have to go back – in the name of research of course!