Got an hour or two to take a walk on the wild side at the Greenville Zoo in Greenville, SC? The Greenville Zoo offers a quick and easy zoo experience. While the zoo isn’t large, it includes many animals kids love, and it’s an easy activity even if you only have an hour or two. Kidding Around Contributor India Menon and her family revisited the zoo after not having been in more than a year. Here’s all you need to know to plan your visit.
Do the Zoo! A Wildly Good Time Awaits at the Greenville Zoo
The Greenville Zoo, nestled on a hillside next to Cleveland Park, opened in 1960 and has surely brought smiles to generations of families. My family has been regularly visiting the zoo for about seven years, shortly after the birth of my eldest child. Even after a break during the pandemic, we’re back to visiting the zoo on a regular basis. Thinking about visiting the zoo? Here’s all you need to know before you go.
Familiar Zoo Gets a Refresh
One of the things I have really liked about the zoo is that there is always something new for us to enjoy each visit. Lately, we have enjoyed the renovations to Primate Row, which includes new dens that allow visitors to see what goes on behind the scenes. As I write this, there are also several other new and bigger enclosures recently opened and/or under construction, including the exhibits for the Amur leopards, red pandas, ocelots, and a bird enclosure just past the farm animals exhibit.
The preschooler playground near the Africa area of the zoo has been brightened up with some Africa-inspired murals along the fence of the area.
Zoo residents include over 90 species of animals. Some of my family’s favorites are the baby giraffe named Providence who was born February 2021, the orangutans (which also includes a baby right now), and the amur leopards. Exhibits areas include Primates, Reptiles, Farm Animals, an aviary, a lagoon, South America, Africa, and Asia.
One of the BIG new additions to the zoo is about 12 feet long and weighs 500 pounds. There’s a new gator in town after the gator exhibit was empty for quite a while. (Apparently, vibrations from nearby construction were disruptive to the alligator habitat.)
When To Go to the Greenville Zoo
The zoo is open seven days a week — except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. It also has an annual maintenance closure for two weeks each February. Their Spring/Summer hours are 9 am to 5 pm. The last ticket sale is at 4:00 pm and the gates close at 5 pm. (This is a good reminder for me. I am ALWAYS running late.) Fall/Winter hours are 10 am to 5 pm.
Want to catch the animals when they are active? We always find them more lively in the mornings and afternoon during the summer. (Kind of like me. The noonday heat of a South Carolina summer apparently does a number on all of us.)
What To Expect When You Visit the Greenville Zoo
I always like to hype my kids up before we do something new. You may want to print a copy of the zoo map beforehand so they can “help” navigate. (Printed copies of the map are not available at the zoo.) The zoo is about a mile-long loop nestled on a tree-covered hillside. Be prepared to push a stroller up a few small hills or help your toddler navigate a few stairs. There are also a few downhills on which I clench my teeth and wonder if I have Band-aids in my bag as I watch my preschooler zoom down the hill.
You can bring your own picnic or snacks into the zoo or you can promise the kids a tasty treat at the zoo concession stand. There are several covered areas that are perfect for a picnic spot. My kids and I always enjoy snacks with giraffes at the shaded benches in front of their enclosure.
With the exception of the reptile house, all of the zoo is an outdoor experience. However, the tree cover of the zoo is a relief on hot days.
Things to Know Before You Go to the Greenville Zoo
In response to COVID-19, the zoo has implemented timed admission, which means you can reserve tickets in advance online. When you buy tickets, you have a 30-minute window in which to arrive. So, if you buy tickets for 1 pm, you need to be there by 1:30 pm. The cost of admission for kids between the ages of 3-12 is $9 and adult admission is $12. A $1 discount is offered to active and retired military families and seniors. Children under the age of 2 get in for free.
If you decide to purchase a membership at the end of your visit like we did, you can swing by the ticket kiosk to have your day’s admission applied to your membership purchase. We got a household membership for $90, which seemed like a steal when I consider tickets for me and my two kids cost $30. Our membership has already paid for itself in less than 2 months.
One of the things I like about the zoo is that if we go there earlier in the day or later in the day, parking is a breeze. There are several parking lots near the zoo and Cleveland Park. Parking is FREE.
If anyone in your group needs to rent some wheels for getting around the park, the zoo now rents single strollers, double strollers, wheelchairs, and electric scooters. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are available at the zoo entrance.
The event calendar at the zoo is quiet right now. However, we look forward to the eventual return of some of their free educational programming, such as Tell Me About it Tuesdays, Wild for Reading Wednesdays, and Learning Safari Thursdays. Also, October’s Boo in the Zoo event is always something we look forward to. Who doesn’t love costumes and candy?!
Nearby Attractions: Things to do Near the Greenville Zoo
On average, a trip to the zoo will take your family about an hour to an hour and a half. If you want to make a day of it, there are several attractions nearby.
The zoo abuts Cleveland Park. (Note: On hot summer days, there is often a shaved ice vendor parked at the park.)
You can also pick up the Swamp Rabbit Trail at the zoo. Not too far from the zoo and accessible via the Swamp Rabbit Trail are two play areas for smaller kids: a play train area and a smaller playground near the Julie Valentine Monument.
North along the Swamp Rabbit Trail are also the Major Rudolph Anderson Memorial plane and the Rock Quarry Garden.
Of course, because the zoo is near downtown there are plenty of other family-friendly options close by, including Falls Park, the museums and library at Heritage Green, and all that downtown and Main Street has to offer.
What’s your family’s favorite Greenville Zoo animal? Has your family visited the zoo lately?