Splash and Play in Columbia, SC

Have you visited the Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC? Are you looking for a unique family outing with a variety of attractions for year-round adventure? At the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction you will find several beautiful and award-winning flower gardens, a huge splash pad, a dinosaur fossil dig, and several areas for exploration and play. We’ve got all you need to know to plan your trip from a mom who visits frequently!

This article includes:
Tickets for Waterfall Junction in Riverbanks Botanical Gardens
Parking for Waterfall Junction
About Riverbanks Botanical Gardens
About Waterfall Junction
Splashpad at Waterfall Junction
Toddler Splash Zone
Dino Dig
Greenspace at Waterfall Junction
More Things to Do at Waterfall Junction
Packing Checklist for Waterfall Junction and Riverbanks Botanical Gardens

Tickets for Riverbanks Botanical Gardens

Tickets can be bought online prior to your arrival or at the gates. To save a little bit of time, we recommend purchasing tickets in advance! Tickets to the gardens and Waterfall Junction are included in tickets for the animal side of the zoo. We discuss more about tickets and annual membership options in our guide for Riverbanks Zoo.

Parking for Riverbanks Gardens and Waterfall Junction

You can get into the Botanical Gardens/Waterfall Junction one of two ways.

  • If you’re looking to stop by and say hey to the animals first, parking in the main zoo lot at 500 Wildlife Parkway will be the best option for you.
  • The second way to get to the Botanical Garden and Waterfall Junction side of the zoo is to park in the lot specifically designed for the gardens at 1300 Botanical Parkway. This parking lot is a bit smaller than the main lot and fills up quickly, especially on the weekends. Also found beside this parking lot is a nice-sized picnic shelter. Since outside food is not allowed in the zoo, this is a perfect spot to have a packed lunch before loading back into the car after your day of fun!

Regardless of which parking lot you decide to park in, you can get to both the garden and animal side of the zoo easily. There is a tram that takes you back and forth or you can walk across the bridge connecting each side. If you’ve got littles or a lot of things to carry/push, it would be best to utilize the tram as the walk is a bit long and can get somewhat strenuous at times.

Stroll Through the Gardens

At the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens you will find more than 5,700 species of plants spread across 70-acres. And let me tell you, it is just as beautiful as it sounds! With several different gardens such as the walled garden, bog garden, and shade garden (just to name a few) there are no areas that won’t be fascinating and wonderful to look at!

Even in the cooler months, the zoo does a fantastic job at making sure the gardens still look as beautiful as possible. There are restrooms and sitting benches all throughout the gardens. Also, the walkways throughout the gardens are paved, making pushing strollers or wagons easy.

Waterfall Junction

Within the Botanical Gardens, you will find Waterfall Junction – Riverbanks very own huge splash pad and kiddy play zone! This area spans across 3-acres and includes a splash pad, life-size dinosaur fossil dig, a large treehouse, playhouses, and an open green space for endless fun and imagination!

Waterfall Junction is open year-round, however, the splash pad is only open throughout the summer. All water functions turn off 15 minutes before closing.

Splash Pad at Waterfall Junction

You haven’t been to a splash pad until you’ve tried out the one at Waterfall Junction! It is massive and will have your kiddos laughing and playing in the summer sun for hours. This year, the splash pad got a bit of an upgrade and now features soft, rubber flooring making it much less slippery and easier on little toes, however water shoes are still a great idea.

Think of the splash pad as 2 separate levels. The largest and first area includes a 25-foot waterfall surrounded by several water sprays all around. From here, your children can play and walk through a pretend stream complete with running water.

Waterfall Junction

Toddler Splash Zone at Waterfall Junction

A little further down you will find a wooden bridge and another set of stairs down to the toddler splash zone. The toddler zone is operated by buttons to turn the sprayers off and on. There are a variety of water sprays here, no zones with standing water for added safety, and no sprayers that shoot out an intense amount of water. There are also several Adirondack chairs and large umbrellas for shade that can be found here. Speaking of tots…if your children are not yet potty trained, swim diapers must be worn while at the splash pad!

Toddler splash pad

There are several things to love about the splash pad, but one thing worth giving extra attention to is the fact that there are lifeguards that can be found all throughout the water areas! While there aren’t many places with standing water, the splash pad itself is pretty spread out making it difficult to see your kids at all times, especially if you’ve got more than one to keep track of. It definitely gives some peace of mind knowing that there are extra sets of eyes on your tribe!

Right next to the largest part of the splash pad you will find a covered picnic area that offers plenty of shade, tables and chairs, and a great place to set down your bags or enjoy lunch and snacks. You will also find a concession stand, changing stations, and restrooms close by.

Dino Dig

Do you have any dino lovers in your family? If so, you won’t want to miss the dino dig! Here, you will find a huge sandpit with replicas of life-sized dinosaur bones scattered all around. There are plenty of buckets and shovels for your kiddos to use and put their archaeologist skills to the test!

Dino Dig

Because this area is made up of sand, I highly suggest going here either before or after your children are done at the splash pad and have on their dry clothes. Most of the dig area is covered by large shades, however, there are a few parts that aren’t. If your kids are anything like mine, they will gravitate towards those tiny areas that aren’t shaded so I highly recommend bringing extra sunscreen and sun hats!

Green Space

In the middle of Waterfall Junction sits a large green space with endless amounts of open-ended fun! There are several hula-hoops, a wooden balance beam, and big building blocks that can be found here. Bring some bubbles or a ball to share, spread out a towel and have a family picnic, or just let your kids jump and run…the options are endless in this space!

Other Things To Do at Waterfall Junction

Also found within Waterfall Junction is a large treehouse, playhouses, and a small, hidden playground. The treehouse is 2 stories tall and gives great views of nature all around. The playhouses are situated right off of the green space and are great areas for the imagination to flow freely.

To find the playground you will have to go to the toddler area and head left into what looks like a little grassy area. There is a wooden play structure with climbing ropes and a tunnel slide that can be found here. I like this area because it is a bit quieter than the other attractions and is a nice place to go for a bit of a break and reset if needed.

Waterfall Junction Checklist

There is a lot to remember when you’ve got to load up your kids for a day out of the house, especially when there is a potential for water to be involved. Here are some things we don’t want you to forget:

  • For the splash pad and Waterfall Junction
    • water shoes
    • Towels
    • Sunscreen
    • Water bottles
    • Sunglasses
    • Sun hats
    • Dry change of clothes
    • Swim diapers if not yet potty-trained
    • Ball or bubbles for green space – not necessary, but fun!
  • For the gardens
    • Stroller or wagon – can be rented at the zoo if needed
    • walking shoes
    • Sunscreen
    • bug spray
    • water bottle

Riverbanks Botanical Gardens
1300 Botanical Parkway
West Columbia, SC 29169

Hours:
Daily from 9 am – 5 pm

Has your family visited the Botanical Gardens and Waterfall Junction yet? What attraction did you enjoy most?

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