Most days I feel like I live in a zoo, only I can’t leave the animals behind and go home. I know we all must feel like that some days. Speaking of zoos, how lucky are we that we live smack in the middle of two awesome zoos? The North Carolina State Zoo in Asheboro and the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia are both about one hour and thirty minutes away. The kids get so excited for this mini adventure. We have been to the one in Asheboro several times. My sister lives in Raleigh so it’s an easy break during the trip. We just went to the one in Columbia over spring break. This was a fabulous zoo, except that everyone must have decided to go to there on same day of spring break. It took forever just to get into the parking lot from the highway. My recommendation would be to not go over spring break. With that being said, it was a great experience.
The Asheboro zoo is divided into two sections. These are North America and Africa. There is no shortage of parking at this zoo. I would highly recommend bringing a stroller because it is quite a hike around either side. I didn’t bring mine one time and of course, one of the kids insisted on being carried throughout the entire zoo. When I do have it, he is runs around like a mad man. I guess the lessons is better to be safe than sorry. Unless you have older kids, I would not recommend trying to do both sides in one day. The African side has a nice playground area for the kids. Food seems to be a bit limited so I pack snacks to get us through a few hours. I have been there around four times in the last year and not once was it crowded not even when I went to the Zoo BOO. It could have been the weather but the fact it never seems overly crowded is one thing I like about the NC Zoo. It is spread out enough that you don’t feel like you are walking on top of each other. The staff also gets a major thumbs up. One of the boys fell and skinned his knee and they came running right over and helped us to the first aid station. Of course, my child was being a bit dramatic but the point is that they were very helpful and genuinely concerned. The drive from Charlotte is quite enjoyable if you take the back roads. I would love to stop and check out some of the potters on the way someday.
The Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia is an easy drive, highway driving that is….There was plenty of parking and refreshments. It appears to be a little more urban, they even had Starbucks! The zoo is compact and you can absolutely do it in one day. There is a small train for the children to ride, pony rides and even a small petting zoo. You will want to have cash for the tokens to ride the train and ponies. You also might want to check on times for the pony rides because we just missed it. I think the rides stopped at 3 or 4 P.M. We indulged in pizza, icees and cotton candy, an absolutely fun day at the zoo.
The zoo membership is also a great deal. It’s around $60 and it provides admission to all kinds of great places with this one membership. We were able to visit the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher last summer and have plans to go to the Western N.C. Nature Center in Asheville as well. Please share what you like best about either zoo and any thips you have about getting the most out of the zoo experience. We are very lucky to live near so many fun things, let’s take advantage of these great opportunities.