Wild Lights at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden 

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Have you heard about the new Wild Lights at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden? Whether you’re looking for a beautiful place to get in a few steps or just ready to experience new holiday fun, we have found the place for you! Wild Lights at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is sure to bring a smile to your family’s face! This is truly a light show unlike any other and one you need to experience for yourself! 

Sneak Peek: Just a Bit of What You’ll See

Take a walk through Wild Lights with us.

What to Expect at Wild Lights

The walk up to the entrance is beautiful and gives you just a taste of the dazzling colors and displays that await you inside. The color-changing Angel’s Wings outside the gate serves as a great photo opportunity and the nightly snowfall as you enter is sure to catch the kids’ attention!

Wild Lights at Riverbanks Zoo

Once inside, you are greeted by photographers at a green screen. These creative photos are worth your time as they are transformed into pure magic by the time you circle back. These and other photo opportunities, including Santa, are available for purchase on your way out of the zoo. Be sure to keep the photo cards that you receive in a safe place as you’ll need those to get your pictures, plus, you can scan them after you leave in case you missed the stop on your way out.  

Travel through the Wild Lights at your own pace and in any direction that you choose with illuminations around every corner. Don’t be surprised if you get captivated by the color-changing lights on many of the displays. The kids will want to stop and ride the Merry – Go – Round and you’ll also want to pause and relax at one of the toasty fire tables. 

Riding the carousel at Wild Lights, Riverbanks Zoo

Santa at Wild Lights

One of the kids’ favorite stops will be the Stepping Board tiles that light up as they bounce across the giant illuminated “2023.” There are nightly visits from Santa and Mrs. Clause and while you wait, the friendliest elf will let your kids know if they made the naughty or nice list.

Visit Santa at Wild Lights

See what visiting with Santa looks like at Wild Lights

In Santa’s Village you can also color a card for the children at Children’s Hospital, details and supplies are provided there. Santa will only be there through December 23, 2023, so keep that in mind if you plan to see him on your visit.

There is light food available for purchase and lots of seating in this area and be sure to take advantage of some beautiful photo opportunities while you wait.  

Wild Lights

Noteworthy Displays at Riverbanks Zoo’s Wild Lights

While each lantern display is stunning, there are a few that stand out. The most memorable is one that absolutely can’t be missed. Situated in the center of the zoo, stands the stunning Lingzhi Tree, which is actually a species of mushroom! Topped with butterflies, it delicately changes color and is relaxing to watch plus makes for a great photo backdrop!

Not far from the Lingzhi, you’ll find illuminated Moonlight Swings that provide a fun place for both adults and kids to play and yet another great photo and video opportunity. Throughout your walk, you can stand and pose inside the mouth of a dinosaur and a crocodile! Remember to look up while you explore and take in the beautifully lit trees, Palace Lanterns, and color-changing butterflies.

The peacock spider and giant crab both have moving elements as well as the salamanders. Possibly the coolest moving lantern in the zoo? The Peacock! Twinkling with rainbow-colored lights the peacock initially appears small but if you wait just a few minutes, you’ll get to see it raise its feathers which creates a beautiful new display to enjoy! A train circles around the peacock and offers another fun activity for kids and parents too! 

Peacock at Wild Lights

Will We See Animals at Wild Lights?

While most of the animals are either off exhibit or sleeping, you may still luck out and find some awake and active! On our most recent trip, we had the pleasure of watching a koala enjoy a bamboo snack and even saw a zebra off in the distance through the dark.

The kids really enjoyed searching the enclosures to see if they could spot anything. The flamingoes were visible, squirrel monkeys were playful and we spotted several other indoor animals as well! The sea lions were very active, vocal, and lots of fun to watch before we headed home!  

Flowers at Riverbanks Zoo

Tips for Wild Lights

Make sure your camera and phone are fully charged.

Plan for your visit to take 1-2 hours depending on your pace and popularity of the day you go.  Allow extra time to capture some stunning pictures and videos and be sure to tag Kidding Around Columbia, Kidding Around Greenville, and Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens (so we can share in all the fun you’re having too!)

Weekends are typically busier than weekdays and of course, the warmer days will likely attract more visitors.

Don’t forget to stop and see how your photos have transformed since you took them upon entry and let the kids pick a couple of favorites to take home.

Stop in the beautifully decorated gift shop on your way out and let the kids give you Christmas gift ideas.

Wild Lights will return annually, however, the displays will rotate each year so it always remains fresh and new. With that said, you won’t want to miss this year’s displays so secure your tickets today!  

Wild Lights Dino

Time to Go Visit Wild Lights: Riverbanks Zoo

Whether you’re searching for a place to see Santa or a fun family night, Wild Lights at Riverbanks Zoo will be a fun adventure for everyone in your family! Immerse yourself in the twinkling wonderland of Wild Lights and prepare for a night of smiles and laughter!

Admission: Free for Zoo members, must reserve tickets online.  

General admission is $19.99 – $24.99 per adult 

 $14.99 – $19.99 per child (depending on the day you select) save up to $5.00 per ticket by purchasing in advance.  Children under two years old are free.   

Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia Zoo, Columbia, SC

Riverbanks Zoo is great any time of year. Find out all about it in our full Riverbanks Zoo Review.

Which Wild Lights are you looking forward to seeing the most? 

Wild Lights
Hours: 5 pm to 9 pm select nights  
Dates: November 17, 2023 through January 14, 2024. 


Rachael Townsend
About the Author
Rachael is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but is happy to now call Columbia, South Carolina home. She worked as an Athletic Trainer and holds a Masters Degree in Performance Enhancement. Currently a stay-at-home mom of three, she enjoys exploring the area with her family and finding fun experiences for them to share. She loves going to the beach and soaking in sunshine whenever possible and enjoys gardening and crafting in her free time.

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