Go Columbia

Riverbanks CEO on his favorite Columbia places to eat, drink, play

Tommy Stringfellow began his career at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011.

Prior to joining Riverbanks, Stringfellow was the director of sales and marketing for Six Flags over Georgia Theme Park, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center.

Today, Stringfellow is the zoo’s new CEO.

An active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Stringfellow is a graduate of Winthrop University with a bachelor’s in business marketing. He’s served terms on the marketing advisory committee for AZA and both the Columbia Metropolitan of Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Atlanta Convention and Tourism Board.

Stringfellow is a native South Carolinian and is married with two sons and a daughter.


The best place for lunch in town is Tuskers at Riverbanks Zoo. They serve a weekly special that is always outstanding. Plus where else can you dine while watching zebras, giraffes and ostriches?

For dinner, I really like both Solstice Kitchen and Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar on the Northeast side of town where I live.

I love good sushi and will travel to Saky on Fort Jackson Boulevard to get a birthday roll (or two). Downtown I like to dine at Hampton Street Vineyard, Cola’s and any and all local barbecue joints like Doc’s and Little Pigs.


It’s hard to beat seeing the beautiful animals and plants outside of my office window, but I do enjoy any views that overlook the city skyline or the lake. Of course, my favorite things to see are my boys compete in sports and my daughter perform in dance recitals and competitions.


I enjoy sharing a good bottle of wine during dinner. My favorites are cabernets and merlots from any region. I also enjoy the craft breweries that are popping up all around South Carolina. I’m from Rock Hill, and I love what the guys at Legal Remedy are doing. Right now they have a beer on the menu that they created for Brew at the Zoo with Patrick, one of Riverbanks’ western lowland gorillas, and it’s pretty amazing. Lately my favorite cocktail of choice is a Moscow mule, and Motor Supply makes their own ginger beer – so check that out for a really good one.


I like attending concerts at the classic Township Auditorium. I also try to get to a few of the Rooftop Rhythms series in the summer season. As you would imagine, I also am very partial to our Rhythm and Blooms music festival each May in the zoo’s botanical garden.


I enjoy tailgating and attending USC baseball, basketball and football games with friends and will take in a few Fireflies baseball games over the summer. My wife, Patti, and I like attending the Broadway musicals series at the Koger Center and taking in a show at The Nick. For outdoor recreation, I like golfing with friends when time permits.

Janet Jones Kendall, jjkendall@thestate.com