Need a Vacation? Try Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo!
About a month ago I made a return trip to ye olde birthland – also known as Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha is known for a few things: Warren Buffett, the College World Series, and most notably their zoo! Yes, surprising, I know. The Henry Doorly Zoo was actually ranked #1 in the WORLD last year by TripAdvisor and they have won numerous accolades over the years as well for being an outstanding zoo. Now as a Nebraskan, and a former zoo employee, I am #obsessed with our zoo. I honestly don’t think I can count how many times I have visited since I was a baby and it always seems to be growing more and more impressive with each visit. I could go on and on about this place but let’s buckle down and hit the key places to visit when you plan your stop to see the best zoo in the world!
When the jungle was opened in 1992, it was the biggest indoor rainforest in the world. Today, it still retains a spot as one of the biggest in the world with two-stories and 123,000 square feet to explore. The main floor puts you eye level with several species of monkeys and lemurs (which the zoo studies extensively in places like Madagascar) as well as my favorite – the sloths! You also get a glimpse of animals living at the floor of the rainforest – everything from pygmy hippos to tapirs to giant snakes. I’ve never been to a real rainforest, but I feel like this one is pretty spot on. Its humid, beautiful, and strangely peaceful despite the kids running everywhere. I think the gorgeous waterfalls help.
Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium
AKA Ashleigh’s favoritest place in the world. If my wedding has unlimited funds, my dream would be to get married here. Specifically in the super rad SHARK TUNNEL. Yeah, they have one. It is one of the longest in the country at 70 feet and is honestly one of the most relaxing places to be if you can get it when there aren’t any screaming children. The aquarium recently underwent a facelift and is even more amazing before – they added a touch tank for kids, a really awesome looking “wall” of schooling fish and an even more impressive jellyfish exhibit. The aquarium also has puffins, TONS of penguins, and even Japanese spider crabs which are crazy awesome to watch.
Desert Dome and Kingdoms of the Night
The Desert Dome is kind of an iconic image for the zoo – it’s the largest geodesic dome in the world and houses the world’s largest indoor desert. It’s SUPER hot in here as you would expect and it has some interesting wildlife – from meerkats to vultures to the most rattlesnakes I have ever seen in one place in my life. But the best part is underneath the dome in the Kingdoms of the Night. This is the largest nocturnal exhibit in the world and it’s amazing! You get to go through a mini-cave full of flying bats, see TONS of nocturnal animals frolicking around, and walk through an awesomely realistic indoor swamp – complete with alligators right at your feet! They even have a super rare white alligator!
Butterfly and Insect Pavillion
Surprisingly this is one exhibit the fiance and I really enjoy! Its basically a greenhouse with hundreds of free-flying butterflies. The USDA monitors the building due to the immense amount of butterflies and you have to check yourself for “hitchhikers” when you leave the building. The butterflies are so beautiful and you can get some great pictures in here! There is also a second half of the exhibit filled with bugs and spiders that the mister is not a fan of.
Hubbard Gorilla Valley and Orangutan Forest
Also known as the “Ringtings”, the childhood name for them that I still use often. Recently, the zoo was in the news for the video of the gorilla charging/breaking the glass after a little girl was taunting him. I think it might have been this guy (or his buddy) who totally posed for several of our pictures.
This place has so much room for the several gorillas that live here to roam around in. A few of the males love to interact with all the visitors and will charge the glass or do funny things for attention. There are usually baby or juvenile gorillas in a separate area of the habitat that are absolutely hilarious to watch and the orangutans just had an ADORABLE baby that we couldn’t get enough of.
There are quite a few other places that are worth seeing at the zoo – the Cat Complex, Expedition Madagascar, the steam-engine train (!!!), carousel and even the Skyfari, which was free on our visit due to ongoing construction. Over the next year the zoo is building a HUGE African grasslands exhibit that will take up about 27 acres and I cannot wait to see it when its done!
So if you are in the area, or looking for something really amazing to see, I cannot recommend the zoo enough! Not only is the zoo amazing to be at, but they do some pretty great conservation work as well as research. The Henry Doorly Zoo should be in everyone’s top places to see in the US!
Have you been to the Henry Doorly Zoo? Let us know your favorite exhibit in the comments!