Our family are avid connoisseurs of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. Seriously, the Omaha zoo one of the best zoos in the country and for very good reasons. If you haven’t visited recently, you need to add it to your calendar!
Insider tips to get the most out of your Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo visit.
- Go early. In the summer, the zoo opens at 9 a.m. Be there, in the parking lot, stroller loaded up and water bottle in hand by 9:30 a.m. This means you need to be up and out of Des Moines at the crack of dawn or consider staying overnight in Omaha the night before. I’m not kidding. We were parking our car at 9:15 a.m. thanks to our overly excited son who woke everyone up at 6:45 a.m. in our shared hotel room.
- Avoid the weekends. I know, I know. I’m being super bossy and you are rolling your eyes at me right now, but I’m not being overly dramatic. If you have the opportunity to go during the week, you will not regret your decision. Not only is the entire zoo less crowded, you will actually feel like you have the freedom to roam and take your time looking at the exhibits that interest your family. I prefer Mondays. There seems to always be a crush of day camps and large groups on Fridays so Mondays are my preference in the summer. I had out of town friends that went midday on a Saturday and spent a mind-numbing amount of time looking for a parking spot and ended up missing some of the high points of the Henry Doorly Zoo.
- Pack a lunch. The food at the zoo is not my favorite. Are you familiar with the inner rage associated with watching your child pick at their expensive lunch only to declare it “gross!” And then 20 minutes later ask for ice cream? This is my family. So I avoid my inner rage by packing a cooler for lunch (we leave it in the car, have an adult trek out to retrieve and then bring it back at the end) and avoid mid-afternoon meltdown by letting everyone pick their own treat from the concession stands. My personal favorite is the Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade.
- Nursing moms – alert! There are two air-conditioned areas just for nursing moms. One is located in the first aid station near ticketing and there is another in the Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails baby station. Take a break with your sweet baby and enjoy the cool air.
- Plan your visit according to the weather. If you are going in the summer and it’s hot, here’s how I would plan your day. Start off outside in some of the exhibits that aren’t necessarily shaded before the day gets sweltering. I’m thinking Africa Grasslands and the Asian Highlands exhibit, etc. The Desert Dome is hot because well, it’s the desert. Do it earlier in the day and don’t forget to check out the underground exhibit beneath the Desert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night. We love the beavers, armadillos, and crocodiles!
There’s a great outdoor eating area by Lied Jungle so I’d suggest doing that around lunchtime. The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium is lovely and air-conditioned. Leave it for mid-afternoon when the sun comes out.
Save the two exhibits that have open water for kids to play in for the end of the day. The Children’s Adventure Trails are great for imaginative play, exploration, wading, and getting your feet wet, but the Alaskan Adventure is straight up a children’s splash pad. I would suggest getting your kids changed into their swim clothes in one of the family restrooms at the Children’s Adventure Trails area and then heading over to the Alaskan Adventure for your kids to cool down and end their day.
- Use the Visit Omaha Savings app to save money on your zoo trip. It is also valid at other family-friendly Omaha attractions like the Omaha Children’s Museum!