Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The one about Henry Doorly Zoo-a first timer's guide through

Update to say this information is out of date. I just got back from the zoo and it is UH-MAZ-ING with many new additions. Go the website for updated info but the zoo tips remain. Head to the right to the new African Exhibit first! Oh and that $2.50 water bottle is now $3.25! Our trip was still $ hours because that is my stamina now. Updated pictures at the bottom!
Zoo Trip Tips
  • Bring a lightweight stroller for a child 4 and under. (If you think 4 is too old for a stroller you haven't seen our zoo!) You can rent these from the zoo. 
  • Pack light.  I packed my 31 cinch sac (AKA as a  lightweight backpack) with 3 water bottles, wipes, camera, phone, keys, sunglasses and wallet.  A backpack or crossbody purse is best. Pack as light as possible.  
  • Bring quarters to feed the fish.  
  • Bring a lunch if saving money or eating healthy, don't bring a lunch of you like to pay for convenience (as I did). Disclaimer: they did have turkey wraps available.  I could've also bought water there but I draw the line at $2.50 water bottles. 
Henry Doorly Zoo specific advice for getting to see everything!
Not only I am a scheduler but I am a planner.  I like to make decisions ahead of time if at all possible so I decided to blog about my zoo plan for other planners like me. Since I am not a season pass holder I like to try and visit every animal in that place.  We have yet to accomplish that.  A surefire way to see most of the zoo is to do the indoor buildings only.  If you want to see outdoor and indoor you will want to plan on 4+ hours.   Today's visit was 4 hours.  You could do it in four hours being efficient and fast but there were some cool things to look at so we chose to skip some things at the end.  However if you want to try it I am going to help map it out for you because if you are reading this post you are probably not a season pass holder (I'm sure they could add to this post) and you may not have a clue where you are going.  Personally I think the zoo map is a little confusing and it took me years to perfect our path.  
Download the map from the website here.
This one includes my doodles on the path we took today.  You see the first bagillion times I went to the zoo I wanted to follow the white oval path but truthfully that leaves you walking too much past things you've probably already seen.  At the top of the map are the rhinos.  We have seen them many times, we chose not to visit them today. 

I always head right towards the loop. The first decision you have to make when you walk in is to choose Scott Aquarium, Butterfly Pavilion or Giraffe Complex as your first stop.  If you choose to skip the Aquarium and Butterfly Pavilion you can easily pick them up at the end of your circle.

Our first stop was the Giraffe Complex

2nd stop, zebras

Then, Garden of Senses

We stopped to feed the fish and then visited the sea lions. 

Quick stop at the playground picnic area.
Somehow I forgot to take a picture of our next stop-Madagascar.  
Time to eat at Bear Canyon

After lunch we spend a lot of time in the Big Red Barn Park. Mammoth teeth!
Fossils buried with tiny bits of rubber- GENIUS!
Watch out goat, here comes J!  Grooming the goats was a favorite of both girls. 
Then we circled back to see the bears. 
Then into the air conditioned gorilla house that takes you to the other side of the zoo.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!  It took me years to found out how to avoid going all the way back around.  NOTE: The gorilla is totally people watching. :)

When you come outside and see these statues, you know you are on the entrance side of the zoo.  Take a picture while here, everyone does it!

Take a right to head to the cat complex.

Or a left to see the orangutans.  Head up the elevator after you exit the orangutan building and visit these guys.  Now you are free to catch any of the buildings that you missed such as the Dessert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night, Lied Jungle, Scott Aquarium, Butterfly Pavilion. 

We chose Scott Aquarium next because it is a favorite but apparently so did everyone else.  If it looks like a busy day you may want to hit this first to avoid the shoulder to shoulder crowd we had.  If you have a stroller you may want to ditch it outside this building.  It can hang out at the Butterfly Pavilion stroller parking area. 
Then we hit the Butterfly Pavilion.

At this point we were approaching the 4 hour mark and everyone, including me, was tired. (Our trip was 10:30-2:30).  So we chose Kingdoms of the Night inside the Dessert Dome as our last stop (another favorite).  Then it was gift shop time (for a $5 souvenir) and homeward bound!

I am happy to announce that halfway through this post TripAdvisor named Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo the best zoo in the US!  For more detailed pictures visit the facebook page here.  Enjoy your trip!

See what other teachers do on their summer vacations by visiting this link party here.


  1. Wow! This is an awesome post. I am doing a little planning for my trip tomorrow (also a teacher- gotta have a plan, right!) and i was like, maybe someone has come up with a touring plan I can follow? I just remember visiting the zoo before that we walked around way too much and it really cut down on the enjoyment level. Thanks again!

  2. Thank you for the insight... We are planning a quick trip this weekend. We are from Iowa do not frequent often. Our last trip was so confusing that this time we visited I wanted to plan a little better.. Thanks!

  3. So glad I could help! It took me a dozen visits to figure this out and I still get confused! I live just close enough to visit every year but not close enough to hold a season pass. Gotta make the trip efficient!