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Dec 05

Henry Doorly Zoo: Like Taking a Trip around the World without leaving Omaha

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The Henry Doorly Zoo located in Omaha, Nebraska has some of the most amazing exhibits to visit and those places will have any visitor thinking that this is the greatest zoo in the states.  Unfortunately other areas of the park will have any visitor thinking that this is just an ordinary zoo.  The Henry Doorly Zoo is a tale of two zoos and once Karen and I moved away from the main entrance area and the world-class exhibits it was a bit of a letdown.  Now was it a letdown because of the quality of the zoos main exhibits are extraordinary and the rest is just run of the mill?  I do not know for sure, but what I can see is that each one of their main exhibit buildings could charge their own cost of admission and few people would complain.
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Let’s start with good before we get to the bad.  First off we highly recommend going and if we lived in the Omaha area we would definitely be zoo members.  There are just so many things to see there and repeated viewings would still be entertaining. The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium is top-class.  It was just newly remodeled and opened back up to the public in the spring of 2012.  There are two large viewing areas of penguins and puffins, a 500 gallon touch tank, a 70 foot long aquarium tunnel, and several other topnotch aquarium exhibits.  Karen and I liked this area so much we went through it twice.
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From the aquarium we moved over to the Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion.  This 14,000 square foot exhibit is divided up into two main sections a large butterfly conservatory and an insect zoo.  The butterfly conservatory is very spacious at 2,450 square feet and beautifully decorated with water elements and a lush garden, but the real reason any visitor goes in there is to see the butterflies and they surely did not disappoint.  We recommend going here as early as possible so you have more room in the butterfly house to explore.  Karen, M, and I were the first ones in there and had the whole place to ourselves.  The Insect Zoo has just about every creepy crawly that I would ever want to see.  I am not a real big fan of bugs so we did not spend a bunch of time in this area of the Henry Doorly Zoo.
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Next up was one of my favorite areas of the zoo which was the Lied Jungle exhibit.  The Lied Jungle, while not being as new as some of the other areas of the Henry Doorly Zoo,  is the best rainforest exhibit that we have ever seen.  Now we have not been to every zoo in the United States, but I cannot imagine another zoo in the states having a better one.  The Lied Jungle has over 120,000 square feet of space and at 80 feet tall it really made us feel like we were walking through the rainforest.  One of the neat things about this exhibit is that they have divided it up into three different regions so any visitor here gets to see a variety of jungle animals from around the world.  Just to give you an idea of how massive this building really is there is even a 50 foot waterfall.
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Karen’s favorite area was their Kingdom s of the Night which is the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and lays underneath the largest indoor desert the Desert Dome.  The Kingdom of the Night is a total emersion exhibit that took Karen and I on a nocturnal journey from a canyon area to cave filled with bats through a eucalyptus forest full of wallabies and fresh-water crocodiles to emerge on a boardwalk walking over a swamp that was home to alligators, beavers and a variety of other animals.  This was a really fun exhibit to go through.  The Desert Dome was our least favorite of the emersion exhibits at the Henry Doorly Zoo but that does not mean that it was not well done.  This area of the zoo takes its visitors through three different desert ecosystems that are found in different spots of the world.  The areas are the southwestern part of the United States, the center of Australia, and the Namib Desert of Africa.  It was interesting to see, but the desert is just not our cup of tea, but if you like then you will love this exhibit.
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There are several other nice exhibits at the Henry Doorly Zoo that are worth your time to see.  The Simmons Aviary which is a very large free flight area that includes several different species of birds from different types of ducks to the very pin k roseate spoonbills.  Expedition Madagascar which is Omaha Zoos newest exhibit gave Karen and I wonderful chance to get up close and personal with some of the strange but fascinating creatures of that island.  The highlight of this area was the walkthrough enclosure of red and black ruffed lemur exhibit. Also the Hubbard Gorilla Valley and Orangutan Forest is worth a look as Henry Doorly Zoo has one of the largest population of Orangutans and Gorillas groups that Karen and I have ever seen.
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Other parts of the zoo Karen and I were not so impressed with.  The Cat Complex and Bear Canyon are dated and could use an overhaul.  Having seen as close to nature  as an enclosure can be in some of the other parts of the zoo then seeing big cats and big bears living on concrete just makes us hope that the Henry Doorly Zoo is going to be making some new plans for them.  The hoofstock and sea lion exhibit were very basic though there was a new seal pup which was fun to see.  There were also several other exhibit areas and a children’s area for the kiddos to run around in.
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Overall, the Henry Doorly Zoo is an incredible experience their full emersion exhibits are some of the best that Karen and I have ever seen.  This is the type of zoo that I would make a special trip just to see it is that good.  I know that they have some plans in the works and it will be interesting to see just how good this zoo gets once their master plan is complete.
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Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Located at 3701 S 10th St. Omaha, Nebraska
Hours of Operation: March through October 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and November through February 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Christmas
Cost as of this Posting: Adults 12 to 64 $13.50, Seniors 65 and over $12.50 and Children 3 to 11 are $9.00
For more information visit their website at http://www.omahazoo.com/

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