Henry Doorly Zoo
Henry Doorly was such a great newspaperman, they named the Omaha World-Herald after him! OK, that obviously isn’t true. However, the onetime publisher of the World-Herald, does have something else named in his honor: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. The Henry Doorly Zoo is one of the great things about living in Omaha. Reader’s Digest even named it the Best Zoo in America in 2004. Though it was built just a few years before that honor, in 1894, the Riverview Park Zoo was renamed the Henry Doorly Zoo in 1963, following a gift from Doorly’s widow, Margaret Hitchcock Doorly.
Four years after it was built, in 1898, Riverview boasted 120 animals. Today, Doorly can claim North America’s largest cat complex, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp, the world’s largest indoor rainforest, the world’s largest indoor desert, and the world’s largest glazed geodesic dome. Sweet!
What’s inside:Maps and Attractions
Transportation Inside the Zoo
Due to the domes, many people are surprised at how nice it is to visit Doorly in the winter. Though many of the outdoor exhibits will be closed, the indoor exhibits remain open. Trust us, you’ll never appreciate the tropical exhibits more than on a frigid Nebraska morning. The Desert Dome’s panels were even custom glazed using computer modeling to map the height of the sun during the various seasons. Shine on winter sun!
Just how popular is Doorly? The College World Series, held next door to the Zoo in Rosenblatt Stadium, is often cited as Omaha’s most famous attraction. Over 7 million people have visited the CWS since The Blatt was built in 1947. To compare, over 25 million people have visited Doorly Zoo in the last 40 years alone.
Map and Attractions
A day at the Zoo can easily take a couple hours, more if you stop by the IMAX theater. Plan on spending at least two hours there in order to see most of the animals and up to five if you wish to see everything. Definitely make time for The Lied Jungle. It won a bevy of awards when it was built in 1992. The National Society of Professional Engineers named it one of the Top Eight US Engineering Accomplishments that year, and Time named it one of the Top Ten Designs in the World. Family Life Magazine even called it the “single best zoo exhibit in the country” in 1994. Other especially popular exhibits at the Zoo include the Walter and Suzanne Scott Kingdoms of the Seas Aquarium, the Desert Dome, and the surprisingly popular Butterfly Conservatory. As always, though, the rule at the Zoo is, "See what you like." If you’re a monkey man, see monkeys! But what if you’re fearful of endless walking (or scared of being eaten by a wandering lion)? Check out our transportation section for more info on how to get around the Zoo.
Transportation Inside the Zoo
In addition to wheelchair, adult chair, and stroller rentals, all $8.00, the Zoo operates a variety of transportation services to help patrons get around inside Doorly. The Omaha Zoo Railroad steams almost two miles around the Zoo, operating the Omaha Train Deport in the southwest corner of Doorly and the Kenefick Train Depot in the southeast corner. In addition, the $4.00 round trip fair allows riders to de-train and sightsee at Pachyderm Hill before catching a later train back. One stop only costs two bucks. The Zoo also operates the Skyfari, a chair lift which flies passengers from near the Kenefick Train Depot to the top of Pachyderm Hill, offering especially nice overhead views of the elephants and rhinos. Its $4.00 round trip, but some might want to take the train up and the Skyfari back: more variety, same price! Finally, there’s the tram, which crisscrosses around most of the Zoo. It’s a steal at $2.00 round trip or .50 cents a stop. Check the map for tram stops.
If you do have the time, be sure to check out the IMAX. Doorly’s Lozier IMAX is a sweet 364 seat theater opened in 1997. It uses the top of the line 15/70 film, which film buffs maintain is far superior to the littler stuff found in poseur IMAX’s. And it also does 3D! Double sweet!! The IMAX usually alternates between two movies on a given day, so be sure to time your visit to the theater around which feature you find more interesting. Check out the Doorly IMAX page to find out what they’re showing now.
The Zoo is known for hosting a number of special events. Some of the most popular include Member’s Day, in July, and the Spooktacular, usually held the last Sunday in October. On Member’s Day, the Zoo gives out free train rides and a number of other perks to thank its most loyal patrons. The Spooktacular is a little more aggressively themed, and one of the best Halloween parties in town. The Zoo hosts over 20 special treat stations, allowing costumed kids to trick or treat from 10 AM to 3 PM. Other activities are always announced closer to the day, and even the train conductors dress up, giving special spooky rides! Check the Zoo’s events page to learn about upcoming special events year round.
The hours for the Zoo are pretty simple: Winter Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Daily through Memorial Day Summer Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Daily Memorial Day through Labor Day Aside from that, the Zoo is open pretty much every day, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. But leave the cigarettes at home, Doorly Zoo is tobacco free all year long! Remember what we said before about winter: many people are surprised at how nice it is to visit Doorly in the colder months. Trust us, that tropical rainforest exhibit is a good thing in January, and, in general, more than enough indoor exhibits remain open to make it a worthwhile trip.
Here’s a basic price list for Zoo and IMAX admission:
|Age Group||Zoo Admission||IMAX Admission||Zoo/IMAX Combo|
|Children (2 and under):||FREE||FREE||FREE|
|Children (ages 3 - 11):||$7.75||$6.75||$12.75|
|Adults (ages 12 and over):||$11.50||$8.75||$16.50|
|Seniors (ages 62 and over):||$10.00||$7.75||$15.00|
There’s also a really thorough price list on the Doorly Zoo’s website that covers every possible group rate, stroller rental, and train ride you could think of.