The best time to visit Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is in the winter.
Do you really enjoy trudging through the zoo on a 96-degree day in the summer, melting as you carry one of your kids (usually the one with who sweats the most), battling a crowd of people to catch a momentary glimpse of an animal before moving on to the next exhibit to catch an even briefer peek at an animal?
No, but you have to do it because your kids love the zoo no matter the season.
Why visit the zoo in the winter?
I love the Omaha zoo in the winter because fewer people want to visit it right now. So, right off the bat: Better parking and no crowds blocking the view.
Those who bundle up are rewarded with a great zoo experience. It’s peaceful in the off-season and the animals are more active.
The best part? The zoo has a lot of indoor exhibits near each other and near the entrance!
And if you plan a visit in December, you might get to enjoy one of the unique holiday events held at the zoo each year (and maybe you’ll catch Santa Claus scuba diving with sharks).
Ready to plan a winter visit? Here are five things to see and do if you visit Omaha’s zoo in the winter.
Head for the rainforest
An obvious stop is the Lied Rainforest, the largest indoor rainforest in North America. Pretend you’re somewhere else on a jungle adventure with the kids, especially when you walk through the lower level.
When you’re there in the winter, you notice things, too – like the free-flying bats. Moving on.
Tip: There’s a coat rack near the entrance to the restaurant that’s connected to the rain forest. Ditch your heavy coats there before entering the jungle.
Related post: Experts’ Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo
Warm up in the Desert
If the humidity of the jungle isn’t your thing (as if your winter hat wasn’t giving you a bad enough hair day), head to the heat of the Desert Dome.
This place is best viewed when there isn’t a packed line of people snaking through there. Which means, it’s best in the winter.
Take your time and have your kids count the animals they can spot in each exhibit.
Related post: Did you know you can camp in the Desert Dome? Find out about offering and many other surprising things you didn’t know you could do at the Omaha zoo.
Walk through Kingdoms of the Night
While you’re at the Desert Dome, you’d better visit the lower level and see all the creatures of the night. It’s extra fun (and mysterious) to explore this exhibit when it feels like your family is the only one down there.
Part of the exhibit feels like (and looks like) you’re walking through caves. Another area is modeled after a bayou.
Don’t skip the aquarium
Sing with me now, “Under the sea/ Under the sea/ Darling it’s better/ Down where it’s wetter/ Take it from me.”
Anyway, now that that song is in your head, let’s talk about why I love, love, love the aquarium in the winter. It’s surreal to walk through there without a horde of people.
You hear the New Age-y music piped overhead mixed with sounds of the ocean. And your kids don’t have to fight with 20 others to play on the interactive water projection mat or wait their turn to sit in the bubble by the penguins.
Brave the trek to Madagascar
It’s a bit more of a trek than the other indoor exhibits mentioned above, but the Madagascar building is full of exotic animals to check out. Since it’s a further walk than the others, you can bet fewer people will be there.
More things to do indoors at Omaha’s zoo
There are a lot of exhibits open in the winter that I didn’t mention and they’re well worth checking out if you want to make the most of your visit.
A few you can tack on to your visit:
- If you’re sticking close to the main entrance, you can check out the Mutual of Omaha Pavilion
- The butterfly pavilion is an option and it’s near the aquarium. In the past, it didn’t have as many butterflies fluttering about in the winter as it typically does other times of the year.
- There’s also the gorilla building. It’s a bit of a trek, but if you’re headed to the Madagascar building, you could make a stop there. Personally, it was always a little too cold for my liking.
- The zoo also has an IMAX movie theater. If you have a zoo membership, it’s FREE to see a movie there!
Need healthy eating tips for the zoo? Visit my post Healthy Eating At The Omaha Zoo.
Also check out Free Activities To Do At Omaha’s Zoo.