December is the perfect time to visit Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Seriously. Add all my reasons for visiting the zoo when it’s cold out with the enchantment of the holidays, and you can see why I recommend planning an Omaha zoo visit at Christmas time.
Where is the Omaha zoo?
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (AKA Omaha’s zoo) is located at 3701 S. 10th St. It’s located just off Interstate 80 and about a mile south of Omaha’s bustling downtown area called the Old Market.
The zoo’s parking lots are all FREE.
Related post: Experts’ Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo
Omaha zoo hours at Christmas
Plan your visit knowing that in November and December, the zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except on those holidays mentioned above). Buildings will stay open until 5 p.m.
Omaha’s zoo is open on winter holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, as well as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The zoo is always closed on Christmas Day.
Why go to the zoo during the holidays?
Omaha’s zoo is the state’s most-visited attraction, seeing about 2 million guests each year. The busiest season — by far — is summer. There are plenty of reasons to go to the zoo in the summer, but crowds are not one of them.
So, avoiding crowds is one reason why I love winter at the zoo. The colder weather scares away a lot of people leaving you quite a bit of room to leisurely enjoy each exhibit.
However, there are some events at Christmas that are decidedly going to draw a crowd. I think they’re worth it, though. More on each of those events in a minute.
My other reason to go to the zoo in the winter is possibly unfounded scientifically, but I think the animals are more active in the winter.
Is the zoo in Omaha decorated for Christmas?
No, the zoo doesn’t string lights or put up a lot of holiday decorations. However, you will find event spaces decorated for the holidays, especially for Supper with Santa.
If you want to see something really Christmas-y at the zoo, plan your visit to watch a holiday-themed character dive in the shark tunnel at the aquarium. These special dives are on Dec. 7, 14 and Dec. 21.
On Dec. 7 and 14, you’ll see a variety of characters, including Santa. When we went, we saw an angel, elf and Mrs. Claus. On Dec. 21, you will only see Santa (but isn’t that enough?).
What are some special events during Christmas at Omaha’s zoo?
There are a few annual events at the zoo. These are ticketed events, so you will need to make your purchase in advance, not the day of. These events are likely to sell out.
Supper With Santa
When: Dec. 13-21; Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Lied Jungle and Durham TreeTops Restaurant on Dec. 13 & 14, and Scott Aquarium Conference Center on Dec. 20 & 21.
What: Enjoy a spaghetti dinner, activities, storytime, and of course, pictures with Santa.
Cost: $23, members; $28, non-members; and FREE for children ages 2 and young
Penguins and Pancakes
When: Dec. 26-30; seating times are from 9 to 10:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. seating.
Where: Scott Aquarium Conference Center
What: Enjoy pancakes from The Pancake Man, an animal visit from an African penguin and keeper talks, as well as a special penguin plush to take home.
Cost: $20, adult members, and $25, adult non-member; $15, child member (ages 3-11), and $20, child non-member (ages 3-11); and FREE for children ages 2 and younger