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What You Can Expect At The Omaha Zoo This Summer (Phased Reopening)

Like everything else in the world, summer 2020 at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is going to look a lot different than normal. Reopening June 1 with several measures in place, I asked the zoo to share what’s different so you know what to expect:

Zoo areas that are currently closed

The zoo is reopening in phases. Phase 1 is pretty cautious with the following closures and restrictions in place:

  • All buildings are closed, including exhibits like the aquarium, Desert Dome, and the indoor rainforest. Other buildings that house restaurants and the gift shop are closed, too.
  • The Lozier Giant Screen Theater will be closed.
  • Outdoor areas that are closed include the Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails or Scott Alaskan Adventure Splash Park.
  • Animal feeding opportunities will not be available.
  • There are no behind-the-scenes tours.
Children's Adventure Trails at Omaha's zoo will not be open during Phase 1 of the zoo's reopening.

Things to know about admission to the zoo

Don’t expect to waltz in with a wave of your membership this summer.

  • Reservation for a time to enter the Zoo must be made online before visiting. Make a reservation here. IDs and online reservation receipts will be checked. Members will not be able to transfer their membership to non-members.
  • Reservations can be made up to two days in advance of visit. There don’t seem to be any exceptions.
  • Admission tickets are discounted at $20.95 for guests ages 12 and over, $13.95 for children ages 3 to 11, and $19.95 for seniors ages 65 and over.
  • AZA reciprocal zoo admission program is suspended at this time.
  • Timeslots are available every half hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. Good news for members: From June 1-7, there is a Members Only hour from 8 to 9 a.m.
  • There is a separate entrance for entering the zoo and exiting the zoo. Park accordingly. The Main Gate is for entrance to the zoo. The North Gate for exiting the zoo.
Lagoon at the zoo

What it’s going to be like at the zoo in Phase 1

  • With buildings closed and a single entrance point and a single exit point, the zoo has created a walking path that’s about 1.8 miles.
  • The walking path is one-way traffic only. No backtracking is permitted.
  • You have to be prepared to walk it, as there is no tram service available. You can rent strollers, wagons, ECVs, and wheelchairs, though (limited supply).
  • Drinking fountains and water refill stations will not be available. Bring your own water.
Map of Omaha Zoo during Phase 1 of reopening in 2020
Map courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Things you can do at the zoo during Phase 1

  • You can purchase tickets to ride Sue’s Carousel (with appropriate spacing and sanitizing).
  • You can buy concessions, but menu offerings will be limited to expedite lines. The Souvenir Cup refill service will not be available.
  • There will also be vending machines available, which will be cleaned hourly.
  • There will be retail items available for purchase at outside venues.
  • You have access to outside restrooms.
  • There is an outdoor nursing area.
  • Know that there will be signs throughout as reminders and help keep 6 feet between groups in lines.
Tusker Grill at Omaha Zoo.

Precautions you can take while at the zoo this summer

  • This goes without saying: Wash your hands frequently. This wasn’t on the zoo’s list.
  • Face mask usage by guests is strongly encouraged.
  • Guests are strongly encouraged to remain in their vehicles until their reservation time. Officials request guests not stand at the entrance plaza to meet others.

My thoughts on Phase 1

I was disheartened to read so many negative comments to their social media announcement on reopening. It is what it is, friends.

Have patience. These are strange and uncertain times.

I’m glad they’re able to open in a responsible manner. It’s not going to be business-as-usual for many months.

The view in front of the Desert Dome in the winter

Will I be going any time soon? Maybe not right away. Many of my favorite places, and certainly my kids’ favorite places, will not be open. Nor should they be – they’re popular for a reason (and therefore draw a crowd).

But I miss the zoo. I want the zoo to continue to grow and succeed. So I will be back.

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Friday 19th of June 2020

We went today at 9:30. We were back in the van by 11:30, which was just right for our energy and enthusiasm levels. It may not be what we're used to but it's more interesting than our house or a walk around our neighborhood... and less of a risk than school will be! Most groups were wearing masks, at least around us. A cool overcast morning and not crowded - perfect for me! With lots of improvements underway, next summer looks to be pretty cool.


Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

I too am glad of the reopening however I won’t be going for awhile. I bought the season pass for a reason so I could go to different areas then leave. Walking 2 miles is not an option for myself or my husband. Very sad that this is what our world has become


Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

I love visiting just a few exhibits at the zoo, too. The current precautions are understandable, though, so I'll just roll with it.

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