May 24, 2018

What’s At Omaha Zoo’s Asian Highlands

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium newest exhibit, Asian Highlands, adds to an already impressive collection of new exhibits added in the last year.

 

Read about African Grasslands here and watch a video of Children’s Adventure Trails. African Grasslands opened in 2016, and Children’s Adventure Trail opened in 2017.

What to expect at Omaha Zoo’s Asian Highlands

Asian Highlands is opening in two phases, so with Phase I, you will encounter only a handful of animals that will be a part of the complete exhibit (which is slated to open in spring 2019).

A rhino roams in the Asian Highlands, a new exhibit at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

You’ll see two red pandas named Tofu and Wasabi, as well as white-naped cranes, two Indian rhinos, tufted deer and Pere David’s deer.

The two red pandas are the first animals to spot at the entrance of Asian Highlands. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

They’re well adapted to live in cold environments so this will be a year-round exhibit.

Part of the charm of Asian Highlands is the story line that is incorporated into the exhibit, one where guests feel like they’re on an immersive journey through Northern India and the Himalayan Mountains.

Tip: The train passes by Asian Highlands, giving passengers a peek at what’s open in the Asian Highlands, as well as the areas that are under construction.

The entryway, a replica of a temple ruin, is a nice to touch to it all.

A replica of a temple ruin serves as the entrance to Asian Highlands. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

What else should you know? First, there are no restrooms in the exhibit nor food service (yet). Those are to come in 2019.

Also, this exhibit isn’t quite complete, because it’s rolling out in phases. So if you visit now, expect the trail to be a short out-and-back. There are barricades blocking entry into the areas under construction. But, what’s to come is going to be worth the wait!

A bridge in the Asian Highlands exhibit at Omaha’s zoo.

What’s coming to Asia Highlands in 2019

I’m especially looking forward to Phase II of Asian Highlands, which should open in the spring of 2019. The expected animals that will be included in Phase II will be sloth bears, tigers, snow leopards, takin and Chinese goral. I think all families are going to love the Kid’s Discovery Trail, which was described to me as a place with rocks to climb and misters to cool people off.

Omaha Zoo Asian Highlands

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

May 25, 2016

Omaha Zoo’s African Grasslands Preview

I had a sneak peek at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s newest addition: The African Grasslands. It opens to the public this weekend.

One of the few times you'll see me being nice to a snake.

One of the few times you’ll see me being nice to a snake.

This area of the zoo is huge – it’s 28 acres and is by far the largest project ever undertaken there. This is just the opening of Phase I and there’s more to it than I had expected. You won’t recognize the area that once housed the rhinos.

What’s about to open in the African Grasslands

African Grasslands include major exhibits for elephants, giraffes, white rhinos, cheetahs and impala, as well as a children’s African pygmy goat petting area, mixed-species habitats, animal wading pools and interactive demonstration areas.

There’s a whole new area with smaller species native to Africa located between the Skyfari and where the giraffes and ostriches will soon roam. Here, you’ll likely find an animal encounter (like the snake, Lucille, that I met above).

The pygmy goat area is going to open. Your kids may recognize the goats – they were once part of the Red Barn exhibit.

The pygmy goat petting area is near the train stop in the African Grasslands exhibit. There's about six goats there, including a 2-month-old.

The pygmy goat petting area is near the train stop in the African Grasslands exhibit. There’s about six goats there, including a 2-month-old.

The surprise, for me at least, is that the lion training center is almost completed, and lions are expected to move in by this weekend.

Here, zoo visitors will be able to watch training up-close. There is a Pride Rock-esque area in the exhibit that will be heated. I heard the lions don’t mind the winters here and that heated rock will likely attract no matter the weather.

They're putting the finishing touches on the lion training area at the zoo.

They’re putting the finishing touches on the lion training area at the zoo.

The lion area also has an area designated for games, where children can learn some traditional African games.

Kids can learn traditional African games in the African Grasslands exhibit.

Kids can learn traditional African games in this area of the African Grasslands exhibit.

What’s opened already

If you’ve visited in the last few months, you’ve likely seen some exhibit areas that were already, including the Giraffe Herd House and Elephant Family Quarters. The elephants can be spotted outdoors now.

The African Lodge has indoor seating, bathrooms and water fountains. The outdoor patio seats overlooks animal exhibits. This is a great spot to eat a picnic lunch or purchase food at Tusker Grill.

The African Lodge has indoor seating, bathrooms and water fountains. The outdoor patio seats overlooks animal exhibits. This is a great spot to eat a picnic lunch or purchase food at Tusker Grill.

The African Lodge is also already open with indoor and outdoor seating. Tusker Grill sells concessions including some African entrees.

Tusker Grill is a chance to try some African food, as well as good old American zoo staples like hamburgers and hot dogs.

Tusker Grill is a chance to try some African food, as well as good old American zoo staples like hamburgers and hot dogs.

The lagoon that had the koi and monkeys has been refilled, and now there is a new bridge on the south end of it. The monkeys are back, but now you’ll also find some pelicans and a flock of geese.

The new Pelican Lane Bridge with a view of the south end of African Grasslands.

The new Pelican Lake Bridge with a view of the south end of African Grasslands.

Called Pelican Lake Bridge, it takes you to the east in of African Grasslands where you’ll encounter bongos and lions, hopefully, starting this weekend. There’s a display of one of the crates the elephants were shipped in as well as a helicopter.

This area is unrecognizable from what it once was – and it’s a great thing!

Bongos (or antelope) have already moved into their new home in the African Grasslands exhibit at the Omaha zoo.

Bongos (or antelope) have already moved into their new home in the African Grasslands exhibit at the Omaha zoo.

What’s to come

The giraffe feeding area looks like it’s nearing completion, but I don’t know the date when visitors can take part in this animal encounter (for an additional fee).

Phase II, projected to open in 2017, will showcase Africa’s top predators and their prey near the Skyfari terminal and a safari tent camp for those who want to try out an overnight stay at the zoo.

Construction continues on the African Grasslands project.

Construction continues on the African Grasslands project.

May 23, 2016

Expert Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo

Updated: March 6, 2018

You need more than a day to fully explore the Omaha Zoo, whether it’s your first visit or your 100th. To make the most of your time, follow the advice of some zoo experts: Locals.

I recruited Omaha and regional bloggers to join me in sharing the best tips with you.

25

 

When to visit Omaha’s zoo

“We love going a few hours before closing because a lot of families have left for the day, especially if we are going on a Saturday where it will likely be busy!” Kitty B., Kitty and Kevin

“We usually go first thing or last thing in the day.” Bolton C., Bolton Carley’s BS-O-Rama

“Winter is also a great time to visit – less crowds, many indoor exhibits, and sometimes having the aquarium all to yourself!” Julie S., Family Fun in Omaha

“If you are local or nearby, get a season pass and don’t try to do the whole zoo in a day, especially if you have young children. Consider it a walk, take pictures, and go back frequently!” Jen S., Liv Laugh Love

“Fall is great to go with little ones. The other great times to go are either first thing when they open, or two to three hours before they close.” Kelly R. suggested on an Oh My! Omaha Facebook post

My tip: Members, never skip the member days in the summer. Members receive passes for free train rides that are good for more than a month. Hold on to those passes (the train will be crowded that day) and use them on your next visit.

Read my 5 tips for visiting Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in the winter

 

What to bring to the zoo

“If you plan to spend the entire day there, bring a wagon or stroller (or rent one when you get there if you don’t have one). You can easily bring a cooler filled with ice and beverages, sack lunch, snacks, plus anything else you might want need (especially if you need to bring towels or a change of clothes for the splash park) and carry it along effortlessly in the wagon. Elevators and extra space outdoors makes it easy to move levels and store when you are going through buildings.” Mary J., Living a Sunshine Life 

“Be sure to pack some wet wipes to wipe everyone off with if they pet the animals or just put their hands where everyone else has been.” Bolton C., Bolton Carley’s BS-O-Rama

“Take your own bread to feed the fish and ducks…and take your own water bottle.” Bolton C., Bolton Carley’s BS-O-Rama Editor’s note: It’s been pointed out that bread can harm fish and ducks, so it’s better to brings some coins for the fish food machine and feed them the approved food. 

“Wear a backpack with water, sunscreen, band aids, wipes and any other essentials.” Kim S., It’s Really 10 Months

My tip: Bring comfy shoes and hats for everyone in the summer.

 

What to do there

“We take a look at the IMAX schedule before we head to the zoo…that way we can plan according to see shows we haven’t seen before.” Kitty Boone, Kitty and Kevin

“Be sure to get a map. There are things like the area where you can feed the birds that you don’t even know exist if you don’t consult the map.” Bolton Carley, Bolton Carley’s BS-O-Rama

“Review the map in advance and agree on what are the ‘must-see’ exhibits.” Kim Schenkelberg, It’s Really 10 Months

“Great places to cool off on the hot summer days are the aquarium, gorilla exhibit, Expedition Madagascar, Wild Kingdom Pavilion, Kingdoms of the Night, the IMAX Theater, and the new splash park!” Julie S., Family Fun in Omaha

“Get to the zoo early and head to the back exhibits. Everyone goes to the desert, jungle, and aquarium right away, and they get crowded quickly.” Jen Schneider, Liv Laugh Love

“If you have littles – consider riding the train, tram and skyfari- it is pricey but it helps give their little legs a rest if you are trying to do the entire zoo in one day.” Kim Schenkelberg, It’s Really 10 Months

“I buy train tickets early in the day, even if we aren’t going to ride it for awhile, as the lines at the ticket booth get long and slooow by afternoon. My kids have had the splash pad to themselves at 9 AM.” Jill H. shared on the Oh My! Omaha Facebook page

“We go to the right (towards the giraffes) as we start and then are able to use the elevator to get back to the top. Saves some whining from the kiddos when it comes to hiking up the hill.” Christine W. shared on the Oh My! Omaha Facebook page

My tip: The zoo has daily animal enrichment programs where you can see them being fed or receiving interacting with a trainer. Some are cooler than others. Surprisingly, the penguin feeding was kinda dull?

Check out a preview tour of the African Grasslands here!

Children’s Adventure Trails

The Omaha zoo opened Children’s Adventure Trails in June 2017. 

“Adventure Trails has complimentary SPF 30 sunscreen in the family bathroom. I love the changing tables and sink in the lobby of restroom building so you can change littles without having to wait for family room.” Amanda F. shared on the Oh My! Omaha Facebook discussion on the new exhibit

“Wear quick dry clothing or swimsuits and bring a change of clothes.” Julie L. shared on the Oh My! Omaha Facebook discussion on the new exhibit

“The restroom area inside Adventure Trails has two nursing rooms and the family restrooms have miniature toilets!” Nicole S. shared on the Oh My! Omaha Facebook discussion on the new exhibit

 

Eat at the Omaha zoo

The Omaha zoo opened African Grasslands in May 2016.

“The new African Grasslands has a fantastic indoor dining area that is great for the really little kids. There are new highchairs, plenty of room (not many people know about it yet), a great family restroom and eventually views of the animals. Plus, the food is great!” Christi Leupold, Leupold Confidential

“Pack picnic lunches/dinners (you’d think we had kids…but no….we just like picnics!) and always bring water bottles.” Kitty Boone, Kitty and Kevin

My tip: My all-time favorite place to eat at the zoo is the Durham TreeTops Restaurant, where lucky families might snag a table along the wall of windows overlooking the indoor rainforest. My top outdoor pick is the Tusker Grill at the African Lodge, which also has the best food (it’s the same place as Christi mentioned, but I’ve only sat outside, can’t vouch for inside). As the construction winds down in the African Grasslands, it’s going to offer dining with a view too, but of elephants and zebras. I wrote a post about healthy zoo at the food – you can read it here.

 

Saving money at the zoo

“Get a season pass, when you break it down a household pass averages out to only $10/month (that’s easy to budget for next season). Considering you can catch a movie (Imax), view hundreds of animals, feed fish, play on their playground and now visit the new splash park, that’s a bargain for a whole lot of family fun!” Nicole McDonald, Mom Saves Money

“Bring snacks or a lunch to save money.” Jen Schneider, Liv Laugh Love

“If you live in Omaha, check with your company – every place I’ve worked in Omaha over the last 14 years has offered a zoo membership discount.” Liz Perry, LPO Beauty

My tip: Members, don’t forget to show your membership card when making purchases at concessions, the gift shop, rides and admission to Stingray Beach – you can save 5%.

 

Special event tip

My tip: The zoo has several special events throughout the year, some are included with admission and some are extra. My family’s favorite is Holiday Happening on Saturdays at Christmas time when scuba divers wear holiday costumes as the clean in the shark tunnel tank. That event is included with admission and you can expect a crowd. The zoo’s Spooktacular is after-hours and a different price than admission (members do have to pay to go). It’s another fun one my family really enjoyed and for some reason, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I’d expect.

Your turn: What tips can you give visitors to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo?

More smart Omaha zoo tips

“Take 10th Street in to get to the North Entrance instead of waiting in line at the interstate exit for 20 minutes (or longer).” Shared by Megan S. on Twitter. This is my go-to strategy, too.

Loved this post?

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter here.