Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Omaha Zoo

We are in Cumberland, IA for a few days.  Our next stop is in Fremont, NE.  Ben asked me to check the distance between the two, expecting the split the drive into a couple of days.  We were surprised that we are only two hours away from Fremont!  Knowing we would need an activity to fill the days which we had expected to be driving, I googled “things to do in Fremont, NE”.  What I came up with was a list of 57 things to do (mostly summer activities), but 54 of them were outside of Fremont.  {I am thinking that Fremont is a small town!}
One activity that came up in the list was the Omaha Zoo.  Um, I didn’t even know that Omaha had a zoo.  And in 2014 Trip Advisor ranked it as the #1 zoo in the world!  It has many different exhibits, several of which are the largest of their type in the world.  Most of the exhibits were inside, so we were able to do it even on a cold winter’s day.   And it was cheap, too!  Six of us got in for under $50, and it was an all-inclusive ticket (unlike the Bronx Zoo which charges separate admission for each exhibit).  And parking was free too!  Definitely not in the big city anymore!
We decided to spend Presidents Day at the Omaha Zoo.
We began by visiting the Desert Dome - the world's largest indoor desert.  This facility exhibits three different deserts of the world, the Namib, the Central Australian and the Sonoran, under a glazed geodesic dome that is the largest of its kind.   You enter the dome in a sandy, desert-like area with birds, snakes, and other animals from that climate.  In one section the rock cliffs and caves rose above us, and we were surprised to see wallaby jumping in and out of the openings.  Several of the “ponds” for fish and birds were not inside a fence either, making it seem very realistic.  {And I was glad to have a stroller for the twins – open water is certain disaster with them!}

I think pigs are cute!


Turkey vulture
As you wound along the desert path, it decreased in altitude to take you the nocturnal animal section.  There was a baby aardvark (so adorable and ugly at the same time!).  The parent aardvarks were very active, along with bush baby’s (we learned about them in the latest Patch the Pirate adventure) and a fast moving porcupine. 


Bush Babies 
We descended even further into the dome and found ourselves in a very realistic swamp, complete with crocodiles, alligators, beavers, a beaver home you could see into, and many other swampy creatures.  It was very well done and so unlike any zoo exhibit I’ve ever been through!
Nolan has been all about Panthers since Pastor Bickel told him a scary panther story.  We stopped to see the big cats, including some jaguars and very active tigers.  Omaha zoo has the largest Cat Complex in North America.  There are three new lion cubs (one is white!) but they weren’t out when we were there.  The male lion started growling at me as we went by!

Nehemiah was enraptured by this Jaguar, and the jaguar didn't take his eyes off Nehemiah either!
We also visited the orangutans and the gorillas.  There was a first-time orangutan mother with a nursing baby.  The baby’s name is Suri and means Red Rose.  The gorillas were not very exciting, but we learned that they are Elaine’s “favorite animal in the whole world.”  Go figure!  Madagascar had a lot of unique species of animals, too.
Several animals were not on exhibit because of the winter and construction for a new African Plains section.  We missed the rhinos, elephants, and other hoofed animals.  The giraffes were open and had a baby giraffe born November 4th.  Elaine thought it was neat that she was born so close to her birthday (Nov. 5th)!
We missed the butterfly pavilion tour by 15 minutes, but the aquarium was amazing.  Thought not as big as the NYC Aquarium, and it didn’t have the walrus’ and seals, it was much more exciting.  The sharks were in a tank that went over a glass tunnel, and as you walked through you could see sea life on every side.   Liberty had fallen asleep but she woke up to see the exciting fish in the tunnel!  There were many species of Jelly Fish, including a variety that acts like a sea coral to attract food. 

Stinging nettle - not a painting - they are real!
Our last stop of the day was the Lied Jungle - the world's largest indoor rainforest.   It was amazing!  Like the Desert Dome, we started at the top and worked our way down through various levels of animals and terrain.  There were bats everywhere flying fast your heads.  The trees, vines, waterfalls, and tunnels were all very realistic.  The ground was packed dirt to be authentic.  We were able to look down into the hippo cage and the tapir cage.  These animals are often underwater and you can’t get a good view.  As we got farther down into the rainforest we could also see them underwater through an underground aquarium.  The monkeys were hilarious (they always are), and the kids really liked the adventure of being in a real jungle. 

Roosting fruit bats

A common squirrel monkey - "common?" I had never seen a yellow monkey before!

Nehemiah loved watching the tapir swim and pace back and forth.  It was hard to get him to move on.  My mom always likes the tapir, too!

Elaine and Nolan on the only rhino we got to see... 
I guess it’s hard to explain, but it was a fantastic zoo experience!  So if you’re ever out in the middle-of-nowhere on a road trip and you find yourself near Omaha, take a day to spend at the Omaha Zoo!


  1. I think we should plan a weekend trip just to go visit this zoo! I definitely want to see Elaine's "most favorite animal in the whole world!"

    Great pics!

  2. Glad Nolan saw a real panther! Miss you
    All and praying for you!!

  3. Hey! That's my (Tracy's) hometown! Going to "The" zoo was an annual event. My favorite parts are the aquarium and he jungle. When we went there on furlough with our kids, we saw many of the same animals that we see all the time here in Brazil! :)
    Glad you all had a great visit!


Please leave your email address if you need a response to your comment, or check back here to see my reply in the comments section.