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4 Valuable Tips for Visiting the Omaha Zoo and Aquarium

Renowned as one of the best zoos in the United States, the Omaha Zoo and Aquarium is a must-visit!

If I could say one word to describe this zoo, it would be WOW.

This zoo is definitely an experience.

There are endless things to see and do that you could easily spend a day and a half to two days here.

As you get ready for your trip to the Omaha Zoo (also known as the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium), here are four valuable tips to make sure your visit is an incredible adventure, complete with all of the practical advice you need!


1. Plan What You Want to do Ahead of Time

As I mentioned above there are so many incredible exhibits and unique attractions to enjoy at the Omaha zoo, making it quite a challenge to experience everything in just one day.

If you have just a single day to explore the zoo, I recommend prioritizing the key attractions you don’t want to miss.

I have compiled a list of some of these attractions below for you.

You can also download a map of the zoo to help with your planning!

Alaskan Adventure Splash Ground

The Alaskan Adventure Splash Ground is a fantastic water playground that brings the Alaskan Wilderness to life!

It has a humongous humpback whale that is quite impressive.

Its other sculptures within the spray ground area include puffins, brown bears, sea lions, orcas, and salmon.

Additionally, there are a variety of unique water features for visitors to enjoy.

You could easily spend half a day at the Alaskan Adventure Splash Ground.

If this is something that you plan to do, I would figure out how you want to work it into your day with all of the other attractions and exhibits you plan to experience.

Must Know Information

The Alaskan Adventure Splash Ground is located adjacent to the carousel as well as the playground at Glacier Bay Landing. This makes this entire area of Omaha’s zoo the perfect family friendly activity hub.

If you plan to spend time at the Alaskan Adventure Spray Ground during your visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, make sure to come prepared with swim suits and towels.

It is also important to know that there is a family changing area right next to the splash ground.

Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails

The Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails is an extraordinary space that is a destination in itself.

This incredible area lets visitors of all ages learn through immersive nature play, making it a must-visit destination within the zoo.

Crazily, this area was not on our radar on our visit to the Omaha Zoo as we just happened upon it when we were about to leave.

It was an epic surprise!

Expert Recommendation

I strongly recommend putting the Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails on your must-visit attraction list. You can easily spend an hour or more at this amazing spot!

Some of the highlights of the Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails include the colossal treehouse that you can climb, slide, and explore its lofty branches, little water ponds, and the whimsical play area with giant bugs, a spiderweb, bee hive, and butterfly swing.

The Bay Family’s Children’s Adventure Trails area is extremely family friendly as there are air-conditioned restrooms as well as a baby care area that includes changing stations, private nursing rooms, a microwave, and two family restrooms with small toilets for young children.

There is even a common area for families to relax for a few minutes.

The Bay Family’s Children’s Adventure Trails exhibit is located closest to the zoo’s North Entrance.

Henry Doorly Zoo Aquarium

The aquarium is always a must-see stop for our family.

Here you will be mesmerized by the diverse collection of aquatic life from all over the world.

It is quite spectacular!

My boys love watching the penguins and also seeing the shark tunnel.

Expert Recommendation

The Sea Turtle Cafe, located right outside the aquarium, is a fantastic place to grab a bite to eat. This outdoor cafe has many tables for guests and offers shade on a hot summer day. The Sea Turtle Cafe also has a good variety of food options on its menu.

Gorilla Valley

Gorilla Valley is an extraordinary immersive exhibit where visitors can get an amazing glimpse into the lives and behaviors of these intriguing animals.

Not only is the exhibit gorgeous with its waterfalls, streams and trees, but it also allows guests to literally get face to face with the gorillas.

This exhibit is one of our family’s favorite attractions.

Gorilla Valley has a new entrance on the north side of the exhibit which is across from the aviary.

Must Know Information

On our visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, we entered the zoo at its North Entrance. From the North Entrance we immediately took a left towards Glacier Bay Landing and then proceeded past the splash ground and carousel to Owen Sea Lion Shores, and finally to Gorilla Valley. There are obviously many other options of routes to take depending on your preferred list of attractions and exhibits to visit, but this is the one we took.

Young child making the same pose as the statue of a gorilla next to him.

Sea Lion Shores

Sea Lion Shores is another one of the Henry Doorly Zoo’s incredible immersive exhibits.

This exhibit offers a captivating look into the aquatic world of the sea lions.

Sea Lion Shores has sandy beaches, shimmering pools, and interactive presentations.

This exhibit was one of the first places we visited at the Omaha Zoo.

We spent quite a bit of time at Sea Lion Shores as the kids were super excited to see this amazing exhibit.

The kids loved playing on the sandy beaches and going through the caves.

There is even a hidden crevice for kids to crawl through with an underwater viewing window.

Expert Tip

This zoo is incredible, and you can easily lose track of time at any one exhibit or attraction. We spent a ton of time at the Sea Lion exhibit because the kids were enjoying it so much. If you only have a day to visit, I would recommend not spending too much time at any one exhibit. While you still want to soak in each exhibit and not feel rushed, keep in mind that you do need to keep moving as well in order to see everything that you want.

Rides at the Omaha Zoo

Zoo Train

The zoo train is a favorite ride for visitors to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

It gives you a good overview of the zoo and its incredible exhibits.

One downfall of the train is that it usually has a long wait.

You will need to weigh whether or not you want to spend time waiting in line to ride the train or use that time to see something else.

We opted not to ride the train so we could enjoy time at additional exhibits.

Train Boarding Locations

You can board the train at a number of locations including Omaha’s Depot near the splash ground and carousel as well as near the African Lodge. Omaha’s Depot is closest to the zoo’s North Entrance.


The Carousel is a whimsical attraction perfect for young children as well as those young at heart!

Carousel rides are $4 each. You can purchase tickets at the kiosk right across from it.

Two boys smiling as they are riding the carousel at the Omaha zoo.


Skyfari which is an open-air chair lift provides visitors with a unique aerial view of the Omaha zoo.

Open only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Skyfari offers visitors a bird’s-eye view of the zoo’s amazing scenery and animal exhibits.

Must Know Information

Skyfari’s roundtrip rides begin at the platform adjacent to the Butterfly and Insect Pavilion. Riders under age 12 must ride with an adult.

Tram Ride

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium also offers visitors a narrated tram ride tour as a way to efficiently see the zoo’s extensive grounds.

Guests may choose to pay for a round trip ride or pay separately for each stop.

The tram ride has four stops total.

Other Animal Exhibits

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium boasts an incredible collection of animal exhibits.

Each of these exhibits offer guests an extraordinary look into the world in which these animals live.

From the Desert Dome to Lied Jungle, each of the exhibits at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are sure to blow you away.

Additionally, the zoo offers opportunities for animal encounters including feeding the giraffes, goats, stingrays, and the touch pool in the aquarium. 

Expert Tip

When planning out your day at the zoo, you may also want to factor in some time for climbing statues as well as small playgrounds you come across. There is also an old helicopter and jeep that the kids can climb in.

2. Save Time & Money by Bringing Your Own Food & Drinks

You CAN bring in your own food or drinks in a bag or cooler into the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

I love using my insulated tote bag to store snacks and to keep drinks cool in addition to my easy to carry soft cooler.

If you want to make the most of your time at this zoo, I would highly recommend bringing your own lunch, drinks, and snacks.

We did not do this, and we spent way too much time waiting for food and drinks.

For example, one time we waited in a line for 45 min to just get soft drinks and some chicken fingers.

Many of the places to eat require you to order at a kiosk, and then you have to get in a pick-up line to get your order.

These lines were so long and when you have hungry and/or thirsty kids that can cause some major frustration. 

3. Bring a Swimsuit, Towel, and a Change of Clothes

Kids love to get wet, and there are plenty of opportunities to do so at Omaha’s zoo so I would suggest being prepared with a swimsuit, towels, and a change of clothes.

The splash ground is so huge and fun that your kids will surely want to experience it.

Even if you don’t think you are going to do the splash ground, there are some water features in the Children’s Adventure Trails area plus there is the sand area by the sea lions.

The kids are likely to get wet and/or dirty somehow during your visit to the zoo, but that is half the fun, right?!

4. Take Breaks Throughout the Day & Keep a Patient Mindset

With 160 acres, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is massive, and there seems to be endless things to see and do.

As a result, there are a lot of people and many things going on.

The lines for food and for some of the attractions and exhibits can be long as well.

Additionally, there is also lots of walking.

To keep everyone in the family from getting overtired, I would suggest taking a break when necessary as well as carrying your own snacks and drinks to keep everyone energized.

I know there is so much to see and not always enough time, but it is so important to take some breaks throughout the day.

Keep in mind that you might not get to see everything, and you may not get to spend as much time as you would like in a certain area.

It is important to keep everyone’s expectations as reasonable as possible.

Remember to be patient with the crowds as well as with your family.

Plan Your Visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Today

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is an absolute blast and an incredible experience for the entire family.

It is an impressive zoo that has so many immersive exhibits and thrilling things to experience.

My biggest tip is to plan your must see areas ahead of time.

Must Know Information

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium offers two convenient entrances. One is considered the main entrance while the other is the North Entrance. The North Entrance will bring you into the zoo near the Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails as well as Glacier Bay Landing. I recommend checking out the zoo map to determine which entrance to use according to your plan for the day. Additionally, depending on where you park, one of the entrances may simply be closer to you than the other!

DISCOVER MORE IN OMAHA: Top Things to do with Kids in Omaha


Download my free travel itinerary planner to assist you in planning your trip to Omaha or wherever your adventures take you.

May you love your adventure. KW

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