The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is the largest zoo in the Great Plains and the single most popular tourism attraction in the state of Nebraska. This jewel of a facility, relatively unknown outside of the American heartland, may be the country’s best kept zoological secret. It is home to some of the world’s largest enclosed ecosystems, including an indoor rainforest, and indoor swamp and an indoor desert, as well as a full-fledged aquarium. All told the Henry Doorly is home to nearly a thousand species and a whopping nine thousand animals.
The park was founded in 1894 as the Riverview Park Zoo. A standard urban zoo throughout the first half of the 20th century, Riverview began to undergo massive changes in the 1960s. It was renamed in honor of Henry Doorly after his widow made substantial contributions to improve the zoo. The Scott Kingdom of the Seas Aquarium opened in 1995. The zoo became widely known thanks to its association with the television show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
Henry Doorly is one of America’s most unique zoos. Due to weather challenges in the region, many of the zoo’s most popular exhibits are the massive, enclosed ecosystems. Favorites include the Lied Jungle, which houses an entire river ecosystem including Crocodile and Hippopotomus; and the Desert Dome, the world’s largest glazed geodesic dome. The park’s aquarium is a 1.2 million gallon environment, the largest aquarium attached to a zoo. Henry Doorly is also home to the largest exhibit of big cats in North America.
The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is located on the south side of Omaha approximately two miles from downtown. It is open in winter from 10:00am-4:00pm and in summer from 9:00am-5:00pm (closed on Christmas). The cost of admission is $15.00 though this varies seasonally. Web: www.omahazoo.com (official website).