Fifteen minutes ...
In June and July, we have Shakespeare in the Parks, a popular and established tradition that surely will not end soon. The performances are in Elmwood Park, which is south of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (around 60th and Dodge). Go south (from Dodge) at Happy Hollow Blvd. Performances start at 8:00 P.M. Thursday through Sundays. Make sure you get there early to get a great seat. Bring a blanket, picnic, turkey leg ... eat, drink, and be merry. You can bring some money too, not because of the performance, because of the concessions stands; the performances are free. How can you beat that?
From the early days of Omaha's history, we have set aside special areas as our parks. We have some beautiful parks for just about any occasion. Read more about our parks.
One of my all time favorite places is the zoo where some of my closest relatives live.
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo has grown tremendously since its beginnings as Riverview Park in the late 1890s. The Zoo has continued to add important exhibits such as the world's second largest free-flight aviary, the country's largest Cat Complex in the "Wild Kingdom Pavilion", and the world's largest indoor rainforest (The Lied Jungle).
The free-flight aviary allows birds to fly and live in a more natural settings. In addition to the birds, you can see monkeys and other species in the aviary.
In the Cat Complex, you can enjoy cats from every corner of our planet. The Cat Complex has been an important part of Cat Conservation and study. Educational displays explain things such as the white tigers, a rare genetic disorder that does not occur with such great frequency in the wild (only 12 have been spotted in the wild).
The Lied Jungle is the largest indoor rainforest. It features rainforest environments from Africa, Asia, and South America. A jungle trail and an overhead walkway give visitors an excellent view and tour. The Butterfly and Insect Pavilion houses a lot of butterflies, and other insects, including arachnids (spiders).
The zoo also has a great sea aquarium, the Scott Aquarium, where you can see sharks swimming over your head as you travel through the 70 ft. underwater zigzag tunnel. The aquarium also displays other aquatic life such as stingrays, jellyfish, and three species of penguins.
If you think a visit once a year will cover everything, keep this in mind. H.D.Z. has been an active participant in breeding programs with many other zoos worldwide. This means they may have animals for a temporary period, or they may have animals returned since you last visited. You can hardly ever visit the zoo without learning something new.
Speaking of learning, the zoo is not only a display of exotic species, but also involved with educational programs with schools and universities. The Omaha Cultural and Academic Cooperative organization is based at the zoo. The group is special because it is an innovative partnership of museums that provides educational career exploration programs not found anywhere else. Other zoos and museums in the country should take note as an example. We are lucky to have this great program in Omaha. The zoo also has volunteer programs, and research projects going on full time. All together, these programs are helping to fulfill the zoo's mission of conservation, research, recreation, and education.
One of the zoo's projects was the world's largest desert biome, opened in 2002. Visitors experience the unique desert environments of the Namib Desert in Africa, the Great Sandy in Australia, and the Sonoran Desert in southwestern U.S. The glazed geodesic dome allows visitors to see a 30 ft tall sand dune, Ayers Rock, a cactus forest, a sandfall, meerkats, pumas, bobcats, rock wallabies, peccaries, klipspringers, and desert plants. In 2003, the world's largest nocturnal exhibit opened underneath the Desert Dome.
On the outside, the Skyfari has opened. It is an open-air chairlift traveled from Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion to Pachyderm Hill. It is a great way to see these areas of the zoo from the "treetop" point of view. You can get passes for the chairlift for one-way, or save by getting a round-trup pass, and if you want toa add the train pass, plus ride Sue's Wilelife Carousel, you can save even more.
The zoo is best enjoyed if the visit is not rushed however starting early requires plenty of ahead of time planning and with our busy lives is not always an option. Admission to the zoo is without a doubt, always reasonable; however, the best bargain is a season zoo pass. That way you get to go multiple times without as much concern for covering every exhibit; you can even sneak in a late afternoon visit without the guilt. As a rule, the people that purchase a season pass so much recognize the value that they continue to do so year after year. If you travel, keep this in mind, the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo Season Pass is also good for free admission to 150 other zoos in the country. That's a rate of three per state, probably one is in yours.
The zoo is situated on 110 acres near I-80 and 10th Street, just across from Rosenblatt Stadium, all within a few blocks of I-80 Exit 454 (13th Street Exit). Except for Christmas, the zoo is open year round. The hours for warmer months (March 1 to October 31) are from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., and in the cooler months, 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.. The buildings open for another hour after closing to allow everyone ample time to get out. Some sections close for the season during the coolr months. For fuller details, always check the zoo website. Thanks to the folks that take care of some of my relatives.
If all that weren't enough, the zoo operates the Lozier 3D IMAX theater with a six story tall screen and 12,000 watts of sound to make you feel like you are part of the action. You can visit the IMAX theater separate from the Zoo (they do share parking lots). From children age to elderly, everyone enjoys the experience of the IMAX films. One of the greatest experiences is to treat your folks. If you haven't experienced an IMAX film yourself, I say rush to the theater immediately. With the new design of the zoo entrance, the IMAX is accessible as part of the zoo access. The IMAX films have 3D versions of some films. This isn't the same 3D of yesteryear, no blue and red lenses. A tiny optical sensor in the glass frame picks up the signal to open and close electronic shutter lenses to stay in sync with the projected film. This is truly modern 3D. The effect is so smooth that you don't even think about wearing the glasses.
H.D.Z. also operates the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari just west of Omaha on I-80 Exit 426 near the Strategic Air and Space Museum and the Aksarben Aquarium at the Mahoney State Park. The park is a drive through wildlife adventure with free-ranging North American plants and animals such as bison, elk, antelope, deer, and wolves. A small animal exhibit, visitor center, tram, and concessions are available at the entrance.
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