That’s quite a boast, I know. But I genuinely believe that Omaha, Nebraska’s Henry Doorley Zoo and aquarium can stand the scrutiny. This zoo has the superlatives: The second largest interior rainforest in the world (the largest in the western hemisphere), the world’s third-largest aviary, the most massive glazed geodesic dome in the world, and the world’s biggest interior desert scape and interior swamp. The zoo has over two million visitors annually and has been rated by Tripadvisor as the “Best Zoo in the world” for several years running. 

So come with me as we explore this amazing place. I include a lot of pictures, but really,  this place is a photographer’s dream come true.


Mutual of Omaha (a vast and successful insurance provider) is a significant contributor to the Henry Doorley Zoo


                                                                  The Lied Jungle

At the time of its opening in April of 1992, the Lied Jungle was the largest indoor rainforest in the world. (it lost its title in the mid-2000’s but even today it the second largest. The Lied Jungle has almost three acres of floor space and is over 80ft tall. The exhibit has an elevated walkway as well as a trail on the jungle floor. There are over 90 species of animals who generally have free reign over the complex. It is very common to see birds flying right over you or a monkey swing right past you. The Jungle also features a 50ft waterfall and several 30ft waterfalls.


                                                        The butterfly pavilion 


Butterflies are beautiful but unruly subjects for pictures. They don’t stay still long. But hey, if I had that much nectar, I probably wouldn’t either.


                                                             The African Grasslands   

This is the Zoo’s most recently renovated exhibit. It offers viewing platforms that allow visitors to experience many of the animals’ ups close.

                                                                    The Skyfari

The Zoo is massive and built on hilly terrain. The Skyfari air tram is a fun way to see the complex from above and save your knees at the same time.

                                                         The Bird garden

The bird garden (also known as the garden of the senses is a lovely flower garden that is located about midway through the zoo. It’s a nice place to relax and maybe have a picnic lunch.oz28oz27

The garden also has life sizes models of many of the animals housed at the zoo.

                                                        The Asian Highlands

I first started visiting this zoo back in the mid-80’s. I have never been here at a time they weren’t working on a new expansion project. The latest the Asian Highlands will include Asian Elephants, red pandas, Rhinosauri and maybe the great panda. The exhibit opened in June 2019.




                                                         The Simmons Aviary

A walk through Aviary that covers over four acres and contains free-range flamingos, storks, cranes, spoonbills, and ibis.


Many of the birds were nesting. It was amazing to watch the forage for twigs.

                                                        Expedition Madagascar

One of the only zoos in North America to feature animals from this fantastic African Island. Exhibits include seven different species of lemurs as well as the rare Madagascar chameleon. md1md2md3


                                                          Gorilla and Orangutan Valley


                                     The great Cat Complex and Bear Canyon

Built in 1977, the Complex is the largest in North America, but given how modern and naturalistic many of the exhibits have been designed, the complex and bear canyon seem almost anachronistic. The good news is they are finally being remodeled. The Bear complex was closed entirely and should be open by late next year, and the cat complex will be renovated shortly after.



                                      Splashtown and the children’s zoo   

Much of the children’s zoo area is currently being remodeled.

                                                           The Desert Dome

The most massive Geodesic Dome in the world. The dome covers almost two acres and features Canyons and dunes over 25ft tall.


                                                      The Kingdom of the Night.

Underneath the Dome, is “The Kingdom of the Night” which features nocturnal animals. The environment includes A sizeable human-made cavern with swarms of bats and bayou swamp with snapping turtles and crocodiles.


                                                         The Scott Aquarium 

One of the largest aquariums in North America. The aquarium has an over 1.2 million gallon aquarium including a giant 70ft walk-through tank that contains sharks, sea turtles,  and stingrays.

There is also a large jellyfish tank and two penguin pavilions.

There are three large Penguin Pavillions featuring all the major species

Sorry, I know this is a very large post but there is so much to see here. The Zoo offers a two-day pass. There really is more to see than can be reasonably seen in one day without rushing. I have been to many zoos all over the world. I have never seen a place better than the Henry Doorley Zoo. If you are ever within a two or three-hour drive away, make sure you get here. It is definitely worth the drive.

4 Replies to “The World’s Greatest Zoo”

  1. Looks like they’ve taken the Bronx Zoos innovations and made them bigger and better. Would love to visit this someday…I like zoos that create natural habitats for the animals and contribute to wildlife conservation. I stopped visiting small roadside zoos…they are so sad keeping big animals in small cages. There was apparently a disastrous one in Nebraska some years ago…the subject of Zoo Nebraska

    1. I don’t know if you remember “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” but it was a popular program on TV back in the 70’s but the host Marlon Perkins left a huge endowment to the Zoo on the grounds that the animals be well cared for and have natural habitat as much as possible. Omaha’s Zoo really has done of great job of this.

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