One of the gems of Nebraska is the Henry Doorly Zoo. Recently ranked the top zoo in America, it contains amazing exhibits like the world's largest indoor desert and a walk-through aquarium. Being the zoo person that I am, I was itching to take the children there (and visit again myself).
Touching the world.
After a recent obsession with Komodo Dragons, the twins were excited to find one at the zoo that they could climb (so excited that I couldn't get a decent picture...)
There is SO much to do at this zoo. It was legitimately too much to cover in one day, and we knew that going in. We planned ahead and created a doable itinerary of must-see exhibits. As we got started, I was amazed at how many young children were volunteering at the zoo as educational docents. It made me wish we lived closer so that someday the twins could do the same.
Allie learning about cheetah fur.
Ryan looking less than excited about learning...
The really cool thing about the exhibits is that they recreate an entire ecosystem. So the desert animals live in a literal indoor desert. The creatures of the night live in a cave and/or swamp. The jungle animals live in jungle. Every building you enter is an entirely new world. They also have the classic outdoor exhibits that you would find at any zoo, but the true magic is in entering each new world.
Ryan's favorite was the jungle. He loved playing in this tree.
And he especially loved the rope bridge!
One of the things we did was purchase a bracelet that allowed us unlimited turns on any of the rides at the zoo. While the train was, hands down, the kids' favorite, the ride we ended up doing the most was the "Skyfari" - a ski-lift type ride over a portion of the zoo. These rides have never been my favorite. I blame a traumatic episode of Rescue 9-1-1 when I was younger where a girl got stuck on a ski lift. Let's just say that it was pretty amazing that I let my vice grip go long enough to snap these pictures.
Ry-guy riding between me and Uncle Matt
Allie between Papa & Gigi.
Daddy riding all by himself (with our bags)
Another special thing that the zoo had going on was a Valley of the Dinosaurs exhibit with moving robotic dinosaurs! With the twins dinosaur obsession, we decided it was a must. As we got there, Ryan noticed the photo boards where people could stick in their heads. He insisted on getting his picture taken in pretty much every dinosaur...
I know it is supposed to look like he is the T-Rex, but it really just looks like he is being eaten by one...
He even got Papa to join the picture fun!
Allie with her favorite dinosaur.
Unfortunately, Allie woke up the morning of the zoo trip with a slight fever. With a bit of Tylenol, she was fine, but there were points throughout the day where she started to lag. Her eyes would get glassy and she would get more and more limp. You can maybe see below that, by the time we got to the carousel, we had hit one of those points.
So excited about being on the elephant.
He raced one of the big kids for the dragon.
Even Gigi joined in on the fun!
We were actually going to leave after the carousel, but we gave Allie a dose of Tylenol and then got in line for the train to take us closer to the front. After a short nap in the train line and then the train ride, she was starting to perk up and asked to ride the Skyfari ride again...by the middle of the Skyfari ride we could tell the medicine was working - she was chattering nonstop! Pretty soon she had us talked into visiting the aquarium again, and then the butterfly pavilion, and then the play fountain near the entrance.
Allie ended up just watching, but Ryan danced around in the
Ryan also talked me into taking him back to the jungle so he could go on the rope bridge again...or a few times...he loved that thing! In the end, our "doable" itinerary ended up being way too long. We were at the zoo shortly after it opened and left not long before it closed and there were still a number of exhibits we didn't visit that were on our list! But here are a few of our final favorite things.
My favorite was seeing the Arapaima. I love watching River Monsters, and seeing one of the fish featured on the show was really cool. It looks way bigger in real life than it did on tv!
Ryan and Allie's favorite was the aquarium. Not only is the aquarium filled with various smaller exhibits (seahorse, jellyfish, penguin, etc.), but there is a large walk-through aquarium. The novelty of sharks swimming over your head is incredible - which is why we went back later in the day!
Other favorite moments were
- going to the twins' first movie - a 3D Imax movie about butterflies - and watching them try to grab the butterflies that appeared to be floating around them.
- Riding over the rhinos on the skyfari...and seeing a bird eating their poo (it has been a week and it is still a popular conversation subject for the twins).
- seeing many favorite animals: bats, owls, monkeys, frogs, etc.
We had such an amazing day at the zoo. A day to remember for sure. And this was only the beginning of our Nebraska adventures!