Trip to Omaha Zoo
May 13, 2014 8:37 AM   Subscribe

We (two adults and a 3 year old) are planning a trip to Omaha zoo. The main question I have is regarding the rides (train/tram). Is it similar to what they have in some national parks, where you can ride between locations (and get on/off as you please) instead of walking? or is it just one big ride through the zoo? Any other info on the zoo or good restaurants for dinner in Omaha appreciated.
posted by WizKid to Travel & Transportation around Omaha, NE (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo is so fantastic, and it is very easily walkable. I've been there many, many times with my kids since they've been tiny. Unlike pretty much every other US zoo, at Henry Doorly the must-see attractions (Desert Dome, Lied Jungle, Aquarium, Butterly House, Wild Kingdom Pavilion) are all not very far from the main entrance. The IMAX theatre is right there, too. My kids are 6 and 4 and we usually don't venture past the attractions I just mentioned - that's more than enough for one day.

It's laid out really nicely so things are accessible without needing to use any zoo transportation (compared to, say, the San Diego Zoo, which was exhausting to navigate and where that is a must). Check out a map of the zoo to see what I mean. The train and the tram are nowhere near the main entrance, and you'll be better off just walking.

Make sure you visit the lower level of the Desert Dome (Kingdoms of the Night) as well as the floor of the Lied Jungle.

Omaha has loads of great restaurants - what type of cuisine/ where are you staying?
posted by hush at 10:07 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks.
In terms of cuisine it really doesn't matter that much. We'll try pretty much anything. If there are any must-try restaurants, I'm glad to hear about it.

If there are any niche international cuisine that you can't easily find find any where else in midwest, then that's even better
posted by WizKid at 11:29 AM on May 13, 2014

The Omaha zoo is really terrific. You and the kid will love it.

Hush gives good advice – the biggest and most impressive attractions (Lied Jungle, Scott Aquarium, Desert Dome) are very near the main entrance, and the rides (train, Skyfari) are deeper inside the property. The tram is not terribly exciting, but the train and Skyfari are both enjoyable for adults and amazing for kids. Both the train and Skyfari have two stops: one near the entrance, and one in the back/interior of the zoo. (The 'interior' stop would be near the rhinos for Skyfari, and 'Omaha Depot' near Sue's Carousel for the train.) For both the train and Skyfari, one-way is $3 and roundtrip is $5.

The zoo is huge and surprisingly hilly, and generally goes downhill towards the back/interior, closer to the Missouri River. This older part of the zoo is worth a trip if you prefer spending time outdoors and want to see the elephants and sea lions and other large mammals. If you choose to explore the interior, as the kid gets tired towards the end of the day, a one-way ride towards the entrance could be perfect. That's what my mom always did when I was little.

For "niche international cuisine that you can't easily find find anywhere else in midwest" the obvious suggestion is the Bohemian Cafe, which has been doing traditional Czech meals in the same spot since 1924. It happens to be very near the zoo, in the Little Bohemia neighborhood of South Omaha. I'd also recommend Gerda's German Restaurant and Bakery on Leavenworth.
posted by Sfving at 12:07 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second @Sfving's excellent suggestion of The Bohemian Cafe.

There's a great (for Omaha) hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant near 51st & Leavenworth called Three Happiness Express - we always go there when we visit and order the Peanut Butter Chicken. (Note: not authentic Chinese food at all, but very tasty.)

Maru Sushi Korean Grill on 108th & Mockingbird is also good for their Korean items (the sushi is just ok).

One "international" dish I always associate with Omaha is the Napoleonas Torte from the Lithuanian Bakery. I know it can also sometimes be found in the frozen foods sections of some Hy-Vee supermarkets in the Omaha area.
posted by hush at 1:59 PM on May 13, 2014

Funny that. Last weekend's date night with my wife:

1) Afternoon at the zoo
2) Dinner at BoHo
3) Ice cream at Ted & Wally's

You can't go wrong.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:18 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're in for a treat. The Rain Forest exhibit is wonderful, and the Kingdom of the Night is spooky cool (but may be better for a later visit when your child is older). It's possible to stay entirely on the uphill side of the zoo and still see quite a bit. Food at the zoo is O.K., and if you time it right you can get a table that looks out over the Rain Forest.

If your three-year-old thinks trains are cool, consider a visit to the Durham Museum. In addition to trains you can walk through, there's a soda bar that serves wonderful, authentic malts.
posted by dws at 9:08 PM on May 13, 2014

My favorite restaurant in Omaha is Espana on Maple Street in the Benson neighborhood. Very delicious and authentic Spanish tapas. I have gone there many times with a Spanish friend who raves about the food. They also often have a guitarist or even flamenco dancer for entertainment.
posted by Mallenroh at 10:13 PM on May 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses.
posted by WizKid at 11:34 AM on May 14, 2014

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