Omaha’s zoo scores with renovated aquarium

Omaha has long been considered home to one of the nation’s best zoos. Henry Doorly Zoo is Nebraska’s No. 1 tourist attraction – more than a million people visit it annually.

Every zoo director knows he or she needs to continue to improve the zoo in order to attract visitors. Omaha’s zoo is no exception.  We have seen added the indoor rain forest (the largest indoor in North America).  The Desert Dome was added a few years ago.

Not to rest on its laurels, the zoo renovated the Scott Aquarium during the past year.  It is now the largest aquarium located at a zoo on the continent.  Thus, the name of the zoo has been changed – it is now known as Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

We attended a reception and behind the scenes tour recently (thanks to our daughter Mallory for buying the tickets for the entire family).  I liked the zoo before. Now, I love it!

It has undergone a total renovation.  When you walk through the entrance, gone is the old open space with a small touch tank (50 gallons).  Now, it is a beautiful entrance.  You are welcomed to the aquarium with a walled walkway, highlighted by pictures of sea creatures and plants along the wall.  The touch tank is now 500 gallons.  It has been closed to the public since the aquarium reopened two weeks ago because foot traffic has been so high and they did not want to further create a logjam.  We had the fun of touching a sea urchin (sea otter’s favorite food) and star fish.

The ceiling has a giant plastic squid and shark hanging above visitors.  There is art work resembling sea waves hanging as well.

The best part of the entrance is a 40-foot long aquarium with Pompano fish swimming through it.  The tank is split in half with a wall separating the tank.  It gives the illusion that the fish disappear and reappear.  The blue background gives a great view of the exhibit.  The tank is not fully stocked.  There are some small Pompano that will be put in the tank once they are bigger.  These are the fish tThe underwater tunnel remains a nice sight for visitors.  I thought there could be more fish in it.  I am sure they will add to it.  They have a large sea turtle, which was cool to watch.hat used to be in a smaller cylinder-shaped aquarium.  They swam in circles.

The Puffin and Penguin exhibits are still going strong.  Anyone who knows our family, knows we can spend hours in front of the penguins, especially Mallory.  She was so excited when she got to pet a penguin during the tour. He was a cutey! We were afraid she was trying to figure out a way to take him home.

There is a new coral reef exhibit that was amazing to view.  It has a three-way view.  Beautiful!

Shark reef was great to see.  All types of sharks and manta rays swimming in the exhibit. Sharks are a great attraction for any aquarium.  The Zoo did a great job filling the reef with the right types of sharks.

There is a new “ripple” water attraction.  It is an interactive screen presentation.  When people step on the screen, which looks like a pool of water, the water “ripples” and the fish scatter based on the ripples.  It was cute.