9 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Nebraska

Updated On October 7, 2023

The Cornhusker State may be known for farmland and love for college football, but there’s more to love about this Midwestern state. 

Officially part of the union since the late 1860s, Nebraska has cultivated generations of families born in the area whose interests have expanded over the years. 

What was once mostly prairie has evolved into a place with a multitude of fun things to do that keep the locals entertained.

Whether you’re traveling through Nebraska or have lived here your whole life, we’ve got a list of the best zoos and aquariums that you must visit!

9 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Nebraska

1. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Welcome to the oldest, biggest, and most visited attraction in all of Nebraska. 

This place is more like an animal-themed Disney park, as opposed to a zoo and aquarium.

In addition to the zoo, there are five other exhibits that represent different parts of the world and specific types of wildlife. 

The zoo is open daily from 10 am until 4 pm.

Coming out means supporting the unseen parts of the zoo, such as conservation, research, and ongoing education.

The parking is free and there’s more than one entrance, so not everyone is herded through one spot.

Don’t worry about blowing your budget, either.

The facility has no problem with visitors bringing in their own snacks and drinks.

2. Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Located conveniently in Nebraska’s capital, Lincoln Children’s Zoo centers around making a wonderful experience for little people.

Here, kids aren’t just walking by exhibits and staring into cages.

Interaction is the name of the game at this zoo.

Children get the opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals.

Across 10 acres, there are a total of 400 animals that call the zoo home, 40 of whom are endangered.

Two of the most notable are a Sumatran tiger and a tree kangaroo.

A quarter of a million visitors go through each year and get to create a bond with the exotic animals. 

Lincoln Children’s Zoo is open daily from 10 am until 5 pm.

It’s also the third most visited attraction in the country, so go early or during the week for the least amount of traffic.

3. Riverside Discovery Center

Just a hop, skip, and jump from the Wyoming border is Scottsbluff, aka home of Riverside Discovery Center.

When it comes to learning more about a wide array of wildlife, this has been a great place to start since 1950.

There are habitats available for tropical birds, birds of prey, hoofed animals, reptiles, bears, primates, big cats, and a remodeled chimpanzee enclosure. 

Riverside is also a great place for kids to develop their love for all wild things.

There’s a pop-up children’s museum for all ages where the theme changes each month.

Included on campus are classes for future zoologists starting at age two and up to 12.

Now that’s a great way to keep the little people entertained and learning at the same time. 

The center is open daily from 9:30 am until 4 pm. 

4. Asian Highlands

Part of the greater Henry Doorly Zoo, the Asian Highlands area is dedicated to animals that call Asia home.

Starting off in northern India, the Asian Highlands sets visitors off on a path that has them walking parallel with the wildlife in the region through the Himalayas.

There are eight acres dedicated to highlighting these unique creatures from across the ocean.

In fact, the entrance is a remake of a Himalayan ruin.

So, as soon as you walk in, you already get a feel for how realistic they wanted to make the exhibit. 

Expect to see pandas, deer, bears, tigers, leopards, rhinos, a foggy forest, and even a camp based on the stories from Mount Everest about a Yeti.

This part of the zoo is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. 

5. Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium

What can be more fun than a walk through the ocean?

Not on top where the water brushes past your ankles but literally through the middle.

That’s the vibe in Suzanne and Walter Scott’s ocean tunnel.

It’s actually called a shark tunnel because it’s sort of from that point of view.

At least, that’s what he’d see swimming through all kinds of aquatic creatures.

There are 70 feet of gazing around in an underwater tube. 

In addition to the shark tunnel, there are zones from all the water regions around the globe.

That means you can catch sight of penguins from the arctic as well as coral reefs from warmer regions.

It’s a colorful and magical, if not fishy, world. 

Dip into a new world of marine animals every day from 9 am until 6 pm. 

6. Horn T Zoo

Smack dab in between two rivers is a little zoo that is shut down for the winter.

When Horn T Zoo is open, they are a weekend-only affair, open from 11 am to 5 pm.

Put a visit on the calendar from June through October.

This home of a variety of animals has been spreading cheer to children and adults alike since 2010.

Located in Monroe, this is a small facility that has been cared for by the same family.

Along with seeing the fur friends, Horn T advocates for animals.

They practice conservation, education, and promoting nature to all that come by.

What can you expect to see?

There are zebras, ring-tail lemurs, birds and so much more.

Don’t leave without taking the opportunity to touch an American Alligator.

7. Wildlife Safari Park

A short drive from Iowa is Ashland, home of Wildlife Safari Park.

This 440-acre park is an American version of an African safari.

Basically, you just drive through and see some fun fur characters in the comfort of your vehicle.

The adventure doesn’t have to stop there, though.

The land comes with a trail that has several overlooks.

Stopping gives you the chance to get a bird’s eye view of other animals, such as elk, bison, bears, wolves, and all kinds of birds.

Speaking of birds, there’s an Eagle Aviary that houses bald eagles as well as whooping cranes.

Just because the animals aren’t living doesn’t mean they aren’t represented here, either.

Check out Jurassic Adventure before driving off. 

Be one with nature at this park on Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm.

8. Schramm Education Center

Right by the Platte River is Schramm Education Center.

Fittingly, this facility focuses on fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

This is one of the most valuable educational centers around.

The reason it’s so good is how it pulls everyone in through activity.

Getting physically involved is, after all, the best way for kids to learn.

It doesn’t help adults to join in, either. 

Part of the experience deals with ponds, nature trails, and seeing a fish hatchery up close at Schramm Park.

There’s also a virtual reality mountain biking section where visitors get a feel for the ride. 

Come learn about the local fauna daily from 10 am to 5 pm. 

9. Eugene T. Mahoney Kingdoms of Night

We’re all used to seeing the animals who roam the earth during the day.

But what about the ones who get their feel of things during the dark?

That’s what this is all about. Kingdoms of Night is the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit.

Spread across 42,000 square feet, Kingdoms of Night took an entire year to set up.

That has a lot to do with the fact that the sun and moon cycle has been reversed so that attendees get to see the included wildlife in their natural setting. 

9 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Nebraska – Summary Table

Zoos & AquariumsAddress
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107, USA
Lincoln Children's Zoo1222 S 27th St, Lincoln, NE 68502, USA
Riverside Discovery Center1600 S Beltline Hwy W, Scottsbluff, NE 69361, USA
Asian Highlands0233510000, Omaha, NE 68108, USA
Suzanne and Walter Scott AquariumOmaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha, NE 68108, USA
Horn T Zoo37692 NE-22, Monroe, NE 68647, USA
Wildlife Safari Park16406 292nd St, Ashland, NE 68003, USA
Schramm Education Center21502 NE-31, Gretna, NE 68028, USA
Eugene T. Mahoney Kingdoms of NightS 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107, United States

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Nebraska tourist-friendly?

Nebraska may not be the first place travelers think of when they want to get away.

That’s okay, we’re glad to provide some inspiration.

In addition to the list here of great zoos and aquariums, there are plenty of other things to do.

This includes sports, museums, gardens, outdoor adventures, downtown sights, vineyards, and much more.

Plan ahead and there are tourist-friendly activities everywhere.

What's the most popular thing to do in Nebraska?

Time and time again, when Nebraskans have an opportunity to vote on their favorite thing to do, it ends up being Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

Over two million visitors check out Omaha’s famous attraction each year.

Thanks to such a wide array of things to do and see at the zoo, it’s worth the ticket.

This is the type of place you get there when they open and plan to be there for the duration of the day.

What's the oldest zoo in Nebraska?

Riverview Park Zoo opened in 1894, making it the oldest zoo in the state.

You would know it today as Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

It’s also the biggest, sitting on 130 acres in total.

Expansions over the last century have helped to elevate the zoo to national top-tier status.

Henry Doorly Zoo is often ranked #2 behind San Diego Zoo.

Is there a water park in Nebraska?

With all that land, there was bound to be room for a water park.

In Omaha, Fun-Ple is an amusement and water park.

That means you can have lots of fun even if you aren’t a swimmer or sunburn easily.

In addition to things like a wave pool or water slides, dry rides include a carousel, go-karts, bumper boats, and even entertainment for the little people of the group.

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