Featured Activity: Let’s Go To The Zoo

Published on July 30, 2020 - Updated on July 30, 2020

Need an adventure that offers a sense of normalcy? Zoo outings are a good option when safety conditions are just right!

Making choices for what feels safe for your family is very personal. For us, we do a lot of hiking and biking these days, and, once in a while, we mix in something in the “back to normal” category when we feel like it’s a calculated risk. While we know life is not back to normal by any means, we feel more comfortable assessing our circumstances on the move - always ready to scrap an idea if the conditions aren’t just right.

Masks are always part of our world, as well as hand sanitizer and a strong, unified understanding of what our comfort level is in terms of social distancing for our safety and that of others around us. When the timing seems right, we will occasionally try something, fully prepared to redirect if we arrive and find an uncomfortable amount of people or it doesn’t feel like others are taking proper safety precautions. Sometimes we get lucky and the beach, the zoo, or the playground meet our needs in terms of serious distancing measures. 

Hanah Omaha Zoo 2.JPG

On our epic summer RV road trip, we have been through Omaha four times and this is the first time we have found the perfect time to try out the zoo. It was such a treat! The Omaha Zoo is the first thing locals recommend if you’re going to Omaha or Nebraska in general, and with good reason. The Aquarium is also located on the same site, and comes equally recommended, but we opted out as a pandemic precaution.

Due to extreme generosity from many, the zoo is remarkable and home to a spectacular array of animals. The zoo has a COVID slogan “healthy you, healthy zoo,” and is taking precautions very seriously. Some exhibits which would make social distancing difficult remain closed, but the Gorilla Valley and Sting Ray Beach and so many more amazing exhibits are open. 

Hanah Omaha Zoo.JPG

The winding walking paths allow for a nice mix of movement/exercise too and a fair amount of distance for safety. Insider tip: bring a stroller or wagon for kids five and under, it’s a lot of walking. That is in part what really stood out, the zoo is so spacious. As a result, even with the pandemic restrictions, this seems like an excellent option to enjoy in the ‘not canceled’ category that truly feels safe. The zoo limits the number of visitors and we did not feel cramped or anxious. 

The summer weather is likely helpful in limiting all-day visits because honestly, it’s just too hot for that! We spent 2 hours and barely scratched the surface of all this wonderful place has to offer. In addition to the zoo offerings, they have a carousel available for $3 which they sanitize between each and every ride, and (outside of COVID times) a fun water play area. They have sweet treats and kid-friendly meals available throughout the property. 

Hanah Carousel Omaga Zoo.JPG

The zoo is truly such a gift to locals who can enjoy it on a more regular basis and we can’t wait to go back. If you are interested in a safe fresh-air outing to give your little ones a sense of normalcy during this isolating time, consider your local zoo. Many have reopened around the country. Here is a list of major city offerings, and some additional happyly featured locations with popular zoos. 


Brooklyn, NY

Prospect Park Zoo: Reservations required

New York City, NY

Central Park Zoo: Reservations required

Bronx Zoo: Reservations required

Queens Zoo: Reservations required

Staten Island Zoo: Outdoors only

Boston, MA

Franklin Park Zoo: Reservations required

Stone Zoo: Reservations required

Washington DC

Smithsonian National Zoo: Reservations required

Roer's Zoofari: Reservations required.

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Zoo: Reservations required

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Zoo: Closed until further notice

Chicago, IL

Lincoln Park Zoo: Reservations required

Brookfield Zoo: Reservations required

Houston TX

Houston Zoo: Reservation required

Austin TX

Austin Zoo: Online ticket purchase required

Capital of Texas Zoo: Open

Phoenix AZ

Phoenix Zoo: Closed

Seattle, WA

Woodland Park Zoo: Reservations required

Cougar Mountain Zoo: Open

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Zoo: Reservations required

San Diego, CA

San Diego Zoo: Open

Denver, CO

Denver zoo: Open

Atlanta, GA

Zoo Atlanta: Reservations required

Portland OR

Oregon Zoo: Reservations required.

Charlotte NC

Riverbanks Zoo: Reservations required

North Carolina Zoo: Reservations required

Minneapolis, MN

Minnesota Zoo: Reservations required

Como Park Zoo: Closed

Asheville, NC

Western North Carolina Nature Center: Closed

Nashville, TN

Nashville Zoo: Reservations required

Charleston, NC

The Animal Forest at Charleston Landing: Online ticket purchase required

Dallas, TX

Dallas Zoo: Reservations required

Salt Lake City, UT

Hogle Zoo: Open

Tracy Aviary: Open

Albany, NY

Adirondack Animal Land: Drive through only

Baltimore, MD

The Maryland Zoo: Reservations required

Wilmington, NC

Tregembo Animal Park: Open

Lynnwood Park Zoo: Open

Park City, UT

Hogle Zoo: Open

Tracy Aviary: Open

Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Zoo: Reservations required

Aloha Safari Zoo: Open

Long Island, NY

Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park & Children's Zoo: Open

Holtsville Wildlife & Ecology Center: Closed

Idaho Falls, ID

Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park: Open

Destin, FL

Emerald Coast Zoo: Open

Gulf Breeze Zoo: Open

Little Rock, AR

Little Rock Zoo: Reservations required

Eastern Shore MD

Salisbury Zoo: Limited hours and days

Eastern Shore DE

3 Palms Zoo: Open

Charlottesville VA

Luray Zoo A Rescue Zoo: Open

Natural Bridge Zoo: Open

Columbia, SC

Riverbanks Zoo: Reservations required

Holland, MI

John Ball Zoo: Reservations required

Washington Park Zoo: Closed

Ridgeland MS

The Jackson Zoological Park: Closed

Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Zoo: Reservations required

Roers Zoofari.JPG

If you are lucky enough to have a Drive-Through Safari near you, that is another amazing option! We had a fun and memorable adventure in Northern Virginia at Roer’s Zoofari. They have adjusted for COVID to allow families to drive through in their own vehicles and it is quite the experience!!

Please send us your favorite safe outing ideas at share@happyly.com, and tag your highlights on Instagram @gethappyly! We love to hear from you! 

For more inspiration, check out another recently featured activities, Plan a Picnic, make time for Family Bike Rides or bring out your inner camper and Find a Campsite near you! For a fun activity at home, check out our list of fun Chalk Games. Looking for something different? Enter the rapidly growing world of Stand Up Paddleboarding

Enjoying our content? Please download the free happyly app, the country’s only mobile-first family activity planning app, for fast access to all of our frequent blog content, favorite activities, and expertly designed curated days, both locally and in many communities and travel destinations across the country.

Thoughtfully captured by:
Caitlin Iseler
Caitlin Iseler, happyly founder and CEO, was born in New York and is one of eight children. Her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and the chance to sit at one table with her favorite 40 people. Caitlin, her outdoor loving husband, Thomas, and daughter, Hanah, live in Virginia Beach. She is also blessed to be a bonus mom to 2 incredible humans, Max & Elizabeth. Being a mom has always been something she dreamt of and it brings her joy beyond measure. Before starting happyly, Caitlin spent 15 years working in executive search with technology companies, most recently with Korn Ferry. In what seems like a lifetime ago, she attended the University of Virginia and was a member of the National & ACC Championship Teams, a gift that keeps giving.
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