Before snow hit, zoo saw a spike in week’s attendance

The African Lodge and giraffe herd rooms opened earlier this year in the zoo’s southern portion, which was undergoing heavy construction for much of the year.

The zoo’s new elephants haven’t arrived yet, but that hasn’t stopped people from coming to visit this holiday season.

The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium had higher-than-average attendance this week before snow forced a Christmas Eve closing. Families in town always boost the zoo’s winter attendance, but this year has been busier than most.

Several factors contributed to the zoo’s spike in attendance, which on Tuesday reached about 2,700 visitors, zoo spokeswoman Dawn Ream said.

Chief among those factors was weather. Omaha’s high temperature crept into the 40s on several occasions earlier in the week, allowing families with relatives in town and children out of school to visit without needing hats and gloves.

The zoo also offered free admission for children with paid adult admission from last Saturday until Christmas Eve.

Those who went this past week were able to see some new exhibits in the African Grasslands. The African Lodge and giraffe herd rooms opened earlier this year in the zoo’s southern portion, which were undergoing heavy construction much of the year. The elephant building is also complete, though it is still waiting for its occupants to arrive.

The rest of the African Grasslands area is looking more and more like its final form, giving zoogoers a glimpse at the rest of the new exhibits, set to open in the spring.

Several of the outdoor animals have been relocated or sheltered for the season, but animals including sea lions and some bears are still outside.

The zoo’s indoor exhibits — including the Desert Dome, Scott Aquarium, Lied Jungle, Hubbard Orangutan Forest, Expedition Madagascar, Wild Kingdom Pavilion, Red Barn Park, Cat Complex and Giraffe Herd Rooms — all remain open.

During the winter, until mid-March, the zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., though buildings remain open until 5 p.m. Admission is $13.95 for adults, $12.95 for senior citizens and military and $9.95 for children ages 3 through 11.

Although the zoo was closed on Christmas Day it will be open New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. At noon on Thursday, the zoo will celebrate an event called Noon Year’s Eve, featuring a beach ball drop countdown in the Scott Aquarium and Wild Kingdom Pavilion at noon precisely, followed by a magic show in the pavilion.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1734, chris.peters@owh.com, twitter.com/_ChrisPeters

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