The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium smashed an attendance record over the Memorial Day weekend as visitors packed into the zoo to see the new African Grasslands exhibit.

Friday through Monday, 60,241 people visited the zoo, besting a previous holiday weekend record of 53,861 set in 2009. The African Grasslands, a $73 million, 28-acre exhibit featuring elephants, lions, giraffes and more, opened Friday morning.

Traffic peaked on Sunday, when more than 8,000 people visited during the zoo’s first two hours. By late afternoon, that number had exceeded 20,000, causing traffic delays on Interstate 80.

Omaha zoo CEO Dennis Pate said he thinks this year’s annual attendance can eclipse the 2 million mark for the first time. The existing record sits at 1,719,925, set in 2012.


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