I have a unique tie to the Indianapolis Zoo. Not only do I remember it from its earliest days, when it was much smaller and had far fewer attractions, but I also served as a volunteer there. Teens were actually allowed to help feed the animals, from a safe distance or while standing in front of the cage bars, and also given information about the animals, their habits, etc. Back then, I never imagined that our zoo would become so impressive or that they’d have features like the Shark Touch pool where visitors can actually touch sharks – safely, of course.
I’ve always loved the Indianapolis Zoo and am especially proud of it today. No longer a tiny zoo, it is now a major feature of Indianapolis and a destination for Midwestern travelers. It received the notable Edward H. Bean Award, from the AZA, a national accreditation society for zoos….and rightfully so. Major accomplishments include breeding rare Jamaican iguanas, in danger of becoming extinct, so the efforts of the Zoo are vitally needed. Thanks to the Indianapolis Zoo, the North American population of these lizards have doubled, no small accomplishment.
When visitors come to Indianapolis, we always take them to the Indianapolis zoo. It is equally loved by children and adults.
Here is a rundown on both the classic exhibits and activities as well as upcoming and special activities:
Zoo location and hours:
1200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46222
Zoo website: www.indyzoo.com
Open 9 am to 4 pm – Weds – Sun
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Please note: the above are January and February hours (due to winter and necessity of having some exhibits move indoors).
Admission: $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for children ages 2 through 12. Children ages one and under are free.
Parking is $5.00 per vehicle.
From May through September, the zoo is open from 9-5 Monday through Thursday and from 9-6, Friday through Sunday, including holidays.
Please note: Not surprisingly, smoking is not allowed on zoo grounds.
Our favorite attractions at The Indianapolis Zoo:
How could we ever fail to stop by the Dolphin Show or the Oceans exhibits? They are always fascinating and the dolphins, who seem to be permanently smiling, are lovely and comical to watch. They seem to enjoy the attentions as much as the visitors enjoy them! At this part of the Indianapolis Zoo, there is a focus on ecology so visitors are reminded that water covers most of our plant and that it is important to respect and care for our oceans, rivers and streams.
I don’t know anyone who isn’t fascinated by sharks and the Ocean exhibits feature them, including bonnethead sharks. These are a type of sharks named for their head shape, as are hammerhead sharks, also on display at the zoo. No one will want to miss the Firestone Gallery’s Shark Touch area, which allows visitors to actually touch sharks.
If you love seahorses, you are really in luck because there are several tanks full of them! Three species of seahorses are on display here. And, of course, how could anyone resist the adorable penguins? Every time we visit the Indianapolis Zoo, those penguins get admiring comments as well as plenty of attention from everyone, especially young children. There is just something about these flightless birds which waddle as they walk but swim so gracefully in the water. They are lively and thoroughly entertaining for all.
Where to eat at or near The Indianapolis Zoo:
You won’t need to leave the zoo if you want to grab a quick bite. Also, while you can’t bring food into the Indianapolis Zoo, you may choose to eat lunch just outside the gates. There are special lunch tables there. Perhaps you’d prefer to do that and then go in and enjoy all the fun or just have a drink at one of many places where beverages are available. If you do want to eat inside the zoo, there are many restaurants and places for a meal, including Cafe on the Common, Dog n Suds, The Outpost, Edy’s Ice Cream Cart and others. Dining carts are regularly available throughout the Indianapolis Zoo.
Near the zoo, popular restaurants include TGI Fridays, with a courtyard, as well as Noodles and Company. But there really isn’t any reason to leave the Indianapolis Zoo grounds, once inside. We always loved eating on the grounds, watching the birds, monkeys and giraffes while eating. Not only does it keep the kids amused but all the activity is fun for adults to see, too.
The Indianapolis Zoo gift shop:
We have been known to make a special trip to the zoo to stock up on presents before Christmas and birthday parties. Why? Because the merchandise is constantly changing and it comes from all over the world. We also know that the money we spend will help the zoo’s ongoing activities as well as allow employees to educate the public about ecological and other issues relating to animals. In short, by purchasing books and stuffed animal or toys here, we are doing some good for the community – and the world.
Items regularly in stock at the zoo gift shop include books, toys and key-chains. There is a special effort made to include merchandise that is of interest to all ages. You could even find something for a grandparent here
Another very special gift shop at the Indianapolis Zoo:
The Gardener’s Pride Gift Shop. Maybe you wouldn’t expect to find a gardening store at a zoo but when you think about it, the concept makes sense. Plants and animals actually help one another and a garden shop is a natural extension of a zoo. In this shop you can find gifts, accessories and items for gardens. Did you know that gardening was the number one leisure occupation in the United States? This makes the zoo an especially useful place to visit, especially if you stop at the Gardener’s Pride Gift Shop.
Special tips for visitors to the Indianapolis Zoo:
Remember that Indianapolis does have winter weather in January and February. There are plenty of great exhibits and attractions worth seeing at the zoo year round but if you like to see outdoor exhibits, a spring or summer visit may be more to your liking. In hot weather, the animals tend to be most active in the cooler hours of the morning. Animals at the Plains Biome are put indoors when evening arrives so you may want to visit that area earlier in the day.
During very hot weather, if you start to feel overheated you may want to visit the misting areas in the Plains and Biomes areas. They can be very helpful for taking the edge off the heat’s effects. Also note that the Dolphin shows are so popular that it is best to arrive at those early to ensure you get a seat. Even if you don’t intend to see the dolphins, you might want to take note of show times. Why? Because restaurants near the Dolphin shows fill up quickly afterward. They are slower during the show. We’ve taken advantage of this information to have a relatively quiet meal at The Indianapolis Zoo.
The White River Gardens
This is a vital area, not to be missed during a zoo visits. Artists in your family can sketch plants while everyone else can just marvel at the wide variety of horticultural specimens on display. Be sure to have a pen or pencil with you (and a good eraser, of course, as well as paper) and ask zoo employees about the latest garden and plant information. You can see birds and butterflies in this area as well.
One final suggestion:
Please wear comfortable shoes. Although this should be obvious, I felt sorry for some poor soul I saw last year, trying to totter through the zoo in high heels. Plan on spending hours at the Indianapolis Zoo in the most comfortable shoes you own.