Henry Doorly Zoo

Welcome back everyone!

We are absolutely loving the freedom that comes with having a new, reliable car! This weekend, we decided (on a whim) to head to Omaha, but we had some other things to do first! Our Saturday morning started with a quick house cleaning and then heading to our friends’ house (Lisa and Carl Larson) to help them move. It was a fast paced morning with lots of people helping move boxes and furniture! Eyra had a good time helping me pack up their fridge for them and also playing on their new play structure. Congrats Lisa and Carl! We hope you love your new house! It is very beautiful!

We then came home, showered, and quickly packed for our overnight stay in Omaha. Our friend Mary was kind enough to look after the poochies while we were gone. At 1pm we hit the road! It was a fairly uneventful trip (especially considering it was only 2 hours and 45 minutes away) but Eyra enjoyed watching Wreck It Ralph the whole way (better than hearing Frozen on repeat like our Grand Canyon Adventure!). While Clark was driving, I was doing some fun research on where we should head for dinner! If you know me, you know (aside from family and friends) my biggest love is FOOD! I love to eat and I love to try new restaurants. I found a cute looking little restaurant called Modern Love (you can check out their website here -> http://www.modernloveomaha.com/ ). Clark was on board! We got to the hotel and (sadly) learned that the pool was under construction, but we didn’t let that harsh our groove! We headed up to our room, relaxed for a bit (while Eyra repeatedly jumped onto Clark’s back), freshened up, and decided to go get some grub! Modern Love was only about 15 minutes away and when we walked in, we knew it was going to be a cool place to eat. Our server, Kaitlyn, was really nice and attentive the whole time!

Oh… did I forget to mention? This restaurant was VEGAN! And, spoiler… it was delicious! Clark ordered seitan hot wings with celery, carrots and vegan ranch, Eyra had a black bean quesadilla, and I had mac’n’shews (which was macaroni with cashew cheese sauce, grilled cauliflower, greens and breaded tofu). Although it might sound gross to some of you, it actually was very delicious! Clark even said their seitan was better than mine (I’ve tried it many different ways with vastly different results!). After gorging ourselves on dinner, we decided to splurge on dessert! Clark had a delicious peach cobbler and I had a s’mores cheesecake (minus the deliciousness of actual cream cheese). Although it didn’t quite taste like cheesecake, my s’mores was superb! It was creamy, chocolatey, and was perfectly accented by the toasted marshmallows on top! We were STUFFED! We somehow managed to climb up the flight of stairs to our room and let Eyra “swim” in the bathtub since we couldn’t go swimming in the pool! She was just as happy either way! This kid loves water! We were all pooped (despite sitting in the car for so long) and were all asleep by 8:30pm.

The next morning, we all woke up very refreshed and headed downstairs to get breakfast. Eyra ate like a champ having an entire container of yogurt, half a waffle, and many bites of mommy’s blueberry muffin. After a hearty breakfast, we headed upstairs, packed and prepared for the day of zoo awesomeness ahead! We got to the zoo about 8:45 am and got a sweet parking spot very close to the entrance. We got our tickets right away and waited impatiently for the gates to open! Eyra was so excited and kept pointing at the signs yelling out the animal names. The gates opened and in we went! Eyra didn’t quite know what to do when Clark backed her up to the giant lion sculpture, but she got brave and decided to pet them! We headed first to the Wild Kingdom pavilion where we got to see a plethora of frogs, snakes, mice and fish as well as an elephant skull and an ostrich! I also got to drive this sweet Jeep!

Next up was the dome! The Desert Dome is the world’s largest indoor desert which is inside the world’s largest geodesic dome! It is a whopping 13 stories high! I wouldn’t want to be the guy that has to climb up in and clean off the window tiles! Inside the dome we got to explore 3 deserts and see all kinds of animals! I think Eyra’s favorite animal in the dome was definitely the peccaries. These are small pig-like hoofed mammals that Eyra kept saying “piggies piggies! Aw how cute!”. They were definitely pretty cute, snacking on their breakfast of fruits and veggies.

We also got to see an assortment of patitos (ducks) and a very beautiful starling that was green, blue and yellow. As you continue through the dome, you get the chance to head down into the “Kingdoms of the Night”. This is a very cool exhibit where you get to explore caves, tunnels and a swamp to see all matter of nocturnal creatures. Luckily, since we got to the zoo right at opening, we seemed to be ahead of the crowds. We got to see this adorable fossa (the largest carnivorous mammal on the island of Madagascar) snuggling in his little hay bed. Clark was able to catch this sweet little guy (who would think he loves to devour equally adorable lemurs!) on his back, looking right up at us.

This exhibit also gave us the chance to see wallabies, bushbabies, fruit bats, and flying foxes. In the “swamp” area of the exhibit, we got to see crocodiles, alligators, nutria, beavers, and even a leucistic alligator (which apparently means that he has reduced pigmentation instead of complete absence of pigment like albinos). But either way, he was a BIG white alligator. Up next was a walk through the primates! We went down the elevator and happened upon yet another bronze statue of life size lowland gorillas. I don’t know why, but Eyra was absolutely PETRIFIED. She would not go close at all. Finally, I tricked her into letting me hold her and slowly snuck to the gorilla. In one large leap of courage, she touched him! She then proceeded to throw a massive fit when we had to walk away from him. Silly kid… It apparently was a rough day for the primates… We stumbled upon this orangutan who clearly was hungover from a night of wild partying. Or maybe he was just super sleepy… Either way, he didn’t even care that Clark was snapping pictures left and right! We then saw this gorilla who was just chilling in the grass. Although there was a large crowd trying to see him, he chose to stay with his back turned the whole time. In the next picture, I snuck up on a gorilla! We were watching him and as he woke up, he rubbed his eyes and gave me a double take like “whoa! Who let you in here? Is the zoo open already? Why didn’t my alarm go off?”. He gave me one more look then rolled over and went back to sleep!

In the next enclosure we got to see a mama gorilla and her 4-month old son! It was hilarious to see them interact because he clearly had way more energy than she did. At one point she was snacking on something and her littler stinker walks right up to her, pulls it out of her mouth and eats it himself… Now if that doesn’t sum up motherhood, I don’t know what does! Eyra steals my food all the time!

We then headed down to Bear Canyon, but were pretty disappointed when all the bears were sleeping outside of our view. Silly Baloo… don’t you know we wanted to see you? Pretty much the same thing happened in the large cat exhibit, almost all of them just snoozing away. Clark was super stoked to see the female snow leopard with her 2-month old cub! They are his favorite animal and are dangerously close to extinction because they can never seem to get them to breed in captivity (and they are being hunted like crazy for their luxurious fur). So it’s safe to say he was extremely happy that maybe they’ll be able to keep this beautiful creature from dying out. The aquarium was next and I think Eyra had the most fun here. We got to start our aquarium tour by “petting” some star fish! They were much harder than I expected them to be. Eyra was pretty fascinated by the big wall of fish they had right at the entrance. She then got a little spooked by the big shark hanging above her! Yikes! Probably the coolest part of this aquarium is the long hallway you get to walk down where the ceiling and walls are completely glass. Fish, sharks, stingrays and sea turtles swim all around you!

The wonder in Eyra’s eyes made this whole trip worth it. She was amazed and just kept looking above her and turning around in circles. She probably said “whoa… that a big one!” 100 times! She was equally fascinated by the jellyfish and was pretty adamant that they were flowers, not jellyfish. We also got the chance to see all of our favorite characters from Finding Nemo in the last tank before the gift shop. Yes, I said gift shop… In typical Disney-like genius, the zoo has strategically placed gift shops at the end of almost all of their exhibits! Luckily, Eyra didn’t scream too much when we didn’t let her buy anything.

A crazy thing happened as we were leaving the aquarium. As I was hoisting Eyra up onto Clark’s back, a group of young women approached us. “Is it just the two of you here at the zoo today?”. What an odd question to ask us, I thought. “Yes, and our daughter here.”, I said. “We have these extra wrist bands if you want them. They let you ride any of the rides as many times as you want for free! And you can pet the stingrays too.” And that was that! These nice young women gave us 2 wristbands so that we could ride some extra rides with Eyra! Man, this “Midwest nice” thing is legit… That’s twice already! First in Chicago and now in Omaha!

We then decided to let Eyra run a bit while in the zoo’s newest addition called Children’s Adventure Trails. It’s pretty much a big play area with sand boxes, a petting zoo, slides, a 3 story tree house, and even monkeys climbing overhead in the netting! They also had giant sculptures of bugs which Eyra just had to ride on!

We could tell Eyra was getting tuckered out and we wanted to put these wristbands to use! What better way to get the maximum zoo experience in the shortest time than the train! We headed to the train station and were pleasantly surprised when we found out this train is a legitimate steam train engine! How cool is that?! My Grandpa Rich was a huge train lover and he passed that on to both my dad and myself. As we rode on the train, we were able to see most of the rest of the park from the comfort of our train car. We got to see elephants, giraffes, ostriches, rhinos (2 different kinds), and even gazelles! Our train conductor was very punny (haha, get it?)!

Once our awesome ride was over, we headed to the carousel. My Grandpa Rich was also a huge lover of carousel’s, so he would have been proud of Eyra for going, not once, but twice! Our first time around, she chose to ride the zebra! As you can see from the pictures, that is the face of pure joy! There is nothing sweeter than hearing the sound of your child giggling with glee as we went around and around! She then just HAD to ride again, with daddy this time and she chose to ride the bunny. This ride was equally as fun as you can clearly see from that huge grin from both daddy and Eyra.

Our last stop of the day (Eyra was getting completely tuckered out) was the Stingray Beach. This is an awesome exhibit where they have a huge pool of stingrays and you have the chance to actually touch them. At first, Eyra was pretty tentative especially since the stingrays swam by pretty fast. But when she saw mommy doing it, she decided she was brave too! This was really cool! I never thought stingrays would be as smooth and soft as they were! Because Eyra had done fairly well all day (especially for a nap deprived 2-year old) we let her pick out a souvenir. She picked out a really cool blue, pink and yellow stingray!

We headed out to the tram and rode it back to the entryway where we said goodbye to the awesomeness that is the Henry Doorly Zoo. It only took mere minutes in the car until Eyra was sleeping and we were flying back to Pella. What a fun weekend! Until next time!

To be continued…

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