by Angie Tidball
Lincoln is fortunate to be close to two fantastic day trips. Omaha Henry Dorley Zoo and the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City are two stops not to be missed!
Rated the #1 Zoo in the World by Trip Advisor, the Omaha Henry Dorley Zoo is nothing short of extraordinary! Just a short 50-mile drive from Lincoln, this world class zoo wows on every level. Founded by the City of Omaha in 1894 as Riverview Park, the zoo has grown exponentially since its beginnings over a century ago. Today, the zoo earns its place as a world-class zoo with thousands of individual animals and hundreds of species of plants and animals calling it home. It’s no surprise that it hosted nearly two million visitors last year. With so many animals, interactive exhibits, habitats, and landscapes it’s hard to see it all in one day, but that one day is worth it!
The zoo sits on 130 acres of land and is perfect to visit year round as it features seven acres of indoor exhibits and an abundance of outdoor animal displays. Nationally renowned for its dedication and leadership in animal conservation and research, the zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Its animals represent all seven continents and a visit feels like spanning the globe. Its world-class reputation is well deserved as the zoo features many of the world’s largest and best exhibits.
In the Lied Jungle enjoy the tropical environment of America’s largest indoor rainforest. Stroll under a dense canopy of plants and trees that is home to many colorful and entertaining monkeys, gibbons, macaws and more.
The Desert Dome is the world’s largest indoor desert, and it’s found beneath the world’s largest geodesic glazed dome. Red sand dunes, cacti, grasses and more are a backdrop to many fascinating species.
Kingdoms of the Night is the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and swamp. This indoor exhibit is kept dark to reverse the day/night schedules of its many animals. It’s an excellent opportunity to see a rare white alligator, hundreds of bats, or a busy beaver at play.
The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium features many aquatic habitats and lets guests wander through a 70-foot tunnel on the zoo’s ocean floor. The tranquil magic of this underwater world surrounds visitors with an amazing collection of sea life.
Other exciting stops are the Expedition Madagascar, the Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, Simmons Aviary and Hubbard Gorilla Valley and Orangutan Forest. Recently, the zoo embarked on a $70 million dollar outdoor expansion that lets visitors travel through African Grasslands, where guests can see the zoo’s six new African Elephants from Swaziland.
The zoo also features many hands-on exhibits where visitors can get up close with an array of animals and experiences. Alaskan Adventure is an interactive splash ground where waters dance and animals spray, mist, and spout in a choreographed display of 75 bronze sculptures that mimic the real life water sounds made by salmon, puffins, sea lions and, best of all, an 18-foot-high humpback whale. Finally, don’t miss out on the zoo’s own SKYFARI, train, carousel, and IMAX theater. The Henry Dorley Zoo offers something for everyone and is well worth a day trip any time of year. For more information visit omahazoo.com.
Lied Lodge and Conference Center is in Nebraska City, located just 50 miles down the road. This beautiful hotel and conference center is for nature lovers and travelers alike; the Lied Lodge and Conference Center is a fantastic spot to stay, work or indulge. Stemming from Arbor Day’s rich tradition of stewardship and conservation, the lodge and conference center offer a rustic atmosphere with towering timber beams, stone accents, and stunning views of the 260-acre the Arbor Day Farm, the home of Arbor Day founder Julius Sterling Morton. Owned and operated by the Arbor Day Foundation, the facility was designed to serve as a meeting place for Arbor Day Foundation members and conservation-minded organizations and individuals. The building has just undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and offers 140 fully renovated guest rooms and a full-service 14,000 square foot conference facility.
Nebraska City is the home of Arbor Day founder, Julius Sterling Morton. One its original citizens, J. Sterling Morton was highly successful in both business and politics. Morton was a pioneer of Nebraska agriculture and planted thousands of trees and plants of every species on his treeless homestead. It was from his passion for agriculture, that Arbor Day was born. First celebrated on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska, Arbor day has encouraged people to plant billions of trees throughout the world—changing the face of our earth and its parks, vistas, and backyards forever.
In this elegantly rustic hotel and conference center, visitors will find fine accommodations, Timbers restaurant which offers nature-inspired dining, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and a fitness room and spa. Bring golf clubs and enjoy Arbor Links
The hotel and conference center practice sustainability at every turn by committing to green eco-conscious practices. The hotel preserves water, uses green detergents, and practices environmentally friendly heating, cooling and ventilation techniques. Even the Lied Lodge and Conference Center windows, plumbing, fireplaces and parking lot are environmentally friendly.
On the 260 acre farm surrounding the Lied Lodge Hotel and Conference Center guests can visit the historic estate and mansion once owned by J. Sterling Morton. Arbor Lodge State Historical Park is now a National Historic Landmark. The farm is a beautiful setting year round with blooming trees in spring, sunflowers and lush green trees in summer, and a spectacular show of color adorning trees in fall. The farm offers many unique activities, including a 50-foot-high treehouse, Lied Greenhouse, walking trails and historic buildings that are fun to explore. For more information, on accommodations, events and activities please visit liedlodge.org and arbordayfarm.org.