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Wisconsin Parent

Midwest Travel: Indianapolis Zoo

May 21, 2014 01:01PM ● By Julie Henning

The Hilbert Conservatory features a butterfly kaleidoscope that runs March 21-September 2.

Indianapolis Zoo

Located within the White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, to me the Indianapolis Zoo feels a bit like being in Central Park. Zoos usually aren't high on my places to visit, but being a travel writer and having three elementary-age kids, I've visited a zoo or twenty in the past few years. Pleasantly surprised by the emphasis on conservation, research, and global stewardship, here's why over a million people enjoy a visit to the Indianapolis Zoo every year.

To begin, the Indianapolis Zoo is a zoo, an aquarium, and a botanical garden. General admission includes a ticket to the dolphin show and military, AAA, and AZA discounts are available. The Indianapolis Zoo does not receive any tax revenue, but depends upon admissions, donations, and corporate sponsorships to keep the gates open and the cages closed. If you're driving in from out of town, you might want to look into the Indianapolis Family Fun Adventure Getaway package, offering discounted hotel rates and four admissions to the Indianapolis Zoo and the Children's museum of Indianapolis (click here for more info).


Patrons looking to have an amazing zoo experience might consider upgrading to the Total Adventure Package, which is like having all-access pass with free rides and animal feeds. Additional zoo packages include the Dolphin In-Water experience (bring your bathing suit) and Animal Art Adventure Packages (choose between the walrus and the elephant).

Zoo Coaster


Walrus Painting Indianapolis Zoo

Another zoo highlight is the nation's largest shark pool located inside the Oceans building. Families with small children visiting in the summer months might want to bring appropriate clothing for kids' to enjoy both the splash park and tots treehouse and play area.

The nation's largest shark touch pool.

The International Orangutan Center

Opening Memorial Day 2014 (this weekend), the International Orangutan Center is a 4-acre, $26 million dollar addition to the Indianapolis Zoo dedicated to orangutan research and conservation. A state-of-the art exhibit, the International Orangutan  Center will bring people up close and personal with orangutans in a way they won't find anywhere else in the world.

International Orangutan Center

Home to eight rescue orangutans, scientists at the International Orangutan Center will conduct daily research on orangutan cognition and behavior that will be incorporated into published research and accredited studies. In the photo below Dr. Robert Shumaker works with orangutans on touch-screen computer monitors at the International Orangutan Center at the Indianapolis Zoo. Shumaker is the author of the book "Orangutans," which is available on and (I'm assuming) the zoo gift shop.


In addition to watching the orangutans hard at work, visitors to the new exhibit will be able to observe the orangutans inside the indoor and outdoor viewing areas, on the 60-foot tall Myrta Pulliam Hutan Trail, and from atop the Skyline (for those people who upgraded to the Total Adventure Package). If you use Twitter, take a selfie with Rocky and post the photo with the hashtag #indyorangutans.


One way to pique the interest of the orangutans is to show them items from your purse, your jewelry, or any of your tattoos. If you're moved by the work of the scientists and inspired to combat the extinction of wild orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra, look for ways to make a conservation donation from within the International Orangutan Center.

Quinn and Orangutan at Indianapolis Zoo

“The only reason I care about doing this in a public way is that it promotes the conservation of orangutans. We’re hoping to change people’s hearts and minds.” ~ Dr. Robert Shumaker

For more information on what to do in Indianapolis, read some of my suggestions in this story. Enjoy these additional photos taken during my recent trip to the Indianapolis Zoo:

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