Here’s the lowdown on the Indianapolis Zoo, the closest big-city zoo you can find to Champaign-Urbana
Indianapolis Zoo wins the prize for BIG zoo closest to Champaign-Urbana, a perfect day trip destination for area families any time of year! If you’ve never been to Indianapolis Zoo and are wondering what sets it apart from other big city zoos nearby (like Brookfield Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo and Saint Louis Zoo), we are here to help. Read on for 10 things to know about Indianapolis Zoo.
Note: Due to COVID-19, some public attractions may be closed or operating under restrictions. Please check the website or social media for Indianapolis Zoo before planning your trip, and be aware of any safety protocols or travel restrictions currently in effect. Timed tickets must be obtained in advance of your visit.
10 Things to Know About Visiting Indianapolis Zoo
- One of the most unique exhibits at this zoo may be the International Orangutan Center. It is home to the largest group of orangutans in any American zoo and as an education, research and conservation center, you’ll see more than just your average exhibit when you head into the center to see the orangutans. They’re located back toward the coaster and the skyline.
- There are so many special attractions here and you get a couple options on pricing if you plan to add them to basic zoo admission. First, you can buy tickets individually or in a 10-pack (great if your family has two or three things they’d like to do). They also have something called the “Total Adventure Package” and it is available from mid-spring through early fall only. It is a full day of unlimited animal feeds and rides — yes, including the family coaster and the skyline gondola.
- Plan to have a picnic at the car if you are bringing a cooler; only small snack items are allowed into the zoo with you (think granola bars). You can’t bring a cooler of goods in with you. So a midday pause and trekking back out to the car might be your best bet if you’re looking to save a few dollars with your own eats.
- If you are planning to grab food at the zoo, Cafe on the Commons is the one that is open year-round. The others will be seasonal, so if you find yourself at the zoo during, say, February, you’ll want to head to this spot for much of the standard fare you’d expect, along with some healthier options, like a variety of wraps and salads.
- If you have kids that go gaga for baby animals, check the status of the zoo babies before you arrive. You can comb through the articles and learn which animals are already on exhibit and which ones will be behind-the-scenes a bit longer.
- Don’t skip visiting White River Gardens! These botanical gardens are included with your zoo admission and you’ll learn so much about pollinators (butterflies seasonally) and marvel at all the flowers. We recommend this as a peaceful escape to round out your zoo visit, if time allows.
- The shark touch pool is open year-round. Many zoos keep this as a seasonal attraction, but in Indy this is a permanent staple. This is also the nation’s LARGEST shark touch pool … whoa! This is considered an attraction, so it is an extra cost to touch the sharks.
- If you’re making this an overnight stay, you might decide to walk from your downtown Indianapolis hotel to the entrance of the zoo. It’s a solid one-mile walk from the closest downtown hotels. You want to get on the White River Trail to walk over. It’ll be a beautiful stroll if that’s the option you take.
- There are elephants here! Not every zoo has elephants these days but Indianapolis Zoo does. Make sure you don’t miss them, as their habitat is quite expansive. The zoo map says you can “interact with elephants” seasonally, but we’re not sure exactly what that looks like or if that is currently happening in 2021.
- You might consider this a destination for a super-special experience gift: You can have an in-water adventure with dolphins at the Indianapolis Zoo! What?! It’s true! The price is steep, as you may have guessed, but one “observer” is allowed to go with the participant (and take pics!) and both individuals’ zoo admission is covered in the price. File this one away for a special experience one day. Ages 6 and up.
BONUS: If water isn’t your thing, you can have a sloth encounter, too!
Looking for more about our favorite zoos and places to see animals near Champaign-Urbana?
- Zoos Within 3 Hours of Champaign-Urbana
- Best Places to Get Close to Animals in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Road Trip: Visit St. Louis as a Family
- 10 Things to Know About Henry Vilas Zoo in Wisconsin
- A Champaign-Urbana Favorite: Prairie Farm
- 10 Things to Know About Indianapolis Zoo
- 10 Things to Know About Brookfield Zoo
- 10 Things to Know about Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago
- 10 Things to Know About Peoria Zoo
- 10 Things to Know About Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington-Normal
- Head North for Family Fun: What To Do On Your Chicago Trip
- Frugal Family Fun: Get Wild and Head to the Saint Louis Zoo
- 10 Things to Know About Scovill Zoo in Decatur
- The Best Area Attraction You’ve Never Visited: Wildlife Prairie State Park