Clevelanders are extremely fortunate to have a first class facility like the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to visit whenever they want; even more so now that the new Elephant Crossing exhibit opened on May 5. However, the next time you are in Indianapolis, plan to make a stop at the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens, a 2-for-1 attraction that will delight every member of your family.
Indianapolis Zoo Hosting more than a million visitors each year, the world-class Indianapolis Zoo featuring 3800 animals was the first facility in the nation to be triple accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Association of Museums as a zoo, an aquarium and a botanical garden. The zoo plays a major role in worldwide conservaton and research and has the distinction of accomplishing the first successful artificial insemination of an African elephant in the world.
In the Zoo’s Forests Biome exhibit, visitors can observe animals of the tropical and temperate forests of the world including red pandas, tiny deer called muntjacs, small-clawed otters, gibbons and pea fowls. Nearby is a new Bats exhibit and an aviary with an American Bald eagle and other birds .The new Tiger Forest exhibit opening on May 28 will feature Amur tigers.
The Oceans exhibit has the country’s largest shark touch pool, underwater viewing of polar bears, harbor seals, gray seals and California sea lions. Visitors can also see moray eels and various fish and invertebrates.
At the Marine Mammals exhibit there are Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins, Pacific walruses, polar bears and seals. There are demonstrations daily featuring the dolphins and the dolphins can be observed in the only underwater dolphin viewing dome in the world.
The zoo’s Desert Biome features rare iguanas, desert reptiles and meerkats. The transparent dome allows natural sunlight year-round .
The Plains Biome offers a large vista with African animals including zebra, ostriches, vultures, giraffes, East African crowned cranes, cheetahs, warthogs, Marabou storks, African crested porcupines and elephants.
The Indianapolis Zoo offers many Special Zoo Experiences packages. The Dolphin-in-Water Adventure is a 90 minute wade-in (no swimming involved but you spend 35 minutes in the pool) experience where participants will meet a dolphin in the water, learn some hand signals for behaviors and reward the dolphin with a fish. Cost is $205 per person. Participants receive a souvenir towel and a photo of themselves with a dolphin.
If you love elephants there are two adventures to choose from. In the Elephant Art Adventure an elephant will create a painting for you that you can take home. ($250) With the Elephant Bathing Adventure you can help give an elephant a bath, assisting with the scrub down ($35 a person).
There are also Art Adventures for 4 people involving penguins, seals, sea lions and walruses. Cost for 4 people to meet the animals and receive a painting is $250. Participants must be at least 6 years of age for all Art Adventures. Also offered is a new Zoo Careers Tour, a behind-the scenes tour for families with youth interested in zoo careers. Call 317–630-2076 for more details (and specific pricing) about all Adventure Tours.
The Indianapolis Zoo also offers some amusement rides including the White River Junction train ride, the Kombo Family Coaster and a carousel. Tickets are required for the rides. Single tickets are $2.25. A 7 ticket package is $12 and a 12 ticket package is $20.
White River Gardens Adjacent to the Zoo is the 3.3 acre White River Gardens featuring a glass-enclosed conservatory, outdoor design gardens, a water garden, a shade garden, a sun garden, a wedding garden and lots of paths and walkways to stroll. There is also an indoor-outdoor dining facility where guests can get a great view of downtown Indianapolis and the riverfront.
Currently in bloom at the White River gardens are wild hyacinth, peonies, viburnum, wisteria, geraniums and columbine.
From now through October 30, 2011, a special exhibit called “OMG! Orchids,” is on display in the Hilbert Conservatory featuring a collection of rare and exotic orchids from the Wheeler Orchid Collection at Ball State University. Set against a background of ponds, a waterfall, a running stream and tropical plants, the odd, magical and beautiful orchids will be changed on a rotating basis throughout the run.
The Indianapolis Zoo and the White River Gardens share a parking lot and a main entrance. Hours for both attractions are currently (until May 26) 9 a.m. – 4 p.m Monday- Thursday and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Hours from May 27 – September 5 are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday -Thursday and 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Admission is $15.25 for adults, $10.25 for seniors (62+) and youth, 2-12. Parking is $6 for regular vehicles and $10 for RV’s and campers.
The Indianapolis Zoo is located at 1200 W. Washington Street in Indianapolis. 317-630-2001. It is approximately a 5 hour drive from Cleveland to Indianapolis.