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Indianapolis Zoo Advice for visit to Indianapolis

Discussion in 'United States' started by ZooElephantsMan, 2 Aug 2022.

  1. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    I am going on a trip to Indianapolis this week, and I am really trying to squeeze in a visit to the zoo while I am there.

    I am arriving this Wednesday, and returning home on Monday. My original plan was to go to the zoo on Sunday, but now my weather app is predicting that it will be raining and thundering for the entire week, which may disrupt my plan. Here are my questions, which I am hoping locals may be able to answer:
    1. How seriously should I take the weather reports? I have not traveled to the midwest that much— is it normal for it to thunder in that part of the country for so many days in a row? Will it be unsafe to go to the zoo / would it be closed due to the lightning storms? Are there benefits to visiting the zoo in such inclement weather? Or would you expect the weather report to be inaccurate, because it is so being cast so many days in advance?
    2. How many hours does a typical visit to the Indianapolis Zoo take? My original plan was to get all my business done on Wednesday through Saturday so I could relax and spend all day at the zoo on Sunday, taking my time. But depending on how the weather shifts and on how many hours are recommended for a visit, I may alter this schedule and squeeze a visit in at another point in time.
    Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
     
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  2. Persephone

    Persephone Well-Known Member

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    I doubt there’s a thunderstorm all day in Indianapolis. There will probably be thunder for an hour or two, if that, and then rain. I don’t think the zoo closes for run of the mill inclement weather. Tornado watch or warning, maybe rethink things. We are in that part of the world.

    The zoo has a number of buildings (desert, orangutan, dolphin, oceans) to take shelter in during the rain. I personally like rainy day zoo visits because no one else is there. For a zoo with multiple feeding and petting opportunities, fewer competitors is good.

    I’ve spent six hours at the zoo taking my time. Four is more likely if you keep a half decent pace.

    Some general advice for the zoo:

    Arrive early and go directly to Flights if Fancy if there’s a flamingo mingle that day. It’s a great experience. Also check what time the lorikeet aviary opens and go there at that time if you’re interested in feeding the birds. They were super hungry right after aviary opening on my trip last weekend. If you’re going on a weekday this time of year buy any ride / feeding tickets you might want early in the day. The line can get long later.

    The orangutan gondola ride is a rip off. The train also doesn’t really go by anything interesting. The orangutans themselves will sometimes approach the glass and interact with visitors, asking to see jewelry and whatnot. At least one male enjoys having picture books read to him. So, you know, maybe bring a small one if you want. No guarantees he’s in the mood, though.

    The rock hyraxes in the African aviary are beat viewed in the transition area between the lorikeet and African aviaries. They’re usually in or on top of the bird’s next boxes. They can be the hardest species to see in the zoo if you don’t know that going in.

    The zoo is really expensive compared to comparable institutions. 32.50 adult admission, 10 parking. No discounts for being a member of another AZA zoo.

    If you still have money to spend for lunch, best place open year round is the hot dog / burger stand between the birds and kangaroos. The main restaurant is just okay.

    Bird and dolphin shows + flamingo mingle are free.

    And with that out of the way let’s talk about other stuff to do in Indy. There’s, uh, not a lot.

    There’s a canal downtown. It’s pleasant to walk along if the weather’s nice. Some of the museums also have canalside entrances.

    I personally like the Indiana State Museum. Maybe check out some of the galleries / contents to see if you’d be interested. The Eiteljorg museum right next to it has a decent Warhol exhibit right now. Otherwise I’ve found it a bit underwhelming (but I’m not really an art person).

    There’s a dedicated art museum in the city. It also has a free sculpture park next door, although it’s a bit diminished from its opening lineup. If you like art or the outdoors it’s a decent place to visit for two hours or so.

    There’d also a college sports museum, I guess, but I’ve never gone.

    The Children’s Museum has a solid dinosaur gallery but is otherwise skippable if you aren’t a child.

    There is a military history museum inside the Soldier and Sailor’s Monument. Most people never realize that.

    Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park is pretty good, but there are better parks outside the urban areas. Mounds State Park about an hour outside the city has some Mississippian Earthworks.

    Let me know if you have any questions about the zoo or city.
     
  3. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    The zoo should take about 2-3 hours to see.
     
  4. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you so much for such a thorough and thoughtful reply!

    The parts of the zoo I am most eager to see are the infamous orangutan complex, oceans, and the elephants. Great apes and pachyderms are my favorite animals. There was an elderly gorilla at my home zoo who was always interested in humans and human objects, so I have always loved interacting with animals through the glass in the way you described with the male orangutan. The flamingo mingle sounds cool too, and I will be sure to check it out if it’s open.

    It’s too bad that the zoo is so expensive, but on the up side, the weather report seems to be improving.

    It’s also funny that you mentioned there’s not much else to do in Indianapolis, because that’s what a lot of people have been telling me. But from your suggestions, the canal/parks area and the Indiana museum look really nice. The natural history sections of the museum sounds really interesting, and I will try to find time for a visit. Unfortunately I do not have a car, so I will not be able to check out the state parks or too much else outside of the downtown area.

    Thanks again for your suggestions, and I will post some updates throughout my trip!
     
  5. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    I went to the Indianapolis zoo today! I spent 6 hours at the zoo, and really enjoyed it. It didn’t even rain at all! The thing that felt most unique about the zoo was how many events take place there every day, and how many opportunities the zoo gives people to interact with the animals. In terms of events / interactive experiences, I went to the Flamingo Mingle, the Kangaroo walkthrough, the Elephant Chat, and the Dolphin Show, but there were tons more available chats to choose from. Unfortunately I had to backtrack a lot through the zoo in order to be at all the event places at the scheduled times, but it was all worth it.

    I went to the flamingo mingle first as @Persephone suggested, and it was an amazing way to start the day. They open the gates of the exhibit and let the flamingos burst out into a crowd of people. The flamingos get really excited, and were competing with each other for food, intimidating each other and us, tripping over their long legs, spilling and stepping into their food bowls, and picking at peoples clothes and hair. It was pure chaos and it was hilarious. The kangaroo walkthrough was also cool. I got to pet one of the kangaroos- their fur is soooo soft. I also liked the free flight cockatoos, and one of them was digging in the dirt for roots to eat. The elephant chat was also amazing. At the end they let people line up to pet the elephant on her side, which was an incredible experience which I was not expecting. Elephants are in my top two favorite animals, and I had never been that close to one before.

    The plains was overall my favorite part of the zoo, and I spent the most time there (partly because of the elephants, lol). It’s impressive that they are able to maintain grass throughout the elephant exhibit, unlike the dusty paddocks that most zoos end up with. I only saw three of the elephants though, so I’m assuming the others were in the barn or an off-exhibit yard (if there is one). Plains also had a mixed exhibit for warthogs and African crested porcupines, just like at my home zoo in Boston. And I saw a wild red fox in this part of the zoo, hiding in the bushes behind the giraffe exhibit, which was surprising.

    My main issue / concern with plains was the Lion exhibit, because it seemed like the two females were locked all day inside a really small space between the main yard and the indoor holding— Does anyone have context for this? Is it a regular occurrence? Overall though, Plains seemed like the part of the zoo that was most focused on higher quality naturalistic exhibits and immersion. The contrast in exhibit naturalistic quality is especially sharp when comparing Plains to things like the outdated bear grotto and the unaturalistic orangutan center. But I will admit that while the orangutan center is highly unnatural, it also seemed to be very enriching for its inhabitants, who spent much more time climbing and off the ground than at other zoos I’ve visited. I won’t talk more about the orangutan center here though, because it’s already been discussed to death elsewhere on this site.

    In terms of news / updates:
    1. The walruses were still off exhibit
    2. There is construction by the entrance / parking lot. There was a sign saying the construction was for “caterpillars, but not the kind you are thinking of”.
    3. There is also construction in between Oceans and Forests.
    Tomorrow is my last day in Indianapolis, and I am planning on visiting the Indiana Museum by the canal. I walked by there a little bit in the gaps of free time I had on my other days, and the parks seemed really nice.

    Edit: I now see that the lions are gender separated due to a previous incident where a female killed a male.
     
    Last edited: 7 Aug 2022
  6. Persephone

    Persephone Well-Known Member

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    Yeah. Deeply unfortunate with the lions. Genuinely surprised they haven’t sent the remaining male away.

    No one seems to know what’s up with the walruses. And there’s only speculation about the construction between the forest and birds. The zoo has some chimpanzees off exhibit. Maybe they’re finally building a space for them?

    The construction in the parking lot is for a new entrance. A shame you couldn’t see the White River Gardens. They’re one of the most underrated parts of the zoo, but they’re blocked off right now by the new entryway construction.

    The elephants have two exhibits, Tembo Camp, and a barn off exhibit. They were probably split between the different areas.

    Did you catch a bird show? I forgot to recommend it, but the birds flying in is cool.
     
  7. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    If that construction is for a new entrance, I wonder what they will do with the old entrance. Maybe they could demolish it and use it for some new exhibit space?

    I didn't catch an official bird show, but at one point the doors opened to the behind-the-scenes macaw aviary (behind Tembo Camp), and many of the birds flew out right over our heads headed deeper into the zoo. That was pretty cool.