Call of the Wild at Indiana Zoos
Enter the gates at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, and immediately majestic peacocks roaming the grounds will greet you. Travel a little deeper and you’ll be transported across the globe, with a chance to see creatures from Australia, Africa and more.
At the Indianapolis Zoo, guests have the opportunity to get up close to dolphins, collect a one-of-a-kind piece of art created by an animal, and experience the largest group of orangutans in any American zoo.
With several zoos dotted across the Hoosier State, these exciting activities are just the tip of the iceberg.
Fun in Fort Wayne
“The rides here are very popular, but the animals are really the big draw,” says Jessica Brita-Segyde, communications assistant at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. “Visitors see monkeys right when they walk in. We have a sea lion show twice a day, and we have activities with the animals too, like the giraffes. Guests can buy a token and get a piece of lettuce to feed the animal.”
The not-for-profit zoo celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015, with a focus on giving back to the community that has supported it for half a century.
A trip to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo sets you up for an exciting day. The zoo is divided into different attractions based on region, including the African Journey, Australian Adventure, Indonesian Rain Forest and Central Zoo. In each section, kids of all ages can witness interesting animals including honey badgers, puffer fish, kangaroos, parrots, penguins and much more. Plus, each area features free activities for kids, such as a safari adventure where they can sit behind the wheel of a real Land Rover, and the Dive Chat, where they can ask submerged scuba divers questions.
The zoo just completed renovations this summer to its Australian Adventure area, adding Stingray Bay as well as even more exotic creatures to the reef.
Monkeys & More in Indy
The Indianapolis Zoo, established in 1964 and moved to its current location in White River State Park in 1987, also offers fun activities and exhibits for the perfect family outing. The zoo contains about 1,600 animals and 23,000 plants in simulated natural habitats called “biomes.” They include oceans, deserts, forests, plains and more.
“We have a living, breathing collection, so that number is always changing,” says Carla Knapp, public relations specialist at the zoo. Guests can participate in other entertaining activities, too, including daily animal presentations and a 4-D theater and carousel, among others.
One of the most exciting exhibits at the Indianapolis Zoo is the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. Serving as an education, research and conservation center, the center exhibits the endangered orangutan and is designed to stimulate the apes’ social, physical and intellectual abilities.
“Our most popular exhibits are probably those that allow guests personal experiences with the animals,” Knapp says. “Since the center opened, it has quickly become one of our most popular exhibits.”
Knapp adds that guests are enthralled with getting to know the apes’ personalities and stories. And the exhibit is unique in that it offers multiple perspectives to view the orangutans.
“As you’re walking up, you can look up and see the orangutans climbing and swinging up to 70 feet above zoo grounds,” Knapp says.
The Indy Zoo has lots more to explore, including exhibits such as Tiger Forest and Dolphin Pavilion, plus fun events throughout the year.
More Zoo Life
For a more intimate day, make your way to one of the smaller zoos in South Bend or Evansville.
The Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend is the oldest zoo in Indiana and features more than 400 animals on 23 acres. It offers educational classes and daily keeper talks on specific animal exhibits such as bobcats and reptiles.
In Evansville, Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden sits on 45 acres with more than 700 animals. Visitors can journey though the heart of the Amazon with a tour in the 20,000-square-foot greenhouse that is home to rainforest plants and creatures, including the zoo’s star jaguar.
But regardless which zoo you plan to visit, there’s no doubt that each trip will offer an intriguing and hands-on look at the world’s creatures.
Knapp says it best when talking about new plans for the Indy Zoo. “You can be sure that changes are coming,” she says. “That’s just the nature of a zoo. Our animals grow and change with the seasons, so every time you visit, you experience something new.”
If You Go...
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
3411 Sherman Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46808
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last admission at 5 p.m.), April through October
1200 W. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46222
Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday
500 S. Greenlawn
South Bend, IN 46615
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission at 4:30 p.m.)
Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden
1545 Mesker Park Drive
Evansville, IN 47720
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m