Written by Sara Keller
What kid doesn’t love a day at the zoo? I challenge you to find a child who can’t find a single creature that doesn’t enchant, intrigue, or inspire them. Whether you’re a visitor from out of town, a local showing off the city to guests, or a parent or caregiver entertaining the kids for the morning, the Indianapolis Zoo is a key destination that should always be on your list.
The Indianapolis Zoo is one part gardens, one part educational interpretation, and one part venue for some of our favorite annual Indy events. But of course, the main attraction is and always will be the animals.
This classic Indy landmark is jam-packed with amazing creatures, programs, and entertainment and we don’t want you to miss a single thing. Dive into our ultimate guide to the Indianapolis Zoo and get all the details you need to plan a wild day out.
A Warm Welcome – New in 2023
After an extensive renovation, a reimagined entry experience opened at the Indianapolis Zoo on Memorial Day weekend, 2023. The Indianapolis Colts Welcome Plaza directs guests through White River Gardens, giving this beautiful section of the zoo a whole new level of visibility. Visitors can enjoy the colorful flowers, cool fountains, and shady arbors of the gardens and meet surprise animal ambassadors along the way.
From the plaza, step inside the Hilbert Conservatory to immerse yourself in a display of vibrant tropical plants and, seasonally, butterflies from around the world. Finally, as you leave the Welcome Plaza to enter the zoo, peek into the Global Species for Species Survival to learn about the conservation experts working to protect our planet and catch glimpses of wildlife on the video screen in the rotunda.
Animal habitats are divided by environment or ecosystem at the Indianapolis Zoo, with a few outlying creatures occupying their own stand-alone exhibits. Check this list to get an idea of where you might find your favorite animals during your visit.
The Oceans building is the first you’ll encounter after entering the zoo. You’ll likely hear the braying of the sea lions from their rock perches as you approach. Inside, you’ll find a dark environment that allows visitors to easily see brightly colored tropical fish in their tanks. Kids especially love the “bubble window” which allows them to feel as if they’re underwater amongst the fish.
For many, the highlight of the Oceans building is the shark and stingray touch tank. Gently use two fingers to feel the animals’ smooth skin as they glide beneath you. Hand driers are provided.
Other exhibits in this building include an underwater view of the sea lions, a penguin habitat housing multiple species, and macaque monkeys.
Enter the Forest exhibit to meet an adorable red panda, powerful tigers, noisy gibbons, colorful macaws, and often-snoozy brown bears.
Other creatures considered part of the Forest environment are located outside of the main Forest path. Check out the alligators and crocodiles, and definitely don’t miss Kangaroo Crossing. Walk along a sidewalk in an enclosure where red kangaroos roam at will. Visitors are even allowed to gently touch the kangaroos if they are within reach of the walkway.
Even in the dead of winter, the desert building is toasty warm. See a host of scaly reptile friends, many of whom mingle together in shared enclosures. Kids are immediately drawn to the lively meerkats, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot an elusive sand cat. You can also see some of the most deadly snakes on the planet in a hall dedicated to these slithering creatures.
International Orangutan Center
Even before you enter the zoo, you may find yourself wondering about the poles and wires towering above the other exhibits. These are an oversized jungle gym built especially for the zoo’s daredevil orangutans. Look up on nice days – you may find a huge primate swinging high above your head.
For a closer look, stop by for a quick “hello” at one of several outdoor windows, or head inside to watch the inhabitants play, eat, cuddle, and best of all, swing!
When you think of the zoo, what animals first come to mind? Chances are, whatever you thought of is found in the Plains. Cheetahs, lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and zebras are all in this section at the very back of the zoo. You can also see porcupines, warthogs, guinea fowl, and baboons.
A central plain greets you when you first enter. This is a great spot to view the ostriches, wildebeest, antelope, and other animals, but if it’s busy, know you’ll have other viewpoints as you make your way around.
Flights of Fancy
You can’t miss the flock of bright pink, squawking flamingos as you make your way toward the Plains! The rest of this exhibit is comprised of contained aviaries housing a dozen other bird species. The budgies and lorikeets are especially lively and colorful! Guests can pass through a double-door entry to walk through the enclosures.
The arctic foxes also currently live in Flights of Fancy.
Rides and Attractions
While visitors can always stop by to see the dolphins from their underwater viewing area, one of the best ways to experience these incredible creatures is by watching the dolphin presentation. Watch the dolphins’ spectacular jumps and flips while learning more about their conservation through an accompanying video.
Be sure the check the zoo’s schedule for times, but there are typically 1-2 shows scheduled daily. Seating is first-come, first-served, so arrive when the doors open 30 minutes prior to show time if the zoo is busy!
The Indianapolis Zoo offers four exciting rides to enjoy on your visit: The Endangered Species Carousel, the Kombo Family Coaster, the Skyline, and the White River Junction Train. Tickets for rides are $4 each. If you’re attending with the whole family or planning to try several in one day, save some money by purchasing a 10-pack for $35.
Animal Feeding and Chats
Before you go, check the zoo’s daily schedule to see what animal feeds are happening that day. Most of these experiences require a $4 ticket. Animal chats are included with admission. Learn more about an amazing animal from a friendly, knowledgeable zookeeper!
The Indianapolis Zoo does offer several premium animal encounters that can be added on to your admission. These range from a $20 dolphin meet-and-greet to animal art experiences and dolphin in-water adventures in the $200-300 range. May we suggest these as the most unforgettable birthday or special occasion gift for the animal lover in your life?
These annual events are local favorites and are included with admission. Members attend for free!
Spring (Dates in March-April)
As we get excited about the warmer spring temperatures, so do all the zoo animals! Enjoy beautiful floral displays, entertainment, and spring-themed activities.
The Indianapolis Zoo celebrates the Greatest Spectacle in Racing with a twist: Join real Indycar and IMS celebrities one day in May to see giant tortoises race to reach bowls of delicious fruit.
Animals and All That Jazz
Thursday Evenings, June-August
Listen to live jazz, blues, and R&B while enjoying specialty food for purchase and a full bar. Enjoy visiting the animals later in the day, when the temperatures are cooler.
Christmas at the Zoo
Dates in November and December
One of the nation’s premier zoo holiday lights displays, Christmas at the Zoo is truly magical. Visit Santa, walk the Polar Pathway, meet penguins up close, and enjoy your stroll through a twinkling wonderland.
Indy with Kids Exclusive Tips
Members of our team of local contributors have been playing at the Indianapolis Zoo with their families for years. They’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way and are thrilled to share them with you. We hope these secrets help you plan a fantastic, wrinkle-free day at the zoo!
“Go early to beat the heat. Use the viewing area (below the auditorium) to see the dolphins if the dolphin show is at capacity.” – Jessica Deubner
“If you go early, head to the Plains first because everyone tends to go to the Oceans first. I also prefer going through the exhibits backward.
Sit near the exits at the dolphin show. It gets hot and humid in there and you’ll want to get out asap after the show.” – Stephanie Greenwald
“Prioritize the elephant encounter in the Plains. It is so cool and included with admission.
During a festival, go during the day and then stay for the evening event for free. For example, visit for the day in October and then stay for Zoo Boo. You’ll get to do the themed stuff before it gets super busy.” – Erin Dague
“Check out the add-on option to high-five a dolphin (at a Meet-and-Greet). It’s the cheapest up-close add-on and so neat.
Pack a lunch and get stamped to be able to go eat outside the zoo, then return when you are finished.
The best time to go is when it is a little drizzly. Just grab your umbrella and rain boots. There are significantly fewer crowds and the animals are way more active.” – Ashley Toler
“We like to go Sundays after the home Indians games. We park at the zoo and walk to the game and afterward go to the zoo. It’s not as crowded going an hour or so before they close.” – Ashley Dykton
“Be sure to visit White River Gardens in the summer. They have wonderful fountains and cool shaded areas to explore.
When it’s super hot, get to the misters in the Plains to cool down. My kids (and I) love it there and get drenched!” – Melanie Quinlan
“Go in the winter! Different animals are active, and between the Oceans, dolphin show, and Deserts, you can warm up in between outdoor exhibits. We really enjoyed seeing the bears when it was colder.” – Audrey Walters
“Our favorite place for a snack break is the Adirondack chairs just outside the budgie aviary. It’s fully shaded and the birds are so entertaining to watch.
If you can plan around one of the macaw presentations, do it! Meet in the Bicentennial Pavilion and watch as the birds soar in from their habitat in Forests.” – Sara Keller
Tickets and Parking
When purchasing tickets for the Indianapolis Zoo, you will typically save some money by buying in advance online. Prices at the time of publishing range from $15-$32.75 depending on the day, but you will always pay the highest possible price at the gate.
Parking is $10 and large vehicles like campers cost $20. If the main lot is full on busy days, you may be redirected to an overflow lot nearby. A free shuttle is provided back to the zoo gates.
Local families often find an annual membership is the most cost-effective way to experience the Indianapolis Zoo, if you plan to go several times throughout the year. Go for an hour or for the whole day. Parking is free for members, and the zoo offers several members-only events and previews throughout the year.
Infant Care and Accessibility
Find a Mamava Lactation Suite inside the International Orangutan Center.
Strollers, wheelchairs, and electric scooters are available for rent for a fee on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Indianapolis Zoo is fully ADA-accessible. You’ll find ramps, elevators, accessible bathrooms, and picnic tables with wheelchair access throughout the zoo.
The Indianapolis Zoo’s hours change regularly with the seasons, and hours vary by day. Beginning in April, the Indianapolis Zoo opens daily at 9, but closing times vary between 4-9 pm. Winter hours beginning mid-November are more limited and also vary, so be sure to check the schedule online and plan ahead before you go.
The Indianapolis Zoo just keeps getting better year after year. Every visit yields a new experience, as you just never know what the animal residents will be up to each day. Fill the car with the little wild things in your life and get ready for a day of adventure with all the zoo’s incredible creatures.
The Indianapolis Zoo and so much more made our 101 Days of Summer list!
Learn about animals native to Indiana for FREE at local nature centers.
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