Kelly: Travel website hails Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo as largest in world -
Published Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:30 am
From the Notebook
Kelly: Travel website hails Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo as largest in world

The Omaha zoo has received another big accolade: “largest” in the world.

Our Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is not the world's biggest zoo in area, but the travel website ranks it as the largest by combining geographic size with number of species.

It's an unusual methodology, but Omaha zoo Director Dennis Pate said: “We'll take it.”

Touropia ranks the Columbus Zoo in Ohio as eighth-largest, the Moscow Zoo seventh and the San Diego Zoo sixth.

The Toronto Zoo is No. 5, the Bronx Zoo is No. 4, the Beijing Zoo is No. 3 and the Beijing Zoological Garden is No. 2.

And there at the top sits Omaha.

“Although there are bigger zoos in terms of acreage or species numbers,” the site says, “none rank as high as the Henry Doorly Zoo if both these categories are combined. For this reason, it is listed here as the largest zoo in the world.”

Touropia also notes that the Omaha zoo features the largest cat complex in North America, the world's largest indoor desert and the largest geodesic dome.

Pate, who has led the zoo for four years, paid tribute to his predecessor, Dr. Lee Simmons. “Doc built something special here.”

The zoo, which also has been ranked best by TripAdvisor, Huffington Post and Family Fun magazine, is listed as having 130 acres and 17,000 animals of 962 species.

Last year it set its attendance record, exceeding 1.7 million visitors.

With the razing of nearby Rosenblatt Stadium, Dennis said, parking spaces are increasing by nearly 50 percent, to about 3,000.

He said the high rankings result from a positive “visitor experience” that people report to various websites.

“Some people come here not knowing what to expect, and they leave loving it,” he said. “It's easy to get around, we have some iconic exhibits, and every turn of the corner surpasses expectations.

“Hang on to your hat, because it's only going to get better.”

Diane Darling of Boston, who attended her first Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting last month, left with a great impression of Omaha.

“The warmth and caring from everyone in Omaha was infectious,” she wrote to The World-Herald. “Random conversations with strangers on escalators and in lines became the norm. The experience was invigorating and inspiring.”

A public speaker and small-business owner, she came to Omaha shortly after the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Diane said much of the money conversation in America is about money and greed. By contrast, “to be in a room with people who wanted to learn and share was healing.”

In Omaha, some people gripe about the parking fee in the lots near the CenturyLink Center. Not Diane.

“I gasped loudly when I saw parking was only $8 for the day, not the first 30 minutes,” she said. “I was definitely not in Boston.”

Fresh off a five-week tour entertaining at U.S. military bases in Europe, Omaha native Natalie Sullivan visited her hometown over Memorial Day weekend.

Now she's back in New York, doing what aspiring performers do: looking for a show.

“Auditions are insane,” she said in Omaha. “You get up at 5 a.m., put your name on a list, kind of hop around town to studios and wait in line. When it's your turn, you go in and sing eight to 16 bars. Then you leave and kind of hope.

“In audition season, from January through May, you could potentially go to 20 auditions a week.”

She has been cast as a background character in TV's “Smash” and others.

“Film is completely different from theater,” she said. “Some film scenes might take six to eight hours. Nothing compares to live theater.”

At 23, she has time on her side and she is persistent. She also has a day job in Manhattan, working with theater box offices.

The daughter of John and Patricia Sullivan graduated from Duchesne Academy and the University of Tulsa.

Her European tour was as an actor-director with the Missoula Children's Theater, putting on shows with the children of military personnel. She herself began performing as a child in Omaha.

“I fell in love with acting and storytelling through song,” she said. “I kind of developed this love and passion for it.”

For decades, Bob and Patti Griffiths of Omaha celebrated their June 5 wedding anniversary with a tailgate champagne party at the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.

The old ballpark is gone, replaced by a new one downtown, and the CWS is played later in June than it used to be. On Wednesday, 10 days before the start of this year's series, the couple will celebrate an anniversary with their family — their 60th.

They still look forward to the CWS, and Bob still sells ticket books as a longtime member of the Concord Club, one of eight service clubs that welcome the eight teams each year.

People aren't as clubby as they once were. Bob said his club once had 114 members and now is down to about 20. But the CWS tradition is strong.

“I definitely miss Rosenblatt,” he said, “but I love the new stadium.”

About 2,000 people attended a rousing mixed martial arts competition over Memorial Day weekend as a benefit for injured military personnel.

A big event was a showdown in which Corey Davis of Omaha, representing the Army, outlasted the Marines' Ikaika Kang of Manhattan, Kan.

OWH Columnists
Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.

The event at the Ramada Plaza Omaha Hotel & Convention Center near 72nd and Grover Streets raised money for the Wounded Warriors Family Support.

Visiting Amsterdam last week, Ryan Haney of Omaha was surprised to see a friend from Omaha, Kevin Cooper.

“Really, Kevin,” Ryan joshed, “you followed me here?”

After the laughter, the pair joined Ryan's brother, Matt, and Kevin's buddy, Greg Schwietz, at a bakery. Each enjoyed Bossche bol, which Ryan described as “a softball-sized, cream-filled pastry dipped in chocolate.”

Presumably they spent the next few hours walking off their treat.

Joan Squires, president of Omaha Performing Arts, will be honored Monday as the Omaha Press Club's latest Face on the Barroom Floor.

Joan, who oversees the Holland Performing Arts Center and Orpheum Theater, came to Omaha in 2002.

A cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. will be followed by a roast and toast at 6:30 p.m. The event is open to the public at the club, on the 22nd floor of the First National Center, 16th and Dodge Streets.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
Grace: Pipe organ concert a tribute to couple's enduring love
Omaha-area jails and ERs new front line in battling mental illness
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Civil rights hearing to consider voting policies in Midwest
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Explosion near 29th, Woolworth damages vehicles
Omaha police arrest man, 19, accused in March shooting
Earth gets its day in the sun at Elmwood Park
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »