The Lincoln Children's Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska help children in the area who visit the zoo learn more about animals through a variety of interactive, hands-on exhibits. This is one of only five zoos in the United States that focuses on educating young visitors. The zoo was started in 1959 when Arnott Folsom and his wife donated $5,000 to the Children's Zoo Association and began designing a children's zoo with the mission to help children learn to respect all living things. The Lincoln Children's Zoo opened its doors in July of 1965, and at the time, was the only privately funded zoo in the country.
Originally, the Lincoln Children's Zoo was only open during the summer. Animals were purchased in May, and the zoo opened during Memorial Day weekend. These animals were then sold after the zoo closed on Labor Day. This allowed the zoo to keep costs down, since they only needed staff during three months of the year. The zoo began offering longer hours in 1973. Today, the zoo is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM from April 15 to October 15. They have year-round staff to care for their animals.
The Lincoln Children's Zoo is home to hundreds of animals, including mammals, insects, reptiles, and birds. Some of the animals children can see at the zoo include reindeer, harbor seals, squirrel monkeys, camels, lemurs, bobcats, hedgehogs, otters, meerkats, leopards, porcupines, butterflies, pythons, snakes, geckos, chameleons, crocodiles, doves, emus, cranes, wood ducks, macaws, and turtles.
Along with general animal exhibits, the zoo has a number of special exhibits built for interaction between the animals and children. The Firsthand Farm has animals such as llamas and goats which children can pet or even hand-feed. There's also Laura's Butterfly pavilion, which was renovated in 2008 and allows visitors to get an up-close view of butterflies, which will land directly on them as they fly around. The Critter Encounter exhibit brings a new animal to visitors every hour. The staff members bring animals such as guinea pigs, doves, and tenrecs out of their cages so that visitors can pet them and learn more about them. Along the same line, Bug Buddies is an interactive exhibit where children can touch and hold creatures that are creepy crawly, including hissing cockroaches, millipedes, and tarantulas. Lastly, at Stego's Big Dig, children can unearth buried bones, learning more about their bodies and the bodies of ancient animals.
Zoo prices are reasonable at just $5.50 to $6.50, depending on age. Children under 2 are free, and there are special rates for groups. Along with normal hours, they have Wild Wednesdays during June, July, and August when the zoo is open until 8:00 PM to allow visitors to see the animals during the evening hours. They also have a train guests can ride around the zoo, daily tours, and pony rides for children. The zoo can be booked for birthday parties and other special events, and they welcome school groups who want to visit the zoo as a field trip.