Nebraska April 18, 2017
The World’s Largest Indoor Desert Is Right Here In Nebraska And You’ll Want To Visit
Although some early explorers thought of Nebraska as a vast American desert, it’s been a long time since the term has been associated with the Cornhusker State. There is one small corner of Nebraska in which there is a thriving desert, however, and it happens to be the largest indoor desert in the world.
The Desert Dome in the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is the largest indoor desert in the world, housed under the largest glazed geodesic dome in the world. It's a marvel of engineering and design that's impressive even from the outside.
The dome opened in 2002, a fascinating addition to the already wonderful zoo. It was three years in the making, and a whole lot of engineering went into this unique structure and its exhibits.
It rises 13 stories above the ground and covers a full acre of land without any interior support columns.
Inside, the desert displays exhibits from three different desert regions from around the world: the Namib Desert of southwestern Africa, the Red Center in central Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States and northwest Mexico.
A 55-foot-tall central mountain divides the three sections of desert.
There is abundant plant and animal life under this big dome from all around the world. It's easy to forget that you're indoors in Nebraska as you wander through the exhibits, looking at exotic snakes, giant cacti, and huge sand dunes and cliffs.
For those of us who have grown up in the green agricultural landscapes of Nebraska, this is a completely alien landscape. It's warm and dry in the dome year-round, so if you visit the zoo in the winter or on a rainy day it's a surprisingly refreshing escape.
However, it's rarely uncomfortably hot, even in the summer with the sun shining through the dome's glass panels.
It takes a while to traverse the winding route through the desert, during which you'll see unfamiliar animals like these klipspringers from Africa....
Some beautiful birds and fascinating plant life...
And the kind of environment that many people never get to experience.
It's so much fun to see animals from around the world that you may have only read about, hanging out in their natural habitats.
Just watch out for the judgmental meerkats.
As if two "world's largest" attractions in one place weren't enough, underneath the Desert Dome is Kingdoms of the Night, the world's largest nocturnal exhibit. You can get up close to porcupines, armadillos, beavers, several species of bats, and the gators that occupy the underground swamp, among others. (If you ever see me there, I'll be the one covering my eyes and rushing past the alligators, particularly the super creepy albino one, trying not to see them.)
This video gives a short walkthrough of the desert and some of the animals along the way.
If you love watching animals but don’t want to deal with the crowds at the zoo, take a trip through the zoo’s
wildlife safari in Ashland.