Pictures of the Indianapolis Zoo including an orangutan shuffling across a cable, a giraffe feeding, kangaroos, ostriches, and more.

The Indianapolis Zoo: A Local’s Guide

There are so many family-friendly things to do in Indy! The Indianapolis Zoo, located in downtown Indianapolis, is a great family-friendly activity in Indy. The zoo has great exhibits for orangutans, kangaroos, cheetahs, dolphins, and sting rays.

Updated 12/7/23

My husband and I love zoos. Well, we love good zoos!… zoos that really care for the animals and have conservation at the forefront of their minds. We love strolling around as we watch the animals. We love remembering the animals by name and seeing them again and again. We love learning new things about the animals as we watch them sleep, eat, and play. We love it all!

My husband and I have been to so many zoos in the last few years! A few in the midwest include…

But we grew up going to the Indy Zoo. We both are Indiana natives (check out our post on things to do in Indianapolis!)

We recently decided to check out our local zoo again and were amazed at the upgrades to the Indianapolis Zoo even in the last year!

What are Some Indianapolis Zoo Conservation Efforts?

The Indianapolis Zoo awards hundreds of thousands of dollars to a conservationist making a difference in their community each year through what they call the Indianapolis Prize. Read more here!

Additionally, the zoo began the Saving Species Challenge which strives to reverse the decline in a species before it’s too late. One million dollars will be invested in early 2024 to support conservation efforts that are directly influencing an animal considered extinct in the wild, critically endangered, or vulnerable to extinction.

Indianapolis Zoo Animals

Considering the Indianapolis Zoo is located in a bustling city, there are quite a few animals there! But every zoo seems to have a few exhibits/animals with which they primarily focus.

The Indianapolis Zoo is probably most known for its elaborate orangutan exhibit and dolphin exhibit and show. However, the zoo also puts an emphasis on stingrays, cheetahs, and kangaroos.

Let’s begin with a look at each section of the zoo.

The Plains at the Indianapolis Zoo

Rhinos standing in front of a rock wall at the Indianapolis Zoo in downtown Indy
Ostriches playing in a pool of water at the Indianapolis Zoo
They found the water!

The Plains is the Indianapolis Zoo’s African savannah section. They have giraffes, zebras, ostriches, elephants, cheetahs, and more. This is one of my favorite sections of the zoo. The animals seem to always be out moving around. And I love watching the different species interact with each other.

Plus, this is where the cheetah run is. Visitors can see how fast they can run compared to a cheetah. It’s a fun activity for kids!

Stingrays, Dolphins, and Other Aquatic Animals

The Oceans

The Indy Zoo has an aquarium called The Oceans. Outside of the building are seals and sea lions that are fun to watch. Inside, there are several tanks with aquatic animals including lionfish, jellyfish, parrotfish, eels, sea horses, and more. They also have a penguin exhibit.

But probably the most loved section of The Oceans includes a stingray petting area. (There are also small sharks there, but they don’t come near visitors much!). We went with my friends’ three kids a few years ago and could have spent hours there! The kids loved it!

A pool of stingrays and small sharks at the Indianapolis Zoo with places for kids to stand next to the ledge

Dolphins at the Indianapolis Zoo

Additionally, the dolphin exhibit is a well-loved area of the Indianapolis Zoo. Not only is there a free dolphin show(!), but visitors can go into an underwater dome where the dolphins are swimming above and all around them!

I have noticed that most zoos in the Midwest don’t have dolphins. The Brookfield Zoo in Chicago has dolphins but you must pay extra for the show. We also went to the dolphin show at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago a few years ago and found it just as interesting as the Indy Zoo’s dolphin show.

But, because the Indy Zoo not only has a show but also a very cool exhibit, I would rank it very high for the area. This is definitely a can’t-miss exhibit!

Dolphins swimming in an underwater viewing area at the Indianapolis Zoo

The Desert at the Indianapolis Zoo

Be ready for the heat as you step inside this temperature-regulated dessert featuring animals such as tortoises, lizards, meerkats, and a room full of snakes!


The Indianapolis Zoo’s orangutan exhibit is very impressive! Not only is the elaborate building located in the middle of the zoo, but it contains several outcropping columns where the orangutans can climb from tower to tower through a series of cables. It is not uncommon in the morning to see orangutans out and about looking down on the zoo guests as they move from one section of the zoo to another.

There is also a great skyline gondola ride where you can get a better look at these great apes as they shuffle from tower to tower. It is worth the $4! Check out more info on the ride below!

A brave orangutan shuffling across the cables high above the Indianapolis Zoo
An orangutan on a platform above the Indy Zoo looking at the camera on a gondola.

Flights of Fancy

Flights of Fancy is an aviary with several types of birds, including flamingos, budgies, and lorikeets. To be honest, I don’t know much about this section because I am not a fan of birds!


The kangaroo exhibit is one of the newest at the Indianapolis Zoo. Visitors can walk past red kangaroos on a pathway through the exhibit. Cockatoos are also sitting in the trees in this area.

Kangaroos laying down in a row at the Indianapolis Zoo

The Forests

The Forests is the last section of the Indy Zoo. Here you’ll find bears, tigers, macaws, red pandas, gibbons, and more. A section of it was under construction when we went in the late spring of 2023. I’m hoping that means some great upgrades will be made to this area, because it is definitely my least favorite section of the zoo. I don’t believe the exhibits have changed in years.

Rides at the Indianapolis Zoo


The carousel is located outside of Flights of Fancy next to the orangutan exhibit. This is a great place to grab a snack and relax while the children enjoy the carousel.

Skyline Gondola Lift at the Indianapolis Zoo

This is my favorite ride at the Indianapolis Zoo! If you go in the morning when the orangutans are out, you get to enjoy the apes, the skyline downtown, and the bustling zoo below. It is very reasonably priced (currently $4/person or $35 for 10 tickets) and feels very safe.

A gondola ride that goes above the Indianapolis Zoo

Train Ride at the Indianapolis Zoo

Kids usually love the train ride at the Indianapolis Zoo, but honestly, I am not a fan. The train takes you behind the zoo keeper buildings and along the road. There are almost no animals to view on the ride.

Roller Coaster

The Indianapolis Zoo has a kid-friendly roller coaster located very close to the gondola ride. It’s short but sweet. A great option for an older kid visiting the zoo.

A roller coaster in motion viewed from a gondola ride at the Indianapolis Zoo
The view of the roller coaster from the gondola ride

Other Activities at the Indianapolis Zoo

One of our favorite activities at the Indianapolis Zoo is the giraffe feeding! Two times a day there are scheduled feedings when visitors can give the giraffes a carrot. Maybe this is one of my favorites because I love giraffes(!), but I’m sure your little ones will love it too!

Note: This is a great activity available at most zoos. If you or your kids love giraffes, it is usually a great activity. At the time of writing this, the Indianapolis Zoo charges $4/person or $35 for 10 tickets that can be used for feedings and rides.

A giraffe waiting for food from a man standing on the other side of a wooden fence

The Indianapolis Zoo also holds an elephant chat and red panda chat, but we have never attended.

And just outside of the Indianapolis Zoo (using the same parking lot) is White River Gardens where visitors can walk through a butterfly garden. Admission does cost extra.

Where is the Indianapolis Zoo?

The Indianapolis Zoo is located in the heart of the city of Indianapolis. It is within walking distance of White River State Park, The Indiana State Museum, and Victory Field.

Address: 1200 W. Washington Street Indianapolis, IN 46222

How Much Does the Indianapolis Zoo Cost?

I will warn you that the biggest con of the Indianapolis Zoo is the price. We have found this zoo to be more expensive than most zoos within 2-3 hours from Indy. (In fact, the St. Louis Zoo is free!!) However, knowing they are providing some great conservation efforts makes the price of admission more reasonable.

The price of the Indianapolis Zoo changes based on the day chosen. We were lucky enough to get cheaper tickets while the zoo was doing some construction recently. I believe we paid $20 per person.

At the time of writing this post, an adult ticket is usually $32.75 and a child ticket is $13.75. Buying tickets online is usually a bit cheaper, so definitely try there first! Also, be prepared for $10 in parking fees.

Or many locals have found that buying an annual membership pass is worth it. Currently with individual membership prices at $170, one member and one guest can come as often as they’d like. While this doesn’t help those driving through Indy once, it may be beneficial to locals or those that find themselves in the Indy area often. The Indy Zoo is great, but it is quite expensive otherwise!

Any Indianapolis Restaurant Suggestions for Those (Like Me!) Who Are Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free?

Yes! I have written an extensive post on the dairy-free and gluten-free options around downtown Indianapolis! All are within I-465. If you are a vegan, it also mentions vegan options.

Unfortunately, the Indianapolis Zoo is not allergy-friendly. However, there is a small restaurant located inside the Indiana State Museum on that list. It would be within walking distance of the zoo. Additionally, Cafe Patachou is a great option for dairy-free and gluten-free in downtown Indy! It is also listed in the blog post linked above.

Final Thoughts

While the Indianapolis Zoo may be a bit pricey, there are a few notable exhibits that make it worth the expense if you’re in the Indy area and love animals. If you love orangutans, dolphins, kangaroos, or stingrays, the Indianapolis Zoo is for you! I have not found better exhibits for these animals anywhere in the area.

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8 months ago

We have not been to the the Indianapolis Zoo yet. We enjoy learning about all the different animals.

Julie Gazdecki
Julie Gazdecki
8 months ago

I’ve heard such great things about the Indianapolis Zoo!! Nice to have a local guide for all the best tips too.

8 months ago

The Kangaroos are so cute – just kicking back and chilling. I have a love hate relationships with Zoos. Some are great and actively work to keep animals safe and help to restore the species. However, our local zoo is a disgrace. The enclosures are more like cages that are much too small, and it’s been in the process of shutting down for years. So that tells you all you need to know.

8 months ago

Going to the Indy zoo sounds like a fun outing! What a great place!

8 months ago

I also appreciate zoos that really care for the animals and embrace conservation. The Indianapolis Zoo looks and sounds like the perfect day for families.

7 months ago

The Indianapolis Zoo looks like it’s doing a great job of treating the animals in the best way possible. Worth the price for all the good work.

Heather Jandrue
7 months ago

I also love a good zoo. I have never been to the Indianapolis Zoo but I would enjoy it. My favorites are the National Zoo in DC and the Basel Zoo in Basel, Switzerland. Oh, and I can’t forget Animal Kingdom in Disney.

7 months ago

My family and I visited the Indianapolis Zoo when I was a child and I have such fond memories of that visit. Particularly, the dolphins and the show are what I remember. I was mesmerized. I only live around 3 hours from the Indianapolis Zoo, so I need to check it out since it’s been so long!

Cindy Moore
Cindy Moore
7 months ago

I appreciate a good zoo. I haven’t visited the Indianapolis zoo yet.

Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog
Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog
7 months ago

Zoos are unique places to learn and educate. We have explored several zoos across the US, and for some reason, the Indianapolis Zoo is one that we have not explored. This guide will help us when we are fortunate to visit. Thank you for sharing.

7 months ago

I love visiting different zoos! I think it’s so much fun to see all the different animals. The Indianapolis Zoo looks amazing. I love their conservation efforts!