Some times we like to venture away from DFW for a change of scenery. We happen to have family in Houston, TX, so it’s a no-brainer to make the trip down IH-45 and take in the sights and sounds. One of our favorite destinations is the Houston Zoo. This zoo actually has a smaller footprint than either the Dallas or Fort Worth Zoos, but it somehow feels larger than both. The Houston Zoo’s animal density is comparable to that of the Fort Worth Zoo (~6000 animals over 55 acres in Houston versus ~7000 animals over 64 acres in Fort Worth). So, you don’t need to leave DFW to visit an excellent zoo, but it is definitely worthwhile to visit the zoo in Houston if you happen to be planning a weekend trip.
Sea Lions and Marine Life
We got to the zoo just in time to see the sea lion encounter. The sea lion training team came out to demonstrate how they employ animal husbandry in training their California sea lions. The kids enjoyed watching the trainers playing with the sea lions. The ball tosses and frisbee catching were especially exciting.
Just next door to the sea lion encounter was the indoor natural encounters house. This was a great way to cool off while still enjoying some great exhibits of fish and other marine life. The encounter room also includes a transparent tunnel that is just big enough for kids to crawl through and see the fish all around them.
We only visit the Houston Zoo about once per year. On our previous visit, the elephant habitats were under construction. This year, we were able to see the new, larger elephant habitats that showed off the zoo’s families of African and Asian elephants. There were multiple young and juvenile African elephants running around their habitat. We got to see them rolling around their mud pits. The kids loved pointing out that they were using mud like sun screen! The Asian elephant habitat, just next door, has a really neat wading pool. It was exciting to see an elephant disappear under the water and suddenly splash out as it surfaces again. We all especially enjoyed trying to spot Max, the elephant barn dog.
The next stop (as mandated by the little ones) was to check out the big cats. We got really lucky and had a great view of a Malayan tiger basking out in the sun. We went back a few times, and we could barely see the magnificent cat hiding in the shade behind some trees.
The lion habitat held a little more action. We came up to the observation area with a nice view of a couple of lionesses lounging on top of their rock. Within minutes, we got to see the pride’s male lion climb up and chase off its subjects. The lion let out a big yawn, and showed off all of its big teeth!
The last place we managed to visit, before the kids got tuckered out, was the giraffe habitat. Unfortunately, we missed the scheduled time slots for to feed them, but we still had a great view of all of the giraffes hanging out in the shade. You can really get a nice, up close view of these giant creatures. Next time we visit we’ll definitely try to make it to their feeding time.