Houston Zoo… Beat the Crowds, Stay Cool & Save Money

It’s back-to-school time, and for us, that means it’s also back-to-the-Houston-Zoo time.

Every morning my preschooler wakes up talking about the zoo… and we go several times a week. So how do we keep the Houston Zoo fresh, beat the crowds, stay cool and not spend a ton of money?  I wrote down our tips a few years ago… and below is the updated post!

 

Beat the Crowds:

We like early mornings, late afternoons, school days and bad weather.

On school days, We like to be the first to arrive at 9:00am and head straight to the back of the zoo.  Some buildings do not open until 9:30 or 10:00am, but this gives us time to play at the Children’s Zoo or African Forest before the field trips catch up with us.

Once the field trips make their way to the back of the zoo, we head to the Bug HouseSwap Shop or Splashpad.

If we can’t make it there in the morning, we shoot for 2:00pm or later.  School buses seem to head out about this time, leaving more space for us to explore.  And if we have enough energy, we pick up the big kids can head over for the last hour of the day.

The last entry is an hour before the zoo closes, which is 6:00pm in the winter and 7:00pm in the summer.  Most families are heading out at 5:00pm… but with a zoo membership, you can head in without having to “get your money’s worth”.

We also look forward to bad weather… not lightning and thunder… but a little rain.  It keeps crowds away… but there is a lot to explore inside at the zoo!

Know that weekends and holidays are very busy.  For these, the first hour and last hour seem to be the best.  Also, the zoo has a free day the first Tuesday afternoon of each month (except summer).  This will be busy (but free).

 

Parking:

Still, the Houston Zoo is a big place and can handle big crowds… but the parking lot cannot.  Arrive early or late in the day… or during peak hours, try to take METRORail, walk or bike.  You can also try your luck and circle the lot and then try to park by the Centennial Gardens or at metered street parking by the Health Museum.

Parking at Hermann Park and the Houston Zoo is free… but if you go by the museums, you’ll have to pay.  (But paying the meter might save your sanity.)

 

The Extras:

I know you know the zoo has animals… so let me talk about the extras and what we love to do.  Some things cost extra, but lots of things are free.

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The Kathrine McGovern Water Play Park at the Houston Zoo is Open for the Season!

Address: 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030

The Kathrine McGovern Water Play Park at the Houston Zoo is open for the season!

From April 1 through October 12, the splashpad is open daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm (as long as it’s over 70 degrees).  We stopped by this week and it’s still one of our favorite things to do.

It’s not the biggest splashpad in town, but with our frequent trips to the zoo and the hot Houston weather, we really look forward to stopping by the dragon water play park!

The splashpad is free with zoo admission and is located near the giraffes and Wildlife Carousel.

There are buckets, a water tree, jets, a sea serpent and changing rooms. There is (some) shaded seating for parents and a lifeguard on duty to keep kids from running, pushing or being too crazy. The area is also closed off from the rest of the zoo, with just one entrance, so kids are mostly contained to the area.  Restrooms are around the corner by the giraffes.

It *usually* not too crowded because the tour groups don’t usually bring swim suits and the visitors are eager to see the animals.

You do need to have on swimsuits and swim diapers (if applicable). You can also buy them there, for about $20 for a suit and $5 for a swim diaper.

Zoo members can easily drop by from just a splash. If you are buying tickets for the zoo, get your money’s worth by visiting the animals in between splashes.

Outside food is allowed into the zoo, so you can make a day of watching animals, splashing and setting up a picnic.  You can also stop by the new Wild! Nature Play Area!

Get all the details HERE!


Find more Houston area splashpads:


Houston Zoo Lights 2017: Beat the Crowds at Houston’s Popular Holiday Event!

Each night through January 14, 2018, the Houston Zoo closes at 5:00pm… only to reopen with millions of lights at 6:00pm. When I ask Houston parents for their favorite holiday event, Zoo Lightsis usually what they tell me!

Open each night, except December 14, 24 & 25, families can walk through the zoo until 10:00pm/11:00pm. The least busy days are “value nights”, which are usually school nights. If you can swing it, go on a “value night” to have more room to move around and enjoy. If you cannot make a “value night”, go on a “prime night” instead!

Value Nights: Member $11.95 Non-Member $16.95
Prime Nights: Member $16.95 Non-Member $19.95
Children 1 and Under – FREE

Buy tickets online or at the gate.

Right at 6:00pm there is usually a (fast moving) line to get in. If you buy your ticket online, you have a jump start. Also, I’ve noticed that if you go at 8:00pm instead of 6:00pm, many of the families have gone home.

Food and drink is for sale… but remember that you can bring your own food in to the zoo… so if you bring your own popcorn and hot chocolate, that could save you some money.

Whenever you go… have fun and send us your pictures!

 

 

 

 


Wild! Nature Play Area at the Houston Zoo

Address: 6200 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030

I cannot tell you how happy we are about the new Wild! Nature Play Area at the Houston Zoo.

This play area is free with zoo admission or zoo membership and it’s full of messy fun. Instead of playground equipment, kids play with sticks, sand, mud and water… and climb on logs and walk through gardens.

We went after school and my kids could not get enough.  We were going to stay for just a few minutes… but even after the rain started pouring down, they just did not want to leave.

First they went to the water (where kids can splash in the little pond) and then to dig in the mud box (which really is a box of mud for mud pies).  Then they saw the sticks by the sand pit and began to build a shelter (which they called a rain shelter, even though the gazebo was an actual rain shelter!).

They went around and around and around and had a great time.

 

At this nature play area, kids can interact with everything.  They will certainly get wet and muddy!

Also according to the Houston Zoo’s website, each visit may be slightly different. “The mud pit could become a pile of leaves, water may dry up or there might be more pinecones than you would see in a forest.”

Check out the pictures below and check out the Wild! Nature Play Area next time you are at the Zoo!  It’s very close to the entrance behind the Meerkats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

&nbps;

Find more Houston area parks:


Nature Connects at the Houston Zoo… Open Now through September 4, 2017

Have you seen the Lego bricks at the Houston Zoo?  At Nature Connects, you can see giant animals made from more than 770,000 LEGO bricks!

Members can enter Nature Connects for $3.95 per person (includes unlimited Texas Direct Auto Wildlife Carousel & Nature Connects All-Day Pass).  Others can purchase a special ticket at the front gate:

Adult $19.95 – Includes Zoo admission, all-day Nature Connects entry, and a conservation bracelet
Child $19.95 – Includes Zoo admission, all-day Nature Connects entry, a conservation bracelet, and unlimited Texas Direct Auto Wildlife Carousel rides

 

My kids are big Lego fans, so they really liked to see the sculptures and read about the number or bricks and hours it took to build.  As we walked through we saw the Hummingbird, Dodo Bird, Snow Leopard, Chameleon, Rhinoceros, Whooping Crane, Coral Reef, Polar Bear, Monarch Butterfly, Sea Turtle, Wildebeest and Zebra.

See our pictures below!

 

 

 

 


The Kathrine McGovern Water Play Park at the Houston Zoo is Open for the Season!

Houston Zoo Splashpad Entrance
Address: 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, TX 77030

The Kathrine McGovern Water Play Park at the Houston Zoo is open for the season!

From April 1 through October 31, the splashpad is open daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm (as long as it’s over 70 degrees).  We stopped by this week and it’s still one of our favorite things to do.

It’s not the biggest splashpad in town, but with our frequent trips to the zoo and the hot Houston weather, we really look forward to stopping by the dragon water play park!

Houston Zoo Splashpad Dragon
The splashpad is free with zoo admission and is located near the giraffes and Wildlife Carousel.

There are buckets, a water tree, jets, a sea serpent and changing rooms. There is (some) shaded seating for parents and a lifeguard on duty to keep kids from running, pushing or being too crazy. The area is also closed off from the rest of the zoo, with just one entrance, so kids are mostly contained to the area.

It usually not too crowded because the tour groups don’t usually bring swim suits and the visitors are eager to see the animals.

You do need to have on swimsuits and swim diapers (if applicable). You can also buy them there, for about $20 for a suit and $5 for a swim diaper.

Houston Zoo Splashpad Water Circle
Zoo members can easily drop by from just a splash. If you are buying tickets for the zoo, get your money’s worth by visiting the animals in between splashes.

Outside food is allowed into the zoo, so you can make a day of watching animals, splashing and setting up a picnic.

Get all the details HERE!

Find more Houston splashpads:


Beat the Crowds & Save Money at Houston’s Favorite Zoo Lights! November 18, 2016 – January 15, 2017

When I ask Houston parents for their favorite holiday event, the answer I hear most often is… Zoo Lights!

So, how can you take the family, beat the crowds and save a little money?

zoo-lights-sign
The Houston Zoo is filled with 2 million lights and each night at 6:00pm, it reopens for Zoo Lights!

Here is what you need to know:

  • Zoo Lights is November 18, 2016 – January 15, 2017.  It is closed December 24 & 25.
  • The Zoo closes at 5:00pm and reopens at 6:00pm.
  • Everyone has to pay for Zoo Lights… even members… and you cannot use your regular zoo daytime admission ticket.
  • The least busy days are “value nights”… These are weeknights and non-holidays.  See the exact dates HERE.
  • If you go at 6:00pm, the line is often pretty long.  If you can go at 8:00pm, the crowds have cleared out a little.
  • Prices are:
    • Update: $5 Ticket Special January 9-12
    • Value Nights: Member $9.95 Non-Member $14.95,
    • Prime Nights: Member $14.95 Non-Member $19.95.  Kids 1 and under are free.
  • Online tickets have no additional fees… and let you skip the long ticket line.
  • First Responders: use code ZLResponder for $9 tickets on six Monday nights: November 21 & 28, December 5 & 12, and Jan 2 & 9.
  • Active or retired military personnel: use code ZLMilitary for $9 tickets on six Tuesday nights: November 22 & 29, December 6 & 13, and Jan 3 & 10.
  • Most of the animals are sleeping, but you can see the giraffes and zebras and tour the bug house, aquarium, reptile house and natural encounters building.
  • During the day, you can wander all over the zoo.  During Zoo Lights, there is a path that all the visitors follow to see the lights and attractions.
  • We love the zebra, Candy.  She tells jokes and actually answers questions from the crowd.  (And in case you were wondering, zebras do not like tacos.  We asked.)
  • New this year is a new 33’ tall Christmas tree, just outside the African Forest (on the side with the huts).
  • Strollers are allowed… and there is a lot of walking inside the zoo.
  • Hot chocolate and food is available for purchase… but you can also bring it in.  Bring your own thermos and snacks to save some money.
  • There are a lot of spots to by light-up wands and bubble guns.  Bring your own from home to save some money!  Get your own light up gloves and be the envy of everyone at the zoo.

We went last week on a value night… and it was pretty busy, but not as crazy as prime nights.  We had fun for the 5th year in a row… So, check it out if you like lights!

houston-zoo-lights-ball
 

houston-zoo-lights-neon
 

houston-zoo-lights-water


Houston Zoo Lights: Beat the Crowds at Houston’s Popular Holiday Event!

Houston Zoo Lights Fountain
Each night through January 9, 2016, the Houston Zoo closes at 5:00pm… only to reopen with millions of lights at 6:00pm. When I ask Houston parents for their favorite holiday event, Zoo Lights is usually what they tell me!

Open each night, except December 24 and 25, families can walk through the zoo until 10:00pm. The least busy days are “value nights”, which are usually school nights. If you can swing it, go on a “value night” to have more room to move around and enjoy. If you cannot make a “value night”, be sure to go on a “prime night” instead!

Value Nights: Member $9.95 Non-Member $14.95
Prime Nights: Member $14.95 Non-Member $19.95
Children 1 and Under – FREE

Buy tickets online or at the gate. Right at 6:00pm there is usually a (fast moving) line to get in. If you buy your ticket online, you have a jump start. Also, I’ve noticed that if you go at 8:00pm instead of 6:00pm, many of the families have gone home.

Whenever you go… have fun and send us your pictures!

Houston Zoo Lights Zebra
 

Houston Zoo Lights Red Zebra
 

Houston Zoo Zoo Lights


#GorillaArt Hunting in Heights/Downtown Houston

Gorilla Art Mural Richard’s Antiques 3701 Main St Artist Anat Ronen
Somehow I missed the memo back in February that the Houston Zoo commissioned five fantastic artists to paint #GorillaArt murals in anticipation of the opening of the new Gorilla Habitat at the zoo in May 2015.

While I am bummed that we missed the opportunity to see the painting done live, I am happy that we can still visit the work. I loaded up the kids and we went on a mural hunting expedition this afternoon.

According to Google Maps, it is a 25 minute route if you want to hit all 5. Now, Google doesn’t know that I have a terrible sense of direction. Nor does Google understand the need for potty breaks and the real struggle of getting kids in and out of the car if you want a photo opp. Even with a few missed turns and some doubling back, we managed to find them all. I would suggest giving yourself a solid hour to visit them all at once.

What I like about murals is that they are big enough to impress just about anyone and since these ones are all gorillas, the kids liked them even more. We also got the chance to talk about the various styles and debate our favorites.

They are also all located in places that are fairly easy to get to. For me that means easily getting one or all of the kids in and out to snap a quick photo.

This is the route I would recommend, but any order would do!

Mural Location: Jenni’s Noodle House; 602 East 20th St.
Artist: Michael C. Rodriguez

Gorilla Art Mural at Jennis Noodle House 602 East 20th St Michael C Rodriguez 2
Mural Location: 2119 Washington Ave.
Artist: Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau

Gorilla Art Mural 2119 Washington Ave Sebastien Mr D Boileau
Mural Location: 3100 Smith St.
Artist: Nicky Davis

Gorilla Art Mural 3100 Smith St Artist Nicky Davis
Mural Location: Richard’s Antiques; 3701 Main St
Artist: Anat Ronen

Gorilla Art Mural Richard’s Antiques 3701 Main St Artist Anat Ronen 1
Mural Location: Downtown Food Park; 1311 Leeland (corner of Leeland & Austin Streets)
Artist: GONZO247

Gorilla Art Mural Downtown Food Park 1311 Leeland Artist Gonzo247 1
*Food truck park was not open when we went, but if you time this right you could end up at the park and get a food truck snack to end your #GorillaArt adventure!

About Amanda S.
She and her husband moved to Houston from California in 2009 and are now raising three freshly minted Texans. When she is not chasing around her preschooler and toddler twins, Amanda freelances as a publicist. She loves good food, a nice glass of wine, and the sound of silence. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KismetSorena where you can expect to find an overwhelming amount of pictures of her children.


How we do the Houston Zoo… Beat the Crowds, Stay Cool, Keep it Fresh & Not Spend a Ton of Money

See the updated post HERE!

My oldest boy asked, what exactly does James do all day?  Does he just sit around the house?

Well.  How exactly should I answer that?

I had kept our daily trips to the Houston Rodeo a secret and I really did not want to reveal just how much fun we have while the big kids are at school.  But then again, it’s a bad idea to accuse me of sitting around all day.

Houston Zoo Splash Pad James in Water
So, I told him that we sometimes go to the Houston Zoo and quickly stuck my smile behind a book.

The truth is that we go to the Houston Zoo several times a week.

Feeding Giraffes at Houston Zoo
So how do we keep the Houston Zoo fresh, beat the crowds, stay cool and not spend a ton of money?  This is a question that I’m happy to answer!

See the updated post HERE!

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