on August 11, 2009
The Houston Zoo is a large 55 acre zoo that is home to over 4500 exotic animals located in, yep you guessed it, Houton Texas, USA. The zoo itself can be found just behind Hermann Park and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in the "Museum Disrtict" of the city. The zoo is open from 9am - 7pm and costs only $10 per adult (anyone over 12) or $6 for children under 12. I think this is fantastic value for a family day out as you can stay in the zoo for as long as you want from opening to closing. The entrance is large and clearly marked with plenty of free parking for those driving. The first thing I noticed about the zoo when we went was how colourful it was, from the entrance signs and ticket booths to all the lamposts and bins in and around the zoo. It is bright and inviting and looks very nice and I imagine will appeal to the youngsters. We were given a map of the zoo with our tickets and made our way in. The zoo houses everything you would expect from a main city zoo. Animals included: A whole range of big cats including; Lions, Tigers, Pumas, Cheetas, Panthers, Foosa, Leopards and more, as well as Elephants, Giraffes, Primates of all shapes and sizes, Bears, Pandas, Meerkats, Wild Dogs, African Cattle, Oxon, Zebras and many more. There is also a large aquarium located right by the entrance of the zoo. Since its handy location, we headed here first. There is so much room inside the aquarium and it was very open and light, with lots of space to see all the fish and marine life through. There were some beautiful fish in here, along with stingrays, turtles and piranas which I enjoyed the most. The maps given on entry are very accurate and show all paths and routes around the zoo. There isn't one set route, like a one way system leading around the zoo, so you are free to wander to which ever part you would like, and by pass and animals you are not too keen on or fussed about seeing. Being mostly outside i'd advise a light jacket just incase of any rain, or sun screen if you are going at a hot time of year like we did. (It is Texas after all) We went on a beautiful clear day and had no weather troubles, although I did notice that there is only small amounts of cover located around the zoo. One of the main things I was slightly worried about, as I always am with zoo's, was the size and space the animals were given. I'm definitely an animal lover and this is way I love seeing and learning about nature, but I hate the thought of things being in cages. I was happy and relieved to see all of the enclosures were very spacous and large. Each individual animal seemed to have a lovely natural environment to live in. I also really liked the fact that all were big enough that the animals could be far away from the people and all viewing platforms etc should they choose. I liked this, as much as it meant the occassional animal was hard to spot or even see at all, it means they aren't harrassed all day. This made me smile. The zoo's walkways themselves were clear and even, I saw many families with pushchairs who had no troubles. There are no hills and plently of benches dotted about for anyone needing a rest. There are also disabled access ramps to all of the areas. Each enclosure had pictures of the animals in that section, along with detailed information about them and their status with regards to population. i.e. unthreatened, declining, endangered or protected etc. These were a nice touch I thought becasue along with learning about wildlife and animals, everyone should be aware of the impact we as humans have had on the population of all of these animals. There were quite a few on the declining or endangered lists that actually look me by surprise. Its definitly an eye opener and helpful for younger generations to know. We had a lovely afternoon strolling around and exploring all of the different areas. I think we were there probably for about 4 hours in total. It was a very enjoyable day out (probably helped by the fact we bumped into Randy Orton, one of the WWE wrestlers who we were seeing that weekend at Wrestlemania by the giraffes and managed to get a picture taken with him) There is limited option of food if you are planning on eating while at the zoo. There is a diner located right by the entrance, but this is limited to the usual burger and chips type food. Nothing healthy on offer I am afraid. There are also a few snack stalls spotted around that sold ice-cream, crisps and soft drinks. The toilet facilities were also slightly limited. There are a set by the entrance/exit and one around the top of the zoo, but for some of the areas that house a lot of space and range quite far, there are none to the very back of the zoo. I can't imagine this being too much of a pain, but for those with young children for example, it would be a good ten minute walk to cross the zoo back towards either of the sets of toilets available. The staff were all very friendly and a lady in the "customer care" booth was more than happy to call and arrange a cab to come and pick us up, as there are no taxi ranks outside the zoo. To conclude, I was impressed with the zoo, as I mentioned we had a lovely afternoon out and I really enjoyed the mix and variety of the animals. You could get pretty close to most of them, providing the animals wanted to be out that is. My favourite was seeing a little Red Panda which are basically extinct in the wild. It was completely adorable! For $10 to come and go as you please I would go again if in Houston and would advise anyone planning a visit to the city to make sure you go and have a look.
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