Every first Tuesday of the month is free day at the Houston Zoo. Of course since I’m cheap, that’s the only time we go.
However, I’m a total Zoo snob. I grew up going to the zoo in Tyler, Tx which at that time was FREE. Now they actually charge, which is sad. I spent so many hours there in college and went on a ton of dates there (the guys were cheap too) all because it was free and a great zoo. Anywhere that animals are, I want to be.
So the deal is that I have a love/ hate relationship with the Houston Zoo. My favorite Zoo is the Ft. Worth Zoo, closely tied to the Dallas Zoo and the Tyler Zoo. But the Houston Zoo? I’m glad it’s there, I’m proud to have a great zoo in Houston but there’s a few gripes I have with it.
But first, let’s do the pros.
- There are some really great interactive exhibits for kids. One of them is the tunnel in the picture above where the kids can crawl through a tunnel surrounded by fish. It’s awesome and we always get a picture in there when we go. There is a newer section of the zoo that has an African village with some hands on activities for kids and a little hut play village. It’s great and an amazing learning experience.
- It’s in Houston! Com’on! I have to show love for my city.
- There are some beautiful parts to the zoo.
- The new African exhibit is really well done. It’s very hands on and very clean. However if you don’t know the way around the side you will be forced to go through the gift shop to exit the exhibit. This can be a pain with kids.
- There’s a free day the first tuesday afternoon of every month starting at 2pm. It’s a great chance for people of all walks of life to go.
- The kids area has a great splash pad, petting zoo, and play structure.
Now here’s the cons;
- It is a photographer’s nightmare. If you are going hoping to take some really great pictures of animals, don’t. There are so many ropes, beams, poles, fences, etc, blocking the view that you will work too hard to get a great shot. I can see the point of blocking professional photographers but the hobby photographer is just out of luck. The Ft. Worth Zoo is the best one for photography in Texas, in my opinion. You feel like you are right on top of the animals and the barriers are there but not really seen.
- The Houston Zoo is a mix of old and new and in my opinion, it’s not well blended. The old parts are old and they seem to be starting to just let them go. I’m sure they have plans to keep redoing the older parts and creating new exhibits like they did with the Africa Exhibit but for right now some of them are just starting to fall apart.
- There are great interactions that are not well explained. In the Africa Exhibit there was a ton of interactive signs about finding so many gorillas in that area, etc. but there was no way to know what on earth they were talking about. It seems like they were making a fun game of hidden gorilla shapes but who knows?
- The Africa Exhibit is nice but lacks animals. This is true! A few monkeys, giraffes, rhinos and zebras do not make up an African exhibit.
- Parts of the children’s zoo are starting to fall apart and the interactive exhibit that was there a few years ago has been shut down.
So should you go? Of course.
Overall it is still a great zoo that really is worth visiting. There are a ton of animals and you can tell that they are working hard to improve and redo a lot of the zoo. Plus it’s in a beautiful area of Hermann Park that you could just spend the day walking around and riding on the children’s train right outside of the zoo.
It’s still a great chance to see animals that you might not see otherwise. The city of Houston was hit very hard by the bad economy and I’m sure that as the economy turns around, so will the zoo. But they need people to go to the zoo and bring in revenue to help do that and less cheap people like myself.