Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Houston Zoo

Last week the girls and I picked up my mom and took a day trip to the Houston Zoo!  I have some mixed emotions about zoos.  I don't always like the enclosure conditions and I don't always feel they're all about education and animal welfare.  I do like how my kids come away with a more concrete understanding of these animals and how they ask me some pretty in depth questions as they process what they took in.  Overall, I've decided I'm middle of the road on this issue...not a huge zoo supporter, but also not a believer in shutting them all down.

The Houston Zoo in particular (along with the local museums) has gotten way too expensive in recent years.  Too expensive for us, anyway.  On a typical day, it'd cost $63 for our family to get in the gate, plus gas to get there and food on the trip.  A yearly membership would be $96 and gives free admission, but we rarely go twice in the same year.  Once inside, the food and drinks are the typical over priced fare and there are other activities that cost money.

However, the first Tuesday of the month during the school year, zoo entrance is free as long as you show up after 2pm.  So that's exactly what we did.  It was more crowded than I expected, but not too terribly bad.

Josh couldn't get off work this day, but I had planned to make the trip regardless because it was going to be our last chance to catch a big bug exhibit they had going on.  Thankfully, it worked out that my mom could go because the girls were AMPED UP.  They weren't really misbehaving, they were just all SO excited and there's three of them and I only have two arms to keep them and all the stuff that's required to take the three of them out of town (even for a day trip) close by.

We started out at the Natural Encounters exhibit:
It took less than a minute for these weird, unsocialized homeschoolers of mine to find someone their age and start chit chatting about what they were seeing
And then Secora discovered the tunnel through a fish tank
You'd think the child with sensory issues might have a problem with this, but no.  She loves enclosed spaces and thought it was incredibly cool.  She wanted to go through over and over again.  Sedona didn't like it, but Sierra was willing to go with her
Around the corner, there was a tank of jellyfish they were drawn to
Outside, we stopped at the meerkat exhibit.  Secora ended up putting on quite a show.  This little guy (gal?) was right up at the front and Secora sat nose to nose talking to him.  The other visitors thought it was super cute and had the biggest grins watching her.
Sedona snuck in for a quick hello too
Giant ladybug!  The whole point of the trip was to catch the giant bug exhibit.  This was actually just an advertisement for it (it typically costs more money, but it was free this day), more on the giant bugs later.
Baby alligator!  We just happened to catch some keepers out with reptiles to pet.  Secora pet too, but I was holding her, so I didn't get her picture. 
I've forgotten what type of lizard this is, but it was very social and Sedona and Secora sat at talked to it for a long time. 

When we got to the elephants, keepers were cleaning out their enclosure and they were all put up in the barn.  Secora was fascinated with the mom and baby.  She kept asking me if the baby drank milk and I assured her he did drink milk.  He kept picking at the hay that they had and she was very concerned about that.  Here she is asking me why he's eating food if he can have milk
It was getting late, so we made our way past the birds rather quickly
And we found the bug exhibit.  This is a little temporary add-on section with giant animatronic bugs.  After Sierra's experience of getting stung by a scorpion at summer camp this year, the big girls were a bit fascinated with the giant scorpion
Secora walked up to the first bug, leaned on the rope, looked really close and finally turned around and asked me, "is it real?"

I think it's the movement that threw her off, she continued to ask if they were real until we were about halfway through the exhibit. 

Sisterly love, right there:
Praying mantis attack!!
Every time we go to the pet store, Secora has to look at the tarantulas.  I asked her once why she likes them so much and she says she really likes the hair and the legs.  At a point where this child is still asking me, "are they real?" and this giant spider is moving around like it's going to eat you, my 3 year old yells out, "tarantula! I LOVE tarantulas!" and runs over for a photo op:
After a quick snack, the girls wanted to check out the children's section.  This area is really loud because it is right next to the children's hospital and helicopters are landing or taking off constantly.  There's obviously nothing to be done about it, but just a head's up if you have kids sensitive to noise.

They all wanted to stop in and pet the goats.  After each one they pet, Secora would say, "it didn't bite me!"
A lot of the children's section was closed off for remodel/repair this time around so we didn't see a whole lot here.  There is a playground and a small area to play and slide near the otters.

At the children's zoo entrance, there was a wind tunnel.  Sedona really wanted to go in it, but Sierra was afraid to go and I didn't want to.  Grandma finally said she'd go with her.
She was apprehensive at first, but as it got going (you can see the speed on the back wall), she got excited and yelled for Sierra to come in

At first, Secora was saying she'd go in too, but then she changed her mind.  I told her she could go in with them after it started, but she just said, "hmmm......maybe not."

Obligatory shot with the giraffe statue.  The giraffes are in a new enclosure and there are way too many of them in a small space.  I'm hoping it's because they're still building and making more space for them

The big girls took a ride on the carousel ($3 per person).  Secora said it looked too fast for her and she likes slow rides.
The lion water fountain is a decades old tradition at the Houston Zoo.  You've got to take a picture with your head in the lion's mouth.  This was somewhere around 6 or 6:30pm.  My mom and I were worn out, but the girls still had enough energy for a little improv acting

Secora seemed not quite sure that mouth was gonna stay open
We took a quick look at a tiger and lion on the way back to the front and made one last stop by the Red Panda (who had sprawled out on a branch to go to sleep) right by the front gate
We ended up leaving right around 7pm.  We missed the primates, the South America exhibit and most of the cats, so it definitely could have been a full day.  I asked the girls if they like this zoo or the Waco Zoo better.  They agreed they like them both.  They said Houston has more things to see, but Waco is easier to get around and the layout is better, so you don't miss anything. 

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