Tips for Visiting the Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo is the 2nd most visited zoo in the country, only surpassed by the San Diego Zoo! Obviously, Houston’s mild winters help with those record numbers, but it’s really an amazing zoo and offers a chance to see so many animals that aren’t offered elsewhere! Check out my tips for visiting the zoo!

The Houston Zoo is open 7 days a week, check their website for hours as they are open later during the Summer months!  The 55 acre park is the home to over 6,000 animals, many you won’t see any where else in Texas, like the Red Panda and the Madagascan Foosa!

Parking Located in Hermann Park, the Houston Zoo is unique in that they don’t have their own dedicated parking lot.  If you’re an early bird, you can sometimes snag FREE parking in the park. Here’s a tip and avoid parking near the golf course, or you might have a broken window when you come back out! The shuttle lots, which are open holidays and some weekends is a paid lot, and the shuttle ride is FREE.

On our most recent visit, we spent 30 minutes looking for parking, but luckily snagged a spot on the first row. Parking is easiest if you arrive early, but if you’re persistent you can find something in the afternoon as they morning visitors are leaving!

My favorite way to visit the zoo is by the Metrorail!  You’ll even save a couple of bucks off an adult admission ($1 off a child’s admission) when you show your ticket at the zoo admissions booth!  It’s a short walk to the Medical Center entrance.



Tickets must be reserved online in advance, there are no point of sale tickets available.

As zoo members, we received free admission, but you can also get 50% off your Reciprocated Admission if you are a member of another AZA accredited zoo!

The Houston Zoo will offer all members of the U.S. military, their families and veterans 50% off regular admission tickets with valid military ID. Guests with a U.S. military ID can purchase up to two (2) adult and three (3) children’s tickets per day.

You can get FREE admission to the zoo the First Tuesday of the month, but tickets must be reserved in advance and go quickly!

The Houston Zoo Splash Pad is open April 1 – mid October, and is FREE with your regular Zoo admission!

Bring a change of clothes and swim diapers for babies and toddlers.

The zoo doesn’t have lockers and doesn’t have a place where you can store you change of clothes, towels, etc. while you are in the zoo.


The Main Entrance to the zoo hasn’t changed since I was a little girl!  It’s still my very favorite!

There are a LOT of animals at the Houston Zoo, and obviously I can’t get a picture of all of them.  My advice for visiting any zoo, museum, etc. is always QUALITY OVER QUANTITY!  If you spend all day only seeing a few animals, but spend the time to really see their personalities and learn a little about them, it’s much better than a day spent rushing around to see everything!

When my daughter was a toddler, she loved the hippos, and we would visit the Fort Worth Zoo one day a week.  We’d walk in and straight to the hippos, where she spent 2 hours just watching them and laughing!  It was usually nap time when we left, and sometimes we never saw anything else, but it was SO worth it!

Caruth Natural Encounters are the Houston Zoo

Caruth Natural Encounters host some amazing animals, and many are off exhibit and can only be seen during the Keeper Talks! There is a crawl-thru space for young children and their people, where you are surrounded by fish! It’s really cool, unless you have a fear of Santa! (Claus-trophobic?)

There is also a Nature Playscape for the kids to run around and play, and plenty of shade!

The Houston Zoo's Asian elephants.

McNair Asian Elephant Habitat During the Asian Elephants Keeper Talk, Matriarch Elephant Methai, who was born in 1969, receives some water from a water hose into her trunk! Meanwhile little Tilly, acting as impatient as any toddler, stretches out her trunk to intercept the flow and get her own drink! I could have watched this all day! Thanks to the Zoo’s Elephant Yard Web Cam, I can! Tilly was born on Father’s Day in 2018!


The Houston Zoo has 3 younger elephants, too!


As we were sitting and watching the elephants, I noticed that most people just passed right by this really cool exhibit on bees, and that the farmers are placing hives along their fences to their crops, to keep the elephants out!

Sea Lions at the Houston Zoo

The question I’m most often asked is are the Sea Lions still at the zoo, and I’m always thrilled to answer YES!!!!

Be sure and check your schedule for the Sea Lion Show, and plan to slow down and watch these cute animals, native to the U.S. West Coast!


The Sea Lion Encounter is a chance to work with the trainers, and a behind the scenes tour! 

Texas Wetlands Exhibit at the Houston Zoo

The Texas Wetlands Exhibit has American Alligators, turtles and more.

A rhea at the Houston Zoo's Panthanal Exhibit on South American animals.

In the South America Pantanal exhibit you’ll see jaguars, howler monkeys, rheas like above and much more!

African Forest

The African Forest exhibit is one of the largest at the zoo, and includes an African Village.  The buildings are all constructed in the French Colonial Style, and seem more at home in New Orleans than the African Forest, but in South Africa you can see many buildings that still have their French and Dutch colonial influence. 


Don’t miss the chance to feed a giraffe at the Giraffe Observation Tower!


Fun shopping at the Village Trading Post in the middle of the African Forest.  There is also a café which overlooks the giraffe exhibit!


The Zoo’s Southern White Rhino exhibit.  I really enjoyed watching the rhinos! Click HERE to read more about the Houston Zoo’s Conservation of the Rhinos, and check out the Rhino Yard cam.


In 2017 my daughter traveled to Kenya as an intern to LEWA Wildlife Conservancy thanks to her volunteer work with the Dallas Zoo.  While there, she helped with the animals, worked with the children in the village, even helping to build a water system.  Click HERE this incredible African Preserve, and their work with baby rhinos orphaned by poachers!

I love seeing the animals that you just don’t see anywhere else, like this little pygmy hippo!

Perhaps the cutest animal at the Houston Zoo, the red panda!


In anticipation of the zoo’s 100th anniversary in 2022, the zoo is doing a lot of reimagining! 


The African Forest is also home to the Great Apes exhibit. Be sure to check your schedule for the Keeper Talks! For an additional fee, the Great Ape Gallery has a Behind the Scenes Tour!  Click HERE for more information.


Inside the Great Ape Gallery, in addition to climate controlled viewing windows to see the Gorillas, and they had several interactive exhibits. This one had small pieces of metal, meant to represent the rare mineral tantalulm, which is used for cell-phones and tablets.  Kids mine in the sand for the metal, upsetting the trees and gorillas that live there, a very real representation of what is happening today in parts of Africa.  Recycling your cell phone and tablet is key! 


The kids had fun playing in the small huts, and made a few friends, too!


Giant Tortoises!  The little guy is a Radiated Tortoise, which is critically endangered in the wild.


The Big Cats Exhibit is BIG!  There’s nothing as amazing as listening to this guy when he roars, it’s heard all over the zoo! Hasani is a male African lion, click HERE to read more about him!


I’m my hardest critic on my pictures, but when I take pictures for these post, I’m more concerned with giving you readers the best view of what it’s like to visit a location, not just a cute zoom in of an animal, even though I try to get a few of those, too!


And here he is, the Foosa!  Remember the Foosa from the cartoon Madagascar?  They are only found in Madagascar, and the island’s largest carnivore.  Although they look cat-like, and are found in the Big Cat Section of the zoo, they are more closely related to the mongoose.


The Okapi or Forest Giraffe.  There are tables outside the exhibit, and this is a great place to take a break, get a drink and just watch the animals!

If your children love books about animals, check out The Sloppy Okapi!  Click HERE to visit his facebook page and find out how you can get the book!


The Children’s Zoo There are great exhibits in the Children’s Zoo, including places to run and play, explore and much, much more!


We all love the little viewing stations inside the mongoose habitat!


Meet Fiesta the Llama!  Most people don’t realize how funny they can be, but Llamas are packed with personality!

Fiesta the LLama at the Children's Zoo in the Houston Zoo

One of our favorite video’s from the Houston Zoo You Tube channel features Fiesta and a Leaf Blower.  Click HERE to watch it!


The Children’s Zoo also has a fun little petting zoo with some cute little goats.  Their hours are a little different from the zoo hours, so check before you go!

Know Before You Go

Outside food and drinks are allowed!  Pack a picnic or bring a cooler.  Be warned, there isn’t a place to store your cooler, so you’ll have to haul it around with you.

I believe the more you know, the more you enjoy your visit!  Download the Houston Zoo app on your phone with a map, daily schedule and much more!

McGovern Lake paddleboats in Hermann Park in Houston

The Houston Zoo is located in Hermann Park, and just outside the entrance there are paddleboat rentals on McGovern Lake!


Across the street from the Houston Zoo is the Log House Museum, and the kids had fun as we walked around!  Click HERE to read more about it.

Hermann Park also has a fun miniature train and more things to do!  Click HERE to visit their website.

Things To Do in Houston


The Beer Can House is a really unique and quirky thing to see in Houston, located just West of Downtown!  Click HERE to read more.

Watch the bats as they leave their roost under the Waugh Drive Bridge every evening at dusk!  Click HERE to read more.

The Houston Arboretum in Memorial Park offers beautiful hiking inside the 6-10 Loop!  Click HERE  to read more.


Cedar Creek Bar and Grill offers great burgers in a big, casual outdoor seating!  Click HERE for more information.


The Magnolia Hotel in Downtown Houston is one of our favorites, with most Downtown attractions within walking distance. Click HERE to read more.


Houston Zoo

6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston

Click HERE to visit their website.

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