Situated in the heart of Houston, Houston Zoo’s 55 acres of land are home to an incredible variety of species, with over 6,000 animals in total. The species are housed in a range of exhibits, with visitors able to experience ecosystems from all four corners of the globe.
As the second most visited zoo in the United States, Houston Zoo receives more than 2 million guests every year. Its popularity is in part down to its suitability for those of all ages, with it providing fun opportunities to learn about some of the world’s most intriguing species.
Opening Hours And Tickets
Tickets are required to be purchased before visiting Houston Zoo, as they are not currently sold on-site. Tickets can be reserved online and come with a time slot representing your assigned arrival time. After arriving within that time slot, you can explore the zoo until closing time.
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Opening Hours: Houston Zoo is open 7 days a week, 363 days a year, only closing on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. Opening hours are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., with the last entry at 4 p.m. Daytime admission is free on one Tuesday each month, although online reservations will still be required.
Restrictions: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing guidelines are in place within Houston Zoo. Visitors are encouraged to stay 6 feet away from each other at all times, while also being advised to follow the various signs, ground markings, and physical barriers in place to ensure the safety of everyone. In addition to this, face coverings are essential within all areas of the zoo.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Houston Zoo is early in the morning, ideally as soon as it opens, with the months in spring and fall providing a good balance between favorable weather and smaller crowds. The animals tend to be most active early in the day.
Crowds and Parking
As the zoo is situated in one of the busiest parts of Houston, parking can be an issue. The zoo’s parking lot fills up rapidly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., so you may have to wait for a space if visiting during this time. It will tend to quieten down after 2 p.m., meaning this can be a good time to arrive if you’re not able to make it early in the morning. In general, the first and last hours in the zoo are best for avoiding the crowds.
Weekdays are much quieter than weekends, although the zoo is a popular place for school trips, which can bump the visitor numbers up on some days.
Spring and fall can be the most pleasant seasons in which to visit Houston Zoo. The exhibits are usually not too crowded during these periods and the temperatures are pleasant. In summer, the weather can be hot and humid, making for uncomfortable conditions. Alongside the heat, this season is also the busiest at the zoo, with long queues and large crowds.
Winter Visit: Winter is the time to visit Houston Zoo if you’re hoping for some peace and quiet, however, the weather can be unpredictable. No matter the season, holidays can also cause a spike in visitation, with the periods surrounding Christmas and spring break being particularly busy.
Animal Activity: In terms of animal activity, the majority of the zoo’s residents will be easiest to see early in the morning. This is especially true for large carnivores, who tend to sleep in the afternoon. Additionally, most animals like to take shelter during very hot weather, so it can be difficult to see as many of the zoo’s highlights in summer than in the cooler seasons.
5 Best Exhibits | Most Fascinating Animals
Houston Zoo boasts more than 15 separate exhibits, with each one offering a different taste of the natural world. You can be assured an intriguing experience no matter which you choose to visit, with chances to lose yourself in exotic ecosystems or enjoy seeing rare species.
Asian Elephant Habitat
One of the most popular attractions at Houston Zoo is home to the zoo’s largest residents – the Asian elephants. These majestic animals come from the rainforests of countries such as India, Thailand, and Bangladesh, and are perfectly at home in the humid Houston summers. As one of the most extensive exhibits in the zoo, the Asian Elephant Habitat provides the elephants with constant amusement, harboring a 160,000-gallon pool that is a real favorite for these animals. They love to cool off in the water and they can be very entertaining to watch as they splash around.
Good to know: In general, the elephants will be active all day and there will be chances to see them no matter when you visit. For the best viewing opportunities, consider heading to the elephant barn at 10 a.m., when the keepers will be hosing the elephants down during their daily baths. This fun event is a favorite for many, but you might not want to come dressed in your favorite clothes, as there is often a very large splash zone.
World of Primates
Houston Zoo is home to 19 different primate species, many of which can be found in the World of Primates exhibit. Here, a boardwalk winds through a diverse forest habitat, giving you a chance to see some of the world’s most incredible primates up close and personal. Some of the highlights include lemurs, gibbons, orangutans, and howler monkeys.
As the pathway through the primate exhibit is largely shaded by trees, it can be a great place to go to avoid the hot sun during the summer months. Most primates remain active throughout the day, so you can expect to see them both in the mornings and in the afternoons. If you’re there around midday, listen out for the ‘lunchtime calls’ of the gibbons, which can be very amusing.
Giraffe Feeding Platform
Being able to interact with the animals at a zoo can often be the most exciting moment, but few places offer you the chance to help out with feeding time. At Houston Zoo, you can arm yourself with a handful of lettuce at the Giraffe Feeding Platform and provide the Masai giraffes with a tasty snack. These elegant, long-necked creatures love being able to interact with people and will often be very curious about who has come to feed them.
The platform is part of the African Forest Habitat and the giraffe enclosure is shared by zebras and ostriches, meaning there are chances to see these animals as you feed the giraffes. Giraffe feedings occur daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and are available for a small fee. Usually, the earlier time slot will be less busy, so this is the best time to go.
Houston Zoo has a diverse collection of large carnivores – animals that are often a firm favorite among visitors. You can expect to find species such as lions, Malayan tigers, African wild dogs, and American black bears, some of which are highly endangered in the wild. There are also chances to see the fastest land animal on Earth – the cheetah.
There are far more species to see besides, with the majority of the carnivores situated towards the centre of the zoo. Early mornings are the best time to see them, as they like to be active during the cooler parts of the day. This is also a common time for some of the carnivores to be fed or given treats, with this being a unique experience to see.
In comparison, if you’re visiting in the afternoon, you might find that many of the carnivore species are sleeping in their shelters, especially if the weather is hot.
Reptile and Amphibian House
The large mammals of the Houston Zoo are always popular, but one exhibit visitors often come away with fond memories of is the Reptile and Amphibian House. This is one of the best places in the zoo to see new and exotic creatures, with the species here coming from all over the world.
You can expect to see colorful frogs, prehistoric-looking lizards, and some of the most venomous snakes in existence, all housed in enclosures designed to mimic their natural habitats. Keep an eye out for the reticulated python – the world’s longest snake species.
The Reptile and Amphibian house can be an especially good place to visit when it’s raining, as it’s entirely enclosed. The building is also air-conditioned, making it a welcome refuge from the Texas heat. However, it can get very crowded during busy periods, making it difficult to see all the animals present. For this reason, it can be a good idea to visit early in the morning, particularly as this is the time when the reptiles tend to be most active.