When vacationing along the Texas gulf coast, don’t miss Moody Gardens, an educational amusement park on Galveston Island that the whole family will enjoy. From rainforest and aquarium pyramids to a water park and a paddleboat cruise, attractions at this unique non-profit destination entertain while teaching about conservation and wildlife.
On the eve of our very first Carnival cruise, my family of seven enjoyed a mini vacation on Galveston Island, getting a tiny taste of tourist fun along the Texas gulf coast before heading out to sea. First on our agenda was a visit to Moody Gardens for a few hours of edu-tainment. We had seen the site’s signature glass pyramids from afar, so we couldn’t wait to head inside for a closer look!
5 Exciting Reasons to Explore Moody Gardens
Moody Gardens offers more than 10 separate attractions, some of which are seasonal, spread across 242 acres. There is a lot going on at the entertainment complex, and it can be difficult to pick just one or two areas to explore! Attractions are priced separately, or you can purchase a one- or two-day pass, if you want to do it all. We covered a lot of ground during our visit, but only managed to see about half of what Moody Gardens has to offer. Here are a few areas we enjoyed.
1. Rainforest Pyramid
Otters and monkeys and macaws, oh my! Meandering through the temperature controlled rainforest pyramid was a grand adventure for my family. Together, we shrieked at the sight of giant jumping rats (in an enclosure, thankfully), laughed at the sea otter’s water acrobatics, and were amazed when a monkey wandered over for a visit. My 10-year-old, who has always been fascinated by ants, spent ages watching the leaf cutter ant colonies at work.
Our favorite moment in the Rainforest Pyramid happened while we were watching a gecko at rest. He was staring back at us, perfectly still, until all of a sudden he leapt across his tank and landed right in front of my son’s face on the other side of the glass. We all jumped and my son screamed (which, of course, we teased him about for the rest of the day). Talk about an interactive experience!
2. Aquarium Pyramid
Here we explored multiple levels of aquatic life in a variety of enclosures, from small tanks to a huge 1.5-million-gallon aquarium. We stood and watched the soft shell river turtles for a long time. My 13-year-old was fascinated. There were also sea horses and star fish in “no touch” tanks, allowing us to get a closer look at sea urchins.
A multi-phase renovation is currently underway at the Aquarium Pyramid, so be sure to check for closures before you visit. The Grand Reveal of the new exhibits will be on May 27, 2017.
3. MG 3D Theater: National Parks 3D
We all loved the 45-minute 3D IMAX movie about the history of “America’s best idea,” the U.S. National Parks. The movie, narrated by Robert Redford, told the tale of three modern day adventurers exploring America’s awe-inspiring natural wonders, from Hawaii’s volcanoes to Yellowstone’s geysers. The trio road tripped across the country, taking breaks to enjoy mountain biking, ice waterfall climbing, and bouldering unique natural formations along the way. The movie left us wanting to strike out and see more of our country’s national treasures!
4. 4D Special FX Theater: It’s a Bugs Life
This 13-minute interactive film was fun for the whole family. Scents wafted through the theater, snow and bubbles filled the air, breezes blew, our seats vibrated and water splashed us in the face! At one point in the movie, we even got poked in the back, which made us shriek in surprise and howl with laughter.
5. Colonel Paddlewheel
To wrap up our time at Moody Gardens, we headed out to the Colonel, a replica of an 1800s paddlewheel boat, for a nice, relaxing scenic tour of Offatts Bayou. The three-tier boat features a bar where you can purchase alcohol, soda, popcorn, chips, candy, and cotton candy, with an adjoining dining area that doubles as a toddler dance hall for littles with the wiggles. The interior dining area is air conditioned, so this was a popular hangout for families. Outside, for better views of the bayou, were benches circling the boat. Braving the Texas summer heat, we mostly stayed outdoors and enjoyed watching fish leap out of the water and birds circle the boat in search of a snack.
More Moody Gardens Attractions:
As I mentioned, we didn’t see all of the Moody Gardens attractions. Rather than rush through the amazing complex, we opted for a laid-back day of learning and laughing together. We certainly hope to return one day to give the rest of the attractions a try! Here are a few that we missed:
- Skeleton Play Area
- Discovery Museum
- Palm Beach water park and white sand beach (seasonal)
- Five-tier Sky Trail Ropes Course and Zip Line
- SpongeBob SubPants Adventure
- Moody Gardens Golf Course
- Ice Land Ice Sculptures (seasonal)
- Festival of Lights (seasonal)
Know Before You Go:
Planning a visit to Moody Gardens? Here are a few things to consider:
- There’s a free tram circuit, so don’t worry if you end up parking far from the Visitor’s Center. The trams come every few minutes.
- No food or drink is allowed in the pyramids.
- You cannot bring your own snacks on the Colonel boat ride.
- If you will be visiting multiple attractions, plan your day around the movie times and the Colonel boat schedule.
- Check for discounts before you go, like the Good Grades Program, which allows for free admission to one Moody Gardens attraction.
Where to Stay Near Moody Gardens:
We choose to stay at the Inn at the Waterpark for its proximity to Moody Gardens. Located mere minutes away, the Inn offers complimentary continental breakfast, a mini golf course, and a pool. My kids particularly enjoyed the mini golf!
Where to Eat Near Moody Gardens:
No visit to Galveston is complete without ocean-view dining. We grabbed delicious hamburgers at The Spot, located on the Seawall. While eating, we watched people enjoying their time at the beach by bike, on the sand, and in the surf. We also had a nice view of the rides and attractions at the Pleasure Pier.