Sloths, Mermaids and Things That Slither.

What’s the Deal With Houston’s New Zoo?

Times have changed. As the world has shifted to accommodate our obsession with social media, entertainment for many of us has become less about just observing, and more about selfies, hands on and interaction.. We can watch practically anything we want instantly and virtually on YouTube, so why visit a zoo or museum full of things you can’t touch? Well, you can. I have good news for those of you who have never had an opportunity to meet a sloth or touch a lemur.

I recently visited Houston interactive Aquarium and Animal Preserve, (who’s long name takes up almost as much room as the animals in its logo). To be honest, I’ve been to a lot of zoos and countless safaris around the world, so I wasn’t expecting much from an attraction  that’s been open in Houston for less than 2 years. To my surprise, I loved the place! 

I know a few of the human performers who entertain there, so I hoped to see what they were up to and meet some of the zoo’s animals up close and personal. This zoo is full of lots of exotics as well as strolling entertainers. I walked in to see Little Red Riding Hood walking around with her grandma. Red seemed oblivious that her grandmother had a distended belly and the face of a wolf even though a group of kids were warning her. 

When you first enter the property, there’s a building entirely filled with various pools of all descriptions. There’s a little tidal pool with a giant lobster, crabs and starfish. There’s a stingray pool, sea anemones, sharks, and giant tanks full of colorful tropical fish , and they’re building more… you can purchase ramekins of krill or dried fish parts to feed to the inhabitants. I have to admit I’ve never fed a lobster until that visit and the only stingrays I’ve ever touched have been on snorkeling trips. You’re allowed to interact with nearly every creature at the zoo. If you can reach it, you can touch it.

There’s plenty of photo ops with a giant snake, massive shells, inside a shark’s mouth or standing in a diver’s cage while a great white leers at you inches away from your face. If fish isn’t your thing, you can meet a princess, get your caricature made or watch one of the amazing aerial shows or a visit with a real live mermaid swimming in the giant tank. 

The second building has lizards, snakes, reptiles and interactive animal meet and greets. There’s also an opportunity to go inside some of the cage areas and meet 3 different kinds of lemurs, including the ringtails. They even have a King Julian named  from the cartoon version in Madagascar. You can meet a sloth, pet a giant monitor lizard, visit with a kinkajou, get a snake around your neck photo and watch a cockatoo dance. The employees are full of animal trivia and seem to be just as happy to be there as the visitors. 

The outdoor area has a giraffe, kangaroos. a camel, warthogs, a porcupine and a ton of other petting-friendly creatures from around the globe. There’s another building with tables, inflatables and food if you’re thinking of throwing a zoo-themed party. 

I took almost 200 photos, compared to less than a dozen when I visited the Houston zoo. I’m not implying that a bigger zoo is any less of an experience, but there’s a lot to be said for tactile freedom and animal selfies.