“ Address: One Hope Boulevard / Galveston / Texas / 77554 „
GETTING IN THE MOOD
I've recently returned from a fantastic holiday in Texas with my Hubby and Dad. We spent a week together with my good Texan friend H and visited lots of incredible places. We spent one day of our short break on Galveston Island on the Gulf Coast, just off the South-East tip of the mainland.
Galveston Island is a magical place and I'll be reviewing lots of things a visitor should see if they go there, but today I want to concentrate on Moody Gardens.
Moody Gardens is not actually a set of gardens; rather it is a massive resort comprising of a hotel, a golf course, a '4D' theatre, a convention centre, water park and three huge glass pyramids (as seen in the image above). One of the pyramids is a temporary exhibition space called the Discovery Pyramid, and leading off from there are the two environmental pyramids; one an aquarium, one a rainforest.
It's a mind-bogglingly huge place and on a busy day would be overwhelming. Thankfully we visited mid-week on a school day so we could hear ourselves think and visit the parts of the complex that we wanted.
You could easily spend three or four days in this place but we just had one, so we split into two pairs and visited the parts of the attraction we most wanted to see.
Since the weather was so unbelievably hot (well over 30C on the day we visited) we weren't able to visit the water park and other outside attractions. To be honest though, after spending several hours trekking through the pyramids we were exhausted anyway!
Each part of the resort had an individual charge, and it was possible to buy a day or season ticket which would allow you access to everything. The theatres cost around $10 each, the pyramids just over $20 each and the waterpark around $25. Plus the temporary exhibits charged around $8 each. If you were determined to see everything a one day (around $50) or two day pass (around $65) would be well worth purchasing. There are concessions for seniors (so Dad got in a little cheaper) and also for children, but if you had a couple of kids you could easily spend a few hundred dollars on your trip.
H and I visited the Rainforest Pyramid. It cost around $22 (about £15 at time of writing). I thought this was horribly expensive but I figured that we were on holiday and so we deserved to splurge.
I'm so glad I did!
The Rainforest Pyramid was huge. You first enter through an introductory zone which sets the scene with ambient music and display boards about rainforest wildlife. Then you climb a large flight of stairs and enter the glass pyramid from the top. There is a path to follow which takes you on a winding journey through several rainforest zones (based upon the ecology in different geographical areas) and back to the bottom.
I love botanical gardens and I've been lucky enough to visit many, including Kew and the Eden Project Biomes. The 10-storey Rainforest Pyramid was every bit as good and in some ways was better. The whole pyramid was planted out and landscaped with the utmost care and all the plants were clearly labelled, creating a spellbinding tropical atmosphere. There were gorgeous orchids, massive palms, a river, waterfall and large ponds full of fish. But what set the Rainforest Pyramid apart was the wildlife. Yes, it wasn't just a botanical glasshouse; it was a refuge for a huge number of rescued animals including bats, birds and even sloths!
As we walked down the paths H and I spotted lots of birds and animals, all of which were very tame. They let people get very close to them as they settled at their feeding stations and they were able to move around either the entire pyramid or a very large portion of it. We spent ages watching scarlet ibis, macaws, tamarin monkeys and the aforementioned sloth just hanging around and interacting with their environment. The bats were in huge, artificial caves illuminated with UV light. One of the friendly staff explained that they'd all been rescued from private collections where they'd been kept in tiny areas and damaged their wings. It was good to see that here they had excellent care.
In the centre of the pyramid was a closed off area encircled by nets which had to be entered and exited through an airlock system. It was a butterfly room! Hundreds of butterflys surrounded us as we entered, fluttering about and feeding from plants and fruit-covered feeding stations. It was magic.
Whilst H and I explored the Rainforest Pyramid, Hubby and Dad explored the 12-storey Aquarium pyramid. They also paid around $22 for entry.
As with the Rainforest pyramid, different ecological zones are represented, including the Pacific, the Arctic and the Caribbean. They also saw some incredible sights including a penguins, seahorses and seals. They walked through a shark tunnel with lots of sharks swimming above them and saw turtles and coral reefs. The tanks were so huge you could walk around and even under some of them. Many had access from more than one floor.
A testiment to how good the pyramids were? Both pairs were convinced they'd made the best choice in the pyramid they'd visited and were convinced the other pair had been short-changed.
Outside of the two giant pyramids Moody Gardens presented a mixed bag. There was a large gift shop which was very expensive and contained the usual spread of cuddly toys, t-shirts and touristy paraphernalia
A SLIGHTLY SOUR MOOD
Food choices were very poor. There was a range of vending machines dispensing sodas and junk food. The only other option was a fast-food concession selling hot dogs, greasy pizzas, burgers and chips. Most of us opted for hot dogs as the least unhealthy option. At least when it came to drinks we had access to free water fountains which let us refill our water bottles. Texan law makes it obligatory for free drinking water to be available everywhere.
Toilets were clean and there were several main blocks.
IN THE MOOD FOR DANCING
In conclusion, Moody Gardens is a wonderful place to visit but I would recommend a multi-day visit in order to see everything. And I would recommend taking your own food if possible!