During a recent visit to The Aquarium at Moody Gardens, I was pleasantly surprised to see about a dozen couples rushing in early to beat the crowds. Yes, of course, there are plenty of families but The Aquarium isn’t just for kids. While children enjoy it; adults really enjoy it. Plus, our attention span is a bit longer so we can really absorb all the beauty of this underwater world.
While I’ve been there many times, it’s exciting to see all the changes following Moody Gardens’ $37 million renovation of The Aquarium.
Upon entering, you’re greeted with a schedule of activities on a huge screen. Make sure you check out any scheduled diving demonstrations and penguin feedings. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy these activities. The diving demonstration was the highlight of our visit. Divers can now talk to guests and answer questions as they feed the fish in the exhibit.
First off, you are now greeted with a new Gulf of Mexico Rig exhibit. This 30,000 gallon, two-story model oil platform is pretty amazing. Travel tip: remember you can tour an actual oil rig at the Ocean Star Offshore Oil Rig and Museum at Pier 19 too.
And, nothing is cuter than penguins. Moody Gardens now features Humboldt, or warm climate penguins, from the Southern Hemisphere waters coming from the Antarctic Pole to the Equator. Plus, you’ll still see King, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins as part of the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat.
I also noticed there a lot more touch tanks in The Caribbean section of The Aquarium. Touch Cownose Stingrays and Bonnethead Sharks along with Sea Stars, Hermit Crabs, and Pencil Urchins. You’ll also see a new Flower Garden Banks Exhibit allowing guests a chance to experience the East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank and Stetson Bank. Did you know that this coral reef is just 115 miles offshore and one of the healthiest in the Gulf and Caribbean regions? There are several spots where you can just sit and watch as sharks and other fish swim by or overhead.
And, I love the addition of The Pride, a 19th century rum-runner shipwreck replica. It’s designed to resemble a vessel sailed by pirate Jean Lafitte. Travel tip: you can learn more about Jean Lafitte and other pirates/privateers at PIRATES: Legends of the Gulf Coast downtown.
Don’t forget to spend time in the North Pacific Gallery and watch the seals and sea lions. They are pretty friendly and will swim up to the glass which is fun for photos and video.
I also loved the Jellyfish Gallery. And, yes you can actually touch some. It’s really amazing to see these little creatures. The exhibit lighting changes colors which makes the jellyfish to look even more beautiful.
I would recommend you go early or late to avoid the big crowds. No worries though there’s plenty of space to enjoy the exhibits. Remember, if you don’t want to drive you can always catch the seawall trolley which includes Moody Gardens as a stop.
During the summer, Moody Gardens Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The last entry is one hour before closing time. I know you'll enjoy this impressive attraction.
Where to Stay:
• For a beach view with history and, of course, Sunday Brunch, stay at Hotel Galvez & Spa. The hotel provides a courtesy shuttle to transport hotel guests downtown and is a block away from a Seawall Trolley stop.
• For a stay in The Historic Strand District, book your stay at The Tremont House. The city trolley stops on the same block as the hotel.
• Or if you want to enjoy of view of the harbor, consider Harbor House Hotel & Marina at Pier 21. The trolley route also includes Pier 21.