Plan Your Holiday Itinerary!

Plan Your Escape for Festive Fun at Moody Gardens!
Moody Gardens has the ideal holiday adventure for you and your family. There is so much to do, you make a weekend of it and make the most of your vacation time with friends and family. Don’t know where to start? We have taken the livery of creating a sample itinerary to ensure you don’t miss a thing!

Day 1 of Fun

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.  Breakfast at Café in the Park at the Moody Gardens Hotel
Located at the Moody Gardens Hotel, this restaurant features a wide variety of breakfast options from tasty omelets to a sweet assortment of pastries. The lush greenery and vibrant colors make dining at the café like a festive outdoor picnic. Check out the menu here.

10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Festive Photo Opp
Strike a pose at the beautiful Poinsettia Tree in the Visitor Center Garden Lobby and share your photo with us on the Moody Gardens Facebook page.

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. Rainforest Pyramid
Immerse yourself in our 10-story glass pyramid that is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals. You will experience rainforest life from around the world and encounter free-roaming animals such as, monkeys and tropical birds.

11:45 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures, A Caribbean Christmas
Explore the only ice attraction on the Gulf Coast as you take an underwater journey from the shores of Galveston Island through the Gulf of Mexico to arrive at the ultimate Caribbean Christmas destination. Walk through a 28,000 square foot exhibit area set at a chilly temperature of nine degrees and encounter towering aquatic sculptures made completely of ice! There is even an opportunity to enjoy some festive holiday spirits inside of ICE LAND at Shivers Ice Bar.

12:45 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Lunch at the Garden Restaurant in the Visitor’s Center
Partake in a festive holiday buffet which includes Pecan Crusted Chicken, Parmesan Potatoes, sautéed vegetables and more!

2:00 p.m. – 2:20 p.m. Nature’s Wonders Gift Shop in the Visitor Center
Take home a reminder of your Moody Gardens experience by checking out an array of holiday ornaments, animal plush toys, unique jewelry sets and more.

2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Moody Gardens Hotel Spa and Salon
Escape to a world of revitalizing fragrances and botanical oils as you are treated with a nourishing facial or a Swedish massage. Make your holidays merry by selecting one of the various holiday packages being offered for the season. More information.

4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. SpongeBob SubPants Adventure
Dive into adventure! On this wild and silly deep-sea submarine voyage, YOU choose the destination and YOU interact with your hapless captain — Patrick Star! Plunge into a world of immersive 3D media, a torrent of special effects and a nonstop whirlwind of surprises! With an improvised, real time interaction with Patrick Star, and varying destinations, your adventure is never the same twice.

5:15 p.m. – 5:35 p.m. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4D in the Special FX 4D Theater
Experience the latest 3D technology with a twist! Feel the rumble in your seat or snow fall into your lap as you join Rudolph, Santa and their misfit toy friends on their thrilling journey to save Christmas!

5:45 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. Drinks at Shearns Lounge
Admire breathtaking property views of the Moody Gardens Pyramids or a beautiful sunset over Galveston Bay. Savor premium cocktails at one of the best views of holiday lights around.

6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner and Show (December 16 – 25 only)
Enjoy a one-of-a-kind Holiday show that includes amazing acrobats and aerialists, mesmerizing illusions, hilarious comedy and much more. All of this coupled with a superb Holiday Buffet Dinner prepared by renowned Moody Gardens Executive Chef Felipe Gonzalez. Click here for holiday hotel packages! Admission also includes a ticket to the Festival of Lights.

9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Festival of Lights
Take a stroll through the largest light attraction on the Gulf Coast. This one-mile trail features over 100 lighting displays such as, Santa Claus, various animals and even a narrated nativity scene! You can also glide on over to the area’s only outdoor skating rink as it is included in the Festival of Lights admission.

Day 2 of Fun

8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Moody Brews in the Moody Gardens Hotel
Get your day started by grabbing a quick breakfast with a delicious brew at the Moody Gardens Hotel coffee shop. Take advantage of the sweet pastries and free hotel wifi.

8:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Tee Time at the Moody Gardens Golf Course
Take a swing on the lush greens of one of the top ranked golf courses in Texas. Enjoy spectacular views of beautiful palm trees and Galveston Bay.

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch at the Pelican Grill at the Moody Gardens Golf Course
Savor great food and a great bargain while taking in the lush tropical scenery of the Moody Gardens Golf Course and Offatts Bayou.

1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Aquarium Pyramid
Visit four distinct ocean environments in the infamous blue pyramid that houses seals, sharks, penguins and thousands of tropical fish.

3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Ropes Course & Zip Line
Satisfy your inner thrill-seeker as you soar 30 feet above Moody Gardens’ Palm Beach. Relish in the awesome property views as well as city glimpses from Offatts Bayou!

3:45 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Jerusalem 3D in the MG 3D Theater
Immerse yourself into one of the world’s most beloved cities. Discover why this tiny piece of land is sacred to three major religions through the stories of Jewish, Christian and Muslim families who call Jerusalem home.

5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. Dinner at Shearns Fine Dining Restaurant

Shearn’s Seafood and Prime Steaks is the premier destination for fine dining in Galveston. Delight in floor-to-ceiling views of the Galveston Bay and also amazing views of the Moody Gardens’ Pyramids.

7:00 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. Night Cruise on the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat

Relax on a beautiful nightly cruise through Offatts Bayou on the Moody Gardens’ 1800s paddlewheel boat. Overlooking the deck you will view a festive panorama of Christmas lights and displays from the 15th Annual Festival of Lights trail!

Seas the Day: Corals

Being home to one of the largest aquariums in the Southwest, Moody Gardens has so much more than amazing aquatic life to showcase to its guests. Located in the Aquarium Pyramid’s South Pacific and Caribbean exhibits are large habitats with beautifully colored artificial corals. Who knew it was even possible to create something nature made by hand you ask? We decided to ask one of our experts about this marine marvel.soft-coral-close-up

“Larger coral habitats can be created using tinted concrete that’s hand carved or textured using latex pads to create the surface look of a coral reef,” says Greg Whittaker, Animal Husbandry Manager; who explains the coral process in greater depth.  “Smaller, individual corals are made using fiberglass or epoxy resins that are tinted and surface painted.  These individual corals can then be attached to a reef structure with spaces in between textured and painted to look like encrusting algae, sponge or encrusting corals to create a dynamic, realistic habitat.” Oh but not to worry, these chemicals are 100% fish friendly!

Most aquariums have opted to the creation of their own tropical reefs as maintenance for live coral is challenging. Live corals are typically slow growing and require very specific water quality and high intensity UV active lighting. The logistics of maintaining water quality and providing enough lighting to grow coral can be tedious and costly.  The lighting needed to grow corals consumes a lot of electricity and produces a lot of heat as the sun is being replicated in most facilities. Although it is possible to extract live coral, it’s not often encouraged as it is vital to the ocean’s ecosystem. Since 2005 the Moody Gardens staff has participated in workshops with Project SECORE in an effort to assist in coral conservation. The project focuses on sexual coral reproduction by collecting and growing embryos in aquariums all over the world. The staff has increased their annual monetary contributions since 2012 and just recently became a facility partner.

Be sure to join us this holiday season as the Aquarium Pyramid will reopen on November 12 – January 8th. Currently the aquarium is undergoing a $39 million dollar renovation. There will be a few more waves of the renovation as it will be open for Spring Break with more work to follow. The work in the Aquarium Pyramid will be completed in time for the Grand Reopening in May 2017. Displaying the various oceanic regions of the world, guests will plunge to the depths below to view penguins, seals, sharks and so much more, including a new, expanded exhibit of vibrant live corals!

World Penguin Day 2016

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Ever wondered what these tuxedo wearing birds enjoy eating? Where they’re from? Celebrated annually on April 25th World Penguin Day is a day that is meant to show appreciation to these cool birds and learn things such as biology, origin and more. In honor of this holiday we thought to include some cool information…enjoy!

  • Worldwide there are currently 17 species of penguin.
  • These flightless birds can be located mostly in the Southern Hemisphere from Antarctica to other places like South Africa and New Zealand.
  • Spending the majority of their time in the water their diet consists of seafood life such as fish, squid and krill.
  • The prominent black/white coat is used as a form of camouflage from predators in the water. From below their white chest blends in against the surface of the water and from above their black back appears like the dark depths of the ocean.
  • During breeding season most species of penguin will build nests of rocks in preparation of a chick.
  • Once a penguin has laid an egg most species share the incubation, while the other seeks food.
  • Once the egg has hatched the chick will begin calling the parents to get them to recognize its voice. As you can imagine this helps a lot when the chick is left with a huge group!

Be sure to stop by the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid, the largest aquarium in Texas. With 1.5 million gallons of water, the building houses life from four distinct ocean environments including more than 80 penguins such as Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni, Chinstrap and King Penguins. Recent upgrades were made to the penguin exhibit earlier this year showcasing a swankier, brighter living space for our little friends.

Click this link to see what our guys are up to!

So Much to Love

From adventuring in the Rainforest Pyramid to the taking a sunset cruise on The Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, there is something for you to make this Valentine’s Day memorable for those that you love.

On February 13 you can make plans with your sweetheart to set sail on a romantic sunset dinner cruise complete with a dinner buffet, DJ, and dancing. This cruise package includes your choice of a bottle of champagne or wine, a rose for your sweetheart, and a souvenir photo. Get a table for two for $200 or a table for four for $380. Seating is limited and reservations are required so be sure to make your reservations now by calling 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4368. For more details and table options, visit our website.

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We also have our popular Aquarium Valentine’s Day Dinner on February 14. Dive into an underwater dining experience at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid. The evening includes a chef’s three-course dinner, your choice of a bottle of champagne or wine, a rose for your sweetheart, a souvenir photo, and Aquarium Pyramid admission with our biologists on hand to answer your questions about the Moody Gardens marine animals. Enjoy your romantic dinner while sharks and other beautiful sea creatures swim overhead. There is also the Sealed With A Kiss seating area that treats guests to a table by the seals and sea lions of the North Pacific Exhibit. These playful animals will add a splash of fun to your dining experience. Another option for you and your sweetheart are our Fishin’ For Love tables that have the colorful fish inhabitants provide the perfect backdrop for your romantic evening. The Tunnel of Love section is already sold out. Grab a peak at the seating chart here and make your reservations by calling 1-800-582-4673 ext. 4368.

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Love is in the air in the animal kingdom, too! For $29.95 you can join us on February 13 or 14 and see the plants and animals you love as you travel around the world in the Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids with our Rainforest and Aquarium Combo ticket. Visit the seals, sharks, birds, and even Moody Gardens’ sweet new couple, our Cotton-top Tamarins Victor and Gracie. This is a great option if you are looking to involve the whole family in a Valentine’s Day activity.

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For the entire month of February you can also enjoy the Moody Gardens Hotel Valentine’s Room Special. Be sure to book early because this deal is subject to hotel availability. The price is $229 for hotel room, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne, breakfast, and valet service.

You can also enjoy a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal at Shearn’s Seafood and Prime Steaks located in the Moody Gardens Hotel. The menu for the mouthwatering and carefully selected meal can be found here.

Happy Birthday, Wagner, the Oldest Chinstrap Penguin in North America!

Some people think that age is just a number but at Moody Gardens it is something to celebrate, especially when one of our animals has a milestone birthday!

Wagner is one of 15 chinstrap penguins that we have in our Aquarium Pyramid® and she is the oldest of her species in all of North America! Wagner is turning 32 today which is big deal not only because she is the oldest penguin on this continent but because the general lifespan of her species is only in the mid-twenties.

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While living in our South Atlantic Exhibit Wagner generally enjoys spending her time swimming but on her birthday we planned a little something extra. Wagner was presented with a special ice sculpture modeled after the Aquarium Pyramid® that she lives in and she seems to know that it was all about her today. She is typically more aloof. Today, she was frolicking in the water and interacting more and seemed to enjoy her birthday party. The children outside the exhibit also enjoyed her party, as they sang Happy Birthday to Wagner. Please join us in wishing Wagner a very happy 32nd birthday and send her a congratulatory message on being the oldest chinstrap penguin in North America!

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Also be sure to see Wagner in person before the penguin exhibit temporarily closes from January 11-March 11 as part of the aquarium renovations. (Don’t worry though; the rest of the aquarium exhibits will still be open during this time.) Before the penguins go on hiatus there is still time to come visit our South Atlantic friends! You can get up close to our penguins as part of the Moody Gardens Public Penguin Encounter. The encounter lasts for 45-minutes and allows you to get up close to one of our penguins like Wagner. During your experience you are led by a Moody Gardens biologist from the front of the exhibit to behind the scenes of the penguin food preparation kitchen and then to the back of the chilly penguin exhibit. This is all while discussing penguin biology, conservation, training, enrichment and care with your Moody Gardens biologist.

Come experience the cool climate and sounds of the exhibit and witness a penguin create a work of art with a penguin painting as part of an enrichment activity for the animal! More information on the Moody Gardens Public Penguin Encounter can be found here. You can even purchase a penguin painting in our Aquarium Gift Shop. Proceeds from the painting go toward animal conservation projects. It’s a very unique gift for the animal lover in your life!

For more information, click here.

Moody Gardens Grieves Loss of Presley the Harbor Seal

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It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Presley the Harbor Seal. She died overnight this past week from an Upper Gastric Torsion. This condition can informally be described as the twisting of the stomach that was likely caused by movement or something the animal unknowingly did to itself. As was the case with Presley, it can occur suddenly and without symptoms. At home, some of us may be familiar with the condition as it is fairly common with dogs. Some animals can endure chronic, long-term battles with Gastric Torsion without relief. In Presley case, she had no symptoms and her behavior and appetite were normal throughout the day.

Presley was born in 2005 at the Memphis Zoo. In 2006, we opened our doors and hearts to her as the ideal companion for our Harbor Seal named Porter. Porter is a rescue animal found off the coast of Maine and ineligible for release to the wild. Although Porter had Fur Seals and Sea Lions in his North Pacific Exhibit, the addition of Presley provided better companionship from another seal of the same species for a more natural situation.

Together, the two Harbor Seals bonded and were active and playful in their exhibit. In 2011, the pair had a seal pup named Riley. Riley currently lives at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Presley and Porter have been a favorite among guests who have come to visit them at the Aquarium Pyramid for nine years. As the staff mourns the loss of this beautiful animal, we know she will be greatly missed by our guests as well. She will be remembered for her gregarious nature and the joy that she brought to so many of us.

Although the Aquarium Pyramid is currently closed for the first phase of renovation, you can watch the seals on our Webcam. You can visit the seals in person when the aquarium temporarily reopens starting November 14, 2015.

Most certainly Presley cannot ever be replaced, but biologists will closely monitor Porter’s behavior and well-being as animals grieve the loss of a companion too. They will work with AZA and the National Marine Fisheries Service to identify a suitable companion.

Moody Gardens Recognizes Six Outstanding Animal Care Professionals

Zookeeper WEEK.Logo 2006 VThis week is National Zookeeper Week and Moody Garden’s Life Science and Exhibit Operations department has taken this opportunity to recognize the dedication and hard work that goes into this challenging career path. Moody Gardens would like to thank each and every person on our team for providing the highest level of animal care and well-being while creating personal connections between our guests and our conservation, education and research efforts. The LSEO management team recognized 6 individuals with outstanding animal professional awards. These employees have had a significant impact on Moody Gardens through outstanding dedication, competence, conscientious performance, excellence in engaging guests and ingenuity.

The 2015 Outstanding Animal Care Professionals are: Dave Brossette, T’Noya Gonzales, Karen Holcroft, Marci Kurtz, Maggie Reynolds and Sean Salinger. As evidenced by their dedication to their job, only 3 recipients were present at the awards lunch on Tuesday, 21 July as duty called the others away.

Marci Kurtz, Sean Salinger and T’Noya Gonzales receive their recognition.
Marci Kurtz, Sean Salinger and T’Noya Gonzales receive their recognition.

Shark Finning Banned in Texas!

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After years of campaigns to bring awareness and promote change, the trading of shark fins has finally been outlawed in Texas.

Texas became the 10th state, and the first Gulf coast state to prohibit the sale of shark fins after Governor Greg Abbott signed a new bill on June 20. The new law is a win for shark conservation groups across the globe, since Texas had become a major location in the shark fin trading business.

Finning is federally banned in U.S. waters, but import and export of them is still allowed in a lot of places stateside. That is no longer the case in the country’s second largest state.

Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker helped organize a unified letter of support amongst the 17 Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facilities across the state to bring awareness to this growing issue. Whittaker says:

“The International trade in shark fins is convoluted and difficult to track and Texas was being used as a major exporter to Asia with a reported 50% of the US total shark fins transiting through our state.  This legislation effectively closes the trans-shipping loophole and protects the well managed, sustainable Texas fisheries.  It is an important step in closing down the supply lines in a wasteful exploitation of wildlife.  This is a good thing for sharks and we are proud to work with the Humane Society of the US in achieving this victory.”

What exactly is shark finning? It’s a brutal act against one of the ocean’s most iconic animals.

Fishermen capture sharks in the ocean and slice off their fins. The sharks are then thrown back into the water where they either drown or bleed to death.

The process is essentially the ocean’s version of killing an elephant or a rhino for its tusk or horn.

The shark fin is so special because it can make a lot of money. A pound of shark fin can go for as high as $880 dollars. The main use of the fins is shark fin soup, a delicacy in China. The soup normally sells for around $100.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year, with 73 million of those being used to create shark fin. Around 98 percent of the animal is wasted when it is only harvested for its fin.

Shark finning is largely responsible for a major decrease in shark populations. Some species have seen their numbers decrease by 99 percent. Overall, around 32 percent of open-ocean sharks are threatened with extinction.

The new Texas law certainly will help reduce the trade in shark fins globally , but there is still a long way to go. If you want to find out how you can help end shark finning, visit wildaid.org.

Have questions on this? Join us tomorrow for our #MGSharkTalk and our shark experts will answer them for you. CLICK HERE for more info.

#JurassicZooKeepers: Moody Gardens Edition!

It’s not always easy being a zoo keeper! Good thing we’ve got our very own set of #JurassicZooKeepers to keep everything under control. Our keepers tamed the most ferocious Moody Gardens animals using the Chris Pratt’s Jurassic World training tactic. Okay, they might not be the most ferocious animals but they are still pretty cool:

Snake Jurassic

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komodo jurrassic

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Do you want to be a #JurassicZooKeeper too? You’re in luck because we also have dinosaurs! Visit our Dinos Alive exhibit and join in on the fun! Share your best #JurassicZooKeeper photo on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram using the hashtags #DinosAlive and #JurassicZooKeeper. Ready, set…rawr! 

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Moody Gardens Assists Texas State Aquarium with Restocking Efforts

Following a tragedy at the Texas State Aquarium last month, the AZA aquarium community stepped up in support of our colleagues with offers of replacement exhibit specimens from our own collections.  Moody Gardens was able to contribute 18 exhibit fish to this effort.  Donated specimens included 8 Pompano, 3 Rock Beauty Angelfish, 3 Porcupine Puffers, 1 Red Drum, 1 Red Snapper, 1 Crevalle Jack, and 1 Tripletail.

We were also able to transport these fish as well as 8 adult cownose stingrays from the Houston Downtown Aquarium to Corpus Christi and assist in getting them put directly on display.  This effort is one small part of the larger AZA community response that emphasizes the collaborative collection management that makes our industry so strong.

For more information on how you can help, visit texasstateaquarium.org/support-us/recovery-fund/