And the winner is…

After 6 weeks of photo submissions and one week of voting on Facebook, we have found our Festival of Lights Photo Contest season winner! With 324 “likes” the winner is:

Congratulations to the Wehrle Family! They have won the following:

  • Four (4) Tickets to all of the Moody Gardens® Attractions (Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest Pyramid, MG 3D Theater, 4D Special FX Theater, Ridefilm Theater, Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, Discovery Museum and Palm Beach)
  • Chance to Meet a Real Penguin in a Penguin Encounter for up to four people

Welcome to Penguin Manor!

Talk about culinary creativity at Moody Gardens Hotel! Pastry Chef Becky Kastelz spent more than 40 hours building Penguin Manor (in honor of our wonderful penguins), a set of three gingerbread houses decorated with the season’s most delicious candies .

Entrance to Penguin Manor

The three houses, made from 28 pounds of gingerbread (including 3 gallons of molasses) and sugar windows, are adorned with M&Ms, licorice, chocolate snowcaps, fondant candy canes, modeling chocolate wreaths, vanilla wafer cookies, and lots and lots of royal icing (over 20 pounds). The fences and balcony are chocolate-covered pretzels with jellybean gardens. An M&M driveway lined with chocolate kisses leads onto the lawn.

Caroling Penguins

Fondant penguins enjoy the holidays with caroling, skating on a sugar pond, making snow angels in coconut snow, snowball fights, and decorating Christmas trees made of ice cream cones covered in royal icing and non-pareils.

Who knew pretzels could also function as a balcony rail!

To protect the display from Galveston’s famous humidity, the entire house and all decorations have been coated with non-edible lacquer.

A roof good enough to eat!
Snow Angels, a holiday must!
Decorating the tree!
One final look!

Come see it for yourself at the Moody Gardens Hotel lobby this holiday season!

Shop Till You Drop at Moody Gardens Presents: Home for the Holidays Gift Market

With the holidays just around the corner, it is sometimes hard to come up with that perfect gift for someone. Whether it is your significant other, brother, sister, mom or dad, the holidays can be a stressful time, but we have the cure this Thanksgiving break.

Come spend the weekend shopping with us at Moody Gardens Presents: Home for the Holidays Gift Market November 25th- 27th. The gift market will be located at the Moody Gardens Convention Center in Expo A and Expo B. Here at Moody Gardens we are very excited for the opportunity to give you as visitors the chance to find unique gifts for you and the family. Tickets are $5 for regular admission, or you can make a shopping extravaganza out of it and spend $25 for the Gift Market VIP Lounge. The VIP area overlooks the showroom floor and offers specialty holiday hors d’oeuvres, featured beverages, wines and hot wassail. Over 100 vendors with various products will be here this weekend. If you are not sure what you are looking for we have put some suggestions together for each family member.

Gifts for Mom: At the gift market you will find vendors with homemade jewelry that is sure to be a hit. There will also be clothing boutiques and home goods that she will find enjoy this winter season.

Gifts for Dad: Find a unique present for Dad at the gift market. Some vendors will have household Texas decorations along with sports memorabilia and much more!

Gifts for Sisters: This weekend you will find all types of great gifts for sisters of all ages. Some of the things you will find range from princess themed accessories for little sisters to monogrammed tote bags for big sisters.

Gifts for Brothers: Brothers of all ages can be hard to shop for, but with the gift markets help it should make it a little easier. Look out for great homemade snacks that the brothers can munch on when they are hungry or make a personalized holiday gift for them at the market.

With so much shopping all in one place it will be hard not to find something that you will like. Also, once you are done shopping stay and enjoy the “Tinsel Anniversary” of the Festival of Lights for $5.95 per person. This weekend there is so much to do so get the shopping bags ready and come to Moody Gardens.

Times for the Moody Gardens Presents: The Home for the Holidays Gift Market

  • November 25th: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • November 26th: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • November 27th: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Click here for more information

Santa’s Festival of Lights Photo Contest

Show your best red and green at the Festival of Lights Holiday Scene!

Come to our winter wonderland to capture your best Festival of Lights moments. After getting yourself into the holiday spirit, send us your most creative shots for a chance to receive a special gift. The Festival of Lights photo contest will take place each week during the 10th Annual Festival of Lights, as outlined below, with the grand prize winner selected the week of December 25. Here is a Naughty and Nice List from Santa that will help guide you to your presents. Winners will be announced every Friday on the Moody Garden’s® Facebook Page and also contacted at the email address that the picture was sent from.


• Submit photos that are taken at Moody Gardens® and have a holiday theme. Here are some examples of photos Santa would approve of:

o A photo featuring your family and/or friends

o A photograph featuring any of the Moody Gardens® holiday events & activities

o A photo featuring your favorite light display, Santa, Snow Zone, Ice Rink, Christmas tree, etc. The possibilities are endless!

What to send:

• Send photo to as an attachment

• Only ONE photo per participant each week so make sure you select your best shot!

• JPEG format in high resolution (please do not exceed 2 MB)

• In the body of the email, include the following information:

o Full Name

o Date of Birth

o Short description of photograph including location of where it was taken

o Date that photo was taken

o Copy and Paste the following disclaimer: I hereby acknowledge that I have read and understand the rules for the Moody Gardens® Santa’s Festival of Lights Photo Contest and if I do not abide by these rules, I will not be eligible to participate.

When to send:

• Each contest week begins on Friday through Thursday at 12pm (See schedule below)


Do not submit photos that are:

• Inappropriate, offensive, spam or commercial in nature will not be considered

• Low quality photos (small, blurry, etc.)

• Copyrighted photos that do not belong to you.

• Photographs that are not associated with Moody Gardens® holiday events

• Photos from past years. Visit for the 2011 Festival of Lights schedule.

Presents from Santa:

• The selected photo for each week will be featured on our Digital Billboard located on the west side of I-45 Southbound, south of Calder Road, and on the Moody Gardens® home page rotating banners.

• If you win one of the weekly challenges, you will be a part of our Season Winner Contest which will start on December 23. The 6 previous winning photos will be posted on Facebook by Moody Gardens® and the photo with the most “likes”  will win our season prize which includes the following:

o Four (4) Tickets to all of the Moody Gardens® Attractions (Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest Pyramid, MG 3D Theater, 4D Special FX Theater, Ridefilm Theater, Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, Discovery Museum)

o Chance to Meet a Real Penguin in a Penguin Encounter for up to four people

Santa’s Timeline

Week One:

• Submit photos between November 11-November 20

Week Two:

• Submit photos between November 21-November 27

Week Three:

• Submit photos between November 28-December 4

Week Four:

• Submit photos between December 5-December 11

Week Five:

• Submit photos between December 12-December 18

Week Six:

• Submit photos between December 19-December 26

Season Winner:

• December 26: Voting Opens on Facebook.

• December 30: Voting Closes in the morning

• Week of January 2: Season Winner Announced Facebook in the p.m.

Terms & Conditions: By submitting photograph(s) to Moody Gardens®, the participant hereby agrees that all photographs submitted become property of Moody Gardens®. Moody Gardens® reserves the non-exclusive right to use any photograph(s) in publications or for promotional purposes. By submitting photos, the participant also acknowledges that any persons appearing in submitted photograph(s) have given the participant and Moody Gardens® consent for reproduction and promotional use. Participants must be 18 or older to enter. If participant is under 18 and wishes to participate, they may have a parent or guardian submit on their behalf. Participants may submit entries only once per weekly contest. If a participant is selected as weekly winner then they cannot win again. Only participants that have followed the outlined rules and regulations will be considered.

Have fun and think outside the (gift) box!

 *Download contest information and rules by clicking here. 

What Can You Expect at Moody Gardens This Holiday Season?

Believe it or not the holidays have arrived at Moody Gardens! Holiday lights displays have been set up all around the property, holiday music is playing in employee offices and our giant Christmas tree is standing tall. We have a lot going on these next two months but don’t worry, we’ve got your one-stop guide to holiday fun at Moody Gardens right here. So pull out your pen and paper and mark your calendars because you are invited to a variety of holiday events at Moody Gardens:

Click here to view YOUR invitation!

Looking for more Holiday excitement? Here are some more events coming up this holiday season at Moody Gardens:


When: Nov. 25, 5-9pm, Nov. 26, 10am-9pm, Nov. 27, 11am-4pm
Where: Moody Gardens Convention Center
What: An extraordinary holiday shopping experience that will include a wide variety of jewelry, hand bags, Yellow Box, personalized gifts, clothing for adults and kids, holiday décor, quilts, linens, books for all ages, mosaics, embroidery, designer, florals and more!
Visit for tickets and more information.


When: December 15-December 27
Where: Moody Gardens Convention Center
What: Imagine Christmas combines inspiring music, beautiful dance and imaginative aerial acrobatics to tell the story of Christ’s birth in a way that evokes child-like wonder, awe and amazement.
Visit for tickets and more information.

Moody Gardens Pumpkin & Bat House Contest

To add to the fun of Halloweekend, the different departments at Moody Gardens had a Pumpkin Contest and a Bat House Decorating Contest. Visitors this weekend voted and helped us choose the best of the best. Before we reveal the winners, we wanted to give you a chance to guess which pumpkin and which bat house won.


Pumpkin 1
Pumpkin 2
Pumpkin 3
Pumpkin 3
Pumpkin 4
Pumpkin 5
Pumpkin 6
Pumpkin 7
Pumpkin 8


Bat House 1
Bat House 2
Bat House 3
Bat House 4
Bat House 5

Leave a comment below with your guesses and we’ll reveal the winners tomorrow.

UPDATE: The winners were Pumpkin #8 created by staff at the Moody Gardens Golf Course and Bat House #2 decorated by our Education department.


When the Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid opens May 28, both first-time guests and regular Rainforest Pyramid patrons will marvel at the $25 million in enhancements that have transformed the attraction into a tropical paradise unlike any other in the nation.  The bright green leaves, colossal trunks, multicolored flowers and fresh fruit of more than 1,000 species of exotic flora will flourish inside the pyramid.  Free-roaming mammals, colorful birds, insects and reptiles will help propagate the forest, assisting with pollination.  What was once a botanical garden is now a living, breathing rainforest.

As educational as it is entertaining, the Rainforest Pyramid is designed to inspire guests to join the ongoing race to save the rainforest.  This one-of-a-kind attraction is central to the Moody Gardens conservation and education mission, and it is an expression of gratitude to the disappearing rainforests of the world.

Despite their unique beauty and ecological importance, rainforests of the world are vanishing quickly.  More than 12 million acres are being stripped every year for cattle farming, logging, and other trade and development.  In a single century, 90 percent of West Africa’s coastal rainforests disappeared.  Without tree cover, the once-moist soil of the rainforest turned quickly into dry, loose sand.  This human-induced change in land cover converted countries like Nigeria and Ghana into desert, causing decades of drought, famine and death that persist today.

Nearly half of all prescription drugs in the United States have active ingredients derived from rainforest plants, treating maladies like gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, menopause, high blood pressure and even the common headache.  One rainforest plant from Madagascar yielded compounds for two important anti-cancer drugs that helped increase the 5-year survival rate of childhood leukemia from 10 percent to nearly 90 percent.

As one of the few authentic indoor rainforest replicas in the world, the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens hosts myriad plants and animals commonly found in African, Asian and American rainforests.

“Biodiversity is important in the rainforest, so we wanted to deliver an accurate representation of what would be found in these environments,” said Donita Brannon, Horticultural Exhibit Manager of the Rainforest Pyramid®.

Each plant within the Rainforest Pyramid has its own story to tell.  Here are a few:

  • The Brazilian Beauty Leaf (Calophyllum brasiliens) is identified by distinctive white flowers and leaves.  But humans have another reason to admire this tree—the latex in the leaves contains three potent HIV-1 inhibitors.
  • Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tree treasured for its delicate scent.  The flowers contain essential oils that are commonly used in skincare and aromatherapy products and also serve as the top note in Chanel No. 5, one of the best-selling perfumes in the world.  Besides its unique fragrance, ylang-ylang is used to treat motion sickness, lower high blood pressure and calm anxiety.
  • The largest plant in the Rainforest Pyramid is a 30-foot Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa). The tree weighed approximately two tons when it was delivered and took three days to plant inside the pyramid.  Hindus and Buddhists consider the plant sacred because Siddhartha Gautama is believed to have been sitting under a Ficus religiosa when he achieved enlightenment.
  • The carnivorous Pitcher Plant uses a deep, liquid-filled sac to capture prey.  Bright colors lure insects into the “pitfall traps,” where they are drowned and dissolved by enzymes, then absorbed by the plant for nutrition.  Some larger species of Pitcher Plants even feed on reptiles and small mammals.
  • Other plants like cocoa, the cola nut, tapioca, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice are indigenous to the rainforest but end up in pharmacies, refrigerators and spice cabinets across the United States.

“Seeing all these plants in person is a truly unique opportunity that we hope will encourage visitors to help protect our rainforests as much as possible,” Brannon said.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the plants that live in the Rainforest Pyramid® or click here if video below is not functioning:


Moody Gardens recently welcomed two-toed sloths to our island paradise!!

Carlton and friends will be free roaming in the newly enhanced Rainforest Pyramid opening in May 2011. Paula Kolvig, assistant curator at the Moody Gardens’ Rainforest Pyramid, takes you into the sloths’ habitat for an up close encounter.



Click here to watch the video!

Fun Fact:

Two-toed sloths spend almost their entire lives hanging upside-down, including eating, sleeping, mating, and giving birth. In fact, they spend so much time hanging upside-down that their fur actually grows from their belly to their back so that rainwater can runoff easily. They are also one of the few species of mammals that can turn their heads 180 degrees in both directions!

Blog Post by:
Whitney O’Grady
Rainforest Public Relations Coordinator



By Leah Boyd
Moody Gardens News

Diane Olsen with Chilly Willy King Penguin
Diane Olsen with Chilly Willy King Penguin. (Photo by Nancy Thompson)

A Moody Gardens animal curator, who led a national effort to find homes for birds displaced by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, was recently honored for her work by the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Diane Olsen, assistant curator at Moody Gardens’ Aquarium Pyramid, received the AZA’s “Outstanding Service Award” Sept. 15 in recognition of her leadership in coordinating an AZA bird rescue initiative in response to the oil spill this summer as well as working to place non-releasable birds in zoos and aquariums across the country. Olsen received the award during the organization’s 2010 national conference, which was held in Houston.

 “AZA facilities have experts in the field, and we are the perfect group to be assisting with these efforts,” said Olsen, a Galveston resident.  “It was important for us to coordinate it. To be recognized for that is just a bonus.”

Olsen’s efforts included rallying more than 150 volunteers from more than 75 AZA-accredited institutions to help with oil spill disaster relief along the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Although access was limited in some areas, Olsen said, the organization was able to rescue and find homes for nearly 30 birds.

 “We are extremely proud of Diane’s conservation drive and commitment to doing the right thing,” said John Zendt, president and CEO of Moody Gardens. “She is very deserving of this award.”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in conservation, education, science and recreation. Moody Gardens is an AZA accredited institution.