As you cross over the bridge on your way to Galveston you can't help but notice those colorful pyramids and wonder, "what the heck are those, are we in Egypt?" Nope, you're still in Texas, (albeit, almost as far south as you can get), and those aren't the Egyptian Pyramids. What you're seeing is part of one of the best attractions in Galveston and all o Texas and a must visit if you're on vacation or visiting Galveston. In fact, those pyramids are home to an aquarium, a rainforest, and a science museum at Moody Gardens.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, we piled our family of 10 (including four grandkids ranging in age from 17 months to 6 years old) into a couple cars and arrived at Moody Gardens a few minutes after they opened and we had to drag the kids out the door before we got locked in when Moody Gardens closed. What a fun filled action packed day - our daughters and all the grandkids were asleep within a few minutes after leaving! When you visit Moody Gardens you might consider getting a two day pass - in one day it's really hard to see and do everything Moody Gardens has to offer. If you're going to try and do it in a day, spend some time on the Moody Garden website planning what you want to see and do before you head out.
Below are some of the things to do that we think help make Moody Gardens one of the best attractions in Texas as well as Galveston:
- Aquarium Pyramid - the 10 story Aquarium Pyramid showcases in four exhibits the beauty of the North and South Pacific, South Atlantic, and Caribbean with 1.5 million gallons of water and more than 10,000 marine animals. The pyramid also includes tide pools, “touch tanks” and unique viewing opportunities as well as underwater classrooms and learning experiences for guests of all ages. Within the Aquarium is a fee based Penguin Encounter where you can get up close and personal with those cute little penguins. I hated to drag the kids out of our first stop but there was lots more to see - they weren't real happy with me.
- Rainforest Pyramid - the Rainforest Pyramid, which recently underwent a $25 million renovation, is now home to over 1,000 species of exotic plants and animals from the rainforests of Africa, Asia and the Americas, all within the multi-level 10-story glass pyramid. When you visit the Rainforest Pyramid, you'll start on a walkway overlooking the endangered giant Amazon River otter exhibit before entering the pyramid in the canopy level which gives you a high level view of the birds, sloths, white-faced saki monkeys, cotton-top tamarins and other free-roaming tree-dwellers. Then you wind you way down the Pyramid and on the way to the bottom you'll encounter:
- plants and animals from the Asian rainforest, including the carnivorous pitcher plant
- colorful orchids and fish
- two Chinese alligators and a crocodile monitor
- colorful macaws perched near the flowing waterfall
- the majestic spotted ocelot
- Mayan ruins and a replica temple that is home to a green anaconda, piranhas, caiman lizards, and even vampire bats
- Discovery Pyramid - this Pyramid is home to traveling exhibits from around the country and provides interactive demonstrations showcasing the world of science. During our visit, we saw Bones: An Exhibit Inside You that had interactive activities to teach visitors about bones by examining bone biology, keeping bones healthy, and how bones are a part of cultures all over the world - after a couple minutes, the grandkids were ready to bail on this one.
- Palm Beach - this may have been the highlight for most of our group thanks to the lazy river, 18-foot tower slides, wave pool, and interactive water features like the Splashpad with dump buckets, spray arches and fountains. All of this is surrounded by a sandy beach area with umbrellas, small tables, and comfy beach chairs on the edge of the bay. You can soak up the rays, coast on the lazy river, sip a cold drink, eat some muchies, take a nap, play sand volleyball, ride a wave, or just enjoy the view of the bay. We could have spent an entire day at Palm Beach. We left sun burned, worn out, and anxious to do it again sometime!
- Garden Restaurant - the restaurant has a very good buffet with several items from salads to desserts or an extensive lunch menu. We sat outside by the reflecting pools and overlooking the bay - a serene setting.
- Colonel Paddleboat - at the northwest end of Moody Gardens an authentic replica of an 1800-style Paddlewheel that will take you on an hour-long cruise around Galveston's Offatts Bayou
- 3D Theater - we put on our special glasses and were immediately immersed in superb surround sound and some incredible realistic three-dimensional images of dinosaurs as they are projected onto a giant six-story screen with such realism that at several times it scared the youngest grandkid, made the other ones drop their jaws, and made all of us reach out several times to try and grab a dinosaur, fish, or other object. There are usually three to four movies to choose from.
- 4D Theaters - the grandkids were amazed and loved this one as they experienced a unique short Hi-def digital 3D projection film with special effects, such as wind, smoke, mist, leg ticklers, and seat buzzers as Dora and her friends chased a butterfly through a surreal jungle.
- Ridefilm Theater - unfortunately we didn't have time for this 18-passenger ride that is surrounded by a seamless 180° wraparound screen that fully encompasses each viewer's peripheral vision with high quality images and awesome sound.
In addition to all of that there is a very well stocked gift shop, several special events and attractions throughout the year, educational events, kids camps, and more. During our visit we saw a dance group, a well done Lion King dance in the lobby, plus an interesting musician.
In front of the Pyramids is the Moody Gardens Hotel and Convention Center, a short 500 yard walk to the attractions, with 428 rooms, restaurant, spa, and a variety of special room rates with golf, the attractions, and more. They offer a variety of special package rates which makes the Moody Garden Hotel a perfect place to stay if you goal is to spend a couple days at Moody Gardens, explore Galveston, or play the Moody Garden Golf Course.
The Moody Garden Golf Course is a two minute drive from the Hotel and it is an excellent track. It is a championship links style course with good variety, some fun and interesting holes, good conditions, and a good value. Read our review of Moody Gardens Golf Course to lean more about this Galveston golf course.
Bottom line - Moody Gardens is an excellent Galveston attraction that offers a very diverse offering that is enjoyable for all ages. And Galveston has lots of fun things to see and do including some unique shops, Schlitterbaun Waterpark, great restaurants, miles of sand and surf, and lots more. Check out our Galveston Map and list of 10 Things to See and Do in Galveston.