Roy A. Barnes explored Houston area's second biggest attraction. He recommends five not to miss activities when visiting this Texas Gulf Coast venue.

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Top 5 Attractions at Moody Gardens – Galveston, Texas, USA

It’s a 242 acre complex of recreational, educational, and entertaining activities that emanates a sense of peace and tranquility, even though 2 million people visit every year. From across the Offatts Bayou, which is one of the waterways of Galveston,
Texas, one will notice 3 mighty pyramids rising into the air 10 stories high. To see that architectural wonder is worth the visit alone, but I found 5 other top reasons why it’s worth coming to Moody Gardens, open for fun and excitement, and recovering well after last September, when Hurricane Ike left much devastation along the Texas
Gulf Coast.

The author makes a new friend!

Saturdays or Sundays are definitely worth planning a
visit to Moody Gardens
because you can arrange to interact with penguins up close and personal. I made a new friend of the King Penguin kind
in Picabu, a real ham for the camera.
Her handler Rebecca, told me that a number of their 100-plus penguins on site bolt
out of the door excitably once it’s opened to meet groups of kids and adults. The penguins’ names are Ringo,
Hendrix, Eric and Jasmine. Besides
Kings, other penguin species like Rock Hoppers and Chinstraps entertain
visitors. These cute creatures
are like children; they often screech and howl to show their enthusiasm.

I was allowed to pet Picabu on the back, feels both a
bit soft and rough in texture. I had to
be careful to watch for the movement of her long pecking beak. The penguins even get to create
paintings with their webbed feet and play with various children’s toys during
their presentation time. If you love
penguins, this is definitely one of those must do activities to take part in
before you die!

Only 16 people are allowed to attend these 1:00 p.m. functions that last 45 minutes. Tickets often sell out a couple hours before the show, so it’s best to arrive
early, first come, first serve, well worth the $30. Private bookings are also available. See the website below for more details.

The Aquarium Pyramid

There are over 1.5 million gallons of water full of Mother
Nature’s creatures at the Aquarium Pyramid, making this particular
attraction one of the largest aquariums in the United
States.
The pyramid is  user friendly; contains wide walkways and
high ceilings that give a sense of openness, making it easy to see the various
species of sharks swimming around, or to watch the seals being fed. I saw a number of species of fish and
mammals from all over the world via four large exhibit spaces
on The Caribbean, The South Atlantic, The North Pacific and South Pacific.

At one of my favorite exhibits I was able
to touch the exterior of some non-poisonous sea urchins. People around me were also hesitant to do this,
but we put aside our fears since the staff worker told us we’d get, at the worst,
a little pinch if we touched the space between their spines. I anxiously proceeded, but didn’t feel
anything, so maybe the urchin was sleeping?
The penguin colony exhibit was heavily trafficked. It’s
possible to not only see them on land, but also watch them swim gracefully under the
water through the transparent enclosure.
The pyramid’s Nautilus Gallery is currently featuring a large exhibit on
sharks, including interactive activities.

The Rainforest Pyramid

Galveston's pyramids are full of life!

Even though the Rainforest Pyramid was heavily flooded
due to Hurricane Ike, it’s scheduled to open on April
25. I was fortunate to get a sneak
preview of the restoration. I have to say it’s awesome! This particular pyramid offers plant lovers
the opportunity to see firsthand plant species from the various rainforests in Asia,
Africa and the Americas inside a 50-plus foot of canopy. A special
area will be designated for plant education presentations. Non-plant life exists too, such as a 14 foot
long Green Anaconda from South America that looks more black than
green. Colorful and “outspoken” macaws
will be again making their home there.

Also landscaped into the flora in the Americas
section is some really beautiful quartz as well as some replica Mayan
ruins. I viewed with interest some
Bromeliads, coconut trees, as well as root beer and pepper plants.

The Paddlewheel Cruise

Seagulls entertain the paddlewheel boat riders.

When you say you’re going to “The Colonel” in Galveston,
that shouldn’t be interpreted as necessarily going for fried chicken! Instead, Moody Gardens has a paddlewheel boat
that cruises around for about 45 minutes on one of Galveston’s waterways called
Offatts Bayou. I saw a few nice looking harbor front homes as a cloudy and breezy
afternoon gave way to some refreshing sunshine.

What I found most enjoyable about this cruise was not only getting to see the gorgeous pyramids of Moody Gardens from a
distance, but the fact that scores of seagulls flew alongside the boat and entertained
us riders with their swooping around, as they expected some handouts in return for their entertaining.

The Terrace Restaurant

When I ate at Moody
Gardens’ Terrace Restaurant, I was
surrounded by beautiful and lush green flora, with light pop music emanating into
the dining room. I was in natural surroundings, butterfly artwork to complement the
environment. This dining establishment
is located on the ground floor of the Moody Gardens Hotel, definitely
the place to relax and refuel after a day’s worth of sightseeing around the
complex, especially since they serve fresh seafood from the nearby Texas
Gulf coast.

Soups, salads and appetizers
range in price from $4.50-$16.00, heavily influenced by seafood,
especially shrimp and crabmeat, two of the biggest seafood catches in
the area. I’ve never tasted better gumbo, loaded with rice, okra, tomatoes,
netting a rich, hearty flavor.
I could’ve ordered a bowl for a couple dollars more, but the bowl is
equivalent to about four cups! I
enjoyed the Grilled Chicken Salad, full of fresh-tasting
vegetables with a little bit of string cheese.

The restaurant features many seafood, chicken, beef and pasta dishes as entrees, including the Pasta Primavera that I chose. The Penne Pasta was
brilliantly sautéed in olive oil and garlic, really helped to enhance the
flavor of the pasta and vegetables.
Other main dishes include Fried or Grilled Jumbo Shrimp, as well as burgers and sandwiches.
The price range is from $8-$28, large portions.

For dessert, one can choose from a variety of baked goods
for $5, or do what I did and ask for a fresh fruit plate. The service is attentive and fast.

Sleeping In The
Middle of the Action

I stayed at the onsite Moody Gardens Hotel, a great
place to base oneself when exploring this giant complex. The beds are comfortable. Complimentary high speed internet, ample
workspace, and a refrigerator are provided in the rooms. Their well-stocked fitness center is open 24
hours a day! Of all the hotels I’ve
stayed at, I’ve never had the housecleaning staff come by my room and offer me
extra towels, coffee, and chocolate during the prime time hours of the evening,
like the staff here did.

For more information, check out Moody Garden’s website.

Roy A. Barnes is a frequent contributor to Bootsnall.com. He writes from southeastern Wyoming
when he’s not hanging out with penguins!

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