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Explore the Wild! Nature Play Area

Little imaginations are encouraged to run wild, as sticks turn into wands, leaves become fairy wings, and sand is the main ingredient in the very best mud pie. The Houston Zoo has opened Explore the Wild!, a nature play area designed to inspire children of all ages to use their imagination and discover the natural world around them.

Find out more:

Giraffe Feeding Platform

Zoo guests have a unique opportunity to interact with our Masai giraffe family at the Giraffe Feeding Platform. Our giraffes are among the most beloved at the Houston Zoo for their charm and curiosity about their visitors! Make your way up the ramp to the shaded feeding area for a view of the giraffes, zebra, and ostriches while you offer a crunchy lettuce leaf snack to your new long-necked pals.

Feedings daily at 11 am and 2 pm* – $7 for giraffe food
*dependent on weather and giraffe participation

Look for the Feeding Platform kiosk near the Twiga Cafe to purchase your ticket for giraffe food. The kiosk opens just before feeding times.


The Wildlife Carousel is near the entrance to the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. It’s a unique work of art, hand carved and painted. Many exotic animals on the carousel are found in the zoo, such as the okapi, bongo, and cassowary, and you can see the only armadillos known to exist as carousel figures! Go for a spin and ride along to the collection of musical styles from across the globe.

A portion of the proceeds from the Carousel helps fund the Zoo’s ongoing conservation efforts. Riders of all ages can have fun taking a spin and knowing that they are bringing hope to endangered species and wild habitats around the world!

Tickets: $2 members, $3 non-members Purchase tickets at the Carousel or at Zoo entrances. Credit cards and cash are accepted.

Carousel Rules

  • Children over 42″ tall may ride alone.
  • Each child under 42″ tall must be accompanied by an adult, who will stand next to the child as he/she rides for safety. (This adult does not need to purchase a ticket.)
  • No food, drinks or strollers are allowed on the Carousel.
  • There are no refunds for unused passes.



Kathrine McGovern Water Play Park

Now closed for the season. Open Daily, April 1 – September 23
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Subject to close for a portion of the day when the air temperature is below 70 degrees or if severe weather threatens the area, for the health and safety of our guests.

The Water Play Park is free with your Houston Zoo admission! Enjoy more than 13,500 square feet of family fun. This hot weather oasis includes a friendly and colorful sea serpent, a tall ‘fill and spill’ water tree, and a variety of ‘water weavers’, fountains, jets and misters. Please note that proper swimwear is required. Nearby are private changing stalls and seating to allow families to monitor their children and watch the fun. An advanced filtration system allows us to maintain excellent water quality while conserving water and energy.

The Water Play Park is also notable for its eco-friendly design; the water features are only activated when a child steps on one of two touch sensors. When left untouched, the water feature remains in ‘sleep’ mode until someone activates the sensor, conserving both water and electricity.

The Water Play Park is located near our Medical Center Entrance, not far from the Carousel.


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Naturally Wild Swap Shop

Open Daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Located in the McGovern Children’s Zoo

The Naturally Wild Swap Shop is a place to bring items you have found in nature and trade them for natural items in our collection.

Here's How It Works
Items you can Bring to the Swap Shop: We will only accept up to three items per trade.
Items you CANNOT Bring to the Swap Shop:

Earn Extra Points – Become a Pollinator Pal

Plant a pollinator garden and become a Pollinator Pal! It can be as small as a potted plant or as large as a full scale garden. Once your garden is planted, take some pictures and bring a report about it to the Swap Shop to earn points. Then, as your garden grows and attracts pollinators, bring in reports on what you have seen and how the garden is doing. Your points can then be spent on some amazing natural items in the Swap Shop!

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Children’s Zoo Activities

There’s many cool and unusual animals to see in the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo, and fun activities for the young people in your life! Visit the Petting Zoo to brush and pet our friendly herd of Nigerian dwarf goats. Nearby is a towering playscape with slides, climbing walls and tunnels to explore. They can also tunnel into the moongoose habitat and pop up their heads for a photo!

The Petting Zoo is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and the playscape and mongoose tunnels are always open.