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April 22: Due to network maintenance, online ticket purchases may be unavailable from 6-8pm.
Plan Your Visit

Animal Encounters

A portion of each Animal Encounter purchase goes towards protecting animals in the wild.

2024 Encounters

Join us as you step behind the scenes to see one of our famous Pantanal residents up close and personal. Don’t be afraid to get messy as you help our keepers feed our anteaters one of their favorite treats!

During this experience you will:

  • Go behind the scenes at our hoofstock barn
  • Tour the kitchens to see how our keepers provide daily care for our animals
  • Have an opportunity to feed an anteater using one of our specially designed puzzle feeders
$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to 6 people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.
  • Please note: This Encounter involves feeding our Anteaters one of their favorite treats- either avocado or peanut butter. If you or a member of your party have a food allergy, please be aware.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Unpaved surfaces including loose dirt and gravel
  • Not wheelchair accessible

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739.

Get a first-row seat to see how keepers build relationships with our amazing elephants! You will have an opportunity to feed, hear stories about our herd, and touch one of these amazing creatures with a photo opportunity you can share with your friends and family.

During this experience you will:

  • Go behind the scenes at our Elephant Barn
  • Tour the barn to see how our keepers provide daily care for our animals
  • Have an opportunity to meet one of our adult elephants up-close with a touching and/or feeding experience included
$195 Member/$220 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to eight people per encounter. If you have fewer than eight in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the eight persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Unpaved surfaces including loose dirt and gravel
  • Wheelchair accessible

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739.

Here’s your chance to experience what it’s like to bathe an elephant! Head behind the scenes to help scrub down one of our elephants with a photo opportunity you can share with your friends and family.

During this experience you will:

  • Go behind the scenes at our Elephant Barn
  • Have an opportunity to scrub down one of our adult elephants during their bath time
  • Note: You may get wet during this experience. We recommend wearing close-toe shoes and clothing that you don’t mind getting damp
$225 Member/$250 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Lifting large brushes 
  • May get wet 
  • Wheelchair accessible 

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739. 

Step into our treehouse and get a up close view into our gorilla’s world. Spend time feeding and interacting with our great apes all while learning about how our global partners are protecting gorillas in the wild.

During this experience you will:

  • Go behind the scenes at our Gorilla Treehouse
  • Have an opportunity to feed our Gorillas using a special port that is built into the wall
  • Interact with Zookeepers and hear stories about our amazing Gorilla family
  • Note: All interactions with Gorillas happen behind a plexiglass window

Required: All guests must properly wear a mask during the entire animal experience for the safety of our other guests, staff and animals.

$65 Member/$90 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Accessibility: 

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Ability to go up and down stairs, hand rails available
  • Elevator available if needed
  • Wheelchair accessible

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739 

Take the perfect tortoise selfie when you’re up close with some of the Zoo’s longest-living residents, the Galápagos tortoises. During this experience, you’ll have meet our Galapagos tortoises, learning all about these special residents while feeding them their favorite treats.

Pro tip: Feet are friends, not food. Our tortoises might confuse red shoes for treats, so it’s best to leave your red shoes at home for this one (yes, we’re serious). Closed-toe shoes are required.

Note: These experiences are available April – October.

$65 Member/$90 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for ages five years and older. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just four people per encounter. If you have fewer than four in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the four persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 20 – 30 minutes
  • Unpaved surfaces including loose dirt and gravel
  • Bending, kneeling and/or crouching for short periods of time

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739 

Learn all about world class animal care when you visit with our animals at the Children’s Zoo Farm. You will have an opportunity to feed and touch Zamir the zebu, get up-close to Fiesta and Yzma the llamas, and get a firsthand look at how animal welfare is at the heart of everything we do.

During this experience you will:

  • Visit our Children’s Zoo barn
  • Have the opportunity to get up-close with several of our Children’s Zoo farm residents: Zamir, Fiesta, and more
  • Learn from our Zookeepers about all that goes into caring for these amazing animals
$65 Member/$90 Non-member (per person)

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Encounter Details:

  • All day Zoo admission included for you to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter.
  • This encounter is for all ages. If you have someone under the age of 13, an adult will need to be registered with them.
  • This encounter is limited to just six people per encounter. If you have fewer than six in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed the six persons total.
  • For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, we have a special photo moment opportunity planned for you during your encounter that you can share with friends and family.

Accessibility:

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Unpaved surfaces including loose dirt and gravel
  • Bending, kneeling and/or crouching for short periods of time
  • Wheelchair Accessible

We are a Zoo for All; if you have an accommodation request, please contact us at education@houstonzoo.org or at 713-533-6739 

Accommodations and Accessibility

Our goal is to set up all participants for success. To help us provide the best possible experience, please inform us of all special considerations prior to participation. This may include information on allergies, accessibility concerns, as well as any other special needs.

The following Encounters are wheelchair accessible:

  • Elephant Encounter
  • Elephant Bath Encounter
  • Gorilla Encounter
  • Children’s Zoo Farm Encounter

Please contact us prior to registration at education@houstonzoo.org or 713-533-6739 to make an accommodation request.

Animal Encounters FAQ

What happens on an animal encounter?

Our Animal Encounters are unique opportunities to meet our zookeepers and get up close to your favorite animals. Each encounter is an interactive experience designed with our animals’ welfare in mind.

Interactions with the animals will be determined by our zookeepers. Our staff are experts in determining what is appropriate based on the animal’s behavior that day. Our Animal Encounters, which are conducted following AZA standards, allow guests to be as close as possible to their favorite animals while keeping the animals’ well-being at the forefront of every interaction.

How long is an encounter?

Animal Encounters are 30 – 45 minutes long, beginning with a front of scenes tour led by our Conservation Education staff. We’ll spend the remaining time with our keeper meeting the animal(s), learning about how they are cared for and the challenges these animals face in the wild.

How early should I arrive?

Allow plenty of time for parking and arrival. The Zoo opens at 9 a.m., and you are welcome to explore the Zoo before and after your Animal Encounter. Guests arriving five minutes or more past the scheduled start time will be unable to join the experience.

Where do I park?

Parking is the same as for any other Zoo visit; check our Directions webpage if you need more information on directions, parking and arrival options. Free parking outside our gates in Hermann Park can fill quickly. Guests arriving five minutes or more past the scheduled start time will be unable to join the Animal Encounter.

Where do I meet?

You will meet your guide just inside the Zoo at the McGovern Front Entry Plaza at the digital Plan Your Day screen.

Do we need to print our tickets?

There is no need to print tickets; simply show the ticket on your phone when you enter. Your Animal Encounter tickets are exempt from the timed ticket procedures and you are welcome to enter the Zoo anytime on the day of your experience.

What is the dress code?

Plan on walking with Zoo staff throughout this Animal Encounter, and please dress comfortably for the weather. Closed-toe shoes are required.

What happens if it rains?

Animal Encounters are rain or shine. This encounter is primarily outdoors, please dress for the weather and for walking during this Animal Encounter.

What else do I need to know?

Animal Encounters are a guided walking experience. Some Encounters require guests to walk long distances. Certain Encounters are accessible for guests using wheelchairs, including the Elephant Encounter.

On select Animal Encounters, a face mask is required for for the safety of our guests, staff, and animals. Please review the information on each individual Encounter to determine the best fit for your family.

Please advise us of any disabilities, special needs, medical conditions, or any other concerns you may have that could prevent you from fully participating in the experience. The more information you can provide, the better we can assist you.

Please note: Service animals are not permitted on any of the Animals Encounters or Behind the Scenes Experiences.

What if I need to cancel?

Cancellations must be made seven days in advance or payment will be forfeited. Cancellations must be made in writing and sent to education@houstonzoo.org

Any Other Questions?

For questions regarding this or any other Animal Encounter, call the Conservation Education department (713) 533-6739 or email education@houstonzoo.org.

Gift Certificates

Give the gift of an Animal Encounter this holiday season with a gift certificate for one of our experiences. Gift certificates are valid for 6 months from the date of purchase and allow your recipient to select an available date that works with their schedule. Upon purchase, gift certificates are e-mailed to you in a PDF for easy printing. For more information, please visit our page here:

Purchase a Gift Certificate

Member Portal