Skip to Content
Plan Your Visit

Animal Encounters

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

Ever wonder what happens at night after the Zoo Keepers go home? Accompany our Animal Care Liaisons on their evening rounds as the animals are settling down for the night (and as the nocturnal ones are waking up). During this guided flashlight tour you will visit multiple areas of the Zoo, help conduct animal observations and join this team as they respond to any animal care needs that may arise.

Required: All guests 10 years and older must properly wear a mask during the entire animal experience for the safety of our other guests, staff and animals.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Encounter Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before your Animal Encounter. When the Zoo closes you must exit, however, you will be able to re-enter the Zoo at the start time of your program.

Availability
Thursday evenings from 8:00 – 8:45 p.m. (March through October) & 7:00 – 7:45 p.m. (November through February)

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Dark pathways 
  • Ability to go up and down stairs, hand rails available

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

Ages Five and Up
This Animal Encounter is not permitted for kids under age five. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Alligators are intelligent, some of the most attentive parents in the reptile world, and the best part about them is they are found right here in Texas! Accompany Zoo Keepers into a staff-only area and learn more about these magnificent reptiles. During this experience you will participate in special training demonstration and toss our alligators some of their favorite treats

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Encounter Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • 8-inch step up to get onto platform 

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

Ages Five and Up
This Animal Encounter is not permitted for kids under age five. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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 six persons total.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Meet us for an up-close encounter with one of the slowest animals you will ever see. Learn about our remarkable sloth Curly from the keepers who know him best. During this opportunity, you will have a chance to feed him his favorite snacks and even participate in a ‘slothie’ (selfies with a sloth!).

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$195 Member/$220 Non-member (per person)

Encounter Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • If wheelchair accessibility is needed please contact us prior to purchasing this experience

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

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Meet Max, Marley, Rijo, and Dru in our brand-new exhibit, South America’s Pantanal. Get to know each otters’ personality and discover how much fun it is to care for these playful giants. Climb to the observation deck for a one-of-a-kind view while you listen to their amazing (and loud) vocalizations.

Required: All guests 10 years and older must properly wear a mask during the entire animal experience for the safety of our other guests, staff and animals.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Encounter Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Bending, kneeling or crouching for short periods of time 
  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes
  • Ability to go up and down stairs, hand rails available

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

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Known as the “man of the forest”, these silent giants move with grace throughout their habitat. Join the orang troop and their Zoo Keepers for a special training session. Discover more about these Great Apes, including what their favorite thing to do is, and help deliver a special tasty treat.

Required: All guests 10 years and older 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)

Encounter Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Bending, kneeling 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  

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

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

Required: All guests 10 years and older 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)

Encounter Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • 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 

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

RESERVE TICKETS

Member Portal

Grab your walking shoes and join our keepers and Animal Ambassador cheetah on a morning trek before the Zoo opens to the public. Hear stories about our individuals and what Houston Zoo is doing to protect cheetahs in the wild.

Required: All guests 10 years and older must properly wear a mask during the entire animal experience for the safety of our other guests, staff and animals.

$195 Member/$220 Non-member (per person)

Get the Details:

All Day Zoo Admission Included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • If wheelchair accessibility is needed please contact us prior to purchasing this experience

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

Ages 13 and Up
This Animal Encounter is not permitted for kids under age 13.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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 four persons total.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed on the walk. 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.

RESERVE TICKETS

Member Portal

Are you missing the Zoo’s goat herd? Just like us, goats have unique personalities and our herd is ready to meet you and your household in this private encounter. Get to know Daisy, Blossom, Sprout and friends while you brush them, scratch their ears and watch them soak up the attention! Learn from our Children’s Zoo keepers as you interact with the goats, discover all about what they like to eat and do, and get to know them personally. Don’t miss the chance to pose for a photo with your favorite goat – but watch out for photo bombs from Alvin (he loves to be in all the pictures).

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$25 per quarantine household for up to 6 persons (Zoo Admission not included)

Get the Details:

Availability
There are three time slots available within the 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. time frame. Choose one time slot for your experience. 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
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 20 minutes 
  • Bending, kneeling or crouching for short periods of time
  • 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 

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Capacity
This exclusive experience is limited to just one quarantine household of up to six people per encounter.

Location
This encounter meets at the Goat Yard inside the Children’s Zoo.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Interact with one of Africa’s rarest species during this one-of-a-kind experience. Get eye-to-eye with Kwame “Kwaa-mey” and Sukari “Sue-car-e” as you visit their habitat and learn about the closest living relatives to the giraffe. We will provide their favorite food items for an opportunity to feed them, but it will be their choice to eat this leafy treat.

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Get the Details:
All Day Zoo Admission Included!

The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • If wheelchair accessibility is needed please contact us prior to purchasing this experience
  • Step up on to narrow platform to feed

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


Ages 4 and Up

This Animal Encounter is not permitted for kids under age four. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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 six persons total.

Capturing the Moment
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.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

This is truly a VIP experience! Join our sea lion training team for a rare opportunity to participate in an interactive training session complete with a little play time. Spending time playing with our California sea lions may include ball tosses, frisbee catches and more. It will also include a perfect photo opportunity with one of our sea lion ambassadors. Most important of all, learn about what you can do at home to help save sea lions in the wild.

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$125 Member/$150 Non-member (per person)

Additional Details:
All day Zoo admission included!

The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Bending, kneeling and/or crouching for short amounts of time
  • If wheelchair accessibility is needed please contact us prior to purchasing this experience

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

Ages 4 and Up
This Animal Encounter is not permitted for kids under age four. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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 six persons total.

Capturing the Moment
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.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Collaborate with our sea lion artists and their keepers to create a one-of-kind masterpiece you get to take home! During this private experience, you and up to 3 persons from your quarantine household will select the colors and see your 8×10 canvas come to life. Whether through broad and sweeping brush strokes, or delicately placed nose prints, our sea lion artists are sure to delight everyone in the family.

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$325 Member/$350 Non-member per quarantine household (up to 4 persons)

Additional Details:
All day Zoo admission included!

The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 minutes 
  • Bending, kneeling and/or crouching for short periods of time
  • If wheelchair accessibility is needed please contact us prior to purchasing this experience

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

Ages 4 and Up
This Animal Encounter is not permitted for kids under age four. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive encounter is limited to just one quarantine household of up to four people per encounter.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area. Don’t worry though, you will have the opportunity to capture a photo of our sea lion artist with your finished masterpiece that you can share with friends and family.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Get hand to trunk with one of our Asian elephants and see first-hand how keepers build relationships with these amazing animals! 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.

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$195 Member/$220 Non-member (per person)

Additional Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • 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  

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive encounter is limited to just twelve people per encounter. If you have fewer than twelve in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed twelve persons total.

Capturing the Moment
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.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Here’s your chance to experience first-hand what it’s like to bathe an elephant! Head behind the scenes to help scrub down one of our herd. Then feed and touch one of these amazing creatures with a photo opportunity you can share with your friends and family.

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$225 Member/$250 Non-member (per person)

Additional Details:

All day Zoo admission included!
The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • 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 

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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.

Capturing the Moment
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.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Come and see these giant, slow-motion reptiles. Take the perfect tortoise selfie when you’re up close with some of the Zoo’s longest-lived residents, the Galápagos tortoises. During this experience, you’ll have special access into our Galápagos tortoise habitat, learning all about Daphne, Seymour, and Pinta while offering them a favorite snack.

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.

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

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

Encounter Details:
All day Zoo admission included!

The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

Accessibility
This Program Includes:  

  • Walking and standing for 45 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 

Ages 5 and Up
This Animal Encounter is not permitted for kids under age 5. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party.

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive 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.

Capturing the Moment
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.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Zoo Design and Engineering Tours

Building exhibits at the Houston Zoo is no small task. Our dedicated team of Engineers and Project Managers help plan and create each new habitat you visit. Join a member of the Zoo’s Design and Engineering team on a walk through the Texas Wetlands and learn what it takes to design and plan a Zoo exhibit from blueprints to opening day. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to view three native Texas species—bald eagles, whooping cranes, and American alligators—in their lush wetland habitat. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act and the efforts of Texans, these three species, once close to extinction, now thrive in the Lone Star State. 

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$75 Member/$100 Non-member (per person)

Get the Details:
All Day Zoo Admission Included!

The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive encounter is limited to fifteen people per encounter. If you have fewer than fifteen in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed fifteen persons total.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Join an expert from the Design & Engineering team and get the inside scoop on how the Zoo’s brand-new Pantanal Exhibit came to life. Explore the tropical wetlands of Brazil and see how the lush habitat highlights animals the Zoo is protecting in the wild. Discover what it takes to build an immersive and engaging exhibit that gives guests the opportunity to view jaguars, capybaras, tapirs, giant river otters, dart frogs, howler monkeys, anaconda and macaws and many other species of birds closer than ever before.

Masks are no longer required on this experience. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks during their Zoo visit.

$75 Member/$100 Non-member (per person)

Get the Details:
All Day Zoo Admission Included!

The Zoo opens daily at 9 a.m. Explore the Zoo at your leisure before or after your Animal Encounter.

All Ages
This Animal Encounter is intended for all ages. Please register at least one adult per child under 13 in your party

Encounter Size Limit
This exclusive encounter is limited to fifteen people per encounter. If you have fewer than fifteen in your party, you may be joined by other registrants, not to exceed fifteen persons total.

Capturing the Moment
For the safety and well-being of our animal residents, there is no flash photography allowed in this area.

Reserve Tickets

Member Portal

Purchase An Encounter Gift Certificate

Give the gift every animal lover wants!

This gift certificate allows you to purchase any of the experiences below and the recipient to choose from available dates. A PDF of your gift certificate is attached to your receipt for convenient presentation. Recipients may redeem their certificate up to six months from the date of purchase.

Purchase A Gift Certificate

Member Portal

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. Animal Encounters are 45-minutes long beginning with a 15-minute 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.

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 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 5 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 5 minutes or more past the scheduled start time will be unable to join the Animal Encounter.

Where do I meet?

Meet your guide just inside the main entrance to the right, at the large Zoo map located on the construction fence.

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.

Required: All guests 10 years and older must wear a mask, face covering or face shield, for the safety of our guests, staff and animals.

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 7 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