June 17, 2024

The Houston Zoo Has It All

Come visit the animals, stay for the food and shopping.

Lions and tigers and … dining and shopping? Oh my. Yes, the Houston Zoo can fulfill all your needs for a fun-filled afternoon, including some good eats and a gift shop where purchases can help save wildlife. It’s a must-visit site at Hermann Park in the heart of Houston Southeast.

The Houston Zoo’s story began over a century ago with an American Bison named Earl. The City of Houston established a fenced enclosure in Hermann Park to house Earl and a few other animals. Today, the Houston Zoo has grown to span 55 acres and is home to over 6,000 animals. It’s the second most visited zoo in America, attracting around 2 million visitors annually. The zoo boasts a diverse collection of over 900 species represented at the zoo, including adorable residents this summer. Meet Tino, the Masai giraffe born April 27, and five brand new capybaras born April 3. These cuties named after pastas — Bowtie, Ravioli, Rigatoni, Macaroni, and Gnocchi — are members of the world’s largest rodent species.

And if those names wet your whistle, you can stop by the Cypress Circle Cafe. While there aren’t any pastas on the menu, this certified green restaurant does offer pizza, sandwiches, salads, burgers, and snacks. It’s all locally sourced and served on fully compostable products — no plastic straws are used here. The zoo’s food and retail partner, SSA, has made huge strides in helping it achieve its mission of saving wildlife by eliminating single-use plastics. SSA General Manager Danny Anchondo in 2018 said of the changes, “It isn’t just about me recycling – it is knowing that for the next 80 or 90 years that my kids are on this Earth they will continue to reuse and recycle, and at the end of the day, it is the little victories I’m most proud of.”

There’s also the Twiga Café, which has mac and cheese, where you can dine inside or outside to watch Tino and family and the rhinos.

As for shopping, the gift shop here is also focused on sustainability. “Eliminating single-use plastic packaging in our gift shops is just one more way we’re helping save animals in the wild,” said Colley Hodges, Houston Zoo’s sustainability manager. And remember to pick up one of the new plush animals crafted from 100% recycled materials. These eco-friendly toys exemplify a fusion of innovation and environmental stewardship. The product line boasts an array of beloved Houston Zoo animals, including favorites like the black bear, penguin, red panda, tiger, and more. Oh my.

by Marene Gustin

Credit photos to: Houston Zoo