Today we spent the day in Downtown Houston, TX where we were accompanied by, quite possibly, the best guide in the state … my cousin, Sean.
At any rate, we spent a few hours at the Downtown Aquarium where we saw Pirhanas and Pythons and everything in between. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE aquariums, there is something serene and foreign about the world under the sea. And, you know I love when we can incorporate fun with education, and it’s even better when we can sneak it in without anyone the wiser!
And educational it was.
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First we toured the Louisiana Swamp (where incidentally we will be heading next week) and learned about the marshes and bayous of the Gulf Coast. We saw a gator, snapping turtles and even a spotted gar, which the kids swear they saw in Tims Ford Lake in TN!! SCARY!
Then we hit the ocean and learned about the gazillion different species in our seas. We viewed coral reefs and all the glorious inhabitants, like Lion Fish and Dory and Nemo!! We saw a giant pacific octopus, in fact all his suckers (is that what they are called) were on the glass which was pretty epic. We saw eels and clownfish, tangs and groupers … some of these fish were bigger than Elly!!!
Next we explored the lush environment of the tropical rainforests and life beneath their rivers … you know this got our attention seeing that we are river people, it was cool to think about what will be beneath us if/when we are lucky enough to kayak the rainforests!!! Piranhas were at the top of the scary list, in fact, one little piranha was swimming with it’s bottom jaw out, giving us a glimpse of its sharp (and strong) bottom teeth. Coby was floored by the blue poisonous dart frogs as they were super blue and he’s only ever seen green frogs! We met Louis the Parrot who put on quite a show for us, hanging upside down by his mouth and vocalizing super loud. We could have spent hours with Louis!!
The next exhibit was the Sunken Temple where we saw lionfish and tarantulas and a huge HUGE pufferfish. We stared mesmerized as the fish swam in front and above us! It is here where we saw the most enormous python … I believe he was over 20’ long! I mean, can you imagine coming face to face with this spectacular snake in the wild???
The Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico was the most fun exhibit as we listened to a super quick presentation that included a scuba diver, who made everyone laugh with his antics!! We learned about recycling and why it’s so very important and how it affects our oceans and the creatures that live in them. Kirby the nurse shark was sleeping the entire time, but we got to see this aggressive shark up front and personal.
The White Tiger
And then, my favorite, the White Tiger exhibit. Such an incredibly gorgeous and amazing animal, it’s hard to see them in a caged setting, but it’s my understanding they are nearing extinction, which, if true, is an absolute travesty.
Seeing this majestic creature behind glass, in a fabricated setting set the stage for a great conversation about the trend to trade security for freedom. I won’t bore you with the details, but you can read about it here.
And, not to be missed, the most surprisingly fun exhibit … the Stingray Reef. This was of particular interest to us because Dan was stung by one of these things SoCal last summer! It was super painful … you know, if Dan is complaining about pain that it must be through the roof, because he’s seriously the toughest person I know.
In the Stingray Reef, visitors are able to touch the rays as they swim around. You can also purchase food (I think they are little minnows) to feed the rays, but we just pet the stingrays and it was awesome! The kids loved it … they were surprised by how “slimy” they were and how they came up to the surface, almost like they enjoyed being pet.
After the Aquarium we were in a conundrum as to what to do next as the options are endless. We considered heading over to the Museum District to do a few more things on our Houston CityPass, (find more info here) like the Natural Science Museum and the Zoo. But given the time, it was almost 3, and the fact that we would only really have about 2 hours to do either the zoo or the museum, we decided to hang out downtown and it was the best decision because we had a blast.
George Bush Monument
We walked over to the George Bush Monument in Sesquicentennial Park. The garden features an 8’ bronze statue of former President George H. Bush. Behind the sculpture is a semi circle or four bas-reliefs that depict President Bush in the most important moments of his life. On the opposite wall are famous quotes, such as my favorite in the photo below.
Next, Sean pointed out the new construction, educated us on the architects and their vision and Coby marvelled at the Light Rail. Architecture is something we don’t know really pay a whole lot of attention to, so having Sean point out the specifics was a new educational experience for all of us. We wove through the city on our way to Discovery Green.
What an bustling and incredibly awesome park!! From fountains, that would undoubtedly be one of the most popular spots in Houston during the summer months, to a playground complete with shade trees and a super foamy ground surface, Discovery Green has it all.
The Listening Vessels
Despite all the wonders this park has to offer, Sean led us to this park for one reason and one reason only … the Listening Vessels. This is hands-on learning at its finest. Dan and Grady explained the basics of sound travel as we all took turns sitting in the limestone concave sculptures. The interiors focus sound waves so you can literally sit in one, speak softly and be heard in the other vessel seventy feet away. Pretty cool and, you guessed it, educational!!! 🙂
After a few minutes of hard play at the playground, we all piled back into the RV ready to plan our next excursion on the Houston CityPass!