If you’re visiting Galveston, then no doubt one attraction you’ll hear about is Moody Gardens.
In fact, as you first arrive in Galveston, the first thing you’re likely to notice are the three enormous pyramids of the park in the distance. The white, blue, and red structures stand out not just for their size, but the unusual shape. It’s sure to catch your eye.
Within the grounds are a number of attractions. The white (or clear) pyramid is the Rainforest Pyramid. The building houses a living, breathing rainforest. The blue pyramid is the Aquarium Pyramid, with sea lions, jellyfish, sharks, and other animals on display. The reddish-brown pyramid is the Discovery Museum, with an interactive theater and science exhibits.
Also on the grounds are a water park, 3D and 4D theaters, and a paddlewheel boat. In other words, there’s plenty to see and do for the whole family.
But is Moody Gardens in Galveston worth the price of admission? We recently paid up for tickets to all three pyramids, toured them each, and have our review to give you a better idea.
In This Article...
First Impressions and Pricing
Our visit to Moody Gardens was during a decidedly slow time. We visited on an overcast weekday morning in early May. Driving up, the crowds were light as the area looked like it was getting ready for the busier summer season.
There were no crowds or lines, in fact, the area was largely empty. As the day went on (and the weather improved), however, more people did arrive.
We’d expect that visiting during the weekend or during summer when school is out leads to many more people. As one of the largest tourist spots in Galveston, you likely will not find it as quiet as we did. As well, there are seasonal attractions like the Palm Beach water park and ropes course, so there is more to do in the summer months to attract visitors.
You’ll see below, however, that it was actually nice being able to tour the pyramids quietly (although a few more people wouldn’t have hurt).
Parking at Moody Gardens is free and we were able to snag a spot right near the buildings. There is plenty of parking onsite, although in busier times it might be a bit of a walk to the buildings. Of course, if traveling with kids or people who can’t walk as far, you can always drop them off at the entrance and then go park.
After we parked, we entered the Visitors Center to get our tickets. Inside there are kiosks or agents to buy tickets for whatever you want to see. The Visitor’s Center also includes gift shops, restrooms, a cafe, and it’s where the 3D/4D theater is located.
How Much Moody Gardens Costs
Moody Gardens has a number of different attractions, which you can purchase access individually or as part of a combo.
Prices are different for adults and kids/seniors. Kids are those 4-12 (children under 4 years old are free), and seniors are anyone 65+. We’ve listed all the prices as of our visit below:
Attraction: Price (Adult or Kid/Senior)
- Aquarium Pyramid: $36/$29
- Rainforest Pyramid: $29/$23
- 3D Theater: $12/$9
- 4D Theater: $12/$9
- 20,000 Leagues (Interactive Theater): $15/$12
- Palm Beach Waterpark: $30/$25
- One Day Value Pass: $60/50
As you can see, the price to do everything can add up quickly. Thankfully, Moody Gardens offers combo tickets that give access to multiple attractions for a lower price. For instance, an Aquarium/Rainforest combo is $49 for adults and $39 for kids. That saves you about $15 off the individual prices.
The best value, however, is the “One Day Value Pass.” This offers access to all the pyramids, as well as one 3D show, one 4D theater show, and the 20,000 Leagues theater, as well as the Colonel paddlewheel boat. (Note that the waterpark and ropes course isn’t mentioned as included, but also weren’t open for the season when we visited.)
The value pass is $60 for adults and $50 for kids/seniors. While this saves you a lot of money compared to buying each attraction individually, it still adds up quickly. A family of four (two adults, two kids) would spend $220 on these passes.
We opted for the value pass as it offered easy access to just about everything at a price much cheaper than buying tickets individually.
Rainforest Pyramid Review
The first stop on our tour is also the first pyramid that Moody Gardens debuted. The Rainforest Pyramid is essentially a large greenhouse, filled with tons of tropical plants, animals, and water features. It’s impressively done, and while we’ve been to other aquariums or gardens, we’ve never seen anything like this.
As you enter the pyramid, you come in on a skywalk about 10-15 feet above the floor. In other words, you feel as if you are in the middle of the rainforest. The first thing you’ll notice is that it looks, feels, and sounds like a rainforest.
Let’s start with how it feels. Inside the pyramid it is warm and humid, as you’d expect. There is air circulating, so it’s not uncomfortable or stuffy, and it may even be cooler than the outside depending on when you visit. Still, the blanket of humidity right as you enter makes it clear this is an immersive experience.
As for the look, the entire place is lush with an amazing amount of greenery. If you thought there would just be some trees planted here and there, think again. The plants are clearly thriving inside the pyramid, with tons of growth of an amazing variety of species. On the second level where you enter there is more light, so it’s a bit brighter compared to the ground level where plants block out the sun more (just like a real rainforest).
The pyramid even sounds like a real rainforest. There’s a constant hum of the waterfall that can be heard throughout the building. That’s accentuated by the regular chirping of birds that echo from all sides.
Steps into the rainforest, you begin to realize that this isn’t just about trees. From the skywalk you can start to see hints that there is much more. Colorful birds are perched around the canopy, while others will literally cross the path as you walk. There are lizards, turtles, fish, and even monkeys and sloths (although we didn’t spot a sloth on our trip). This rainforest is alive.
As you continue down the skywalk, you wrap around the pyramid, giving a chance to check out the forest at an angle that’s not normally available in the wild. You can certainly keep a regular pace, but it’s also nice to stop and look closely to see if you can spot any animals hiding. There are also information boards that will give you a hint of what you might see.
Not all the animals are free-range. Some are kept in enclosures, including the enormous bats that are kept within a netted spot, hanging upside down as they get some sleep. Near the bats we were asked to back up slightly by a Moody Gardens employee. Just then, a white-faced saki monkey leapt up from below the walkway and sprinted down the handrail. It certainly got out attention.
As you exit the skywalk, there is an “intermission” from the pyramid as you enter a winding hallway with animals (snakes, frogs, etc.) and exhibits about the rainforest. Head through here and you’ll exit into the second-half of the tour, which takes you along the forest floor, with different regions represented (such as Asia and Africa).
While the skywalk gives you a nice “overview” of the rainforest, the ground offers a more up-close view of the wildlife. There are several enclosures, including one of a Komodo dragon and Blue Duikers, which are a type of small pygmy deer. As well, the ground level is where you get to see the water features in the pyramid.
Water is a major part of any rainforest, including this one. There is a large central pool complete with turtles, rays, and a giant arapaima (a roughly 7-foot long fish resembling a gar) that dominates the tank. The tank is simply teeming with wildlife. Birds seem to love to congregate around the pool, where we saw several scarlet ibis and even a pair of macaws.
As you tour the ground floor, which winds around the forest, you’ll cross small streams with lots of fish, see plenty of birds, and even get to see some exotic wildlife like anacondas and more. You also get a sense of the height of the forest.
In total, a walk-through will take about 45 minutes to an hour. We came away extremely impressed with the tour, as it’s something we’ve never seen anywhere else. There’s something to see around every corner, and instead of always seeing animals behind an enclosure, it feels much more immersive with them all around you.
Aquarium Pyramid Review
It’s impossible to overlook the Aquarium at Moody Gardens. The enormous blue pyramid is the largest of the three and sits right at the front of the entire facility as you arrive.
Entering the aquarium, you’re greeted by a hanging submersible craft, a video screen showing an aquatic scene and sculptures of tuna. After your ticket is scanned, you’ll enter the center of the aquarium under the peak of the structure. Here, the most eye-catching feature is a mock oil rig that towers above you, with a tank underneath it as schooling fish circle around.
Follow the pathway and the first exhibit your find might just be the favorite of any kid — the penguins. The aquarium has dozens of the birds, all hanging around, taking a dip, and enjoying themselves. The penguin exhibit continues as you walk down the pathway where there are more viewing windows below the surface of the water. Here you can watch them dive into the water and experience what it would be like to be under the surface to watch (without getting cold!)
The Aquarium Pyramid follows roughly the same format for a number of the exhibits. You’ll walk from region to region, with a large tank and underwater viewing spots. This includes seeing seals and sea lions, along with coral reefs teeming with different fish and sharks. There is also a dedicated spot for jellyfish, featuring tanks filled with dozens — if not hundreds — of the creatures.
The fish featured here run the gamut from exotic (like lionfish) to more typical animals you’d expect in an aquarium. Like many aquariums there is a “touch tank” for kids that features rays they can feel.
While the penguins and seals are definitely a big attraction, the most impressive part of the aquarium is saved until the end. There you’ll find the classic arched walkway where you get to walk through the middle of the tank, surrounded by sea life on all sides, including fish swimming above your head.
This tunnel then leads to a 360-degree tank where you are surrounded on all sides, as well as the roof, before another tunnel that leads to the exit.
In total, expect the aquarium to take another 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how long you plan to visit each exhibit.
Now, we’ll be honest. Having been to a number of aquariums — including the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi — we found this pyramid to be good, but similar to what you might find elsewhere. There are plenty of neat things to see, and we definitely enjoyed seeing the penguins at the start of the tour. However, to us the aquarium portion wasn’t quite as impressive on the same scale as the Rainforest Pyramid.
If you have kids, they will love to visit the aquarium and parents should definitely oblige. But for adults that have been to aquariums before, then you have a good idea of what to expect.
Discovery Museum Pyramid
The third and final pyramid is also the smallest. It’s the reddish building that’s known as the “Discovery Museum.” This pyramid is split into two levels.
Head upstairs and you’ll find the current exhibit — Skeletown. This is an exhibit designed for children that explores skeletons of both people and animals. Kids will not only see tons of different skeleton mock-ups on display, but also learn how joints work, all about x-rays, and how broken bones heal.
If you have a younger kid that enjoys learning about the body, then they will love this place. It’s definitely not designed for adults and if you don’t have kids, then feel free to skip it. We also think that older kids (say, older than 12) wouldn’t have much interest here.
On the bottom floor is something that’s much more interactive and definitely more eye-catching, but it is still designed with younger kids in mind.
The “interactive adventure” is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Step inside the impressive waiting area for the show to begin and you’ll see all sorts of nautical themed items. Imagine a “steampunk” style version of a port. But the real show is inside an adjoining theater.
Step through the door and there’s stadium seating as you venture “inside” the Nautilus. With your 3-D glasses on, take your seat and get ready for the show to start.
While the main part of the experience is the 3-D screen in front of you, your seating is also part of the experience. Each seat features a rumbler that gives a shake while the “ship” is underway, along with a special “prod” in the seatback that will poke you at certain points in the show. And did we mention that as the Nautilus goes deeper and “leaks” you might get a spray of water?
The show itself is designed for smaller kids to enjoy and only takes about 15 minutes. If you are with kids that are about 12 or under, then we think this is a must see. Older kids might not be as impressed. Families with younger kids will absolutely love it.
Is Moody Gardens Worth It?
There’s no doubt that $60 per adult and $50 per child for the value pass that gives access to everything can quickly add up (even though it is a discount over individual tickets). As we said earlier, a family of four would have to shell out $220 to visit for the day.
As a one-time thing to do on your vacation, our experience is that Moody Gardens is worth the money. That said, if the price were to increase, then we’d be hesitant to pay more for the experience right now. We always expect to splurge a little while on vacation, but Galveston also has lots of things to do and see, putting Moody Gardens in competition with other attractions around the island.
So if you’ve never done Moody Gardens before, we think it’s worth it. (It would be especially good on a rainy day as the activities are all indoor.)
How Long Does It Take to Visit Moody Gardens?
The good news that for your money, you do get lots to do and can easily spend most of the day there. We’d estimate it would take 2.5-3 hours to see all the pyramids. As well, the value pass ticket includes a number of things we didn’t get a chance to experience due to time constraints. This includes:
3D Theater: 20-40 minutes
4D Theater: 15 minutes
Colonel Paddlewheel: 45 minutes
Bring a lunch (or eat onsite at one of the restaurants) and we think you could spend 4-5 hours visiting. If you’re in a rush, then the minimum we’d suggest is two hours.
What Are the Three Pyramids?
When you see Moody Gardens, you’ll spot three pyramids. Each of these is a different attraction.
Clear/White Pyramid: Rainforest Pyramid — a living, breathing rainforest complete with huge plants and tree, as well as lots of wildlife
Blue Pyramid: Aquarium Pyramid — exhibits of fish and sea life including penguins, seals, and jellyfish.
Red/Brown Pyramid: Discovery Museum — features an upstairs currently showing “Skeletown” (an exhibit about skeletons designed for kids) and downstairs with an interactive show, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Are Discounted Tickets Available at Moody Gardens?
Yes. The easiest way to get a discount is to purchase combo tickets, which give you access to multiple areas for a lower price than buying individually. The “One Day Value Pass” is the best deal, which gives access to practically everything for $60/$50 (adults/kids & seniors).
In addition there are other discounts:
- Military: Active and retired military can get a value pass for $30.
- Mommy Wednesday: On Wednesdays parents (both moms or dads) and their kids aged 4-5 can get a value pass for $30.
- Good Grades: Show a report card from the last 30 days with no grade lower than a B to get free admission into one attraction.
Have more questions about visiting? Put them in the comments below and we’ll let you know…