If your kid loves animals, they’ll be excited that June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month. This is a month to recognize the important role zoos and aquariums play in conservation and research. The idea is to visit your local zoo or aquarium and learn how you can do your part in protecting animals. But where can you go?

Austin has a lot of things going for it, but a world-class zoo or aquarium isn’t one of them. We’ve got a rescue zoo and a for-profit aquarium, but nothing accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Even the Bear Habitat at Baylor University is accredited!

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Fortunately, there are several options all within driving distance. Whether you want to make a short day trip or stay overnight, here are 9 zoos and aquariums that are worth the drive!

Waco

Cameron Park Zoo

The Cameron Park Zoo in Waco is very cool, especially since Waco isn’t a big city! It has a great orangutan enclosure, where the orangutans climb and swing all over the walls, and a cute otter exhibit where kids can go down a glass slide through their swimming pool. There’s also a playground area with a small splash pad in case walking around didn’t burn enough energy.

San Antonio

San Antonio Zoo

The San Antonio Zoo also makes for a fun day. They’ve got big cats, bears, rhinos, and even a kangaroo experience you can pay to interact with the kangaroos! Just outside the zoo is “America’s Oldest Children’s Amusement Park” — let your kids ride fun carnival rides at Kiddie Park.

SeaWorld San Antonio

After some bad press, SeaWorld has focused even more on their mission to rescue and rehabilitate animals. You can learn about all kinds of marine life here, from orcas and belugas to sea lions and otters. SeaWorld also doubles as an amusement park so you can educate and entertain your kids all in the same trip.

Houston

Houston Zoo

Houston Zoo checks all the boxes for what makes a good zoo visit! You can see all kinds of primates, different types of elephants, giraffes, big cats, and more, and then head to the petting zoo and children’s zoo to get every bit of energy out!

Houston Aquarium

Houston’s aquarium is right in downtown with a big ferris wheel you can’t miss. Whether you want to take the kids or have an upscale but unique date, this aquarium is worth a visit. It has more than 300 species of aquatic life, including species found in the bayou and the rainforest, as well as tigers and stingrays.

Dallas/Fort Worth

Dallas Zoo

The oldest and largest in Texas, Dallas Zoo is a fun, easy visit if you’re in North Texas. The gorilla habitat is one of our favorite stops — you’ll often find one napping right by the glass so you can feel like you’re right next to them. The hippo pool is another highlight where you can see the big guys above and below the surface.

Dallas World Aquarium

You’ll find the Dallas World Aquarium in the heart of Dallas, and it not only houses marine life, but also birds, reptiles, cats, manatees and sloths!

Fort Worth Zoo

Ask anyone from DFW, and they’ll tell you that the Fort Worth Zoo is the best of the best. Something about the layout and grounds just feels right! They’ve got all the heavy hitters: elephants, gorillas, penguins, giraffes, rhinos, bears, and more, and restaurants in all the right places!

Corpus Christi

Texas State Aquarium

Hands down the best aquarium in Texas, this spot in Corpus Christi has to be on your bucket list. You’ll see all kinds of sharks and fish and even dolphins. Kids can touch stingrays and watch otters play. And before you leave, you have to get soaked on the big splash pad!

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