Adventures at Gladys Porter Zoo

Adventures at Gladys Porter Zoo

Visiting the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX

This past week our family took the opportunity to visit Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. It was our first visit and had been a very long time since I had gone to any zoo in general. We spent the entire Thursday admiring the animals and walking around under the Texas sun. (it was a very HOT and humid day)

Heads Up: I took SO many photos!! I hope you find them to be more informative than overbearing.

My Thoughts: Before you read forward, I wanted to express how in this blog post you will be reading some of my bad experiences but it was a great visit – overall. There were a few encounters we had problems with, including the staff and we also questioned a few things that happened. Of course it is not a very big “life ruining” deal but I would like to be honest with my experience visiting and hope you understand. Again, I really enjoyed my time at the zoo and loved what they had to offer, my experience does not at all mean it will also happen to you and you should go and support Gladys Porter Zoo and the hard work they do with their various conservation projects to preserve endangered species.

Controversy: I am not a big fan of zoos unless I know what’s happening. why you may be asking? Education and Conservation are the main reasons that keep them going. Right? Although some may be protecting the world’s most endangered species they do not (in my opinion) deserve to be captured. Again, a controversial topic, because of zoos some of these species would not be alive today as they’d had gone extinct. But some of these species are not rated as threatened and continue to be the entertainment for public. Along the lines, most if not all of these animals do not get enough room to be living in a zoo. Going to see the tiny plain spaces they live in hurt me. seriously, they should not be public entertainment. There are more correct ways to help endangered species than how some of these zoos handle it. Not all zoos of course are like this, several actually help out with conservation. This is in general and not directing my view point towards Gladys Porter Zoo. I could actually keep going on and on about the controversy behind zoos but i’ll let you enjoy the rest of this post. It seems like its just been negatives but there are good things here I promise!

About Gladys Porter Zoo

As stated by their website “The Gladys Porter Zoo is located in the center of Brownsville, Texas. With 28 acres of tropical plants and about 1,600 animals, Gladys Porter Zoo is known for its success in breeding endangered species of wildlife.” I also thought it was worth mentioning September 3rd of this year will be Gladys Porter Zoo’s 50th Anniversary, half a century is pretty impressive!

Did you know Harambe the Gorilla (from the tragic accident in 2016) was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas? He was named by a counselor who won a naming contest sponsored by the zoo and around September of 2014 Harambe was the transferred to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.


AdultsChildren (ages 2-13)Children under 2Seniors (65+)

Location and Details

For more information you can contact Gladys Porter Zoo at (956) 546-7187

Visit their website at

500 E Ringgold St

The Weather

Texas weather can be very unpredictable, while we were driving to Brownsville it had been a cloudy drive with light rain. Once we arrived to the parking lot of Gladys Porter Zoo it became humid and the sun came out to greet us. My hair…did not last one second. Hello heat. Hello frizz. Hello sweat.

I recommend you bring some sun screen, sunglasses and an umbrella to stay in the shade. There were several seating areas with shade where you could take a break in case the weather is bad or if you want to grab a snack.

Food and where to grab lunch

The Oasis, Located to the right side of the entrance, will be your best bet for grabbing lunch. They have a full menu of items from snacks to burgers, tacos, hot dogs, drinks and ice cream! Bonus: super cute souvenir cups!!!

There are a couple of locations to grab drinks or a snack from around the park along your way. Not all serve as many items as The Oasis but you can still grab a great refresher and energy booster throughout your day. We also found a few vending machines located near the restrooms. Coyote Cafe, Pizzooria and a few concessions were not open when we went but you may get lucky to try them out! It seems that you are also able to purchase alcoholic drinks at the Pizzooria area but can not drink alcoholic beverages past the entrance.

P.s. Pizzooria sounds good doesn’t it? Even the name gets you to want to go and eat there!!

My Bad Experience: After a few hours of walking around Gladys Porter Zoo we ended up getting hungry. We decided to go to the Oasis for lunch instead of rushing around and eating outside of the zoo. We ordered two Ringgold St. Homestyle Burger combos and one Jungle Bird Crispy Chicken Sandwich combo. The Woman who was at the window helping us wrote our order down and charged us, we paid, and then she asked for our beverage choices. She did look or act as if she were new or she didn’t know what to do. We asked for two cokes and one dr. pepper and she proceeded to tell us that it is only two drinks. I asked why, as we had ordered three combos and she told us it is only two combos we had ordered and a chicken sandwich. This stunned us because she then told us the crispy chicken sandwich is not a combo to which we pointed out its under the combo menu and didn’t understand. We of course talked politely, there is no need for a full on Karen moment, especially working in retail I know the struggle. She kept getting agitated and confused and went to ask questions in the back several times. We bought an extra drink, we accepted it at a certain point but then asked if we could just pay the difference of the combo to get the drink and fries. she said we could and that it would only mean we pay the difference. She tried charging us another drink however and we wondered why, she again got agitated and went to the back to ask a question. She comes back to give us prices and assured us we could just pay the difference for the fries and drink of the combo. She told us $3.00 and I mentioned it did not make sense as paying additional for the fries and drink would only be $1.70 (somewhere around there) and she went to the back again. She comes back and says it would be $2.00 for the drink only but not fries, we asked why again as we wanted to get the fries and pay the additional for the combo we had ordered in the first place. She kept getting confused and went to ask in the back again. After a good while of going back and forth from not understanding, all because we wanted the combo and she said it wasn’t a combo, the other woman in the kitchen comes with our orders, all three baskets filled with fries and she says all that’s needed is we pay for the fries. At this point the woman who had come with our orders stayed there staring at us and not saying anything -which was intimidating. We agreed until she gave us the regular price for the fries $3.75 and the drink at regular price $3.50. I asked why if she had already told us it was going to be additional charge from the sandwich to equal the price of the combo. She then starts raising her voice at us that we DID NOT order the combo but just the Sandwich. At this point I felt agitated because there was no reason she needed to raise her voice at us and if she was new she could have gotten someone with more experience. Anyway, I did end up responding to her and saying we did in fact order the combo as we literally said it was going to be THREE combos and said the zoo themed names with them. Ex: Jungle Bird Crispy Chicken sandwich and Ringgold St. Homestyle Burger. She stays there looking at us and says “well I didn’t hear that” and it was the most awkward silence and possibly situation I had ever been in. She did not do anything about the problem. No one said anything and she did not say sorry or thank you. I paid and left to go eat. I was angry mostly because it is not the first time this has happened to me where a worker will refuse and make me end up paying for something. I don’t believe it was right for them to make it more confusing as it is and not find a solution or at least even say sorry or thank you. I actually got so riled up that I didn’t want to eat anymore, I was annoyed, it was a hot and humid day, there was not need for the attitude being given.

Again, this is my experience, it does not mean you will have the same situation. I am not trying to attack or put Gladys Porter Zoo and their staff down but I am still not happy about my situation as it could have been handled differently. I would love to visit again but possibly avoid interaction with anyone as this is actually the second weird thing that happened with me and my family that day.

Arriving Early

Because there is so much to see I do recommend you arrive early. Especially before the sun comes out while you’re walking around. When we went it was a humid day, it had rained in the morning and slowly the sun came out and the clouds cleared. Apart from being able to see everything with time there is a lot of people who visit Gladys Porter Zoo and its just such a great experience to have space, seating areas available and not have to worry as much with social distancing. You can also capture great instagram photos if you’ve got a great time slot when you’re there.

Gladys Porter Zoo hours are 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM except Saturday and Sunday which is open from 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM

If you are hoping to get some great photos and a great experience, they offer a Giraffe Feeding Experience. When we visited the hours were 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM and 1:15 PM – 4:00 PM but the hours are possibly subject to change depending on the day you go. They have their hours available at the gate doors next to the Giraffes. The Price is $3.00 for treats, cash only, and the proceeds from Giraffe Landing will help the zoo with care and Maintenance of their giraffe herd. I’ve included the photo I took on our trip below.

What Changed

Because of the Pandemic a couple of things changed at Gladys Porter Zoo – nothing too drastic that will affect your visit. Not all exhibits were open, there seemed to be a lot of renovation going on and planting of flowers and trees, which was nice to see.

You can choose to purchase tickets online for an easy physical distance entry process.

A few new measures were put in place to ensure the safety of the zoo’s guests, employees, and animals. Sanitation was implemented on public doorways, indoor area surfaces and railings and from the entrance they ask that you follow the one way route through the zoo. Hand sanitizer stations were available in several areas, especially where entrances were like at the Herpetarium and the Aquatic Ecology center. Capacity was reduced to 25% for buildings and they ask you practice social distancing and wear facial coverings with the exception of children under the age of 5. On their website it states the playground is closed but when we went I believe I saw a few families there.

For more helpful and up to date information please check the Gladys Porter Zoo website.

To contact for any questions you may have you can visit their frequently asked questions page of contact the Gladys Porter Zoo Office at (956) 546-7187.

Amenities & More

Gift Shop: The gift shop was open, although we did not go in, I did catch a few photos from the outside upon the exit. They seem to have t-shirts, postcards, face masks, toys and more available which is great for souvenirs of your Gladys Porter Zoo visit.

Food: A couple of the areas were closed around the zoo to get beverages and snacks including the Coyote Cafe and Pizzooria. The only places we found to be available was The Oasis located near the entrance to the right and the first concession in front of the Lion Exhibit. Vending Machines were also available in a few areas near the restrooms but we did not try them.

Play Area: Mentioning again because I do believe it was open to visitors.

Restrooms: Available in so many areas around the zoo. The only ones that were not open were the ones at Pizzooria next to the vending machines, so we had to walk back a good amount. Some even had the door propped open to limit touching handles which was great.

Water Fountains: They did work, we saw a few kids drinking from them, so they are available if you need a drink of water.

Instagram Photo Spots

If you are wondering if the popular lion water fountain is still there…it is! It is very vibrant so I wonder if they repainted it recently. Such a great photo spot that has been around since the 1970s!

Some other great photo spots include the Gorilla family statues located near the entrance and gift shop. The small lion statue on the floor next to the tables at the lion exhibit is great for the little ones. Theres a tortoise statue at the entrance of the Herpetarium Reptiles Amphibians building which we loved and I had to take a quick photo, it looks like I’m not even wearing clothes but I promise I am!

Lastly on the statues list is the very popular Crocodile statue that anyone can grab a hold of or sit on and pretend to be scared.

Russell Aquatic Ecology Center

If you’re planning a visit to Gladys Porter Zoo you have to stop by at the Aquatic Ecology Center and see all the marine life of South Texas! Theres so much to see, my favorite being the Stingray Touch Tank! we unfortunately did not get to touch them as it was closed when we went but we were still able to watch them swim around and say hi.

You’ll be able to find a wide array of fish and invertebrates in this exhibit such as pufferfish, giant red hermit crabs and even some sharks. The Freshwater Exhibit features the fish, plants and reptiles found in the resacas of South Texas.

Tropical America Free-Flight Aviary

This was one of the unique things about Gladys Porter Zoo, a walk through of the South American Free-Flight Aviary had dozens of colorful birds. Im sure during certain times of the day when you visit you’ll be able to find them flying around and get an up close picture of them when they land but we didn’t get to see many as they were all in the trees. During the walk through you’ll be able to find more birds in caged exhibits with little plaques and signs of which bird species they are. It’s honestly such a fun and interesting experience for the whole family!


The Herpetarium was definitely an interesting building to visit! It is a dark space so please be advised in case you have kiddos who wouldn’t enjoy the experience because of the limited lighting. You get to walk through a great part of this building and learn about the difference in venomous snakes and the harmless ones you could find in South Texas. There were so many snakes including rattlesnakes, Boa Constructors and dare I say we saw a python? Its not all snakes however, you’ll also be able to find different species of lizards, turtles and frogs! Don’t be scared on the way to your entrance and exit by the rare crocodiles as well! I certainly got a few jump scares while I was there!

P.s. loved the dinosaur mural they had up near the entrance with a few hanging pterodactyls!

Butterflies, Bugs & Blooms

Sadly on our visit the butterflies, bugs and blooms jardineria was closed. They seemed to have been planting new plants around the area including inside. I would definitely recommend you experience this exhibit with the butterflies of South Texas and capture some great photos!

We did however get to go indoors to cool of a bit and take a look at some South Texas plants and some insects. Theres a few gift shop items you can purchase indoors and some great information you can learn. Look at that cool African Bush Elephant skull!


Along our walk we had seen a Mandrill with its back to the public and near the gate/ door to the furthest left. We moved along and when it came to lunch time and headed back the same way. This time that one Mandrill was facing the public with something in its hands. We took some photos to figure out if what we were seeing was true, he was chewing what seemed like a safety “traffic” cone. We took some videos and photos and tried to find someone to make sure this was okay and taken care of or even just to get a clear understanding. After about an hour of trying to find someone the staff member we found in a different area of the zoo asked if we took photos when we explained to him, we said yes and showed him, he just responded with “oh okay, its probably just a way that they add treats in there”. I am still trying to figure this out, I didn’t feel very assured.

Highlights from my visit

Of course it was not all bad things from this visit, again, my experience is sure to be different from yours. I really enjoyed learning about all the animals at Gladys Porter Zoo. We got to see Giraffes and never had any idea how they sat, it was quite the experience. The playful gorillas and their family. We also saw the Beautiful vibrant flamingos walk around in front of us and pose for some photos. Heard a ball eagle cry, not what I had expected. And can we talk about the giant Galapagos Tortoise? Simply Amazing.

The Signs of Gladys Porter Zoo

Disclosure: Any and all opinions are my own, no compensation was received for this post. However please note that some of the links in this post may be or are affiliated links. Meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase using my link.

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