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Ever wonder how keepers care for the wild animals at a major zoo? Or what goes on backstage at a blockbuster concert? With these behind-the-scenes tours, you get a backstage pass to see what makes some of the city's top places to visit tick.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sleep next to a tiger? With the Downtown Aquarium's Wild Dreams Overnight experience, you can find out. Kids ages six and older will learn fun tiger facts on the evening of their tour and hopefully come to a greater understanding of the importance of conservation. Participants get to sleep in the white tiger exhibit, make crafts, learn how the aquarium's staff care for the animals and much more. $59.95 per person with one free adult for every five kids. Click here for more tour details.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour at the Houston Zoo. Tour the zoo's commissary or the aquarium on a Sneak Peek experience. See the back-of-house animal areas for the giraffes, primates or reptiles on a Premiere Tour. Have an unforgettable encounter with animals such as the Asian elephants or fun-loving sea lions on a Star Treatment Tour. You can even tag along with the zoo's veterinarians as they care for the dozens of species that call this place home on a Vet for a Day Experience. Behind-the-scenes tours for non-members range in price from $65 to $350 and should be booked well in advance. Click here for more tour details.
See first-hand why Houston is known as Space City on this behind-the-scenes tour of NASA's Johnson Space Center. The four-hour Level 9 Tour takes you around the sprawling campus to buildings normally off limits to the public. You'll see the space vehicle mock-up facility, Historic Mission Control, the Space Environment Simulation Lab and much more. You'll even get to eat lunch in the astronaut cafeteria. Reservations must be made at least one day in advance.
Houston's Minute Maid Park is a gem in the sports venue world--combining the classic look of historic baseball stadiums with all of the modern technology of today's world-class ballparks. Built on the site of Houston's Union Station, the park actually incorporates the station into its floor plan--a nod to the important role the railroad system played in the development of the city. On the tour, you'll explore the original train station, visit the Astros' dugout and the broadcasting booth and more. Buy a ticket for an evening game and sign up for the Early-Bird Tour, which includes everything the main tour does plus the opportunity to watch batting practice from the Diamond Club seats before the game starts.
Galveston Island's Moody Gardens offers a number of unique behind-the-scenes encounters with its residents. Participants on the Penguin Encounter tour get to see the inner workings of the Aquarium Pyramid's penguin exhibit, from food preparation to the chilly exhibit itself. Led by a staff biologist, this experience involves a discussion of penguin conservation, enrichment and care ($40). For a more intimate experience, go on a Private Penguin Encounter that includes a piece of penguin art for each participant as well as admission into the Aquarium Pyramid ($300 for a group of up to four people; must be scheduled at least one week in advance). And if you don't want to stop at penguins, book a Penguin and Seal Experience Package where you'll learn what it's like to be a keeper in the South Atlantic and North Pacific exhibits for a full day. You'll get to participate in various activities such as feeding the penguins and assisting biologists with their work. A maximum of three participants are allowed per session. ($175 per person; must be scheduled at least one week in advance).
NRG Stadium was a sports world pioneer--the first NFL stadium to feature a retractable-roof, as well as the first removable live grass field in the league. On a tour of this state-of-the-art facility, you'll see the roof in action. You'll also tour the visiting team locker room, see the Houston Texans weight room and more. Tours typically last about an hour.
There's a lot that goes on behind the stage at your favorite concerts. Learn about Houston's major concert and sporting venue, the Toyota Center. Finished in 2003, the Toyota Center is modern marvel that's played host to countless chart-topping artists, from Katy Perry to Lady Gaga. And of course, it's also home to the NBA Houston Rockets. On the tour, you'll see where your favorite pop stars prepare to perform and where the Rockets gear up to take on their NBA opponents.
By AJ Mistretta
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