Cameron Park Zoo and Mayborn Museum Complex

If you’re ready for an all-day adventure, plan a visit to Waco’s Cameron Park Zoo and Mayborn Museum Complex. Cameron Park Zoo, located at 1701 North 4th Street, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.


Every detail has been planned out at the 52-acre natural habitat zoo, from the beautiful animal enclosures to this colorful shade canopy.


We loved watching the Galapagos tortoise, who was staying cool in the mud.


Kids can stay cool, too, with this small splash pad and shaded treehouse playscape.


Don’t miss the huge Brazos River Country exhibit! You might not be able to tell by the entrance but this leads to a substantial section of the zoo.


The boys loved the aquarium.


The alligators were just “hanging out.”


Farther along, we saw these Huaco (or Hueco or Waco) Indian huts.


Don’t miss this exhibit as you walk along: the Brazos at Night!


Next was the bison exhibit, a display reflecting the Brazos River through the High Plains/Cap Rock area. In addition to viewing buffalo in the exhibit, we also saw a teepee and informative sign describing how different parts of the bison animal were used by nomadic Native American tribes.


Next we went to the Herpetarium, where a rattlesnake appeared to be watching us closely.


We were running out of fuel after all of our exploring, so we stopped at the Treetops Cafe for a snack and drink. Just past the cafe, we saw this friendly giraffe, who was practically posing for the camera.


As you can see, the giraffe has room to wander!


There is a lot of helpful and educational information at the Cameron Park Zoo.


The elephant was very majestic.


We saved the best for last: Mysteries of the Asian Forest!


Here’s the Sumatran Tiger.


We loved the Komodo Dragon!


The kids were enchanted by these chimes you could stomp on at Jungle Jim’s Playground.


We drove a short distance east on University Parks Drive to the Mayborn Museum Complex (1300 S. University Parks Drive). I had heard so many fantastic reviews about the museum that it seemed impossible the facility could meet our expectations.


Not to fear! This amazing place is like visiting three museums in one: a natural history museum, a historic village, and a children’s museum. We started our adventure at Strecker’s Cabinet of Curiosities.


Check out this huge whale skull…..


….and this 75 million year old marine turtle fossil!


The walk-in diorama of the Waco Mammoth site, where a herd of Columbian mammoths was trapped and buried about 65,000 years ago, was very impressive. It featured an educational video about the site as well as a plaster replica of the excavation under your feet.


This is the exploration station for archaeology.


We all were pretty interested in the cross-section of a Huaco Indian hut. Unfortunately, my picture of the inside did not turn out so you will just have to go see it for yourself!


We went outside to the graceful back porch of the museum. The kids ran full-speed ahead to check out the unique buildings in the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village.


The village is made up of nine wood-frame buildings that represent life in an 1890s community. The buildings were moved from Liberty, Texas, in 1986. The kids were thoroughly fascinated by this water pump and the church bell.


The commissary was of particular interest, with lots of goods on display typical for a rural general store.


The kids ran back into the museum through this hallway with a musical soundscape. We couldn’t wait to explore!


There are 17 discovery rooms, all with different themes.


This friendly guy was in the vertebrates room.


Next, we went to the communication room.


The transportation room was a favorite!


And so was the energy room!


In each room, you will find descriptive information.


The water and bubbles room was an absolute favorite! I think the kids could have stayed at the water table all day.


Creating the human-size bubble took patience and skill.


A foot-friendly piano was in the sound room…..


…..and so were these classic tube telephones.


DJ Mixmaster B is in the house!


The simple machines room was really a hit. This display shows how pulleys work.


Also in this room, the kids found blocks to create a catenary arch. Teamwork saved the day!


More fun in the simple machines room.


In addition to the above, there are also discovery rooms for TV News and Weather, Health, Native Americans, Pioneers, Recycling, People of the World, Optics and Aunt Blanche’s Tea Room. As if that’s not enough, there’s also a massive train set!


Through September 2, 2013, the museum features a special exhibit: Goosebumps, The Science of Fear. The kids had a blast scaring themselves silly.


Austin Active Kids Opinion: These two Waco wonders are well-worth the drive up I-35!
Outing Time: About 2 1/2 hours at Cameron Park Zoo and 3 hours at Mayborn Museum Complex. We spent 2 hours each way on I-35 (in no traffic) driving from Austin.
Reminders: We arrived at the zoo around 11 a.m. and the museum around 2 p.m. We definitely could have spent more time at either place! Cameron Park Zoo fees are $9 for age 13+, $6 for kids 4-12, FREE for children 3 years and under, and $8 for age 60+. Here’s the full schedule of Mayborn Museum Complex fees. With the traveling exhibit included, the cost for me and two boys was $20 total. The Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village hours of operation are slightly different from the main museum’s. The Mayborn Museum Complex is located on the Baylor University campus so check before you go for any upcoming special events (like football games) that will cause traffic jams. Here are links to maps of the Cameron Park Zoo and the Mayborn Museum Complex. Both facilities have gift shops.
Take along a change of clothes and towels if you think your kids won’t be able to pass up getting soaked in the splash pad at Cameron Park Zoo. It’s also a good idea to bring along sunscreen, water, and snacks.
If you have time to spare, you might be interested in these Waco attractions: Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Dr. Pepper Museum, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco Mammoth Site, and Cameron Park (the park totals 400 acres and has much to offer in addition to the 52-acre zoo).

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