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Texas naturally

Courtesy Galveston CVB

Around every turn, Texas shows off its natural charms. Texas offers an abundance of wildlife. Dolphin cruises explore coastal waters, and spectacular habitats showcase animals from far-flung places. Landscaped gardens flourish with native flora and fauna.

Moody Gardens

Moody Gardens, a Galveston resort destination, is known for its pyramid-shaped buildings that focus on conservation, recreation and preservation of nature and animals.

Many of its rescued animals could no longer live in the wild and were brought to the gardens for educational purposes.

“By far, Moody Gardens ranks as Galveston’s most popular group destination,” said Leah Cast, public relations manager at Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Aquarium Pyramid, the complex’s largest, explores the world’s four ocean environments: The South Atlantic exhibit showcases six species of penguins; the North Pacific houses playful fur seals and Squirt, the blind sea lion; the South Pacific features coral reefs; and the Caribbean exhibit houses sharks, sea turtles, eels and thousands of tropical fish.

The 10-story glass Rainforest Pyramid reopened in May after a $25 million renovation. More than 1,000 different species of endangered plants and animals live within, with free-roaming monkeys and birds delighting visitors. Exhibits educate about the Mayans and tropical forests.

Discovery Pyramid features traveling displays about animal and marine life. Its Ridefilm Theater simulates the movement of the film. The 3D screen is one of Texas’ largest and shows educational films that highlight marine and plant life, as well as current films.

The 4D theater appeals to the audience’s sense of smell and sensation. Viewers feel a breeze, smell scents or get misted, depending on the movie scene.

A historic paddle wheeler takes groups on one-hour bayou cruises. The complex offers a hotel and sits adjacent to the Schlitterbahn Waterpark and the Lone Star Flight Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of flight-ready World War II aircraft.

Dolphin watching

Galveston’s two dolphin-watch tours allow groups to see the island from a different perspective. The BayWatch boat has an enclosed, heated cabin, whereas the Galveston Harbor tours aboard the Seagull II offer an open-air upper deck.

Cruises pass oil rigs, shipping docks and freighters navigating the Houston ship channel. From the water, visitors glimpse Seawolf Park’s docked World War II destroyer, the USS Stewart, one of only three from the war that are still intact.

Birders will marvel at the different species of birds sighted on a major migratory path.

“These tours are some of my favorites because they’re relaxing, and you get to hear our history,” said Cast. “Plus, everyone loves seeing the dolphins.”

San Antonio Botanical Garden

The 33-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden, which anchors the eastern end of Mahncke Park, showcases flowers, Texas ecology and manicured gardens, including one for the blind.

The Lucile Halsell Conservatory houses plants from desert regions to equatorial rain forests in individual glass buildings that surround a sunken courtyard and tropical lagoon filled with aquatic plants.

The Native Texas Trail displays plants of the Hill Country, East Texas Piney Woods and South Texas. Each region varies greatly in soil, plant life, topography and weather.

Several early Texas homes have been reconstructed along the trail.