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After going to the zoo for Earth Day with Maya I got to thinking about how it would be cool to go do something animal centric for her birthday.  Her birthday falls around Labor Day every year so it’s easy to pick a place around the U.S. to visit.  Now, Maya LOVES bats and, as it turns out, Texas is home to some of America’s largest urban bat populations. Lucky for me, my aunt and uncle live in Houston which is home to the largest non-migratory colony of Mexican Free Tail bats.  Every night they emerge from the Waugh Drive Bridge in an amazing display of batty goodness. Here’s a video of them emerging from under the bridge.  Try to refrain from yelling “RABIES!!!!” like the chick in Goonies

I showed this video to Maya and now she’s totally excited about going to Houston to see them.  3 hours away in Austin there is actually the nations largest urban bat colony. Every night, 2.5 million bats emerge from the Congress Avenue Bridge and go off into the distance.  Who knew that such an amazing natural event could be seen right downtown?!

Animal tourism is a growing industry and it’s a fabulous way to make a trip extra special for your child while also discovering a destination you might not have thought to go to otherwise.  Not only do you get to commune with nature but your child will be so excited about getting to experience something that is near and dear to them. An excellent resource for planning your animal centric trip is the website animaltourism.com. I used this website to find where in the country we could view bat colonies. They have a fabulous interactive map that shows you exactly where you can see your favorite animals be it bats, turtles, or even condors.  Each entry on the map gives you information about that particular colony and is integrated with Google maps so you can easily plan your trip.  Additionally, they have lots of links to animal specific organizations where you can get even more information.

So get out of the aquarium and the zoo and go commune with nature! If you’re strapped for cash (because who isn’t?!) don’t worry! There are animal habitats all across the country and there’s more than likely one close to you.  Who knows, maybe you’ll discover that, like me, you have a herd of bison running free range that you can visit just two hours away!