Best things to do with kids in Houston

HOUSTON,USA ON 21 JANUARY 2017: Houston Museum of Natual Science in a crowed day
Houston Museum of Natural Science on a crowded day © All Stock Photos / Shutterstock

Houston is one of the top family destinations in Texas, and it’s not hard to see why. The biggest and best attractions of Houston cater to families with kids of all ages, and most restaurants welcome small to large families with big booths, family-style meals and kid menus. Your family may not be able to agree on a lot of things, but a trip to Houston should tighten those bonds and put everyone on the same “family vacay” page.

Is Houston good for kids?

It’s easy to keep the kids entertained during a visit to Houston. From educational attractions to outdoor spaces and amusement parks, you won’t be at a loss for things to do.

Be sure to pack plenty of snacks, books, games and toys to keep your children’s attention while traveling between attractions. Houston is spread out so some destinations within the city can take up to 45 minutes to an hour to reach depending on traffic. Those staying in Downtown Houston could utilize the MetroRAIL, which has stops within popular neighborhoods like the Museum District, however, it isn’t the most extensive rail line so you will need a rental car on hand.

If budget is of concern, take the family to the beach or one of Houston’s many beautiful parks, some of which have free outdoor movies. You can also save with CityPASS Houston. By purchasing this discounted ticket, you receive admission to five Houston attractions: Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Zoo or the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Kemah Boardwalk or the Children’s Museum Houston.

The Houston skyline at dusk
From top museums to sports and public parks to NASA, Houston is perfect for families © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Best things to do in Houston with kids

Located just an hour’s drive from the Gulf Coast of Mexico, H-Town (as some locals call it) is home to world class museums, a thriving sports and food scene, and the ever-famous, NASA. Your kids will find inspiration and joy among the attractions of Texas’ largest city.

Space Center Houston

Let your imagination run wild with a visit to Space Center Houston. This science and learning center is part of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which has guided many astronauts into space and to the moon. It’s here that the family can learn more about space history and the scientific process behind it. See rockets and spacesuits, and learn what kind of training is required to be an astronaut. A Mars exhibit showcases what it will take for us to reach our neighboring planet. For those who can pay for an extra special experience, take the opportunity to have a family breakfast with an astronaut.

Lunar Module LTA-8 in Space Center Houston
The Lunar Module LTA-8 in Space Center Houston. ©John_Silver/Shutterstock

Children’s Museum Houston

Children’s Museum Houston should be at the top of your list of fun things to do in the city. Since opening in 1992, the museum has focused on learning through interactive exhibits for kids of all ages (even babies and toddlers). Exhibits include an obstacle course, spy game, a maker’s area with a 3D printer, and a hands-on science lab. The museum has 13 bilingual exhibits.

Downtown Aquarium

Houston’s Downtown Aquarium promises families an unforgettable underwater adventure. You can touch stingrays at the Stingray Reef or step into a 17th-century shipwreck and see the diverse fish and plant life of the ocean. The Downtown Aquarium has on-land animal exhibits too, like a tiger’s den and a tropical rainforest with snakes and frogs. Once you’re done viewing the exhibits, stick around to play some games and experience amusement rides like a 100ft tall Ferris wheel or a train ride through a shark tank.

Hurricane Harbor Splashtown

Houston can get really hot and humid, so cool down with a visit to Hurricane Harbor Splashtown. Enjoy a 95ft tubing slide or catch some waves on the FlowRider. There are 15 attractions for the family to explore from thrilling seven-story plunge slides to relaxing lazy rivers and pools. Hurricane Harbor Splashtown is home to the Stingray Racer water slide. With food options available on site, this water park can easily be a full-day experience.

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Be sure to set aside a few hours when you visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There is so much to see and do that you will want to experience it all. Explore 17 exhibits that offer insight and knowledge about gems, Texas wildlife, Egyptian history, the world of dinosaurs, and the wonders of chemistry. Make a visit even more special by seeing a show about aliens or the lost continent of Atlantis at the museum’s Burke Baker Planetarium. The Cockrell Butterfly Center is just as exciting with a rainforest walk (complete with a 50ft waterfall) and hundreds of exotic butterflies and insects.

Houston Hermann park conservancy
Hermann Park has 6 million visitors every year © LUNAMARINA / Getty Images

Hermann Park

There is a reason 6 million people visit Hermann Park every year: the 445-acre green space is not your typical park. Start at the Buddy Carruth Playground for All Children, which was designed with kids with disabilities in mind, including those who use wheelchairs. After that, take a train ride on the Hermann Park Railroad or a pedal boat on McGovern Lake, before walking through the lovely Japanese Garden or the McGovern Centennial Gardens. Check the calendar to see if any family-friendly performances by Express Children’s Theatre are on the schedule for the Miller Outdoor Theatre. Bring a blanket and snacks, and enjoy a show in one of Houston’s most impressive parks.

Houston Zoo

Located within Hermann Park is the Houston Zoo, the second most-visited zoo in the US. The 55-acre park is home to over 6000 animals and 900 species. You can see everything from anacondas to bears, cougars, orangutans, zebras and Malayan tigers. Those who want to get up close and personal with some of the animals, like alligators, sloths or gorillas, may want to check out the Animal Encounters offerings. One of the most distinct offerings available at the zoo are its Overnights – a camping experience at the zoo.

Trader’s Village Houston

Trader’s Village Houston is the perfect place for parents who want to get some shopping done but also want to keep their kids entertained. This sprawling open-air market has stalls upon stalls of goods. When you’re not shopping for clothes, car accessories, plants, or furniture, you can take the kids on various amusement rides, like a free-fall tower or a carousel. Trader’s Village often hosts events like car shows, wrestling matches or Native American Pow Wows that the whole family can enjoy.

Outdoor movies

There’s nothing like watching a movie with your children under the cool night air. In the summer, there are plenty of free moonlit movies available at places like Kings Harbor, Levy Park, The Square at Memorial City, and Market Square Park. Although most movie nights in Houston are held during the summer months, you can enjoy this experience year-round at Moonstruck Drive-In Cinema. The theater has up to three film showings each night of the week.

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