Houston is a vibrant and diverse city that boasts year round sunshine, friendly people, great food, excellent schools and tons of things to do with the kids. The best time to visit is between late September and early June when the blazing heat and humidity are relatively low. Here are just ten of our favorite things to do in Houston with kids…
1. Located between the Museum District, Rice University and the Houston Medical Center, Hermann Park boasts 400 acres of kid friendly activities. If your little one likes trains, start with the Hermann Park Mini Train which runs from the train depot at Lake Plaza about every 20 minutes and takes you on a tour through the park.
For a little tranquility The Japanese Garden is a beautiful oasis within the park where kids can explore the manicured pathways and hidden bridges. Afterwards take a paddle -boat ride and feed the ducks. Pinewood Cafe, also in Lake Plaza offers a view of the lake and delicious sandwiches. The Buddy Carruth Playground is always fun and in the summer there is a splash pad for the kids to cool off in. There are running and walking paths throughout the park as well as a golf course. A reflecting pool within the park is a popular family gathering spot and you can always find a drum circle or saxophone player nearby to serenade you.
The Houston Zoo is also located within Hermann Park. It boasts more than 6000 animals as well as a carousel, petting zoo, playground, daily performances for the kids and the opportunity to feed the giraffes.
Throughout the summer, there are free outdoor concerts at Hermann Park in the evenings located at The Miller Outdoor Theater that both kids and grownups will love. Bring your picnic blanket and snacks and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city from the top of the hill before the show begins. If the kids get antsy during the show you can just get up and run around the park before you come back to your seat.
2. The Children’s Museum of Houston. This award-winning museum has 90,000 square feet of fun for kids of all ages. For the babies and toddlers check out the Tot Spot which has a large enclosed area full of soft toys, walkways, bridges and books for the littlest ones to enjoy. For older kids there are dozens of exhibits like Kidtropolis where there is a grocery store, bank, city hall, and tons of vehicles for them to climb in and out of. Power Play features a huge indoor power tower for kids to climb and a giant light filled floor that they can jump and dance on to their heart’s delight. There are science exhibits, an outdoor Water Play area called Flow Works, a library with a large selection of books and daily story times as well as many seasonal exhibits and events.
3. The Menil Collection Located in the Montrose neighborhood The Menil Collection includes a museum that is free to the public and boasts more than 17,000 paintings, sculptures, prints drawings, photos and rare books. The building holding the collection is located on Sul Ross street and is surrounded by a row of restored bungalows and a huge expanse of green space that is perfect for the kids to play. Even if you don’t want to go inside the Museum you can easily spend an afternoon outdoors. Here you will find Montrose hipsters, families and life long Houstonians all mingling in the grass, having picnics, and taking in the view of Renzo Piano designed building.
Food trucks regularly set up shop nearby so you can grab a bite to eat on the lawn. If you walk through a nearby wall of bamboo trees you will find yourself in front of The Rothko Chapel, a non denominational chapel which is worth checking out (again for free) to see the massive Mark Rothko paintings featured inside. Outside the Chapel is the large Broken Obelisk sculpture located within a reflecting pool and surrounded by more green space for playing. The whole vibe of this place is laid back and the kids are free to run around, check out the artwork, eat and relax.
4. Donovan Park Funded by private citizens, Donovan Park is located in The Heights a historic and hip neighborhood in Northwest Houston. The park features a beautiful series of tree house like structures and hidden tunnels with a large wooden train beckoning you from the street. The builder showcases the Arts and Crafts Style that is unique to this neighborhood within the design of the play area. Kids will have a ball playing hide and seek and exploring here or just hanging in the train cars. Walk to nearby Revival Market afterwards for amazing cold brewed iced coffee & specialty groceries (for the grownups) and yummy sandwiches and pastas for everyone.
5. Cullen Sculpture Garden Located in the Museum District this little gem is free and showcases beautiful sculptures in a no fuss outdoor environment. Little ones will gawk at the sculptures and have fun running over, under, around and through the various pieces. Afterwards grab a snack from the food trucks that are regularly parked in the adjacent lot and sit at the tables and chairs provided while you refuel.
6. Discovery Green Opened in 2008 Discovery Green is a giant green space located right in the middle of downtown Houston. Surrounded by otherwise bland steel & concrete is a vibrant public park that features colorful works of public art & sculpture, a lake, a performance stage and a plethora f activities for kids such as Toddler Tuesdays, yoga classes, a beautiful playground, a splash pad and family movies on the green. On any given weekend you will find a festival that takes over the performance space. There are usually food carts and vendors nearby if you get hungry and for a sit down meal there is the Lake House restaurant featuring a kid friendly menu.
7. Russ Pittman Park and Nature and Discovery Center. This gem located in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston is like finding a secret garden in the middle of the city. Its a 4 acre property with an old restored home in the center that serves as an office and also houses the indoor Nature Discovery Center where there are themed rooms for the kids to play; here they can check out the turtles in their aquarium, read books, look at exhibits about nature and play with blocks and puzzles.
The outdoor space features a series of small pathways that meander through lush gardens and a “mini prairie” with large trees for shade and a beautiful little fountain. There is also a fat bunny rabbit and various birds that the kids can check out and at the edge of the park there is a playground.
8. Memorial Park and Arboretum One of the largest urban parks in the United States this 1400 acre facility is a popular destination for runners, bikers and families. For the younger kids there is an excellent playground within the park called the Vale-Asche Foundation Playground. This playground was built as Houston’s first Play Ground Without Limits and is designed to be fully accessible for children with sight, hearing and mobility impairments. It has a series of bridges, slides, and ladders which kids of all ages will love. Also check out the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center located within the Park.
9. The Houston Symphony The Houston Symphony hosts a series of family concerts in the Fall and Spring that feature popular and classic music geared toward kids. Past offerings including music from Beauty and the Beast and Harry Potter. After the concert there are also activities for the kids.
10. Brazos Book Store Although small, this locally owned bookstore is one of our favorite places for finding books for the little ones. It has a small children’s section with a place to sit and read with the kids as well as a carefully chosen selection of new and classic books and toys.
Got any other kid-friendly favorites in Houston? Leave them in the comments!